June 18, 2014 by Will Johnson
While I enjoy every opportunity I get to write, I won’t pretend for a second that I would rather be here in the office than joining the fellas in evening activity tonight. After bbq chicken, fixings, salad, and homemade rolls I’ve definitely got some extra energy to burn off. Our Upper Seniors are battling each other in dodgeball; our Juniors are off on a quest around the lake loop steeped in local Native American lore. The Middlers (Lakeside, Flattop, and Foxhollow) ought to be ordering ice cream–huzzah for chill night!–while the remaining age groups are throwing down some field games. Summer evenings are far too precious to waste, and I’m glad the campers get to finish their day playing under the setting sun.
Today was another full tripping day, and we were happy to welcome back our three-day hikers and two-day mountain bikers from their respective adventures. The hikers reported an excellent trip replete with a successful summit of Pilot Mountain in Pisgah NF and a spectacular campsite on Daniel Ridge. The bikers came in with perma-grin from multiple laps on the fast, flowing singletrack of the Tsali recreation area on Lake Fontana. Our day-trippers were successful as well: the cavers probed the depths of Worley’s cave, and our climbers eked out a few routes before an afternoon thunderstorm ushered them out of the forest and back to camp.
I had the pleasure of taking a group of canoeists to Section 8 of the French Broad River; we navigated approximately five miles of class I-II whitewater between Marshall and Barnard, NC. We chased blue herons, ate lunch on a reef of polished granite jutting into the river, and seized every opportunity to cool off in the water. As if I had any doubts about how the day went, I knew we hit a home run when in the van going home one of the guys apologized for running over a few rocks in his canoe. He said he was too busy looking around at things he’d never seen before.
Due to the nature of Section 8 the staff were afforded a unique opportunity as instructors. On rivers of comparable difficulty like the lower Green, the river is often narrow with a single, well-defined channel. Today, instead of coaching the boys through a single, particular line we allowed them the whole river (about 80 yards in breadth) as their canvas. Ledges and boulders offered infinite opportunity for creative lines, for surfing, ferrying, and catching eddies. We told them to stay in between the staff in front and rear, and then let them have at it. I couldn’t have been more proud as they spread out and worked as pairs to make the river trip their own. And while they reveled in their new found independence, they unconsciously practiced all the strokes, skills, and maneuvers we have worked so hard on for the past week and a half.
Consistently, camp amazes me. Today’s trip was just another example of what makes High Rocks and all other great camping programs so special. In every activity from hiking to horseback riding, we give the boys a set of tools and then let them work with their own hands. We keep a close eye and manage their safety without interfering in their self-determination as much as possible. And whether campers are finding their own way down the river or designing their own project in the wood shop, we give them freedom to be themselves. We let them be capable. And we still have more than a week to keep tearing it up with this outstanding crop of gentlemen!
Until tomorrow, party on!