The Life of a Cabin Counselor
June 27, 2016 by Don Gentle
Good evening! Our last week is off to a good start with a number of trips heading out the door today. I can’t believe we will see you on Friday! We still have a lot of time to get in all sorts of experiences. Our three-day intermediate hike took off for high Pisgah this morning. We also watched our two-day climbing trip roll down the road before breakfast. Hold on tight, it’s going to be a fantastic week!
On a side note, I apparently missed pushing up Saturday night’s square dance pictures with Keystone Camp. My apologies. There is a bunch of great pictures of the boys all cleaned up, including a few great sibling images. I have added the link here and on Saturday night’s blog in case you need to find it later. Saturday Square Dance
Finally, a guest writer, Alex Griffith, is taking over the blog tonight to give you an insightful and humorous take on his life as a counselor at camp. I hope you enjoy the prose. It looks to be a good time.
Enjoy the pictures,
Don asked me to write a little bit about what camp is like for a cabin counselor, and, more specifically, what it’s like for a former camper. There’s a lot to say; my time as a camper really does inform almost every decision I make as a staff member to help ensure that campers get the same experience that I did for my eight summers.
This is my second summer on staff, making it ten total summers up here at High Rocks. My last summer was in 2012, as an aide during the four week session. My favorite activities were hiking and climbing, though, as a camper, I never made it up the advanced wall. I did, however, do three five-day hikes in my tenure in the hiking program, and those experiences in particular led me to do a NOLS course my first summer off from camp in 2013. I took another year off in 2014 and came back in 2015 after my freshman year at Duke for my first year on staff.
I decided to come back for a couple of reasons, namely that, on a basic level, I wanted to see what being a counselor was like and, as I mentioned above, give campers the same experience I had. Of course, it’s harder work being a counselor—I mean, it is a job—but it’s still somehow even more fun than being a camper, something I wouldn’t have guessed in my last summer in 2012.
But still, that ideal of helping campers have the same experience I did, is the most important thing. In the cabin, in the hiking activity, and in all the other times when I am around campers (all the time), I try to think about what my favorite counselors would do in the same situation. Camp is the people who are there, both campers and staff, and the lessons I learned I try to apply every day.
The most fun part of being a counselor after being a camper is seeing the other side of how things really work while the boys are running around wildly. The community between the counselors is what keeps us sane, and is even stronger than that shared by the most experienced boys in an upper senior cabin. Being able to finally do things that I wanted to do as a camper—such as sit in the counselor seat at the table, cook my own pita pizza, drive a Gator(!)—is an incredible feeling, yet the fun I have everyday still leaves me feeling like a camper when lie in bed at night, but waking up at 7:45 every morning has still never been easier.
Speaking of waking up: the hardest parts of the day are the first 30 minutes and the last hour. Getting the kids out of bed and getting the cabin into a semblance of cleanliness is a near impossible task, especially because I have to get myself out of bed first (it may be easier, but it still isn’t easy). After the cabin is at least cleaner than it was at the wakeup bell, I round the boys of Outpost I up to the dining hall so I can get cabin inspections—one of the duties of an age group head counselor—out of the way. Breakfast follows, and then there’s assembly in the gym.
Cabin staff also work in activity areas; my focus is in the hiking activity. We have three activity hours in the morning, where we might teach any range of skills, including knot-tying, fire building, basic land navigation, and how to hike in large bodies of water (on hot days). The morning activity rotation is followed by half an hour of free time where I lifeguard on the swim docks. After that is lunch, where I pray everyday for chicken sandwiches. Rest hour is immediately after lunch, and provides a great opportunity for campers to pretend to sleep while signaling to each other from across the cabin as I crash.
Two more activity hours and then 5:00 choice period comprise the afternoon. Dinner is followed by the evening activity, where age groups play field games, canoe fill ups (the best one, in my opinion), dodgeball, or go off the rope swing and water slide. After the evening activity, the second hardest part of the day begins: call to quarters and showers. Showers are mayhem: making sure that seven boys get themselves at least moderately hygienic within an hour is tough, mainly because of the wide range of shower lengths. Some campers don’t get clean enough, while others spend 20 minutes, leaving only a few minutes each for the remaining campers. At 9:30 for all but the oldest campers, the lights-out bell rings and cabin meetings begin. Cabin meetings are where the campers sum up their day and can talk about whatever’s on their mind (within reason, of course). The day concludes there.
This job is every bit of energy I have, but working with campers every day is somehow even more fun than I thought it would be. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my summers.
See you Friday,