Smells Like Camp
July 12, 2017 by Don Gentle
What makes camp special? It’s hard to say there is one reason or even the same reasons for different people as to why summer camp becomes such a special place. I was able to hear several reasons from an alum today. This nineteen-year-old young man, just arrived in the parking lot today. As I walked up from the waterfront, he looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t remember his name. He had the look of wonder in his eyes as he walked toward me. Once John and I were re-aquainted, I mostly just listened. He mentioned it had been five years since he his last year of camp. As he talked about camp, the excitement grew on his face as I watched him look away in the distance like he could see the memories in the trees.
He had recently been on the website and was impressed with how many staff he knew. Many of the young men were boys that had gone to High Rocks. Others were some staff that were here back then and are still. He was able to remember almost all of his cabin counselors and many of the camper friends that were here his last few years.
I always enjoy how many times campers relate certain smells to camp. John mentioned it several times. I have even heard parents talk about it when they pull out the trunk from the closet and first open it. Even my kids stick their head in the trunk as we pull them down from the attic and just say “Ah, smells like camp!” It becomes a part of us.
I let John and Woody walk around camp for a bit and then saw him again back in the office. His face was still as big as the sun. He enjoyed some of the improvements, but also how camp still looked the same. It was then his conversation changed as he started to remember the intangible parts of camp. He talked about how it was a big deal living with six other guys and learning to respect each other. That it wasn’t always perfect, but they usually got along well. He spoke of the skills he learned here and some of the activities he wished he had taken while he was here.
I enjoyed John’s thoughts on independence. He said that he learned independence, but not to be completely independent. How his counselors still helped him a lot, but that High Rocks taught him the importance of those around him; how everyone matters.
I’m not sure if it is just the time in a boys life that makes it so important or if it is just what we do here at High Rocks. What I do know is John isn’t the first young man to come back up this road to reminisce about his time here. The stories are not always the same, but they include a lot of the same thoughts. As I watch these boys grow up from the junior campers to upper seniors, adults, and even parents, I still see High Rocks in their lives every day. I am so glad to be a part of it.
We sure had another fantastic day! It was Waikiki Wednesday again, which means you’ll see all sorts of great shirts out there today. The paddlers were out on the Nantahala River. Our climbers hit the North Side of Looking Glass Rock. The mountain bikers hit an all-day trip to DuPont. The morning crafts crew were busy into their woodworking projects.
The heat was on for most of the day. Again, it was 85, but it felt warm to us. We had a Gatorade Oasis setup after rest hour for the boys to fill-up their water bottles and encourage some hydration. An afternoon shower cooled it off nicely in the later part of our last activity hour. It was a welcomed event that allowed everyone to take a break from the heat.
Tomorrow we get to wake up and do it all over again!