Having grown up spending, literally, every summer between the ages of 8 and 25 at summer camp the past few years have been a big adjustment. I mean the free time, the cottage weekends, the ability to head out on my own canoe trips has been amazing, but transitioning away from summer camp was definitely a challenge. Over the past two summers I have found more than enough to fill my time and even started to accept that my 'time at camp' had come to an end.
Until this morning. When I hopped in my car and headed up to Camp Pine Crest for a site visit. This coming January, the Not for Profit I run, Connected in Motion will be hosting its 4th Annual Winter Slipstream Weekend and in honour of our fourth event, we've decided to check out a new venue. I've visited a fair number of camps in my day and had heard how beautiful, wonderful, magical Pine Crest was, but it wasn't until I stepped out my car and was greeted by a gathering of smiling faces in the camp's main dining hall (Kekindewin) that I really felt, for the first time since my last summer at Camp Huronda in 2008, the real allure of summer camp. There really was magic in the air. Something that made me want to read the engraving on each paddle that lined the dining hall, take a closer look at the beautiful wood sculptures that peered down over the tables and spark conversations with the many oh-so-excited campers that we passed by during our visit. The number of times we were greeted with a toothy grin and asked "Are you new campers at camp?" (thanks, kiddos, you sure do make us feel young!) left me with a warm feeling I can't quite describe. I even fell in love with the camp 'smell' (again, something I can't quite describe, but that anyone who has spent time at an Ontario summer camp can likely attest to). More than likely, if any of my non-camp friends were to come across that same smell, they might gag a little (you all know the one, right?)
The biggest allure, for me, of summer camp, is the tradition and history that is engrained in nearly every aspect of both experience and place. Upon entering the 'Yard House', a beautiful, lakeside recreation cabin, my eyes were immediately drawn up, to a beautiful birch bark canoe that hung in the rafters. The canoe, once belonging to Camp Director, Ted Yard (1946 - 1963) was donated to the camp following his passing. An excerpt from the plaque hanging alongside photographs of him and his wife and the canoe in its original glory read:
"The birch-bark canoe in which Ted paddled to personally greet and send off canoe trips, hangs in this wonderful meeting place, 'Yard House'. His family hopes this is a fitting reminder of the memories he created, the lessons he taught and the examples he set to help guide us through inevitable changes and challenges of the future. Ted would be humbled by the naming of this building but would be happiest knowing it was the centre of positive thoughts and actions on behalf of the youth to who he devoted his life."
Even though I only experienced just a small part of the enormous history of Camp Pine Crest (They just celebrated their 100th anniversary last season), it reminded me of just how important tradition is to the summer camp experience.
My experiences today make me even more excited as I head out on a new outdoor education adventure in September when I will be working with ALIVE Outdoors. Throughout four weeks I will have the chance to visit several summer camps, each engrained, I'm sure, with their own history and traditions. I am excited to share these adventures in the upcoming months.
But for now, a huge thank you to Pine Crest for reminding me of the power of summer camp and stirring in me memories that I hope are never forgotten.