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Our three-weekers returned yesterday from their Campout, trickling into the back field with triumphant yells before shedding themselves of packs, returning camp stoves and tarps, and rushing to the showerhouses for a well-earned shower.

While Campout is a crucial time for acquiring outdoor skills, learning to cooperate within a team-oriented framework, and practicing perseverance and grit, it remains a formative experience for other reasons as well. Campout, with its myriad challenges and triumphs, presents endless opportunities for deepening relationships, for getting to know one another, and for a genuine chance at meaningful connection with others in your brother or sister cabin. Whether it happens while hiking on the trail, cooking dehydrated beans around the camp stove, or sitting out on the Peggy’s Rock bald in an assortment of Crazy Creeks, lasting bonds seem to inevitably form over the course of those two nights in the Green River Preserve wilderness.

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Of course, camp is full of other opportunities to forge connections—on mentor hikes, in activities, during cabin time, during Rose Bud Thorn. But Campout offers an uninterrupted 48 hours of companionship with a consistent group of people. Campers get the chance to chat around a campfire, to roast s’mores together, to groan on the unrelenting uphill trail to Lower Bald, and to play cards, ask questions, and carry conversations that won’t get cut off by the ringing of the bell that dictates so much of our lives during the rest of the session.

Campout is a time that many campers find jarring or challenging, but the payoff for this experience is perhaps one of the most meaningful and memorable of all: acquaintances become friends, and pre-existing friendships deepen into something lasting and impactful. And it takes place in the simplest and most mundane of moments: in the middle of the woods, surrounded by friends who start to feel more and more each day like family.

Story by Katherine Poore with Photos by Brandon S. Marshall