Yesterday, the Preserve stirred early in preparation for the arrival of our Session 3 campers. Session 3 is something remarkable and special here at GRP: the campers are older, and the vast majority of them are returners. Opening day is filled with reunions and the exuberant inundation of reminiscence that so often accompanies them. “Do you remember Campout last year? That big storm?” Or, “I wonder who’s in our brother cabin this year.” They’ll catch up on the past year with one another—some of them have stayed in touch, while others haven’t spoken in months.
Of all the sessions, Session 3 feels perhaps the most like a homecoming. The campers who drove through our gates yesterday are campers who have fallen in love with this place, over and over, and seek the formative experiences, adventures, and strong friendships to be had here. These campers understand the soul of GRP (and, luckily, they need hardly any explanation of how table cleanup works here, or of Predator vs. Prey).
But this sense of homecoming doesn’t mean our new campers aren’t also experiencing a homecoming. They, too, are being welcomed into a family—one that changes and grows and transforms every year. And this is the great beauty of GRP: its community is close-knit, formed of people who share memories, traditions, and years of history in common. But this community never looks the same—some faces are noticeably absent this year, having aged out, while others have simply grown, or they’re attending three-week for the first time. But it is those completely new faces—the campers who have never been here before, who have never jumped, shrieking, into the cold lake for swim review or table banged or descended into the cave—who keep this community growing and who remind us all what a gift it is to be able to return, time and time again, to a place that always feels like home.
Story by Katherine Poore with Photos by Brandon S. Marshall & Samantha J. Keebler