If there’s one thing I’ve seen thus far during Session 1, it’s ultimate freedom. I mean, sure, we have some rules, a bunch of guidelines, as well, for living respectfully in a community out in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There might even be a daily schedule that we all strive to meet–Mentor Hikes in the a.m., with Activities and Free Time in the afternoon and always an Evening Program. I guess we also make time for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with snacks abound, because, let’s face it, it’s high-energy here at camp.
Beyond those “scheduled” events, we’re out wandering and wondering in the heart of the mountains. We get to explore an enormous plot of land, scattered with waterfalls, scenic vistas and the headwaters of the Green River. We’ve seen turkeys and copperheads, so far, this week, which means we’re halfway to a Grand Slam! If we see a bear and a deer by Thursday then we’ve got ourselves an ice cream party in the works! There are more opportunities after hikes, to make friends or read a book, write in a journal, take a nap, climb the climbing tower, fly fish in the lake, fry and egg over a wood stove on a cast iron skillet…the list goes on.
As I meandered around camp today and photographed all of our Campers, I was asked on more than one occasion if I’d come here when I was a kid. My response is always, “I wish.” I didn’t know about the Preserve and I think that any child that doesn’t have to opportunity to go to a camp is truly and sadly missing out. There is a freedom and an openness embraced by all, at GRP at least(I can’t speak for all camps), that doesn’t come without having this kind of setting and the kinds of experiential learning that we offer here. It’so amazing that the kindness and respect–which is so normal here–that it’s often shocking, especially upon returning to the world outside of GRP. There’s a reason that one of the sayings here is, “we’re our best we at GRP.” The community, both Staff and Campers, bring out the best in each other, giving us all a sense of freedom and happiness that cannot be contained.
Article and photos by Brandon S. Marshall