My first time as a camper at GRP was back in 2011. Counselors pulled the same wooden carts and rocked the same emerald-green polos. At the time I didn’t know what to expect, but as I explored the Green River I found a bit of magic at every turn. It’s my second year as a counselor on the Preserve, and 10 years later I’m still discovering new bits of magic.
I’ve gotten to know GRP pretty well over the years, and I’ve found that the simplest moments can become the most memorable. It’s the camp shenanigans. It’s the uncertainty and the improvisation. It’s that innate ability to make any moment magical. That’s why I’ve come back, summer after summer, from camper to counselor.
The first session is almost over, and even though it’s only been four days, the campers are already well adapted to camp life. They’ve begun to look forward to morning Mentor Hikes and exploring the winding trails of the Preserve. They chat about the nightly visits from Ortman and Scrappy (two super-heroes of the new millennium!), and whether or not they’ll secure the coveted pink flamingo from the Cabin Fairy.
This morning, several of my campers were humming camp songs as they got ready for their hikes, and others were coming up with new verses to sing on the bus. In these moments I need to pause and give gratitude. Green River Preserve radiates magic, but more importantly, it gives us tools to create our own magic.
GRP is with me wherever I go. It’s with me in my mind and my heart. One of the best parts of my job is seeing campers grow during their time on the Preserve. No doubt some of them will one day return as counselors. They’ll wake up one day, like I did, with a camp song stuck in their head, calling them back to the 3,400 acres, tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Eventually, they’ll don the emerald-green polo and make their way to the backfield on opening day. They’ll feel a bit uncertain, but soon that feeling will be drowned out by the shouts and laughter of new campers, and the Green River will work its magic once again.
Story by Joseph Heck with Photos by Samantha Keebler and Brandon S. Marshall
Video by Brandon S. Marshall