I first discovered the magic of the Green River Valley in 2011, building lifelong friendships with my cabin mates and a genuine connection to these rivers and mountain tops. As a camper, I returned year after year, basecamp to expeditions, excited to reconnect with my friends from previous years.
Many of the people I was once scaling Lower Bald and racing sunken canoes with I now find leading their campers to the Lodge or the Back Field for a meal or hikes. For me, Green River Preserve has always been a place of genuine connection – with fellow campers, the forest, and myself.
The past fifteen months have been the exact opposite – moments plagued with disconnection. Throughout the pandemic, we have all been tasked to stay inside and isolated to protect one another.
Since opening day of our 3-Week Session, genuine human connection has overflowed our cabins, buses, and Lodge. The joy in campers’ voices as they reconnect with friends they have not seen in two years reminded me to pause and appreciate the magic of GRP. If you were to walk around at Free Time on Monday, you would find old friends reminiscing about memories from previous camp sessions, attempting to remember minute details from campouts past, and sharing life updates from the past two years.
Through daily Mentor Hikes, campers also have the opportunity to reunite with the natural world. Free from distractions and responsibilities of the so-called ‘real world,’ campers explore the Green River, frolic through Feed Plots, feed Kevin Bacon and Elvis Pigsley at the Farm, and take in the view atop Upper and Lower Balds.
The joy in my camper’s smiles once they returned from the Farm with Farmer Phil reminded me how grounding exploration is, particularly after a period where freedom to explore was scarce. Throughout this summer, I have had the pleasure of watching dozens of campers reconnect with their love for hiking, exploring, and backpacking.
A byproduct of reuniting with old friends and exploring the natural world is also reconnecting with ones best self. In the time I have spent at Green River Preserve this summer, I feel more grounded and connected to myself than ever before. Many campers have also expressed gratitude for the opportunity to express their “Best Me at GRP.”
On the last night of Session 2, I asked my cabin what they were most proud of or thankful for throughout the session. A resounding consensus was, “the opportunity to truly be myself for a few weeks.” I have found, both as a camper and counselor, that the community at Green River Preserves provides campers with the fortitude to express their most true self.
Disconnection and isolation have plagued the last fifteen months, but nestled in the Green River Valley, through Mentor Hikes, Afternoon Activities, Free Time, and Cabin Time, campers are discovering the joy of reconnecting with one another, the natural world, and themselves.
Story by Kathryn Thomas with photos by Samantha Keebler & Brandon S. Marshall