Note: I know this story is far overdue. I've been slow to get it typed. The following is a summary of what happened during the Long Trip at a Wilderness camp I went to over the summer (Saltash Mountain Camp, VT.) I took most of the words from my journal entrees during the time, and added some stuff I missed too. Overall it was an amazing experience and I now, months later, I'm going to try to share it with you, CB.
Also- I'm going to publish sections of the story separately instead of as one piece, or it would be way too long!
“Step by step the longest march
Can be won, can be won
Many stones do form an arch,
Singly none, Singly none
And by union what we will,
Can be accomplished still,
Drops of water turn the mill,
Singly none, singly none.”
The last words of this meal’s grace echoed in our ears as we held hands in a moment of silence. I took the moment to ponder the words of the song, listen to the birds, and look wistfully at the food shelter, where breakfast was waiting. Then, with a wave-like sweep we all raised hands, and were dismissed to run down the hill and grab seats at one of the six tables. This is Saltash Mountain camp- A tight-knit community of middle-school aged kids, and counselors, learning about each other, working, singing, living a full life filled with activities next to lake Nineveh in Vermont. It’s one of five other camps thriving near each other, all owned by a Quaker organization know as Farm and Wilderness- a place I’ve come to love. I am now one of them- though a complete newbie at first, I’ve learned all about the system, and the values, and the magic, of Saltah Mountain.
“Pass the sausage, please,” I exclaimed, reaching helplessly across the table.
“May I *pinkus?" Comes the reply.
I let them steal a couple from the plate, and a moment later the sausage comes my way, and I grab three of the most burnt-looking ones.
“So, are you excited for your trips tomorrow?” Asks a counselor sitting across from me.
Ahh…. Long Trips… they were bound to be a blast. I was on a trip called Adirondack Hike + Climb, and I did like climbing, a lot. Hiking….wouldn’t be too bad, as long as I packed a lot lighter this time.
This and a couple more positive remarks from campers, and the counselor grunted with approval. “That’s great.” She addressed me. “Denny, how’d the hikin’ go for you last time? You’ll have some experience now, from the cabin trips.”
Some hesitation. “Yeah… Cabin Trips were great…. But my pack weighed a ton and we did a lot of bushwacking… and I think my knees are still hurting from that trip. Hopefully I’ll pack lighter this time.”
She nodded sort of sympathetically, and I heaped my bowl with rice crispies and took a slice of grapefruit.
Breakfast over- the Hello Scraper skipped over the word carved into the wood at the spot where I was sitting, meaning I didn’t have to do any after-meal cleaning up chores. I wandered out from under the food shelter, and could only play a short game of Tetherball before it was time for
“SINGING ON THE HILL!”
Mazey and Ike screamed at the top of their lungs, and the kids came galumphing back. Among the songs we sang “wayside/back in time” “Wagon Wheel” and “Peaches”. A lot of the songs were created in the minds of campers right here, over the years. What I love about these songs are that they are beautiful and they are not centered around relationship crisis - as opposed to most songs these days.
“Headed down south to the land of the pines,
Thumbin’ my way into North caroline
Starin’ up the road and pray to god I see headlights…
Headed down the coast in 17 hours,
Pickin’ me a bouquet of dogwood flowers
And I’m hopin’ for Raleigh so I can see my baby tonight…”
(Ok, this is sort of a love song…)
Since trips were only a day away, the trip groups spent most of their morning testing tents and mini stoves and ordering things from Mac ‘o’ back mama. We were bringing three tents for Hike and Climb- a Girl’s, a Boy’s, and a cute two-person counselor tent. We didn’t even need to bring climbing gear- Field Specialist Tim was going to bring that stuff to us on the fourth day.
Finally, the one bell sounded- a long series of gongs- and I knew it was 9:00- Silent meeting time. At a slow trickle, everyone trudged up the hill- and all was silent once we passed the apple trees. Without a peep, I sat down at the large circular bench at the top of the hill, and melted into the familiar, long, sturdy silence- or not a silence, but an absence of human voices, at least. Some people drew shaped in the dirt with sticks, some people stared off into the trees, looking for something interesting, some people sat with their heads in their hands and reflected, and thought. I enjoy this quiet time. I can think to myself, or study every face around the circle and try to name them (I finally got everyone’s name by the last silent meeting). I did not think about trips. That would come when it was time.
Eventually executive director Jeff spoke- as usual- about how much he appreciated us, about what he noticed and thought about during his silent time. His words were greeted with more grateful silence. Later on, we all joined hands with a chorus of, “Goooooooood Mooooorniiing!” Then it was time for the Ceremonial Reading of the White Glove Test- basically where a couple campers read out how clean each cabin was, ranking them from highest to lowest. “…and Okemo got like a three, which is rated Teacher, so not as bad as a poop-pickerupper but not as good as an activity planner at SAM. Good job, Okemo. Next was, Shrewsbury Cabin with a rating of 2…”
The Social Bees spoke about how life was going on socially at SAM, and what the camper’s they’d interviewed had said about how they feeling about their social status. Then it was Community Speaks, and later the morning activities were listed. I made the most of the day- after all, it was my last normal day at SAM for a long while…
* Pinkus- what we SAM campers say to ask if we can take some food from a plate while it is being passed to another Person
Image 1: Lake Ninevah
Image 2: Circling up on the hill before a meal
Image 3: My cabin mates