Today I ducked out of Rise and Shine with camera in tow, and headed to the Beanstalk before I got caught up in the myriad logistical things that we need to think through on any given day. It was a beautiful morning and I wanted to get some video and still shots looking back toward McLeod Lodge. The skies were crystal clear as they have been for days now, and there is no better vantage point than hanging out on one of the perches at the end of the Multi-Vine Traverse. The added benefit was getting to greet campers as they hit the midway point on one of the elements. “Permission to Transfer One?” ” Transfer One.” “Permission to Transfer Two”?
Jeremy “Soup” is our Adventure Program Coordinator, and husband to Assistant Director Kris , who has been keeping Laurie and me happy almost since our arrival at Illahee ten years ago. Soup is an elementary school teacher in the off-season and just a perennially happy guy too. He is a great leader and spends much of his day on the Beanstalk after getting any trips out of camp coordinated. In the longer sessions, we have extensive Trips programs in climbing, hiking, and kayaking to take advantage of the amazing natural beauty at our back door. It is fun watching him and his staff encouraging girls who are slightly timid…every time is like it is the first time he has seen someone accomplish each element…we are blessed with some really great guys at camp…the few, the proud.
All of our 8th graders had a big treat today…they boarded the vans this morning and headed to the Nantahala River over past Cherokee, NC. Home of the Nantahala Outdoor Center and 1996 Olympic whitewater venue, the Nanty is just plain fun to raft. Crystal clear and chilly even on the hottest of days, the water appears “spirited” with the mist rising off of it. A picnic lunch preceded the ride down with NOC guides, and a trip to Dollys on the way back capped off a perfect adventure.
I picked up our Pineview girls this morning, and they had a perfect night at Kuykendall…fun, food, more food, a campfire, and lots of time with friends. We gave them the night off with a special screening of Justin Bieber’s new movie…Never Say Never. There were more than a few young lasses that seemed to be overcome with Bieber fever after the showing. Heigh Ho is at Kuykendall tonight and Hillbrook had time in camp all to themselves with a Reverse Scavenger Hunt. Cabins can collect ten items to bring with them to evening program, and then the judges highlight categories…an example would be “something your mother made you bring to camp.” Every cabin has to come up with something and then sell it to the judges with a convincing story. There are prizes for different categories and for the big winners.
We have had a bunch of families touring camp these past few weeks, and most of them come away from the tour completely impressed…they all think the setting is amazing and the facility nice…but what stands out the most to them and what we hear above all else is how nice everyone is to them. Of course, I am biased (but then again, so are you), but Illahee has got to be one of the easiest places I know to find acceptance. It is just a friendly place. Once you are an Illahee girl, you are in the fold. Period. That’s not to say we don’t have our bumps and bruises on occasion, but in my book, there’s no mortal sin above being mean for meanness sake. So, we just aren’t :-)!
Those of you with family businesses can relate to this story perhaps. Our son Turner is almost 17 and just an all-round good guy. He loves people and loves camp. He is always soaking in any opportunity to be outdoors and loves to climb, kayak, and mountain bike. He has had some pretty amazing experiences, and I have joined him on a number of them. We did mission work in Laos together, riding motor bikes down pig trails to reach folks who looked at us like we had just landed a space capsule…we have hiked and biked in Zion, skiied in Colorado and Utah. I secretly (to him) hope that he will love camp as much as I do one day (he and his sister would probably make a good team). Anyway, we are slowly getting him to help with some camp chores this session after a trip out west and opportunity to be with grandparents. He is washing dishes and he loves to cook…so he helped grill burgers and dogs for the Heigh Ho girls. Now Kuykendall is way back down a dirt road. We pass a locked gate (after we unlock it) drive across a river to get to a big open field where the tents are pitched and the campfire roaring. Dinner is finished, and Turner returns to camp in one of the camp trucks (we have fifteen or so vehicles registered to camp) to get something they forgot and returns to the campsite. When he pulls into the field, two rangers (who we had never seen there before because it is gated) had come back to check on the group and were leaving…they stopped him and gave him a ticket for an expired tag. So, I (indirectly) am responsible for his first ticket. What are the chances of that?
The food today had some winners and losers in my book, but Laurie often reminds me that the kitchen is not cooking for me…but, the big winner was breakfast. We had yummy pancakes, expertly browned to perfection by Bill (nobody touches Bill’s grill on pancake day), strawberries, link sausages, and cereal, eggs, yogurt. Yummm! Lunch was a camper favorite, but not mine…grilled cheese, fritos, spinach dip, salad, and tomato soup. We also had some homemade chicken noodle soup which was really yummy and got me out of my funk over the grilled cheese. (It’s not about me, she says.) And then, dinner brought me back around…cheese tortellini with pesto, red and white sauce, bread sticks and salad. Pretty tasty.
Did I mention that this was the perfect Carolina (and camp) day?