Most parents don’t consider one of the greatest benefits of camp…that for most girls, it is a love that extends through and well past the “dreaded” teenage years. I’ve always known that Illahee girls count the days down until camp starts, but the advent of Twitter and Facebook have made the excitement pretty easy to “follow.” The thing I love is that the anticipation only seems to grow through middle and high school. What better place to have your teenager ensconced than Camp Illahee? The Sparks are the oldest campers before becoming CITs and starting the staff transition. They are mainly 15 year olds, sophomores in high school. Generally, there are about 32 in the June session, and they live in Pine Branch and Pineview Lodge, the cabins closest to Laurie’s and my home. We love having these girls as our neighbors, many of whom we have known since they were first campers at 7 or 8 years old. This year, there are 42 Sparks, which has to be a record. PVL and PB are always cozy, like laying sardines in a can. The girls assure me they wouldn’t have it any other way. 42 is a far cry from 32. So, we spread them out in 2 more cabins close by, with four seasoned counselors. They are all great girls and the alternative was not an option…we wanted them all here!
Today was the debut of our newly acquired Hannah Ford Farm outpost. We spent last year working on it, rehabilitating an old barn, some stables, removing a dilapidated farmhouse, moving earth, building two ponds, and installing roads. It’s absolutely breathtaking with big open play spaces, hay fields, 1800 feet of river frontage on the headwaters of the French Broad, framed by some of the highest mountains east of the Mississippi in the background. It was also Spark Day. Our 42 girls slept in and were treated to breakfast in bed by their counselors. They then boarded the bus for the trip over the mountain to the mighty Nantahala River in the land of the noonday sun where they rafted the river, picnicked and enjoyed each other’s company. The afternoon return trip included a stop at Dollys for ice cream, a little “pressert” before dinner. Jet’s provided box after box of pizza that was enjoyed out at the farm. The crew will sleep together in the top of the barn in a space converted for large group sleepovers. On another side of the property, several cabins from Heigh Ho enjoyed hamburgers and hotdogs and will sleep out in tents around a campfire…counselor Ashley brought her guitar. I caught this crew stringing crazy creeks together in an improvised slide that was working quite well on one of the hills.
Today started off a little wet. Laurie and I hosted 22 counselors for our first weekly Bible study. I am always impressed with how much these young women love the Lord, and it is a privilege to worship and study with them in an informal setting. By the time we finished breakfast and Rise and Shine, the drizzle had stopped and gave way to beautiful blue skies and a crisp temperature. I love mountain weather! The second day of activities…we call them Pine Day and Tree Day…were held today, so each camper has completed her full schedule of activities. This is a happy crowd. I can tell by the appetites in the dining hall. Homemade pizzas for lunch and spaghettis and different sauces for dinner. Our dining hall addition that accommodates the salad bar has been a big hit. It has let in a lot more natural light with the new window, and everything feels cooler, more airy, with a lot more elbow room. Dee is spoiling us with her care and feeding of the salad bar. There is the usual stuff, but today she added quinoa with roasted vegetables, and her dressings are homemade and out of this world. Yummm. It may ultimately be more of a counselor perk, but in my book, a happy counselor is an effective one.
Tonight’s evening program just finished. Each cabin chose their own adventure…there were lots of overnights, tye dying of t-shirts, s’more making, cookie baking, cabin 1 had a spa night, jewelry making…lots going on. It’s a great activity to tighten cabin relationships. Tomorrow looks like more good weather. This is a terrific group of girls…your girls. Thanks for sharing with us. We’re having the summer of our lives.