Surprise Day in Candyland!

Surprise Day at Camp Illahee
CIT’s surprise camp with a live game of Candyland!

I’ll tell you…it was a busy day in the Heavenly! Laurie and I started a little earlier than the average Illahee day with our weekly Tuesday morning Counselor Bible study, and I actually had to duck out early from that to pack out the food for our first rising 7th Grade Adventure! In what has become an Illahee tradition, I take all of the 7th graders out for the day to hike and swim and get to know some of the mountains around Camp. Today, we headed up to the Black Balsams and hiked Tennent Mountain through Ivestor Gap on the Art Loeb trail. We were treated with very typical high altitude summer mountain weather. We started off in sunny warm Brevard, climbed 4500 feet (in the bus), losing ten degrees in the journey, and arrived at the trailhead ready to go. Today, I talked about the history of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Roosevelt’s New Deal and the Civilian Conservation Corps, geology and plate tectonics. Some of this falls on deaf ears, but when the trivia games start after lunch, and Oreos are at stake, I am amazed at how much actually has sunk in.

Ten minutes into our hike, I noticed that the clouds started to gather to our South. As a thirty year veteran of trip leading in the Pisgahs, I have gained a pretty good perspective of how storms can travel, and I knew that we didn’t have a whole lot to worry about from this one. But, it did give us quite a show as we walked along the ridge lines above tree level. The girls got a kick out of the fact that we were above the clouds, and the drama of distant thunder provided a great backdrop to our conversation. We dined on turkey subs, Pringles, and Oreos (even if you weren’t listening to my history lesson, you got at least two). I absolutely love pointing out the color along the trail…bluets, Catawba Rhododendron, flame azalea, and the beginning blooms of Mountain Laurel. The Galax were also sending out long slender blooms that I can’t remember seeing for a number of years.

After our hike, we got back on the bus and headed to a little known swimming hole north of the Parkway, a ten minute hike from the Looking Glass overlook called Skinny Dip Falls. There is a “jumping off rock” there that launches out and above a deep mountain pool below a cascading waterfall. Enjoy the pictures of the daring group that made the plunge. We ended our perfect day with the piece de resistance…a double scoop of Dolly’s best.

If there was one downside to our adventure, it was missing Surprise Day back at camp. The CITs have planned their day since well before the start of camp, and with lots of ingenuity, transformed the Heavenly World into Candyland. Each girl was a different candy character and the day was focused around trying to reunite the pieces of the Candyland game board. Besides programming for the day, the CITs also picked the menu. There were pink pancakes loaded with chocolate chips and bacon for breakfast, chicken fingers and smiley fries for lunch, and tortellini and endless salad and breadsticks for dinner. AND, in keeping with the Candyland theme, these sweet girls pre-empted our own gutter sundae surprise and REALLY surprised the rest of camp by calling everyone down to  the Rec Lodge for all the ice cream they could manage…presented with favorite toppings in long gutters! Yes, the same ones that catch the rain when they are not full of leaves on your roof! Of course, these have been sent through the Hobart dish machine, but still, side by side, the campers enjoy yummy ice cream sundaes in the longest presentation you can imagine. So as not to disappoint, another Illahee tradition, dirt cake, followed dinner. Homemade chocolate pudding, crushed oreos, some whipped cream, and gummy worms served in a flower pot!…what’s not to love about that?

We had some great firsts today…a group went flyfishing on the Davidson River…and another group went tubing on the French Broad, ending up at the farm. Speaking of the farm, tomorrow, we start our first encampment at Hannah Ford Farm. Each hill will head over there, enjoy burgers and hotdogs, play games, explore the farm, sing songs around the campfire, and sleep in tents, in the loft of the barn, or out under the stars. It is sure to create some lasting memories. Things are hopping around here. It’s time for me to head to bed so I can keep up with all the activity. We’re having a blast.

P.S. Please remind friends and family of our no care package policy. It makes us look like the “evil ones” when we send unopened packages back to sender. Thanks for understanding.