Sundays are Heavenly!

I think the slower pace and change of schedule are two of the things that most Illahee campers and counselors look most forward to on Sunday. The day usually starts with a sleep-in, always popular on Pineview with the older girls, and maybe a little less so with Hillbrook, and in turn, their counselors. “Herding the cats” can last a little longer on Sunday for younger cabins and their counselors as everyone else catches a few zzz’s.

Today was a little bit out of the ordinary for four Pineview cabins. I awakened early and fired up our new bus, collected some Krispy Kremes to help wake up the crew and waited as Head of Hill Lynn roused the girls and their counselors and we headed across town to Sliding Rock in the majestic Pisgah National Forest. Usually a 30 minute journey, we were able to cut it to twenty as we rolled through town with every traffic light in our favor. Of course, it was 7:45 on a Sunday morning. It was nice to not be in a hurry, and the sleepy girls, buried deep in their hoodies and windbreakers…took in the absolute beauty of the ride up to the rock…passing by Looking Glass Falls, and riding along the Davidson river for a large part of the trip. It is amazing to me how much of a temperature difference there is as soon as I pass through the gates to the forest, and how much being in the woods settles my soul.

At that time of the morning, most girls that age are still asleep. It is my favorite time of day, and I couldn’t help but point out the mist rising off the river, but I also knew that they were soaking it all in. They saw…and appreciated what they saw out the window. The forest was waking up too. I think that is the thing about growing up our children. I know that I am preaching to the choir…but investing in experiences for our children is the smart “play.” We can preach to our girls all day long, but surrounding each with a rich array of things that challenge her senses positively will do so much more. That can be a good book (I love all the readers in this session). It can be a positive mentor. There are plenty around here. It can be a drive through the forest or a slide in a mountain stream while the day is still fresh. Memories sustain us and I made one this morning.

Back to this idea of raising a resilient child. How do we do it? For me, I would say first and foremost, travel as a family. There is so much that happens when you take trips as a family. Kids develop a world “view,” especially if you leave the country. Everyone gets good at problem solving and trying new things. Travel builds resiliency. Second, invest in opportunities that build independence and even more resiliency. But you are already doing that. That’s what camp is all about. Finally, find someone to act as “tribute” when mom and dad are not so “cool.” Make sure they share your values, and don’t be afraid to check in with them to make sure they have their eyes on the ball. I’m not going to revise this paragraph, but reading back through it, I still think travel is a luxury (as is camp) that can open the world for a child (and her family)…and I would also say that the number one priority for any parent who wants the best for their girl is to stay in the game. Even when you feel like it has gotten ahead of you. Dads especially.

So we made the fifteen minute journey up the road to Sliding Rock, a natural rock feature in the upper headwaters of the Davidson river that has been the slippery fun for generations of Illahee girls. Usually this trip is coupled with a stop at Dollys for ice cream, but this group did it in reverse, They went to Dollys the other night, and got their own trip to Sliding Rock this morning. As I told them, “there’s no better rock than morning rock.” And we didn’t disappoint. Not only was the approach magnificent in the early morning, but Sliding Rock itself was completely empty…of people I mean. Last year Tropical Storm Fred brought torrential downpours to our area and swept away the lower observation deck at Sliding Rock. I think it was a gift. It feels like we found our own special spot on the river now. The skies were blue, the morning was new, and the girls shook off the chill and most slid more than four times, saving the last trip for a slide with their cabin mates and counselor. It was a great way for me to start the day, and by the time we got back in the bus, everyone was wide awake and ready to start the new day.

Everyone else had a sleepy morning, followed by continental breakfast…featuring…you guessed it. Krispy Kremes! We don’t do a lot of extra sugar at camp, but a weekly exception on Sunday mornings are donuts. These sweet treats aside, Sunday morning breakfast can also be one of the healthiest. We are lucky to have an amazing produce stand right at the end of Illahee Road, and Greg, the proprietor seems to make it his mission to keep us in the best available local (if available) produce. We’ve had great peaches and blackberries lately. Our great kitchen crew cuts all of this up, along with melons, and other seasonal fruit, and there is as much as anyone cares to eat. Yogurt, bagels, eggs, cereal…

Worship was beautiful and in the Woodland Chapel. Hillbrook led it today…it’s always a treat to see the girls cleaned up and in their whites, sounding angelic with songs of praise. Each girl from the hill participates and it is one of those times that the thin “veil” between heaven and earth is revealed for me.

Fresh friend chicken. Warm yeast rolls with butter and honey. Salad. Wild rice. Steamed broccoli. Yum!

The afternoon was perfect. Temple and crew organized a fantastic swim show with performances by the divers and synchronized swimmer….and then lots of swim relays punctuated by spirit contests. I spent most of the afternoon taking photos of girls on the Tarzan…affectionately called the “Zan” by older campers. It is the very best rope swing I have seen, and there is an entire culture surrounding it. I love watching campers and…counselors taking their first swing. It is a challenging “get” for an amateur photographer (me), and I always feel like I am perfecting my shot, AND it gives me a chance to chat with and encourage girls who are working toward that first swing or a flip at the end.

Turner cooked burgers and dogs for 350, and I can tell he is getting it down. Everything was yummy for our picnic outside this evening. The night was as beautiful as the morning that greeted me, It was a perfect summer evening and girls enjoyed each other’s company before we all gathered for campfire. This was our last for this session in our campfire area behind McLeod on main camp. We’ll join for a last gathering on Thursday night in Dohivi Noche (final night) under the towering Pine tree. It’s hard to believe we are entering our final week of this session, It will be action packed. We got a preview this morning in staff meeting, and there will be no rest for the weary!

I hear the start of a surprise “pop up” dance party outside our house on Pineview for the older girls. I’m going to go make an appearance and the head to bed. This day started early, and ended well. I love my “job.”