Welcome Two Week Session!

We saw lots of big grins and enthusiastic smiles as your cars rolled through the gates this morning. Gardner and I enjoyed being part of the welcome team getting to peek into your windows to say hello and give out cabin assignments. We noticed a few jitters and lots of excitement. Lucas, Gordon, and Phil directed the unloading at the top of the driveway, Claire covered the Curtis office and Gretchen was over on the Pineview hill- the oldest campers in the session. We’re the year round crew at camp, and we all love summer when camp is alive with your girls. This session is always the most spirited with the oldest campers entering 8th grade and all girls having waited the better part of summer to get here!

We said good-bye to our four week campers on Friday and have had some rest and family time. Yesterday I spent a few hours with my grandson, (Gardner’s son) Brooks at the pool, and he headed to Falling Creek this morning. A boy in an all- girls’ camp, Brooks is like my son, Turner was- fully scheduled in the summer and this is his third camp for the season- (4th if you include a week at a basketball day camp in Raleigh). He has loved each camp, even though he is tearful on day 1 and he writes a fair share of “I miss you so much” letters to us. He always comes home with big stories and new tricks. He became a Diablo master at Camp Carolina in June and learned impressive card tricks at High Rocks… I wonder what new interests the next two weeks will bring? But for now we are focused on opening day at Illahee. We had a number of former staff members join our ranks last night bringing fresh energy to keep up with this group of excited campers.

Each night you’ll hear from Gordon, Gardner, Lucas or me in our nightly updates. Counselor, Ryan, let me know that she likes to read the blog each evening or the next morning and try to guess who wrote it before she looks at the signature. Gordon and I are in our 35th season- 22 at Illahee and 13 prior at Camp Merrie-Woode as camp directors. We now have daughters of former counselors at camp. I feel a little like Peter Pan surrounded by the lost boys- “I won’t grow up!” Gardner has worked year-round with us since her college graduation 7 years ago and her husband, Lucas, joined the year round team as our program director in May. Lucas and Gardner lived in Columbia, SC before moving full time to Brevard, where he was associate pastor of Downtown Church. We had a lot of Columbia families arrive this morning looking for Lucas, and one family brought his favorite cinnamon rolls from Devine Street Bakery.

As the last cars passed through the gates, we began settling into camp. Girls picked up Ship Store pre-order items and started unpacking in their cabins before enjoying a buffet lunch prepared by chef Carli and her team- turkey sandwiches, PBJ’s, hummus and carrots, chips, pasta salad, and the same chocolate chip cookies that we passed out to cars this morning. Settling in and “nesting” is as important a part of camp as the time at the lake and the “head massages” to check for any pesky critters. We want girls to feel at home so we make sure their beds are made and that they’ve located their clothes and items hidden away in their trunks. A big camp tour is followed by Nature Steve’s show based from his solar powered nature pod. He travels to camp on opening days with his entourage of snakes and other wildlife.

After afternoon activities campers put on their Sunday whites and blue ties. It feels like camp when we look around at a sea of white shirts and shorts. Earlier this summer, Lucas argued against the tradition of whites- by the end of Sunday, they are stained with dirt, ketchup, and maybe a splash of coffee- pretty impractical; he was pushing for khaki or beige-now that’s practical, but who wants practical when everyone looks good in white! And there is something about the uniform staying the same over the years as other styles change- what is cool this summer? At camp, Sunday whites are always cool. And the Sunday dinner menu- fried chicken, wild rice, broccoli and Rich’s rolls has been a staple since long before we or even our predecessors were here. We have added a tofu option, baked chicken and a big spring mix salad to the Sunday feast and tonight’s scooped ice cream was Tillamook strawberry- delicious!

We went straight from dinner to our campfire ring for lots of singing starting with counselors leading Welcome to Illahee and continuing with the Canoe Song (led by Lucas), Winnie the Pooh, and Annie May to name a few. We presented pine tree pins to eight 5-year campers, and recognized 2nd year counselors who just joined us this session with CI pins- Illahee bling for the camp tie. Each hill group of counselors did a musical skit and introduction and they already have a cheering fan club made up of your daughters. Our bedtime story was a classic, Enemy Pie. We’re noticing the days are starting to get a little shorter. It was dusk when Lucas read, THE END and we sang our Pinetree Song. Campers are back in their cabins settling in before Taps plays at 9:30. I’m going to head to Pineview to see how my new neighbors are settling in!
Sleep well, Illahee family!