Farewell to a Great Summer!

A return to normalcy. That’s what this summer was. Our nurses and doctors joined trips to Sliding Rock, and were often out and about watching all of the fun and action we get to see as directors every day. Our stockpile of Covid tests are gathering dust in the corner of one of our bedrooms…not a single case at camp all summer. Rebuilt immune systems prevailed. Though we will never take a healthy and safe summer for granted, I will be the first to say, camp felt like “old” camp to me again. Gone was the breath-holding every time the Wishing Well (our health center) called. We had an amazing staff made up of mostly of former campers with a smattering of Internationals to add some spice. There was a happy buzz all summer long. It was a carefree summer, and summers like these are hard to let go of…

Camp is our family’s mission trip, and a highlight of my summer was welcoming Lucas to the fold. He brought a pastoral presence to the mix, and was indefatigable in his pursuit of “greasing the skids” to make activities excellent in all respects. Whether making sure counselors had the “goods,” whether arts and crafts supplies or s’more fixins, he was also there to start a fire, or encourage a camper on a SUP, or help “catch” as campers zipped down from the Beanstalk. He was patient as he learned the culture, even the “less efficient” parts of it. He accepted encouragement in the spirit it was given, and added a fun factor with his love for the microphone and stage. He and Gardner are a dynamic duo, and I’m thrilled they are here to be leaders for your girls and the next generation of staff members.

With the end of camp comes another transition for our family. Turner, our son, and his wife Marie are moving to Seattle. Turner’s career began as a software developer, and he has accepted a job with Amazon as they try to play catch-up to SpaceX’s Starlink low-orbit internet provider. We will miss them as neighbors out at the farm, but know that it is the right move for them.

I wrote on the first night that I get a little nostalgic knowing what I do about how Illahee gets in a girl’s blood…and wondering which of these first-year campers will be here ten or twelve years hence? It has been a fast and furious week with loads of fun-filled activity, lots of new friends and plenty of growth to boot. I’m curious whether you will notice your camper walking a little taller, with a little more confidence than before? I know she had fun, judging from the squeals and laughter that have filled these hills this week. Allow some time tomorrow after pick-up to get a tour of camp, led by your very own tour guide…so that you can gain some context for the stories that are sure to come! Note that most of our horses left for their winter homes tonight, as it is healthier for them to trailer when it is cool at night, but the barn will be open so that you can see where your camper rode her imaginary horse!

During Junior camp, our final day is as active as the first. There is barely a reference to leaving tomorrow. We’ll wait to pack until late afternoon and even then hold out bathing suits and bed linens etc. Thanks for grace as you unpack that trunk! A messy trunk is the sign of a fun-filled week. We had a front roll through this morning right before the wake-up bell rang leaving and inch and a half of rain, and clear skies behind it. It certainly set the course for the maintenance crew’s day as they fixed water washes on the road and blew leaves off the paths and driveways. I love the sound of rain on a metal roof, and this front had delightful weather behind it. Our day was breezy and cool with bright blue skies and billowy clouds punctuating a perfect last day.

The Beanstalk was a popular spot today with three cabins zipping, with big grins and a few squeals as campers came back down to earth after lingering in the trees at the top of our high course. These zippers got a good view of the swim lake as they descended, which was also popular as girls swam, swung on the Tarzan swing, and zipped down the Streak water slide. We had a regular day of activities, including riding. These horses don’t know the luxury they are leaving as they head back to their southern winter home.

Tonight, we met one last time as a family at our campfire ring behind McLeod Lodge. The difference in the first and last days of the session were on full display. Girls sang camp songs with confidence and enthusiasm. There was laughter and enthusiasm as skits and stories were shared. It was a perfect end to a perfect day.

A reminder that we will do this all again in 2024! I often liken getting ready for camp to having a baby. We prepare for its arrival for nine months and then the fun begins! 2024 online applications will be live Monday morning! You will need to log into your myIllahee account for each camper (log out and back in if you have more than one camper after enrolling the first), and most of the information will be pre-populated. Please check for accuracy in case there has been any change in address, etc.

Thank you for the privilege of trusting us with your camper on our “mission trip.” She is indeed part of our family now, and we are excited for you to reunite, and for you to be regaled with stories and songs from the week. We wish you health and happiness as you get ready for another school year and look forward to the time when we all meet again in our heavenly world!

Until next year…Gordon.