At Eagle’s Nest Camp, we believe that every child should have the chance to have a special campout in nature. We want them to experience the joy (and courage) of sleeping outside, under a tarp with the sounds of nature all around them. Over the past two nights the cabin groups have started going on out campouts. So far Cabins 1, 9, 7, 5, 8, Library and Treetops have all had a chance to tell stories and eat s’mores around a campfire, and then climb into their sleeping bags for a sleep out in the woods. We’re excited that they get this opportunity because we know the providing a safe, fun experience in the natural world will give them the chance to step out of their comfort zones, stretch their minds, and connect them to the beauty of the world around them. Is there a better way for us to meet our mission of “promoting the natural world and the betterment of human character”?
Cabin campouts are different for each cabin, and are intentionally designed to be supportive of the age group. Our youngest campers, the kindergarten – 3rd graders, typically spend their cabin campout at our Campcraft Shed. This sweet little lean-to shelter is located an easy “jump” across a little creek down the hill from the Dining Hall. It’s nestled under full hemlock trees that give it a comforting, protective feel for young children who might be nervous about sleeping outside. The moss growing on the long roof add to the feel that fairies may be living nearby. And the fire pit is very effective in drawing campers out of the double-decker shelter and into the magical glow of the campfire. I love wandering down to the Campcraft Shed when I know that a group of young campers are having their first campout there. Hearing their joyful chatter, and sharing a s’more and story with them, reminds me of my first campout on the hill.
As campers get older and more mature, they have the opportunity to go to new campsites that require hiking the back trails on our property. The middle age campers (4th – 6th graders) often camp at “Westwood” – a magical campsite in the middle of a grove of rhododendron at the confluence of two creeks. These back country campers don’t have a wooden lean-to to sleep in, so they are sheltered in tarps for the night. I think that this might be my favorite campsite. The rhododendrons screen it from the main trail, giving campers the feeling that they are tucked away in a “secret spot”, and the sound of the creek at night is just loud enough to lull the campers to sleep. Cabin 1 slept there on Tuesday night, and even cooked a breakfast of pancakes for themselves Wednesday morning.
The oldest campers typically stay at “Ridgeline”, a campsite on the ridge above the horse pasture. To get to Ridgeline, campers have to hike up a short, but fairly steep hill. Once the reach the top, they are pleased to find that the needles from the pine trees that surround the site provide a nice extra layer of cushion for the sleeping bags. And, being teenagers, they are even more excited to realize in the morning, that they can’t hear that bell from their secluded campsite in the woods.
I hope that the campers will enjoy their campouts, and that their experiences will start them on a path that leads to a greater appreciation of the beautiful natural world around them.