Guest Writer: “Badger” – Rock Hill Counselor
My mom describes our first drive down Wixon Pond Road as me getting progressively smaller and quieter in the back seat as we approached number 300, the entrance to Rock Hill Camp. But, two weeks later, at the end of the session, the smile on my face told her all she needed to know before asking the camp director if it was too early to sign up for next summer.
Growing up in New York City, coming to Rock Hill was a completely new experience for me, but that’s one of the things that made it so special. At home I take the subway to school, can grab a banana from a fruit vendor on the street if I’m hungry, and come home to hours of homework. Rock Hill is a completely different: instead of navigating the subway, I learn how to navigate with a compass; instead of buying a banana, I learn about all the wild edibles that grow around camp; instead of drowning in homework, I learn to swim in the lake.
Camp was so different from my life at home that the lessons I learned at camp were lessons that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else. When I started at Rock Hill as a non-Girl Scout from New York City, I didn’t know how to swim, I couldn’t recite the Girl Scout Promise (I didn’t know there was one), and I had never seen a bow and arrow. This past summer, after nine years at camp, I completed the lifeguard training program. I said the Girl Scout Promise for the 115th time. And, well, I can’t say the same about my archery skills, but I know I’ll have years to come to work on them.
Rock Hill pushes me to explore areas out of my comfort zone. From archery to swimming to living without easy access to pizza, most of the activities I tried my first year at camp were things I had not done before. Because everything is so new, camp teaches determination and persistence. The whole spirit of Rock Hill is trying new things, even if they’re difficult or uncomfortable at first. For example, when I first started at camp I was not comfortable making campfires, a skill that I got to practice at camp. Even though we didn’t always get to eat breakfast quickly in Outpost (the primitive camping program in which we cook all of our own food over campfires), we always managed to start the fire. Now, fire building has become one of my favorite activities, and I always look forward to Wednesdays, cookout night.
Each new year at camp poses new challenges. Camp continued to push the limits of what I was comfortable with. When I did High Adventure (a program that features a canoe trek in the Adirondacks), I became comfortable portaging and canoeing all day. When I did CIT last summer, I became more comfortable working with children. This summer, which will be my first working as a lifeguard and counselor, I am sure that I will be pushed more than I ever have before.
But by far the best part of Rock Hill is the incredible spirit that underscores everything we do. Songs that are meant for young children in the real world become energetic and one of the best parts of camp. Tedious or annoying tasks, like cleaning the wash houses or hiking around camp in the hot sun, which have the potential to be plain-out annoying, are suddenly, not only tolerable, but even fun, when they’re done in the camp spirit.
I wouldn’t trade my summers at Rock Hill for anything. I wouldn’t trade the weird stares I get when using camp names in the real world. I wouldn’t trade the bug bites or sunburns. The new skills and spirit and the amazing friends and experiences that I’ve had at camp are the most valuable things I have ever gained.