Justin Waldrip–Adventure Department Head
Imagine a long day of being in nature, maybe taking a swim in the lake or going for a mountain bike ride. A tent is set up near a roaring campfire and s’mores are about to get made. What could be better? The rest of the night goes by with campfire songs and stargazing, and it’s time for bed. You get into your tent as the embers of the once roaring campfire gently illuminate the campsite. As the crickets’ chirping begins to lull you to sleep, you hear it…a single twig cracking. Immediately, you sit up, heart racing. Was that a bear? Could it be a mountain lion? A wolf? Or could it simply be a squirrel trying to go to bed as well? We may never know what broke that twig, but we do know that in nature, we are entering something else’s territory. We are just fortunate enough to be visitors there.
I’m often reminded of the story of a rabbi who went camping with a few of his students. As they are going to bed, they hear the lone howl of a grey wolf. They grab their flashlights, and then they hear a chorus of howls. Trembling in their sleeping bags, they reach for their pocket knives, just in case, but the rabbi closely listens to the howls again, and he determines that it wasn’t an angry howl; it was a “we are here too” howl. The rabbi and his students close their knives, turn off their flashlights, and go to bed.
At Henry S. Jacobs Camp, the Adventure Department uses our campouts and the majority of our programming to encourage environmental stewardship. I am a firm believer in Leave No Trace camping and outdoor activities because one of the main things that I learned in the Boy Scouts is to leave the campsite cleaner than what it was when we got there. On a weekend campout, the campsite is our home for only a few days, so we are merely visitors in nature. But three weeks is a long time to be a visitor somewhere. Our Opening Day Crew affectionately told every camper entering our gates, “Welcome Home,” so for this session, we call nature our home. I know my mom doesn’t like a messy home, so why would we leave a candy wrapper of an empty bag of chips on the ground?