I’d pulled into Nature Camp dozens of times during the summer, first as a camper in the 90s and more recently as a parent. But Fall Hike Day 2016, a fundraiser for the Nature Camp Foundation, was my first time visiting Camp outside of the summer. It turns out I’d been missing out.
The day began with our guides (counselors, alums, and friends of Camp) describing half a dozen hikes to choose from, for the maybe 60-odd hikers. A Nature Camp counselor can make a lichen sighting sound like the chance of a lifetime. I wanted to go on all of them.
My son, Indra, picked the Mine Mountain hike. Our guide was Lars Nelson, a geology teacher, Nature Camp alum, and former counselor, and eighteen people came along our hike. Our ages ranged from maybe ten to sixty, and we were mostly strangers at the start, but everybody got along right away and conversation flowed easily.
The hike took us up Mine Mountain with stops at Lookout Rock and Lookout 3, giving us lovely views of Mount McClung and a glimpse of camp buildings below. At the top we walked along the ridge and had lunch at the summit. We clambered down a steep slope with no discernible trail, and then walked along a creek bed which eventually joined up with Big Mary’s Creek. We stopped briefly at Table Rock (awfully cold in October!) and then took the easy walk back to camp. Highlights included several salamander sightings, a large millipede, and rocks and fossils that Lars pointed out to us along the way.
The hike made for a fun day, easily worth the $20 donation, but there was more to come. We all sat down for a Thanksgiving-style dinner with turkeys from Polyface Farm, sauce with cranberries picked from some of the southernmost wild cranberry bushes in the U.S., lentil salad, mashed potatoes, and apple cobbler. By now it seemed like everybody knew everybody – a great meal with great company is always a pleasure.
The day was so delightful that it’s easy to forget we raised $1520.00 for the Nature Camp Foundation. Some of my fellow hikers told me about Service Weekends (another opportunity to have fun while helping Camp) and Adult Session. This year’s Fall Hike Day was the first time my son and I made it to Nature Camp outside of the summer, but it won’t be the last.