Thursday, December 3, 2009

Camp Ohio

In the school district I attended from kindergarten through my senior year in high school, each fall, the six grade students were sent to a 4-H camp, Camp Ohio. Every school had their own three day period at the camp, and the students were accompanied by their teachers, as well as local high school students who acted as counselors.

Classes and schedules were dictated by each school; for mine that meant 6 periods to select from a combination of art, nature, and adventure classes, including the highly-coveted "High Ropes Course," "Photography," and "Buddy Burner Cooking," where you skipped lunch in the dining hall and cooked hot dogs and marshmallows. These and other popular classes were quick to fill up when we selected our schedules, leaving some students with less desirable choices like "The Big Hike," a double-period class spent hiking through the hills surrounding the camp.

Of course, the boys' and girls' cabins were on opposite sides of camp, sides joined together by a bridge. Although rumors abound that the teachers stood guard at night at this spot where the two sides connected, inevitably, some couples snuck out after dark to meet at the bridge. Their departures were the cause of speculation and gossip as everyone wondered whether they would be caught and more importantly, if their meeting were successful, whether it would involve a kiss.

By that time of year, the leaves were striking shades of yellow, orange and red, and the weather was cold. In the morning, the frosty air stung my lungs, yet felt invigorating as I dashed from the cabin to the bathhouse, hurrying in my pajamas and winter coat from the comfort of one warm building to the next. An early snow fall graced our trip, and it was enchanting to see the hilly landscape covered in white.

I fell in love with Camp Ohio as a 6th grader and vowed to return with my school as a high school counselor if I were selected. My sophomore year, I had my first opportunity to do just that.

Not much had changed in the years since I was a camper. The "High Ropes Course" was still a highly-coveted class, even for the counselors, while "The Big Hike" was not filled to maximum capacity. Boys and girls still made plans for clandestine meetings at the bridge after darkness fell. And the cold morning air, which I would curse for so many months in the winter, still provided an invigorating start to my days as I dashed from the cabin to the bathhouse.

I returned again as a counselor my junior and senior year in high school, and every fall since then, on the first frosty morning of the season, I find myself longing for a rustic getaway. A cabin. Fall leaves. And the company of friends.

Verity Welstead

Since our cold seasons are slower to arrive here in Texas, it has only been in the most recent weeks that I've found myself longing for such a retreat. Since none will be happening this autumn, I'm contenting myself with these photos, my memories, and remembering to appreciate how invigorating the cold morning air can be.