On Saturday afternoon a camper from New York City, Albany, Boston, or Newark drives up Rt. 30, and, sees more trees than he has every seen in his life…and a shallow rushing river next to the road. He sees the pig rock as the mini-van turns off Rt. 30 onto the stone road…never ridden on one of those before. More trees! He is welcomed, his suitcase is taken from the van, and he is soon walking with an increasing number of excited people who seem to know each other. He is guided past a large, log building called Founders Lodge, and there is the lake – just like on the DL calendar. He nervously gets through registration, has his temperature taken, his hair is checked for lice! Someone picks up his suitcase and he is taken to his log cabin where he meets his counselor, few campers, and picks his a bunk. He is asked if he wants to take the swim test. Swim test? The test is explained, he puts on his swim suit, and one of the campers takes him down to the swimming area. He learned to swim at the park pool. He realizes he will have to jump into the lake. The lake must be very cold – everyone is talking about it – and there will be fish!
After supper and a camp fire, his cabin group walks back to their cabin. Entering the woods, it is very dark, and quiet – not like home with street lights and cars and horns. The cabin is dark, until his counselor lights the two gas lamps…really cool! He is relieved when his counselor says that if anyone is afraid to go to the Waldorf alone at night, they should wake him up.
In the morning he gets dressed and walks out the front door of his cabin to see the sun rising over the Dugs, and a lake that is beautiful. Sparkling! He knows about the soap scrub, and soon he is having his first. What’s the big deal?
After the sticky buns in the dining hall, everyone is told by the Director to go with their cabin group into the woods. “This is what I want you to do: Notice the quiet beauty of God’s unaltered creation. Enjoy the colors. Listen to the sounds. Feel the textures in the woods. Notice the different smells.. What are the differences between DL and home? Do you see things that remind you of something about God? A “symbol” of God? Many times Jesus taught with stories, called parables. Can you make your own parable, a story that teaches something about God?” He comes out of the woods, excited and awe struck. It was incredible! The Woodsman cabin groups sit together on benches by the beak poll, and he hears what others have seen, what they have thought. Wow!
Monday morning he learns he must take swimming, campcraft, and an instructional area he can choose – archery! The singing with six guitars, bongo drum and piano is good. Everyone sure sings loudly! And some songs do really fast. The after breakfast Bible study is about King David. Interesting. David did a lot of camping too. Campcraft is first period. He has never held an ax, built a fire, or seen a compass. So much to learn!!! Swimming is easy, now that he has been in the lake twice. He passes his basic in one day! Tomorrow – canoeing. Those canoes sure look tipsy!
The hike is fun. Never knew what a hike was. Returning to sleep near camp sounded good. While eating, he hears a loon. His cabin sits around a small campfire while his counselor tells that Jesus must have done a lot of camping. As he crawls into his tent, he hears the wind blowing in the trees and hopes one does not fall on his tent! In the morning, while in his sleeping bag, he hears frogs – and the loon again. The pancakes and bacon are really good!
The next summer he returns as Pioneer. To get to his cabin on the Point, he walks in the woods along the edge of the lake – it’s about a half mile. He learns that on the Point there are two outhouses – no Waldorf with a light in it all night. Monday morning he begins working on his Basic in canoeing, learns how use a compass and geological survey map. He starts a pottery project in crafts. On Thursday his cabin climbs the Dugs – a tough hike with a back pack. Incredible to be able to look down onto camp. He goes with his assistant counselor to the small spring on the top of the mountain. He assembles his own hobo dinner and puts it in the coals of the fire. Really good! Then s’mores…and devotions by the campfire – This is his world.
Two summers later he is an Indian. His first night it rained – really rained! Noisy, but he stays dry. He signs up for a canoe trip! He has his advanced…ready! The next summer he takes the Allagash River trip – canoes some rapids! Selected to be a Guide, he gains confidence, sharpens his skills, canoes for two weeks on big lakes and rivers in Canada, and hikes for two weeks in the Adirondack High Peaks. He spends a three days in the woods – just himself and God. He reads his Bible, thinks, prays, journals…then runs the last 10 miles into camp. The woods have become another home for him. He is ready, and he knows it! Ready to be a counselor, lead a hike, teach canoeing, Ready for college. He is committed to being God’s Man!!
Deerfoot men know the answer to Richard Louv’s question: “What would our lives be like if we were as immersed in nature as we are in technology?” Life gets back into perspective. God becomes real – personal.
A University of Michigan 2008 study demonstrated that after an hour of interacting with nature, attention spans improve by 20%. Perhaps this is one reason why boys who struggle at home and in school thrive at DL. In 2012, University of Kansas research reported “a 50% boost in creativity for people who were steeped in nature for a few days”. Perhaps this is why campers and staff come up with crazy stuff to do.
How can you spend time each week surrounded by God’s creation? Why would this be worth the effort?
“Be still, and know that I am God….I will be exalted in the earth”. Psalm 46:10