The Natural Gifts of Camp

The Natural Gifts of Camp
Every summer, when I was in junior high and high school, my buddy Pete Sebring would disappear for a few weeks to a camp in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. I resented it. For me, those humid July weeks back in Kansas dragged, and then Pete would come home telling tales of adventure — as if he had been to some alpine Oz.

As it turns out, that camp shaped Pete in ways neither of us realized at the time. He credits his summers in Colorado with giving him a foundation for success and longevity — more than three decades — as a teacher.

"The camp encouraged me to invent activities, such as pioneering, survival hikes and overnights, and identifying native plants of central Colorado," he says. "Once while picking ground plums, which tasted like raw green beans, we uncovered an ancient hunting site full of arrowheads, charcoal, and flint chips. I also encountered brown bears, coyotes, pumas, and wolves — one white and one black. Only the kids with me believed me."

I was one of those who didn't believe that Pete had encountered wolves. This morning, I checked the history: The Colorado Department of Resources reports that, while wolves were, by official measure, eradicated in the 1930s, "there have been sporadic reports of wolves in Colorado over the decades" — none confirmed. They may have been wolf-hybrids or dogs or, just maybe, wolves. "Their night howls were long, sonorous, and unnerving," Pete recalls.

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