“What August Camp Has Done for Me 2020”
Please enjoy reading the beautiful essays written by today's August Campers as part of our 2020 Essay Contest. Campers were asked to create their own celebration of August Camp - an original essay, limerick, poem, song, rap, article, or work of art. Links for the 2020 contributions are below.
At August Camp over the years
I have conquered a lot of my fears.
But the mice I’m still hating
And because of their mating
Their numbers still bring me to tears.
Thriplow Farms, U.K.
Every night at AMC August Camp in Oregon, someone from each of the half dozen hikes would give a brief - well, usually they were brief - trip report, talking about what the hike was like. During our last hike of the week, in my case the Obsidian Trail, hike leader Eva talked about how we should write an ode to obsidian. It got the wheels turning, and I said I could probably write a verse or two that whoever did the trip report could include. Eva said "Why don't you just do the trip report?" So as we hiked along, I started thinking about what I might want to say and how to get it into verse. My first time at August Camp had been incredible, the week had flown by, I had so many great memories, and I couldn’t believe that it was nearly over. So, I felt as if doing something special to celebrate that last hike was in order.
Back at camp, we learned that there would be no trip reports that night, because of the "Follies," which is the end of each week of camp's talent show. So after thinking it over for a few seconds, I had a leap of faith that I could write something before the Follies and present it there. So, I signed up for the Follies to present a poem – now, I was on the hook! I took a shower, and then spent about a half hour after dinner scribbling something out, and here is the result. I read it at the Follies - which were excellent by the way: a lot of talented singers, musicians, and story and joke tellers, and even a funny mime act on sleep deprivation. It was a good way to end a great week, and to me, this one hike summarizes many of the great things about August Camp.
“Ode to Obsidian Trail”
Eleven hit the Obsidian Trail
Energized, with such wide smiles
We had great times, without fail
On this lollipop of a dozen miles
Obsidian is volcanic glass
It’s hard as flint and black as jet
This hike is one you should not pass
This trek is one you’ll ne’er forget
We climbed about 2,000 feet
Through forest, meadow, lava field
The air was cool and damp, yet sweet
We layered up, from chill to shield
Around midday, our merry bunch
By waterfall and rocks of pumice
Pulled out our sandwiches for lunch:
Ham, turkey, cheese, tuna, hummus
As far as wildlife on our day
The highlight was a yellow marmot
We met no harm, but sad to say
I’m pretty sure we did alarm it
Through open glen we softly tread
When we all spied two glacial tarns
So unexpected that I said
“What lovely lakes! Well, I’ll be darned!”
My week here is near a close
This hike today was quite the champ
A fitting last hike that I chose
To end my week in August Camp!
Yes, eleven hiked the Obsidian Trail
A little piece of Oregon heaven
With one last fact, I’ll end my tale:
How many returned? Why, all eleven!
Glen Allen, VA
August camp made me feel brave. Camp gave me the chance to test my limits and the courage to try new things. I didn’t perform heroic acts, but I felt joy with my achievements and experience.
Sometimes bravery comes out of desperation. I originally planned to travel with 2 friends to the Cascades. They backed out at the last minute, but I decided to go it alone. I wasn’t about to give up inspiring hikes in the wilderness and songs around a camp fire. I knew there would be people of similar interests and I would make friends easily.
I found the campsite on a hot day in July 2017 somewhat disappointing. I was expecting tents nestled under trees. Instead, they were out in a hot open field under a blazing sun. I was happy to see cots after learning mice were about.
I unpacked my gear, quickly got into my swimsuit, and headed to the “swim hole”. I walked down the hot dusty road, turned at the intersection, and walked about 30 minutes, but no swimming hole. Could I be going the wrong direction? A car approached. I waved it down. The fellow said he thought I was going the wrong way and offered me a ride back. Normally, I would say no, especially when I realized his car might be his house. But I was desperate and got in. I didn’t ’t see any obvious weapons, but I made plans to leave when I noted blood running down his arm. The swimming hole was refreshing and I was grateful for my driver despite my initial fears.
Hikes were wonderful even though vistas were hidden behind smoke. The trails were hot and dusty and I decided to give the portable showers a try. Well, who knew that water in bags, laying out in the sun could get so hot and make a shower so refreshing.
I decided to go on a service hike to work on some trails. I was hesitant about going after I realized we’d have to carry gear and wear hard hats as we hiked to the worksite. But it wasn’t as hard as I thought and I had an added surprise. I met someone who attended a high school in my home town.
The rafting trip down the rapids was another source for testing one’s mettle. Again the safety attire didn’t thrill me but I’m glad I wore it. Rafts tumbling over rocks, oars flailing, water everywhere. A log protruding from the shore almost strikes a rider. Thank goodness for helmets. I didn’t think we could safely walk through the churning water as our rafts were maneuvered with ropes. But we did.
Finally, the trip down the rapids gave me a reason to be grateful. Little did I know that getting whacked with an oar would result in symptoms that would lead to the diagnosis of a silent life-threatening illness. I had surgery a month after returning home and have been in remission for almost three years. So I can end by saying that August Camp gave me the greatest gift…it gave me my life.
I can’t remember when I first heard about “Camp”, but it is an early memory. A few visits to the Dover Woodlot near Boston, some references to Cold River Camp where my maternal grandfather spent many summers, and some references to August Camp by my mother solidified “Camp” as a place to meet people, participate in outdoor activities, and relax in nature.
The first 15 summers of my life were spent at my grandfather’s cottage on New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock. This was like Camp with no running water or electricity. As soon as conditions permitted our car was loaded and a day long drive began with activities to keep us kids under control. This often-included songs sung by our mother as we drove along, occasionally reaching speeds as high as 50 mph! Songs such as A Capital Ship, Clementine, You are my Sunshine, I’ve got Sixpence, Three little fishes, and Seven Old Ladies. The latter sung at many August Camps.
My first August Camp was in 2008 at Pilot Creek, Wyoming. It was not an auspicious start as I became dehydrated and needed a hospital visit to rehydrate. But from misfortune comes benefits. I got to see the Dead Indian Lookout on the Chief Joseph Highway on the way to Cody. I met a father and son team that graciously offered me a trip to Yellowstone Park to tour many of the sites there, and this Camp is where I first met several AMC members that I would encounter on future August Camps. Here I witnessed two sandhill cranes walk across our path and experienced my first chinook wind event. So August Camp provided me with memories of particular incidents, views, and images that will remain with me for life. To stand on a mountain peak with an unobstructed view in all directions gives one a feeling of infinite possibility and truly the sky’s the limit.
Typically, there is an inclusivity that comes with Camp. At Pilot Creek, people shared equipment and stories, participated in the daily hike reports, sang and listened to my tent mate, Ed the cop, play his harmonica at campfire. We shared wine with a camper’s memorable event – in this case survival past her pancreatic cancer prognosis. Sharing then is a major component of Camp life, and August Camp made me a more aware of the need to share.
Camp is always a learning and visual experience of nature. Here I see how environment controls plant life, learn the names of flowers, marvel at birds and butterflies, walk on a variety of rock types and colors, view the landscape and ponder its formation. I leave Camp better informed and invigorated with new knowledge about the planet we live upon.
A major benefit of Camp is to experience “forest bathing” not to be confused with the “white whales bathing” group. This is the peace and tranquility of being in the forest, to listen to wind sigh through the treetops, to smell the earth and fragrance of plants, to relax from the everyday stresses of work and home life. For many of us being away from town and city lights, Camp is where we can once again see stars sparkle against the black background of space – to see the Milky Way, locate the Big Dipper, and perhaps watch the space station on its trajectory across the sky.
But we would not be able to have our experience and memories of Camp without the assistance of the “Croo” and Camp leaders. The Croo is a versatile lot, providing ingredients for us to make our lunch, serving nutritious breakfasts and dinners, presenting interesting skits, and sometimes special musical treats of fiddle, recorder, guitar, or trumpet. However, it is the Camp leaders and organizers that are key to providing upwards of 60 campers each week with a well-run Camp and a variety of daily activities. From 6 AM wakeup to 10 PM bedtime this onsite group of ten quietly manages our hiking, ensures our safety, and solves any problems.
What has August Camp done for me? August Camp has provided me with eleven summers of personal growth, exercise, pleasure, companionship, new friendships, and good memories. I encourage anyone who likes fresh air and hospitality to participate in a week or two of August Camp.
August camp for me is the awesome opportunity to get close to places like this. Oh to be in the mountains! It's a chance to get to know some of the National parks and to be lucky enough to do it on foot. For me, it is all about a community of really interesting people, many of whom are dear friends now, about committing to fitness, about resilience, and about traditions. I am truly grateful for my annual trek out west and look forward to many more.
20 camps from 1986-2019
With 20 camps I've come to see, I've quite improved my ABCs--and now I can do A to Z.
A, B, and C are hikes each day, at first I did them mostly A. Later on I added B and now I have enjoyed all three.--For letter C, add campfires and camaraderie.
D is dining in big tents; E has excellent events--sometimes excursions off to see a nearby place of history.
F is for follies, friends and fun; G for gear like boots and maps, and other great good stuff, perhaps.
H has highlights, hikes galore, happy hours and much more.
I, I am and J is Jane. Since Jane's my name, they are the same.
K is kale, served quite a lot--in soups and salads, cold and hot.
L for lunch from fixings tables--where you can make what you are able
But--there is a special rule: the cookie limit is just two.
M for mountains low and high, rocky, leafy, snowy, dry. Some are gentle, some are steep, all with memories to keep.
N is nostalgic for past things while O will opt for future dreams. P's potential , yet unseen, leads on to Q, of course. Quilcene.
Roads to outings, not alike, are sometimes rougher than the hike. Broken bridges, narrow ridges may surprise along the ride.
S has many special treats: sun showers (sometimes stuck) and hike selection sign-up sheets (sometimes hard to read when dark).
Tents and "Tillies" ( old camp word) are hotels seen as quite absurd--at least to those who never came. I have even heard some say: "You mean for that you really pay." But then some folks don't Understand, the umpteen joys of quirks so grand.
The camp use Vans are nice and dusty, each one labeled AMC. Each one also has a number with a matching numbered key. They go to the airport and bring you to hikes. Much thanks to Virginia for getting this right.
Wake up is early and wash basins plastic. To some it seems weird but is weirdly fantastic.
X stands for xtras like excellent friendship. Y yearns for the pause soon to flip--to real life returning and camp to resume. In the meanwhile connection is emails or ZOOM.
I now have finished A to Z : What August Camp has Done for Me
Joon and Jonathan Pincus
Nearly four years ago, I read the trail description of the hike up to Wagon Wheel Lake in Olympic National Park in the Leader's camp. It sounded like a moderate day out in the woods and through some strange twist of fate Mark Kern said, "Sure...go for it!" It was in a part of the park we had not yet explored, so I pitched this B hike around the camp fire to the August campers in week two on Thurs., June 28, 2016.
There was a ninja trying to maintain a low profile in camp, but she was too cute and the croo spied what I was up to.
I tried to convince her to join the group that already had signed up albeit she had already signed up for my friend and fellow co-leader Ingrid's hike.
Thankfully, out of nowhere the Perseus meteor shower flashed through the night sky.
However, the guidebook was dated, and there had been a major forest fire which destroyed large portions of the trail turning it into a bushwack.
Even the Rangers hadn't been up there in awhile!
However, I had the confidence of this dream team of hikers (see attached photo) and despite the dry heat we found the lake after an epic adventure.
In September, Joon Shim and I will celebrate our second wedding anniversary.
While we have not yet returned to Olympic National Park, we have shared many trails together from bushwhacking in Red River Gorge, KY to winter hiking up to the Little Beehives in the Canadian Rockies. While en route to Camp Muir on Rainier were turned around by a storm. Washington plays a special role in our lives and we see know we will back there soon - perhaps August Camp 2021!
So what has August Camp done for me... well it's given me a life partner that's made all the difference!
And I will always be grateful to Lennie and Bill Steinmetz, Mark Kern and Noel Cotter for all the time and generous insight they invested in me to develop me as a leader!
We made many friends in August Camp - one of the greatest gifts one can receive!
And special kudos to the croo for keeping us marching one foot before the other with all the dietary considerations, savory treats, yummy cookies and delicious meals at the start and end of every day!
I have many special memories of bringing an intrepid group of hikers to the top of South Sisters, Camp Muir, Wagon Wheel (of course) and more but I want to express my gratitude to all those wonderful B and C hikers who taught me about the wonderful flora and fauna on the trails as we passed as we stopped to smell the flowers literally at Paradise, Hurricane Ridge, et al.
Wishing you all peace and safety during these challenging times.
With warm regard,
Joon and Jonathan Pincus
How can I put into words what August Camp means to me?....
A homey neighborhood/village of cozy canvas tents, sturdy wash stations, and Croo kitchen/meal setup...
A kaleidoscope of remarkable friends--old and new--always someone interesting to get to know or to reconnect with...
An indescribable panorama of mountain and valley views, near and far...
Magnificent vistas of colorful wildflowers and spectacular scenery of rare beauty...
The immense satisfaction of a tough trail well-hiked and a good physical challenge met...
An ever-so-refreshing late afternoon dip in a delightful local swimming hole...
A familiar routine of rich traditions complete with crackling campfires, entertaining stories, silly songs and shenanigans...
And once again by week's end, an even wider circle of special friends to embrace and make plans to stay in touch with, till you return for more adventures at next year's August Camp.
Columbia River Gorge, Stabler, Washington: August Camp 2017
My photo albums hold the spectacular images of our hikes, the vistas from the peaks, the wild flowers, the river flowing beneath the Bridge of the Gods, and the smiling faces of my August Camp friends as we help each other on our climbs up and down.
But my imagination and my heart forever hold the sights and memories that touched me to the core. My first night in camp I woke up to pee in the middle of the night, eased out of my tent hearing the grunts of elks in the distance, and I glanced up at the night sky. Time stopped, my mind cleared, my soul opened up beneath an other worldly night sky. Big sky, every inch filled with stars and constellations so close I felt as if I could reach up and touch them. The milky way gigantic and illuminated, and I knew my son Jake was here in this night sky. My son was killed in 2012 in hurricane sandy, he was 24 years old. He loved the wilderness, camping, hiking, rock climbing and kayaking. I looked up at that night sky, so brilliant and spectacular, and I knew Jake was here.
I hold the simple joys and warmth of sharing experiences with friends from the smallest moments of camp. I love waking early to the delicious smells of coffee, grabbing my mug off the cup tree, and huddling around the coffee tent with the intrepid folks who are going swimming. I am not going swimming, but I love sharing my coffee with them, and the quiet banter and whispered conversations with the early risers. And I love the innocent camaraderie of the lunch tent. It is a simple task we all participate in, and I love waiting on the line and chatting with friends, getting advice from seasoned campers on lunch techniques, and feeling grateful for the generous assortment of lunch items to choose from.
August camp has given me priceless gifts of beauty and friendship and being completely present in the wilderness.
Thank you August Camp.
Sauk Mountain Hike Invite
4.2 mi 1200 ft gain max 5540
If you want to go
And climb up high
To touch the sky
With wildflowers galore ...
A mere 4.2 just for you
You’ll catch your breath from beauty and strain
A special privy
A poem or two
And you are through
Satisfied and wild eyed
With just enough room in between
For cascade farms ice cream.
Home to the croo and what they do
with time for a splash between.
Join this hike
or another that’s calling
For August camp will keep you
In love with the nature around
The people too
Me and you
And the grace that we are here.
Written 7/18/2018 in the early morning hours, North Cascades, WA