Memories of August Camp

by Ed Freeman

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.

Ed Freeman