Monday, September 3, 2012

Camp T and Me

Throughout my short eighteen years on this planet we call Earth, there have been many places that have meant a lot to me. There’s Carlsbad, California, where my mom’s mom lives. In that village I experienced body surfing and boogie boarding the Pacific Ocean, Harbor Fish, In-N-Out Burger, Thrifty’s Ice Cream, and the thrill of jumping into a clean pool after getting all sandy at the beach. There’s also New London, New Hampshire, where my dad’s parents live. That is the home of Little Sunapee Lake and my grandparents’ house that borders it. I will always remember swimming out to the raft and pushing all of my cousins off (as I am the largest in both height and weight of all my cousins on that side), diving for clams, kayaking, canoeing, and just being at the house hidden away on Drury Lane. There’s also Fort Collins, Colorado, the place of my birth and where I grew up for sixteen years of my life. I have no idea what my life would be like without this place. Fort Collins and I have had our ups and downs and many life-changing moments, but I love FoCo and all of my friends here. One more place has meant a ton to me. That is Scottsdale, Arizona. I lived there for two years when I was really little. I met a great friend who I will join this fall at Arizona State University and I learned what awesome weather really is. But there is one place that has meant more to me than any of these places.

When my family moved back to Fort Collins from Scottsdale in July 1999, my parents began looking for a camp to send my brother and sister to during the summer so they would have something to do every summer. Some way, I don’t know how, sadly, they found a place called Camp Timberline. A Christian, sports, and mountain adventure themed camp located just outside of Estes Park, Colorado at the base of Long’s Peak. They fell in love with what the camp offered kids and sent my siblings there the next summer. I was too young to join them, so I stayed home. But when I went with my parents to pick up my brother and sister, even at age 6, I fell in love with Camp Timberline, Camp T for short. For the next two summers, I begged my parents to let me go. I remember seeing that Session 10, the last session of the summer let kids as young as 7 go, so I kept showing that to my mom and asking over, over, and over if she would let me go! But alas, I was denied and not allowed to go. But the summer after I turned 8 (as my birthday is in September), I was finally able to become a camper! I was so excited and nervous for that first week away from home at this beautiful camp with the scenic view of Twin Sisters. Now, I don’t remember a ton from that week, but I know I had the time of my life playing soccer (that was my favorite sport back then), experiencing all the mountain adventure elements, especially the Silencer, a giant swing that has always been one of my favorite things to do at Camp, learning about God through Jump Start, Chalk talks, Devos, and much more.  I also had a great time hanging out with my cabinmates and our sister cabin.

One summer soon after that, my cabin and I ran and “attacked” a Leadership member named Bear Garza. Bear is exactly what his name says he is. A large man who easily picked me up and tossed me over his head. When I landed on the field, one of the worst injuries of my life happened.  Now, I have never broken an arm or leg, but this injury probably ranks second after the partial tear in my MCL that I suffered during my senior year of football this past fall after an opposing offensive tackle cut blocked me twice and threw his head into my knee both times. As I was falling down from Bear throwing me over his head, I put my hands out to brace myself. When I landed, my left arm went in front of my hand and I sprained my wrist. That was surprisingly painful, but with people around as awesome as the Camp T staff, it really wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t fun when my mom found out, mostly because a friend of mine from back in Fort Collins told her. I thought she’d be really mad, and she was a little, but was more concerned with my well-being which was good for me.

Other than that, and getting sick once or twice throughout the years, Camp has been a place where my mind, body, and soul were built up, not broken down. One of the coolest strengthening experiences I have had at Camp have been the sunrise hikes. I have been able to sunrise Twin Sisters and Estes Cone (twice). These have been mind-blowing experiences. I love being able to see the amazing sun rise over God’s beautiful creation, Northern Colorado. It’s also awesome because I can see Fort Collins from up on top of those mountains and the beauty that just extends throughout the visible area is amazing and something I’m glad I have seen in my lifetime. It also puts into perspective how small the world is. Being able to see Fort Collins, which is about an hour plus from Camp and either Cone or Twin, and 5000 feet down from Camp’s elevation and more from the mountain’s, just really makes me realize how I am never far from home, no matter where I am. But throughout the years I have also been able to hike (but not sunrise) Sky Pond, Chasm Lake (I jumped in Chasm. Coldest lake ever. I cut my toe getting out, well, as I fell back in I cut my toe, and I didn’t even know until like 10 minutes after I got out and I looked at my toe and saw the blood), and a few other places that I just cannot remember at this time. But every hike has been beautiful and I have learned a ton about myself during each one. Although it wasn’t technically a hike (it didn’t take place on a Monday, which is known as Hike Day at Camp T) one of the best hikes I have done was last summer, 2011, as a Shifter at Camp. Shifters have a completely different, but awesome life at Camp T and one of the excursions that we did was backpacking up to the Battle Mountain Campgrounds. I had never backpacked before that and I had no idea how tough it was. We took more breaks during that than probably any other hike during the ten or so years I have gone to Camp. We stopped for a rain storm and hid under a tarp in a bunch of trees until it passed. We then had to hike up through a giant snowfield and then our campground had more mosquitoes than I have ever seen in my whole life.  The next morning was the best part of the experience. And I’m being a little sarcastic when I say that. And the only bad part was waking up. Apparently, our campsite was slanted and I happened to be at the top of the slant. So while it rained while we were sleeping, the rain that seeped into the tent was caught by my pad and I woke up a little soaked, which is never fun. The experience was fun though. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

Throughout the years at Camp T, I have had some amazing counselors. At Camp T, counselors are usually college sophomores or above from all over the country. And I doubt that there is a better team of college students working at any other camp in the United States. I don’t know much about Europe, Canada, or really anywhere else in the world summer camp-wise, but I definitely feel safe saying that Camp T has the best staff in the USA. I may not remember exactly who my first counselors were, but I know they were awesome. And that trend has continued throughout my years at camp. One of the best counselors I had when I was younger was Stephen Spangler. Spangler (as he liked to be called) was an extremely funny, God-loving, happy-go-lucky guy that made my week with him as my counselor in Sundance one of my best weeks. There have been many other counselors and I have way too many memories of each of them to list the memories all here, so I’ll just list their names (and this also includes other camp staff who have been awesome because everyone who works there is): Scotty Mendenhall (One of the most awesome guys I have ever met. I’ll leave it at that Love ya Scotty!), Quinn Stauffer, Travis Whitley, Dave Wood, Justin Woodiel, Matt McDermott, Shane Micheel, Trent Darrough, Nate Moore, Mark Mellette, Kevin Wantanabe, Dan Wallis, Nick Balser, Logan Davis, Mike Morgan, Chris Paxton, Jad Taylor, Jordy Bond, Barrett Caldwell, Cameron Shurtz, Jeff Lamping, Nate Phillips, Isaac Bartholomew, Conner Snedden, Allen Butts, Stefan Bashovski, Jillian Stanfield, Dylan Shaffer, Michael Hersh, Chris “Rambo” Rihm, Jeremy Brundage, Megan Marshall, and so many more (those are just the ones I am friends with on the book of faces).  These people and of course the founders of the camp, Bill and Dana Darrough, have meant so much to me that I can’t really even put it into words. You all rock and I am better for having met all of you. I thank God for giving me the opportunity to have gone to Camp T for as long as I have and met all of the awesome counselors and staff that I have. You are all amazing.  

But even that is not all that Camp T offers and has offered me. I have had the opportunity to compete against my fellow guy cabins and win the Longs Peak Cup once (should have been twice, but that’s a story for another day) and take place in awesome sports and mountain adventure activities that include a zipline, the Silencer (in layman’s terms, a giant swing), The Gut Check (also a large swing), a ropes course, a single leap of faith (a telephone pole that campers jump off of), and a double leap of faith (a large evergreen tree with a platform and campers jump off that too). There’s also the lake. The first year that Camp T had the lake, in which they now have a blob and water zipline and used to have a water slide,  I went down the water slide easily over 60 times. I went on it so much I got a plunger that was decorated as an award. I still have that in my room.  Sports wise, I have played soccer, ultimate Frisbee, basketball, a myriad of games from the counselors’ minds. I wish I could remember, but as with many places that mean a lot to me, there are too many good memories to possibly remember all of them.  Being a camper is not all that Camp offers, however. 

Earlier I mentioned being a “Shifter” at Camp T. What that means is that I took part in the Shift program at Camp. The Shift program is for teenagers who have finished their junior and senior years of high school. In this program the teens sleep in platform tents in the woods (which is awesome) and help out behind the scenes. We help with maintenance, i.e. last year when we helped Chris Paxton and Logan Davis (the maintenance guys) move the weight room from the back of the party barn to the welcome gazebo, doing dishes, serving food, setting up parties, and really helping anyone who needs it.  But being a Shifter is not all work. Shifters have their own awesome fire pit where they meet every night to worship God and listen to a talk from one of the counselors, someone from Leadership, or an outside person, i.e.: Scotty Mendenhall who came and gave a talk to us last year. Shifters also go on excursions out of camp that the normal campers do not get to go on. As stated earlier, backpacking is one, along with horseback riding, tubing on the St. Vrain River (which my group could not do last year as the river was running really high and fast due to a large amount of snowmelt, so we hung out where we would have gone tubing last year and then went down to Pearl Street Mall in Boulder), mountain biking (which is so, so, so much harder than just riding a bike) and rock climbing. Being able to experience things like rock climbing, horseback riding, and mountain biking (all of which I had never done before last year) was amazing and it strengthened my mind and body in ways I thought they never could be strengthened. And that still is not all that being a Shifter entails. It also includes and in-depth Bible Study of one specific book in the Bible, for example we studied Ephesians last year, and that led me to my favorite Bible passage that I have ever read, Ephesians 5:1-21. There are also times like Chalk Talks where the guy Shifters and girl Shifters would separate and go talk with their counselors about life, God, and all of our struggles. And since the Shift program is a two-week program, Shifters have plenty of time to get to know the counselors and that is just awesome.

The one thing I really haven talked about yet is the parties. Camp T throws some amazing parties. They range from a “Glo” rave-type party to a Flintstones themed party. Last year the two parties I was part of were an alien invasion/Area 51 party and a redneck/NASCAR party. This year, one of my parties is a Disco theme and the other is crazy hair. These are usually just like junior high and high school dances (at least at the teen sessions), and by that I mean that it is loud music and a lot of jumping. The redneck one was different though. I spent about two-three hours in a dunk tank as all the campers threw a ball at a target to dunk me. We made a “redneck hot tub” by putting a tarp in the bed of a truck and then hooking a hose up to a hot water faucet and filling the bed of the truck with the hose. There are also the traditional parties that happen at every session every year.  There’s the hoedown, a western themed dance with a skit where a bandit (played by a guy counselor) kidnaps a cowgirl (played by a girl counselor) at dinner and then at the dance, the rest of the guy counselors pair up and try to rescue the cowgirl. They fail in hilarious ways and then the sheriff shows up and rescues the girl and kills the bandit. There is also the “game” party, which is one night where counselors and Shifters hide in the woods and try not to get caught by the cabins. It used to be called Mission Impossible, but now does not really have a name and the game is themed around the party theme for that week. There is also Sunday Funday where counselors dress up in crazy costumes throughout the day. All in all, the parties are just fun times enjoyed by all.

Camp Timberline has meant more to me over the past 10 or 11 years that I have been a camper there. I have learned more about who I am then I ever thought possible. I have met some of the nicest, deepest, and coolest people up at Camp. And I have learned so much about God and his love and plans for me. I don’t know where I would be if it weren’t for that awesome place up at the base of Long’s Peak. I have often remarked that Camp Timberline is my favorite place on Earth, and as I enter my last summer before I am ineligible to be a camper or Shifter I know that still is true. I can’t wait to go up on June 28th and learn even more about myself and about God.  I know it will be an amazing two weeks and I thank God for giving the Darroughs the idea to make this awesome camp and for allowing me to go. It is the most amazing and beautiful place. 

For more information on Camp Timberline visit: 

(I went up and had another amazing two weeks and I am trying to work there next year, it would be hard to fit those into this article)

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