Casey’s Post-Camp Adventure, 2021

Casey, Max, Cedar, Hannah at the top of the Organ needle, highest point in the Organ Mtns. Photo by Max Elfelt.

After each summer season, I take some needed time off to reconnect with old camp friends. These are friends I’ve known for 10+ years that I met at camp. You know what they say, best friends are made at camp.

This summer, we once again went west for outdoor adventures. One camp friend and a future Camp Doctor is attending medical school in New Mexico, where we set up base camp. The first order of business was to reconnect, reminisce, and remember that camp is what brought us all together. Camp and our love for the wilderness and adventure.

We were out there for 10 days, and a majority of the time I was device-free, breathing in the great outdoors and the sense of adventure, resetting myself.

We visited White Sands National Monument and sledded down the dunes. We explored an ancient, volcanic crater in Kilbourne Hole. We went rock climbing and hiking in the Organ Mountains, and summited the highest peak in the range, the Organ Needle.

The highlight of the trip, though, was backpacking and canyoneering in the Gila Wilderness of southwestern New Mexico. America’s first designated wilderness area, the Gila is rugged and remote. Those characteristics give it the allure that draws in adventurers and those looking for a respite from the busy world in which we live.

Cell phone coverage doesn’t exist in the deep canyons and rugged mountains in dense vegetation of the Gila. This wilderness is a glimpse at our natural history, and what wilderness looks and feels like. We saw no planes overhead. We heard no traffic nearby. It was stars, wind, rushing water, and morning coyotes yipping their songs.

Much like being at Camp Alleghany for the summer, this is a place to reset and come to know oneself. This is a place to be an individual and to celebrate yourself in the wild.

Best Laid Plans

Our plan was to hike in on day one, canyoneer and relocate camp on day two, and finally canyoneer and hike out on day three.

In the rugged, sometimes trailless terrain of the Gila, we quickly realized that was more than we could manage.

To give you an idea of the terrain and difficulty of travel, it took us three hours to hike less than three miles from our camp to the canyon entrance. It was like hiking straight up the mountain at ‘Ghany to Twin Tulips through dense vegetation at an absurdly steep angle. And we didn’t have a trail.

But the work was worth the reward. Just take a look at these photos for a few shots from there:

The Middle Fork Rain Creek Canyon was a delight. The water was running strong. The falls were beautiful and powerful.

We rappelled down 12 different drops in a scenic, magnificent, inspiring place. This is a place rarely visited by humans. The approach, rugged terrain, and remote location make it a quiet, reflective place, or as we say at ‘Ghany, a QRP.

We reveled in our adventure that night back at camp. We were tired, worn out, and hungry. But we had done something beautiful. We had earned that feeling and that experience.

And it all started at camp.

Camp and Lifelong Friends

What old camp friends have you connected with recently? What childhood friends have you reached out to? What memories with that old friend do you want to recount while embarking on some new journey together? And if you haven’t, isn’t it about time?

Rekindle those old camp friendships and connections. And then start thinking about rekindling those friendships at Camp Alleghany. Make your return. Make new friends. Start relationships to last the next 10, 20, 50 years. Because that what happens at camp. You make the best friends.

As for us, we’re looking ahead to next year for a winter camping trip on skis and snowshoes near the Canadian border.
Until then, I hope to see you at Alleghany in 2022 making those connections that will last a lifetime.

— Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls