“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately.”
– Henry David Thoreau
The wilderness is home for me. It calls to me as it did Thoreau.
Out in the woods and upon the waterways I come alive. I revel in the beauty, adore the peace, listen contentedly to the great silences, embrace the challenges and difficulties that arise in the natural world. Nature is my cathedral and those friends who accompany me are the greatest fellowship.
I recently spent eight days in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Minnesota exploring and adventuring. The fall colors were striking. The quiet was calming. The excitement of rapids, mountain bike descents, bushwhacking, wading through rivers, and facing snow in a driving wind was exhilarating. These things remind me of how alive I am.
A Date With Destiny
A year and half ago, six friends and I set a date for a wilderness trip. These were all friends I had worked with at Birch Trail Camp for Girls, where I got my start in the summer camp industry as a wilderness trip leader (tripper). We wanted a tripper reunion to catch up with one another and do something exciting outside. Remember our past adventures and embark on new ones.
I started the trip solo with two solo whitewater canoe trips in Wisconsin, as I awaited everyone’s arrival. As the next few friends arrived, we turned to mountain biking and hunting for agates. We bushwhacked the wilds of northern Minnesota, forded rivers, climbed, crawled, and strained our eyes looking for the semi-precious Lake Superior agate. We were fortunate to find so many of them, some of which were really extraordinary.
When everyone was together, we set off for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) for a four-day canoe trip. The weather wasn’t going to be great, with rain, cold, and snow expected. We were foolhardy though, and it paid off.
During the peak summer season the BWCAW is crowded and outbackers must start looking for campsites early in the afternoon to secure a spot. Multiple parties pass each other each day on the water, at campsites, and at portages (trails between waterways or around rapids that require carrying boats and gear).
Wilderness and Togetherness
In October however, with challenging weather, the wilderness was ours. We didn’t see another person from the moment we put on the water until we took out. We had our choice of campsite. There was no waiting at the portages. There was no noise pollution other than ours. The trip truly felt wild.
Despite many long, steep, rugged, muddy, rocky, and slick portages, rain, freezing temperatures, wind, and snow, the trip was a blast. Type #1 fun (fun in the moment) for me, though some others in the party might disagree and call it Type #2 fun (fun after the fact). I admit I have a love affair with carrying heavy things and subpar weather conditions.
A standout moment in the trip came on our last day at the end of a long portage. The entire group was standing in silence, looking across the water and wilderness, taking in the falling snow, the colors of the changing season with the green of the conifers, the yellow of birch in autumn, the dark water, and the growing white blanket on the trees and the ground. Tranquility and togetherness.
I spend a lot of time outdoors caving, hiking, biking, and canoeing. Most of these trips are short excursions for a weekend or a day. This longer trip was exactly what my soul needed. It brought back to the fore how powerful time in nature and the wilderness is.
Camp Alleghany’s Natural Inheritance
I got into the camping industry to share my passion for the outdoors with young people. And I’m lucky to have done so in some beautiful places. Camp Alleghany is one of those places, and we’re lucky to be surrounded by so much natural beauty on the banks of the Greenbrier River and the slopes of Greenbrier Mountain.
I continuously think how we can embrace nature even more during our summer experiences. I’m excited to continue this work, continue inspiring another generation of nature lovers, and expanding Alleghany’s connection with nature and wilderness in our programming*. We have some big plans ahead that will do good for us all!
— Casey Tucker, Program Director, Camp Alleghany for Girls
*If you want to learn more about the merits of sleepaway summer camp, download Camp Alleghany Director Elizabeth Shreckhise’s FREE e-book, 3 Reasons to Begin Your Child’s Sleepaway Summer Camp Experience Early. It’s a great resource to share with friends, or if you are a first-time camp family and you wonder what sleepaway camp would be like for your child.