March continues to furnish ideal weather for us here at camp. There is a steady stream of high 70s. In the morning, you can keep the windows open and let the morning breeze cool you. In the afternoon, though, the staff usually caves and turns on the air conditioner. Mower season has kicked into high gear, and you can pretty well figure if you are at camp, somewhere in the distance, or maybe right in front of you, you will hear the sound of a lawn mower. The grass is growing at almost a visible rate with this mix of rain, sun, and warm temperatures, and the maintenance crew must come to the rescue or the camp would look like an abandoned lot in a matter of days.
High grass aside, it is a great time to go outside. Many of our days have had passing clouds and steady wind, that takes the edge off an 80 degree afternoon. It is perfect porch weather. Those coming to spend time with us should stake out a rocking chair and not leave it for the whole stay. Don’t even get up to use the bathroom—someone might steal that prime spot on a weekend like this. You may just choose to suffer the consequences for weather this good.
This week brought Ropes Course Inspection Day to the camp. Luke, one of the good people from Signature Research, came out to check and make sure everything was up to code. Signature Research is a company based in Georgia, who has designed and built pretty much everything on our Challenge Course. Every year, someone comes out, climbs around on everything, adjusts nuts and bolts and other things on these courses that we staff facilitators can only dream about. Luke is a guy in his 20s, just a little older than our Summer Staffers with bright eyes and a very friendly personality. He travels all over the country, and probably the world, inspecting and building courses. He comes in from a Ropes Course Inspection in Memphis. He will spend the afternoon inspected, take the morning to rebuild some elements of our Low Ropes Course, then be on to some camp in Arkansas to do the same thing all over again. It sounds like a difficult, but incredibly exciting life.
This week, Corky, Travis, and I moved some picnic tables to a remotely located spot that we hope will be a scenic overlook, picnic area. There’s a spot at the back of camp that was heavily logged about 10 years ago. It is a tall hill, that flattens out on top, and from it you can see all the way to the river and the valley below that contains Wilderness Camp, Tent and Trailer, and Home in the Woods. It dives down quickly, so you are looking out over a swath of sky, eye to eye with birds crossing the beautiful valley. The hill is overgrown with blackberry bushes, cattails, and fledgling trees. It is a sight to see, and we hope some people will someday make it a must-see part of their trip to Lakeshore.
When we make picnic tables at camp, we aren’t talking flimsy 20 pound tables that you could carry around with one arm on a sick day. Oh, no. These tables are going to last, and if you are going to move these tables, you’re going to know about it for about 3 or 4 days after. Since this area is at a remote part of camp, we worry that they could get stolen. With this in mind, the guys cabled the 3 of them together. So, if someone steals these, they deserve to have them. The overlook area doesn’t have a driveway per-se. It’s really just an old logging road with a pretty sizable dip at the entrance with no culvert. If you try to get into this area with a regular car, you’re probably going to bust a hole in your oil pan or lose a front bumper. But, Corky’s 4-wheel drive in low gear handled it pretty easily and even pulled the long, flat-bed trailer in with it. Afterwards, we hopped out, moved some tables, grunted a little bit, and there were our tables.
I came to this place several years ago, the first Lakeshorian I know of to see it, and I imagined other people coming to this place to see this view. I hoped they would think, just like I was thinking, Wow, this is Lakeshore too. Wilderness has the opportunity now, on the Orienteering Day to find this place and venture up the hill to take in the views. After we dropped the tables off, I jogged down the path a ways, to where I caught a good view of the valley. I looked down, knowing that so much of my life had taken place in that valley. The pine trees around me had grown a foot or two since last year. I ran back up, hearing Travis asking where I was. They thought I had vanished into thin air, and that this place had some kind of portal to another dimension. Nope, just a little trail that leads to a good view.
But, in a way, there are portals all over the place. Soon, we’ll celebrate Palm Sunday in all our churches. Children will walk down the aisle of the church with branches, some with no clue what’s happening except that someone put a big green thing in their hand and pushed them towards that table and a guy in a big robe. Next year’s ashes that will begin next year’s Lent will be laid down at the altar as we celebrate the time when Jesus road up the hill to Jerusalem on a donkey. I’m sure the weather was very nice (Israel is a Mediterranean climate, after all). People celebrated this man coming in that was healing people and raising the dead. Come right on up, Jesus. You’re a good guy. This is a great day.
The staff was called in to Gary’s office choosing the colors of our new permanent staff Lakeshore shirts (I chose purple), after Gary had finished his annual meeting with Nancy. This is the meeting where many of the items are chosen for this year’s canteen. The decision is made whether we will have stuffed raccoons, turtles, wildebeests, moles, manatees, capybaras, 3-toed sloths, or the standard bear this year. Will we time it right and get the latest style? Will the bucket hats come in just about 14 years too late? Is tie-dye going to be in again this year? Will kids want to buy bookmarks even when they all own Kindle Fires now? That’s one we’ll be able to answer after August. For now, we got to decide what type of shirt we would have to host in and what color. As we were finishing, Luke came in to let me know he had finished everything. This was mid-morning, and I could not believe he had finished it all alone. He had climbed the whole course, checked everything, and moved the low ropes elements that needed repair.
He had taken the large beam out of its old place by himself and put it in a new place. He modestly said it had dried out a lot and wasn’t that heavy. The Mission Impossible got a new home as well, so this summer campers will get to swing on a rope from platform to platform as part of their challenge. I was so impressed that Luke had done this on his own. It is his job, of course, but he is doing this, because there is no way that I could do it (I know because I tried for about 10 minutes and gave up). When you see this happen in a matter of hours, you are pretty envious of this guy’s experiences, abilities, muscles, and on and on. But, you know it took him a lot of frustration and work to get where he can drive in, smile and shake your hand, fix your ropes course in a few hours, then be on the road again. He had good news on our inspection. We have one part that we’ll need to replace some time in the next few years, which will be an easy fix. We like to get good news like that.
And everyone else does. That’s why Jerusalem donned their best Palm Fronds for a dude riding up the hill on a donkey. They were more than eager to share the great view with him when he was healing the blind and forgiving everyone. But we’ll get into the tough news next week, as we approach Good Friday. It was all well and good until Jesus tells us we have to make some changes. That’s when it’s easy to get tired of someone, regardless of the cool stuff they did when they rode into town. Let’s hope that this time around, we’ll be brave enough to really listen and make all the changes that are asked of us by those who know more. But, for now, until we are asked, Jesus is coming into our town, riding up that beautiful hill on a donkey.