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Living the Camp Life

23.02.16

The weight of the gun made my arms tired as its butt pressed into my shoulder. I squeezed the trigger back confidently, like I had a thousand times before. As the bullet left the rifle, there was a loud bang in my ear and the stale smell of the powder hit my nose. After I shot, my stall partner unloaded my gun and put in a new bullet. I fired again. And again. I reeled in my target after my fifth shot and gave it to my stall counselor, but my stomach sank as I watched her grade a 39.

A 39 was only one point away from being the last counting target I needed before I earned my Expert, one of the highest levels of achievement an amateur rifler can receive. I had gone through 10 counting targets in prone, sitting, and kneeling positions. I only needed one more to pass standing before I could achieve my Expert. I was so close to achieving my goal — a goal I’d worked towards for the past five summers at Camp Alleghany.

Eventually I earned my Expert, but not before learning a lot about patience and perseverance, which are only two of the things Camp Alleghany taught me.

Mission accomplished

Alleghany’s mission statement is “inspiring growth through honor, loyalty, and friendship.” Those values were instilled in me as a camper, and as a result, I created friendships that mean more to me than I ever thought possible.

One of my favorite things about camp was its enforcement of the No Gossip Policy. I was able to go and spend three weeks with some of my best friends, live in tents in the mountains, and escape the frivolous drama of the real world.

Since technology was not allowed at camp, the only way to communicate with my friends was through face-to-face interactions. I learned how to make friends without any social media platforms or by gossiping about others — something lost in many of my peers.

The judgement-free, drama-free, and technology-free environment that camp creates allowed me to be myself. Every year when I returned home, I felt more comfortable in my own skin, more confident to be who I am. When I became too old to be a camper, I jumped at the chance to become a Junior Counselor (JC) and to be able to help girls find their own confidence and friendships.

Raindrops are falling on my head

I was a JC for the first time this past summer. The night before campers arrived, there was the worst storm I’ve ever experienced. I was awoken at 2am by pounding rain and the crash of constant thunder. The wind was blowing so hard that my tent flaps flew open and the rain poured into my tent by the gallons. I decided to sprint to the Counselors’ Lodge. As I ran, a lightning bolt struck across the sky and for a second, everything around me was as bright as day before it went pitch black again.

I made it to the Lodge safely where some of the other counselors were already waiting. We spent the night in there just to be safe, but by the time we awoke, the Greenbrier River had risen 15 feet. While this didn’t prohibit the campers’ ability to come to camp, I was still shaken up from the night before.

I had to regain my composure and reorganize my tent before my four ten-year-old campers came. But my worries vanished as soon as my first camper arrived. My campers were all terrific. They taught me more about responsibility and compassion than I had ever learned before.

My summers as a counselor and camper were fantastic. Camp Alleghany taught me who I am and allowed me to make lifelong friends who I cannot wait to see again. Alleghany will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Caroline Smith, Alum, Camp Alleghany for Girls