I once swam across an entire lake in this belt. Fully clothed in a Boy Scout uniform.
And alongside a cavalcade of 100 of the most unruly, adventure-loving people I have ever known.
Welcome to summer camp, where camaraderie, outdoors and pyrotechnics collide.
When I was 16, I took my first job ever as a staffer at a Boy Scout camp. It was a way to fulfill my outdoorsy interests, as well as be far enough away from home to play-act adulthood (my new friends have cars!). Because of the co-ed scouting program that was created about a decade before, there were a few other girls there too. For those of us living in the same cabin, we formed a bond cemented by shared clothes and matching Nalgene bottles. The female/male staff ratio was 1 to 10, so we were all a little dumbstruck by our boy-crazy luck and newfound celebrity status.
Some Paul Bunyan-esque feats that summer included dancing around campfires and walking precariously on rope courses 60 feet above the ground (with a harness. Safety first). I hung out with the kind of people who introduced me to knot-tying tricks and astronomy. We had the kind of times that were punctuated by perfectly-crafted mix CDs, where it's now impossible to believe that Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright weren't actually staff members as well.
On the last day of the last week, the entire staff surprised the campers as a farewell treat. Instead of marching to the parade field per usual, we did an about-face and marched onto a dock and straight into the lake, blurs of khaki and olive shrieking and splashing in the sun.
Summer was over, but my deep love for that pocket of land in the mountains was not. I went back the next year.