Nature Camp occupies about six acres leased from the U.S. Forest Service. Boys and girls reside in separate, rustic bunkhouses equipped with metal bunk beds and screened windows. Each bunkhouse is divided into two wings: Shenandoah and Southwest in the Girls’ Bunkhouse and Tidewater and Piedmont in the Boys’ Bunkhouse. Counselors live in the bunkhouses with the campers. Although space is limited, each camper has a cubbyhole with drawers for storing and hanging clothes and other personal items. Separate bathhouses, or “T-houses,” for boys and girls are furnished with hot showers. Each bunkhouse can accommodate about 40 campers. Additional space is available for girls in one wing of the Staff House, which also houses the office. Total capacity is around 90 campers per session.
A stand-alone infirmary building is conveniently located between the Girls’ and Boys’ Bunkhouses. The staff always includes a qualified emergency medical technician or nurse, who administers first aid and dispenses medication. The infirmary contains a separate room, adjacent to the private quarters for the EMT/nurse, in which sick campers may be quarantined and monitored. Should the need arise for more serious medical care, Nature Camp is only 25 minutes from both a physician in Augusta County and hospital in Lexington.
The Lillian Schilling Building (or L.S.), named for the founder of Nature Camp, serves as a central meeting place and dining hall. Classes depart from the L.S., and the entire camp assembles there every night for an evening program. In the rear of this building is a modern and fully equipped kitchen, where the cooks prepare three balanced meals a day. Since 1978 the cooks have been members of the regular counselor staff, and a number of traditional meals have been handed down from one generation of cooks to another ever since. Meals are served family-style. Campers sit at randomly assigned tables with counselors and are expected to help with getting the food and cleaning up after the meals. Table assignments are changed three times during each session to allow different groups of campers to meet and get to know one another. For more information about food at Nature Camp click here.
Nature Camp is fortunate to have a well equipped educational building, with a library, which contains over 1500 books, field guides, magazines and other periodicals, many of which have been donated to Nature Camp over the years; a museum, which houses collections of insects, rocks and minerals, bird eggs, and preserved animals; and a laboratory, which provides such equipment as microscopes and typically serves as a temporary home to snakes and other reptiles and amphibians during the summer. The educational building is open to campers, under counselor supervision, during free periods in the morning, afternoon, and evening, and provides an excellent resource for preparing class reports. Classes are also held in the educational building, particularly on rainy days.
Also on the premises is a canteen, or camp store, which is open three times a day and offers for sale notebooks, paper, pens and pencils, stationery, toiletry items, Nature Camp memorabilia such as T-shirts, and non-caffeinated drinks, ice cream, and candy. At the beginning of the session, campers deposit money with the canteen operator, who manages their accounts.
A simple yet elegant stone chapel is nestled amid trees near Big Mary’s Creek, which runs along the northern boundary of Nature Camp. The chapel and most of the other buildings at Camp were built in the 1950’s and early 1960’s by Ollie Groah, a resident of nearby Raphine. The chapel was renamed and rededicated in 1997 as the Reeves Memorial Chapel, in honor and memory of Col. John H. Reeves Jr. and Trudy Reeves. Colonel Reeves was director of Nature Camp from 1972 through 1996. Non-sectarian services, which reinforce the spiritual values that Nature Camp seeks to instill, are held in the chapel on Sundays and are led by the counselors. The final event of each session is a brief chapel service on Saturday morning.