Every summer I count down the days until I can drive over that old stone bridge and see my old friends. Nature Camp has made me who I am today; it is a part of my life and the hope for a better tomorrow for future generations. This little spot by Big Mary’s Creek and McClung Mountain is special to so many people. If hundreds of young people voluntarily come to a camp where they have to take classes, write reports, and take a test, then Nature Camp must be doing something right. At age fifteen, finding a place where I have fun, learn, and make friends is amazing to me.
Allison S., Richmond, VA
I’m not sure what exactly it is that always draws me back to Nature Camp. Maybe it’s the friends that everyone makes so easily there. Maybe it’s the great knowledge you can gain from the classes. Or maybe it’s the wonderful atmosphere: the shade of the tall trees looming above you, the chirping of the birds and crickets, the rustle of the wind through the leaves carrying its fresh organic smell.
Robert A., Williamsburg, VA
I remember tagging along when we would bring my older brother to Nature Camp and counting down the years until I could come. My time at Nature Camp has formed an important element of my identity, and I have used what I learned at Camp to be more ecologically aware at home. For instance, after taking the environmental microbiology class last year, I reintroduced composting to my family. As I begin to look at colleges this year, I am focusing on schools with strong environmental science programs, mainly due to Nature Camp’s influence.
Marion D., Wayne, PA
For the past three years I have attended Nature Camp and loved it. Most four-year-olds, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, say a fireman, a ballerina, or an astronaut. When people asked me what I wanted to be, I replied confidently, “A nature scientist. I want to save the land.” Ten years later my answer still hasn’t changed.
Veronica P., Williamsburg, VA
There is a coveted two weeks in the heart of the summer that is called Nature Camp. It is the best thing that I do all year and is what I most look forward to. I grow mentally there more in two weeks than I do in the rest of the year.
Buck T., Fredericksburg, VA
I have attended Nature Camp for four years and have never had a more rewarding experience. Nature Camp has taught me what one person who cares can do to make a difference. The hikes to Table Rock, the salamander searches at Buttermilk Springs, the breathtaking view from Lookout Rock, and of course the Sunday hikes to undiscovered mountain peaks are experiences one cannot have anyone else, and experiences I will remember forever. I have made friendships at Nature Camp that promise to last a lifetime.
Lucy A., Ruckersville, VA
There is just something special about Nature Camp. Maybe it’s the smell of being outdoors, the freedom of being away from your parents, or that you are at a summer for two weeks. I do not think those are the reasons why Nature Camp is so special. I think it’s the people you meet, the science things you learn about, and the pride and confidence you walk away with at the end of the session.
Kelsey G., Fredericksburg, VA
I feel that there could never be any words to explain my feelings for Nature Camp. It’s a different world there: no TV, radio, cell phone, or anything from the real world. Nature Camp has changed my life forever. I believe that when people cross that tiny bridge going into camp, they become their true selves. They take their masks off and have a break from everything in the world.
Hannah S., Mount Jackson, VA
Nature Camp is a true chance for immersion learning. My family has been amazed how many times the academic learning at Nature Camp has been connected to my school and home life.
Josh C., Williamsburg, VA
Going to Nature Camp has taught me many things. When I first went to Nature Camp, I could not tell the difference between a death angel mushroom and an oyster mushroom. I also could not have told you the difference between quartzite and limestone. Since going to Nature Camp, I can tell you these things and many more. Nature Camp is truly a wonderful place. From my first day to my last, I have the most fun I will have all summer.
Phoebe W., Fredericksburg, VA
Going to Nature Camp is no longer just a want. It is a necessity, an essential part of my summer. It holds a very special place in my heart, and it always will. I always leave with a sense of balance and well-being, having totally soaked in all the wonders and virtues and lessons and friends and learning and nature.
Emily G., Durham, NC
Nature Camp, to me and my fellow campers, is a sacred place that feels like home. When we’re here everything seems to fall into place perfectly, and when away, we can’t stop thinking about Camp. In too many ways to count, Nature Camp has become an integral part of my life. The aura about Camp is what makes it just so special. I have never felt so alive and so willing as the fourteen days I spend in this valley. Meeting new campers and learning from them is an incredible way I have grown here. The way that the staff always helps me to explore my curiosity of the natural world is a feeling I could not find elsewhere. Camp brings out the best in us all, and I have made incredible relationships unique to each person I have met in the last six years. For many of us campers, a certain class has piqued an interest and we have been nurtured by Camp. Camp means a place where learning is continual, but not by books. Hands-on hikes, experiments, and collection teach us more than a lecture could. We get to observe and learn at the same time, all while basking in our appreciation for the natural world. At a place with such a variety of people, much of what you learn is through conversation and not necessarily what you set out to absorb. I come back each year for an experience impossible to comprehend if not here. I come back to learn how to pursue the commitment we have to better lives for ourselves, our planet, and generations to come. I come back to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world. I come back because I don’t know what my life would be like without Camp.
Maggie J., Fredericksburg, VA
Naysayers will tell you that nothing good in life lasts. Not the best secrets, not the deepest mysteries, none of the wonderful, wild unknown was built to last. Here at Nature Camp we are faced with this dilemma constantly—the world around us is changing faster than we can keep up with it, and every day what bombards us with increasing rapidity is everything wrong with the Earth today. In such a place of never-ending criticisms and challenges, one of the most difficult things is finding a constant—something we can all come back to at the end of the day and be assured is still there. For many people the constant is family, perhaps a routine that remains the same from day to day. But for the few lucky ones at least one constant is Camp.
The pull of pessimism is an easy one in which to fall, but somehow Camp has always managed to evade it. The beauty that surrounds us—that pure, simple beauty referenced in all our songs and pre-meal prayers—has somehow seemed to keep our hopes alive of what this turbulent world could be if we just focus our eyes on the realm of possibility rather than that of criticism. And that is, of course, what Nature Camp was from the beginning: a cozy little nook of possibility. Here we’re taught not only to appreciate things as they naturally are, but also to see the opportunity in what we do, and let the world slow down at the same time. This, I believe, is our constant, and the most powerful one of all: the ability to approach the world with refreshed positivism after two weeks in a place that takes a break from reality.
For spirit, beauty, and love we come back to Camp and we are sent on our way with much more overflowing in our hearts.
Will D., Gloucester, VA