Hi everyone. Jeff from IENA here. Here’s a little story about my origins in Camping. Enjoy!
Way back in 1988, my mom sent me to the Frost Valley YMCA for a sleepaway camp. As a 14 year old boy making the transition into being a teenager, this concept was out of my comfort zone and in no way in my own summer plans. However, in accordance to just about every disagreement I’ve ever had with my mom, Mom won and off I went to camp. When I mention the word ‘camp’, I am not referring to the traditional summer camp program. My mom signed me up for a two week backpacking trip through the Catskills in Frost Valley YMCA’s Adventure program.
The thought of hiking around the mountains, carrying my gear, cooking food in the wilderness and sleeping in tents did not sound appealing to me in any way.
Reluctantly, I arrived at Frost Valley on Check-In day. My luggage was whisked away and soon enough I found myself with 9 other teens and our camp counselors. I distinctly remember over 1 million butterflies being unleashed into my stomach at the thought that I was on my own and this New Jersey suburban boy was going to go where no child on my street had ever gone before….into the wilderness.
As the two weeks progressed, I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I can climb mountains. I can tie knots. I can cook spaghetti in the woods. I learned random bits of inforamtion such as: porcupines like to eat salty (read: sweaty) items – to this day, I will always keep my boots with me in my tent whenever I camp and not leave them outside. I made friends. Good friends and great friends. Friends that I’ve kept until this present day. The same friends who put pictures of me on the internet when I was 14 so I will never forget my camp experience.
After two weeks, I transformed from a boy who argued about going on this adventure to becoming a teen that absolutely had to do this experience again and again! 1 month later I found myself entering the doorways of High School as a freshman. The overwhelming feeling of adjusting to this new environment brought back a familiar feeling…the feeling of 1 million butterflies entering my stomach. However, I was prepared. I had climbed the tallest mountain in the Catskills! I climbed three mountains in 1 day! I had made a fire! I had cooked in the outdoors! I even knew the inner wants and desires of porcupines! Surely high school would be no match for me!
High School had its challenges. Being a teenager had its challenges. Life has its challenges. However, to this day, I give credit to that very first backpacking trip through the Catskills in the summer of 1988. I gained such confidence and perspective, that allowed me to come ‘out of my shell’ and provide me with the tools I needed at such a crucial time in my development from child to teen to eventually adult.
I wanted to take a moment and share this story with all of you. This trip transformed my life in a positive way. This experience led to me being a camp counselor for several summers, working my way up to being a successful Camp Director and eventually helping all of the staff at IENA go on to make life long impacts at camps all over the United States!
Thank you for reading this little story about my own beginnings in Camping.