Summer 2015 at Wolf Ridge is slowly coming to an end. A few of the trees are already starting to shift to their autumn hues. With every passing day we find ourselves facing another last—the last Sunday night scavenger hunt, the last Raven Lake camping trip, and the last dip in Wolf Lake. As we wrap up the last of the lasts and move into the chaos of cleaning up, packing and leaving, I find that I am immensely pleased with how the summer has gone, both from a professional perspective and from my personal decision to return to Wolf Ridge for a third summer. It’s always a risk to return to a place that you love so dearly. It’s easy to have expectations that everything will be the same, everything will be easy, and everything will be wonderful. This summer, it’s a risk that paid off.
At the beginning of the summer, Dylan, the director of counselors set three broad categories of goals for the counselors: be professional, build community, and go explore. Those three goals set a great tone for the counselor staff and the directors. They have provided for a framework of growth, learning, adventure, and creating great experiences for Wolf Ridge campers. To wrap up my summer of blog posts, I will use Dylan’s framework of summer goals to share a few stories from the summer.
Professionalism at camp is of utmost importance, which may seem confusing since a lot of time at camp is spent running around in tie dye playing goofy get to know you games and singing songs about moose at the top of your lungs. This is a far cry from putting on business casual attire and heading into a traditional office workplace, but the level of professionalism required by our counselors and other staff is at least as high as that. Throughout the summer it has been such a pleasure to see our staff sing for their breakfast even though they were exhausted from staying up late helping a homesick camper, enthusiastically participate in Voyageur Life even though it was their seventh time in the same exact class, and consistently communicate concerns with us and each other. It is stressful to be expected to be professional 24 hours a day, and they have risen to the occasion.
At Wolf Ridge, we all live and work in the same place, which makes traditional boundaries of work and home unclear. It also creates an intense community building opportunity. I have seen the staff form an incredibly close community. They have rallied around each other during difficult weeks, been flexible and generous with each other when one of them was feeling sick, sent encouraging notes, and shared more laughs and hugs than I can count. Of course, the Wolf Ridge community goes beyond the counselor community. There are the directors, naturalists, and permanent staff, as well as past staff who have also worked so hard to create an intentional and welcoming community for both staff and campers at Wolf Ridge. Each week, a new community is formed when new groups of campers come to learn, make friends and get to know the counselors. There have been so many times this summer when I’ve had counselors tell me how sad they were to see their groups leave.
Wolf Ridge has people with such diverse and deep pools of knowledge. Interested in lichens? We have people that have written books on that. Curious about how the timing of plants and animals each season is connected to climate change? There are hikes exploring that regularly. Want to learn about the care of the education raptors? Cool, we can have you go help with the animal care for a morning. Walking down a trail and see an interesting pile of scat? Chances are there will be five other people around who are equally excited and help analyze the contents and species. There are always people wanting to learn, share their knowledge, and grow both professionally and personally. Watching the counselors take advantage of the amazing experiential learning classroom that is the north shore was amazing. We heard about everything from wildlife spottings (one counselor cried a little when she saw a moose), newfound swimming holes, new made up games to play with campers, and a burgeoning love of wild edibles.
I am so proud of what our team has done this summer and the experience that we have provided for all the campers that have come through to build community and explore with us at Wolf Ridge. I cannot thank the counselors enough for the tireless work, dedication to the campers, and flexibility and patience with me and the other directors as we also nurtured our professionalism, built community, and went exploring. I would also be remiss if I did not thank the other people who have done the most to support me and the counselors, my co-directors, Jack and Dylan who have taught me so much and helped to form one of the most unstoppable teams I have ever been part of. And of course, Jenny for providing us with opportunities to learn, make mistakes, and make our own decisions, while always being there to support us and offer wisdom from her years of experience working at camp. Thank you to everyone who has been part of the summer of 2015!