It was quiet but loud. Soft snoring drifted through the tent as I frantically scribbled in my orange notebook. My thoughts like waves crashing against each other. Everyone was asleep except for me and I had been up for hours now. With no watches in sight I could only guess it was around midnight. It was my last day at Camp Laurel.
After my previous camp, Timber Trails, got closed down and sold my friends and I needed a new place to stay for the summer. After hours of searching and countless recommendations, we settled on a sister camp – Camp Laurel. It was similar to Camp Timber Trails. Both had shining blue lakes and tall pine trees, but they were also very different. Camp Timber Trails was my home, Camp Laurel was unknown.
Back when I was in third grade, my mom posed the idea of going to a sleepaway camp to get my friends and I out of our comfort zone and into the wild to connect with nature. Reluctantly, the four of us piled into my friend Georgia’s car and we drove to camp Timber Trails in Tolland, Massachusetts. We were about eight or nine years old so we would be staying in the campsite with the younger girls called Windy Pines. Windy Pines was a large campsite with five, six girl tents spread out in a circle formation around a campfire. A small pavilion and a bathroom was off to the side. The Windy Pines campsite got its name from the ridiculous amount of pine needles covering the ground. In fact, you couldn’t see the ground and when you got inside your cabin you would have to pull pine needles from your shoes. Windy Pines sat upon a large hill and a breeze was always present.
My friends and I had a wonderful time at Camp Timber Trails so we continued to come back year after year. But, like I mentioned, it unfortunately closed down and was sold. Everyone was devastated as Camp Timber trails was an amazing place. Camp Timber Trails, with its babbling brooks and dense forests. I would miss singing by the campfire and sunset canoe trips. Camp Timber Trails will always hold a special place in my heart but I had to make some room for a new camp, Camp Laurel.
I closed my orange notebook and decided to stop reminiscing about my past camp. Instead I reflected on my current camp. My first day at Camp Laurel, we had to hike up a GIGANTIC hill holding hefty trunks filled with clothes and other supplies. We would be staying at the campsite called Four Corners. It was nothing like Windy Pines that sat flat and beautiful. Four Corners was rocky and while it still sat upon a hill, it was cramped. The Four Corners campsite also didn’t have cabins, it had four girl platform tents. We got the last pick since we arrived last. Every single tent in the campsite had bug netting except for ours, of course. Throughout the rest of the week our tent became infested with bugs of all types. Spiders nested under our beds (sometimes in them) and yellow jacket hives we scattered throughout our campsite.
My first week at camp was not the best introduction. My second week was better though. Something changed over the weekend. Sitting down by the water on a gloomy day, I picked at sand and watched everyone enjoy their time swimming. I didn’t want to. In fact, I never went swimming because I didn’t like the lake. I preferred the lake at Camp TImber Trails. This lake was, well, the same, but I still refused to go in. Maybe it was the fact that multiple salt blocks lined the bottom of it to draw the leeches away. I don’t like leeches. But, sitting down looking out at the camp, I realized I was only making this experience bad because of my attitude. Every day I would get up and complain and want to go home. I found every flaw in Camp Laurel and used that to trick myself into thinking the camp was horrible. But it wasn’t all that bad.
My second week I decided to enjoy myself, maybe then I could have a bit of fun. I signed up to go on a long hike. It would be an exploration through the abandoned part of Camp Laurel. So, at nine in the morning I laced up my boots, pulled on a jacket and headed to the meeting spot. One of my favorite counselors, Shakespeare, would be leading the hike. For the next four hours we walked through overgrown campsites filled with rotting tents and cabins. Large fearns filled up the bath halls and vines dropped from surrounding trees. The grass was about knee high. There was a beauty to seeing a place once filled with memories now long forgotten. I remember one campsite in particular. Its name had something to do with Blue Birds. The sun shined through the dense forest dappling the ground with golden light. This campsite was a ghost town. Weeds, many shades of green surround the last standing tent. By tent I mean decaying pieces of wood. I took a deep breath and could almost taste the forest. It smelt heavily of dirt, and maybe mold? I was told that this part of camp closed down 15 years ago. It had not been explored until last year.
My second week I also entered the camp talent show. My friends and I grouped with two other girls, Cybele and Emma. Cybele had gone to Camp Timber Trails with us and was a year older. Emma was her friend and also a year older. We had bonded over our love for Camp Timber Trails…and our dislikement of Camp Laurel. During our free time we would practice our dance. We chose the Justin Beiber song Baby.
I remember the night of the talent show clearly. The camp dining hall was filled with plastic chairs situated in rows. The lights were dim and chatter was quiet. We would be first up and we waited for our que to enter. The upbeat melody of the song drifted through an old speaker, probably borrowed from a counselor. We walked into the stage area, smiles plastered on our faces. I was quite nervous to be performing in front of the whole camp. I kept taking deep breaths and reminding myself to just have fun.
We slid, jumped and shimmied throughout the whole song. At the end we bowed and headed to our seats in the back. Walking there cheers erupted. QUEENS and YOU DID AMAZINGS were thrown at us. And genuine smile made its way onto my face. I felt so accepted and happy in this moment. I remember joyfully writing in my notebook afterwards explaining my great night.
Looking back and re-reading my entries a few years later I realized I had a great time at Camp Laurel. Reflecting back on those two weeks I remember the good. I remember the talent show and Cybele and Emma. I remember the hike and the day by the lake. The only reason I remember these great times is because I stayed optimistic. I tried to find the good in the bad, and I did. I found joy in Camp Laurel even if it wasn’t the best camp.
My last entry is on the second to last day. After breakfast on a sunny morning we headed down to the lake. Instead of sitting on the sand like usual, I got on the dock and jumped in. I spent the rest of the day swimming and drinking up the sunshine with my friends.