THE MIST IN THE MOUNTAINS

Stories from the Camp Wa-Ri-Ki Nature Days Overnighter, Oct. 2019

Remember the little scary things that happen at Camp but make great stories later in life?  We had our first ever overnighter Camp this October for kids and parents.  The funniest thing that happened is that I was walking by the mess hall bathroom windows and the window slid open and three anguished sisters said, “help… help us mister, we’re locked in the bathroom”. I knew what the problem was because the I used that bathroom earlier — it automatically locks and you have to turn the handle up instead of down. They looked panicked. I told them to turn the handle up. And it opened. Later they said, “thank you… we didn’t think we were going to be able to eat.” They still had that worried look. I was glad to “rescue” them.

Walking through the Camp, over here was a hand full of ladybugs… over there in another area in the gym, a hand covered in purple paint. And throughout the weekend Camp under the quiet mist of foothills, people’s smiles shined in the spirit of the kitchen crew, around the large campfire at nights with the lights of Wa-Ri-Ki twinkling behind, while painting rocks to look like ladybugs, playing uno in the mess hall, discovering your sleeping room in the dorms (or for two brave families — outside in tents), learning about astronomy, and singing Camp songs. Community. Family. Together in a way that seldom if ever happens in the city. With a loud rushing river, tall evergreens and the mist in the mountains for a backdrop.

“…peoples smiles shined in the spirit of the kitchen crew, around the large camp fire at nights with the lights of Wa-Ri-Ki twinkling behind, while painting rocks to look like ladybugs, discovering your sleeping room in the dorms (or for two brave families — outside in tents), learning about astronomy, and singing Camp songs.”

The Young Become the Old… and the Mysteries…

Appearing as Ranger Rick had a very poignant moment. It was hard to see out of the mask, looking through the nose, but I saw a little guy about 3 and a half literally glowing with bright eyes and a huge smile of wonder looking up at me. In an instant I was looped back to childhood and remembered the magic of it all with Disney characters and costumes and halloween. The boy gazing at a hero animal come to life. The excitement. The old man seeing what the boy felt. The meaning behind protector figures. The urge to hug them.

It reminded me of some lyrics from an old song by George Benson: “The young become the old… the mysteries do unfold.” Later I told that story to some parents in the dining hall (still another great experience of “camp” is the break out conversations you have with others you meet there) and a couple of mothers teared up when I spoke of it. God love that little kid.

I admit to a bit of mist, myself. Ever wonder why kids are moved to hug those beloved stuffed animals come to life? Heros. Magic. Protectors. Bless the beasts and the children. I know a little bit more about that now and I have Camp Wa-Ri-Ki to thank.

I saw a little guy about 3 and a half literally glowing with bright eyes and a huge smile of wonder looking up at me. In an instant I was looped back to childhood and remembered the magic of it all with Disney characters and costumes and halloween. 

Bringing Them Home… to Camp Wa-Ri-Ki

Even before we went to Camp we received advance emails that spoke about how the families were so looking forward to the event. One mother of a family of 10 that attended told us that they “were so excited.” Watching them at Wa-Ri-Ki, they seemed relaxed, cares of the world lifted, and simply having a blast. A second home with a loud rushing river beside it washing away the work week worries. A Grandmother showed up in the afternoon to find and spend the day and night with her family wearing a peaceful look that the clean air by a cascading river in the foothills brings. Where is my family? In the Gym. Then with a smile she was off to join them.

And since it was a “lady bug day camp”, our intrepid Camp Event Coordinator, Briana Parks (with the great support of husband Dennis, mother Shannon and other volunteers) had arranged for lady bug “homes” (rectangular wooden boxes on poles similar to a village of bird houses) to be built and even 3000 ladybugs to be flown in by parcel express to Board President Val Schaffroth’s mailbox (Val doubles as an excellent Camp cook). The bugs were put into the kids hands and much squealing, “ewwwws”, “aren’t they cute”, and yes… wonder ensued. The kids were bringing the bugs to their homes which they had first prepared by placing small pieces of wood, moss, and foliage inside. A dad with his son, three sisters, a grandmother and grand child, Mom with the girls all together… all with purpose… all bringing the lady bugs home. And throughout the weekend, at different booths, mostly inside due to rain, the kids also learned about things in the forest and rivers. Moths. Berries. Bugs. Slugs. Fish.

And so the old walked among the young who scrambled and ran on the lawn, laughing, shouting and screeching, the community laughed, sang and learned together, campers enjoyed Camp food, looked in wonder at the stars, learned about creatures on earth and drew close to their families. Who could ask for more? 

“The bugs were put into the kids hands and much squealing, “ewwwws”, “aren’t they cute”, and yes… wonder ensued. The kids were bringing the bugs to their homes which they had first prepared by placing small pieces of wood, moss, and foliage inside. A dad with his son, three sisters, a grandmother and grand child, Mom with the girls all together… all with purpose… all bringing the lady bugs home.”

Lady Bugs, Campfire & Tents:  The Camp provided “homes” for over 3000 lady bugs on poles outside the mess hall for kids to put together.  Yes… some intrepid campers pitched tents under the evergreens. Star constellations were taught in a cool black tent, and smores and more happened at camp fire.

Above — the rushing Dugan falls just upriver from the camp provided a calming background whoosh as the mist rolled down the mountains.

Camp Wa-Ri-Ki truly is a place in the heart.

We thank the awesome crew that made it all possible from the Kiwanis organization to Val Schaffroth, our Board President (and leader of the A-Team in the kitchen), to the great staff team at the Camp — Autumn, Tom and Jeff, and our wonderful Event Coordinator, Briana Parks, backed up by her husband Dennis, Mother Shannon, and family. The Camp partially runs on the good will of volunteers, and donors so we thank them too.  Truly they are the ones behind the magic.

"Our whole family was so excited to come up to Camp Wa-Ri-Ki"

"There were so many activities and my kids learned so much!"

"The Astronomy experience was great inside the Gym and out under the stars near the campfire!"

The Best Volunteers + The Best Staff…

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