I wake up pretty proud that I didn’t fall out of the hammock in the middle of the night. It’s going to be a great day – HOT – but fun!
It’s 7:30 and the Wild Women are emerging from their hammocks and getting ready for the morning’s activities. We’ll hike in for the flag ceremony and breakfast, and then the girls will be regular campers until lunch. They signed up for things like Tower, Friendship Bracelets, Dock, Aqua Zumba, and more.
We hike to main camp – singing, of course – although with a little less gusto than the evening before. It is 7 a.m., after all.
There is already a flurry of activity at main camp. Everyone is lining up for flag ceremony and counselors are sipping coffee and leading stretches. We join all the campers in the march down to the flag pole. Six color guard advance, meaning they raise the flag, and then lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance and the Girl Scout Promise.
The color guard retreats, and all campers follow them into the lodge. There is a Good Morning Song and the teaching of a short grace to say before the meal (Rub a Dub Dub, Thanks for the Grub!). We assemble around tables as our fearless camp director, Owl, announces that breakfast is cinnamon rolls and breakfast burritos, a specialty of Cookie’s, the camp chef.
The food at camp is always stellar. Cookie has many specialties, one of my personal favorites being her Tomato Florentine soup. It is legendary. One camp kitchen tradition is to offer “Scout Bites,” or a tiny amount of something for a girl to try, if she’s not sure she’ll like it. Some girls aren’t sure about the burritos, but somehow they still all get gobbled up! Most girls leave camp having tried a new food that they didn’t think they liked beforehand.
After breakfast, I head to the dock for boating with Doodles and Sasquatch. The excited girls chatter the entire way:
“I’ve never been in a boat without a motor!”
“I want to kayak!”
“If you’re ready for dock say OH YEAH!”
The dock is on clear Norris Lake, and girls can of kayak, canoe, or paddle boat. They kick off the shore and paddle around the still water. The canoe crew learns to “turtle,” which is flipping their canoe over, getting on top of it, and jumping off into the water!
Also happening on the dock is fishing with Agent Carter and Dobby. Counselors show the girls how to cast and reel their line back in, and instruct them on what to do if they catch a fish. (“You’ll get a chance to touch it if you want, and then we’ll throw it back in!” Hook safety instructions are given (“Hooks in us are not our friend!”) and then lines are cast! Almost every girl catches a small but slippery fish! Great success.
The next activity I visit is Robot Wars in Lighton Lodge, which the Oak Ridge Lego League is putting on! Girls are building robots and learning simple computer code to command it to move. The session is full, and there are robots scuttling all over the floor of the lodge!
I also check out Archery with Water and Willow. The girls are finishing up and are “processing,” which is camp talk for reflecting on the activity. Girls are asked to think about what they could have done better. They are also commended for their great form and how they corrected themselves along the way.
Side note: when girls collect arrows from the targets, they “zombie walk” them back to the line where they shoot from. This to keep the sharp points away from their bodies, but it also makes it look like several small Frankensteins are walking across the archery range.
We head back for lunch and I realize that my 24 hours at Tanasi is almost over! My one last activity after lunch is to join back up with the Wild Women at Crafty Fox, the craft house that also happens to have air conditioning!
It’s another hot and humid day at camp, so the AC is a welcome reprieve for all. All this hiking around camp for one day has me thinking I’d probably never be able to hack it as a camp counselor for 5 weeks.
The Appalachian Craft Guild meets us at Crafty Fox to teach the girls how to make pine needle woven baskets. The guild has their own camp names: Bluebird, Chipmunk, and Shakespeare.
They are great instructors, teaching the girls how to weave longleaf pine needles from South Carolina and raffia together to make a small basket. The girls weave swiftly, surely they’ve done this before.
I hike out to Whippoorwill to collect my gear, stopping along the way to look at the lake and think: Camp really is an amazing place. It’s a whole world functioning right under the nose of normal culture. It has its own schedule and pace and it acts as a training ground for girls to learn how to empower themselves. Girls try new stuff all day long and no one makes fun of them if they don’t get it right on the first try. It might be climbing the tower for the first time or it might just be trying tomato soup.
This accepting environment isn’t just limited to camp. It also makes up this diverse, iconic, encouraging program called Girl Scouts.
One of the Wild Women put it best:
Camp is awesome and encouraging because it’s made up of Girl Scouts and people who have the sisterhood mindset. There’s no competition. Girls pick what they want to do. There’s camaraderie and made-up names. There’s singing and inside jokes and tradition. There’s memories stored away and friendships nurtured.
I only spent 24 hours at Camp Tanasi and I feel like I could conquer the world. I only wish more people could get out of their world and experience this.
Until next year Camp Tanasi, we hold you in our heart.