We clambered over a hill, and there it was: golden sand sloping down into a bowl, the sun peeking over the far dune and trees outlining the edge of the sky. We had been walking through the woods for almost an hour, getting eaten alive by bugs, sweaty and content.
It was my last year as a camper — my last year with minimal responsibility — and possibly my last year at camp ever. As I slid down a dune into “the bowl” I was buzzing with energy and happiness; I’d spent the last few weeks outside: camping, napping in my hammock, living off peanut butter, and swimming in the lake.
The activity that night was a tradition called solos, named because it allowed you to be with yourself, take time to think, reminisce, and just experience the outdoors. I’m not a person who likes being by myself, but something about the dunes, and the water, and the sunset, and the bliss of the last few days made me want to try it.
I started by climbing the far dune, above which the sun was just visible. I sat in a little patch of sand, surrounded by tall grass and tiny clusters of sun-kissed blue flowers; flowers I had soon put behind my ear and woven into my matted hair. After a while, I stood up and started walking along the outside of the bowl; my goal was to go completely around it. As I wandered, I started to ruminate on my time at camp over the years: sitting in a canoe at 6:30 in the morning, half asleep and ready for breakfast; getting stranded in a sailboat in the middle of the lake; and countless tears, mosquito bites, and the ever-present threat of poison ivy.
Every time I sat down biting flies and mosquitoes swarmed around my head, so I kept moving, trying to figure out what made camp so special, what kept me coming back, how I could bring what I love about camp into my everyday life.
Finally standing on the top of a dune, looking at the orange, full moon, I started to figure it out. During the school year I lose track of how much I love being outside, I’m distracted by grades, and what I have to do to get into college. Camp brings back my sense of adventure. I do things at camp I never do at home — things I sometimes feel like I can’t do at home — I walk alone through the woods in the dark, I make flower crowns, my body is always moving. It’s a different way to live, and it’s my kind of life.