By: Chris “Topher” Aderhold
Upon first glance, Camp Gray may not seem to have anything in common with the wildly popular television show “Myth Busters.” Take a closer look though, and you may discover what we recently discovered (by the way, it’s on the Discovery Channel). Go ahead, look a little closer… Do you see it? Exactly, Camp Gray Co-Director Jeff Hoeben has a striking resemblance to “Myth Busters” host Jamie Hyneman. “Sure,” you might be thinking, “they’re both folically challenged, but there is no other resemblance there to speak of.” Not so fast, my friend. Striking resemblances are more than skin deep. If you look a little harder (or spent some quality time with Jeff), you’d learn that not only is the baldness a resemblance, but also, there is a resemblance in that both Jeff and Jamie share a passion of busting myths. Because Camp Gray is tucked away in the woods away from the “real world,” the creation of myths about Summer Camp isn’t uncommon. For example, recently a myth was circulating that Summer Camp at Camp Gray was only for elementary and middle school students. BUSTED! Summer Camp is open for 2nd through 13th graders (referring to campers who have just completed their senior year of high school). Jeff’s “Myth Busting” ways have rubbed off on me, and just in time, as I’ve got a few myths I’ve got a hankerin’ to bust!
An area at Camp Gray that seems to require constant myth busting is the Explorer program. Before we get to the busting, though, allow me to illustrate the program. Explorer campers (and their counselors) live away from main camp, in a separate area of Camp Gray called the Explorer Village. The Explorer Program has been a powerful experience at Camp Gray for countless campers since its outset back in 1996. Countless hours of many months leading up to the inaugural summer of the Explorer Village were dedicated to creating a program perfectly suited for campers in 10th-12th grade. So perfectly suited, in fact, that campers that decide to take the trek under the Explorer arch, down the trail towards the Village, often call the Explorer program their pinnacle camper experience. However, because of the separation from main camp, and because there is some intentional mystery involved with the program, it lends itself to easily allow for some wild myths to be concocted. So, this post is intended to confront some of the more popular myths head on – Jamie Hyneman style – and we’ll see what kind of mess we can make.
Without any further adieu, let’s do some busting!
Myth #1 The walk from the Explorer Village arch – erected just off the gravel pond road – to the Village is an approximate 19 mile trek.
BUSTED! A 19 mile trek from sign to Village would imply that Camp Gray has many more than 225 acres. In all actuality, it takes the average person 4 minutes to complete the journey. (Because life as an Explorer is so sublime, it only feels like you’re that far from the “real world.”)
Myth #2 Explorer campers must build their own shelter out of mud and sticks.
BUSTED! There are two large cabins in the Village, one for our male campers, and one for our female campers. Each cabin holds up to 10 campers. While these cabins don’t have electricity, time spent in the cabin is scarce, making electricity a non-necessity.
Myth #3 Your days as an Explorer are filled entirely with playing cards.
BUSTED! While there is some structure to each day as an Explorer, an exciting aspect of the program is that there are times each day when YOU, the campers, decide as a community what to do next. Like I mentioned before, there is a bit of mystery involved with the program. By that I mean, only Explorers can enter the Village, and each week Explorers attempt to span the entire week without being seen by the other 130 campers on main camp. This in itself presents some fun and exciting opportunities to navigate around camp. Sure, cards are available for those campers that may want to play during down time, but don’t fret, card playing is sparse. Some of the structured activities include an evening at Camp’s climbing wall, time spent in our brand new swimming pool, a day at nearby Devil’s Lake State Park hiking and swimming, and of course daily prayer and devotion times.
Myth #4 It’s not uncommon for Explorer campers to lose an unhealthy amount of weight and suffer severe hunger pangs during their time in the Village, for they’re required to refrain from eating anything that they didn’t hunt and/or gather.
BUSTED! While food on main camp consistently receives rave reviews, the feedback from the Village may even be more impressive (no disrespect to our kitchen crew, of course, for I find their food to be quite delicious – even after eating it every day for the last 6 summers!). A unique part of the Explorer program is that the campers and counselors prepare their own food. Uncooked food is delivered to the Village before each meal, and then the community comes together to prepare, to eat, and then to clean up. This arrangement is a major part of accomplishing one of the main goals of the program: creating a tight-knit community.
Myth #5 No community of campers could ever be more tight-knit than the Pathfinder Community.
BUSTED! No disrespect to the Pathfinder program, because as a former Pathfinder Counselor, I’m quite fond of that program. However, I’m also a former Explorer Counselor, so I’ve seen first hand how the design of the Explorer Program aids in developing an extremely tight-knit community. We hear from former campers often – our summer staff is made up of several former campers – that share that they still keep in touch with their fellow Explorer campers. When you spend nearly every minute of every day week with a small group of people, preparing meals together, eating meals together, praying together, and playing together, there is no doubt you’ll be a part of strong community of believers.
Myth #6 Most campers can’t hack it as an Explorer because days are too arduous.
BUSTED! In my 6 years at Camp Gray, I’ve never met a camper that I thought couldn’t make it as an Explorer. While life as an Explorer is different than an experience on main camp, it’s one that, if given a chance, will be extremely rewarding. It’s a powerful experience that will likely be your pinnacle Camp Gray experience.
If you’re a camper entering 10th-12th grade this fall, we invite you to take the trek under the arch, and become an Explorer. If you have any questions about the program, or have heard other myths that need some busting, please feel free to give us a call!
Thanks for tuning in, friends! Questions for the quarterly Tuesday’s with Topher mailbag? Email! Thanks to those that have already emailed over questions!