Dear Treetops Families:
Though it’s been only two months since we bid farewell to our campers, the campus outside my window has entirely transformed. The old Sugar Maple, that stands sentry to the Main Building, branches bare, the ground below carpeted in leaves of brown, acts as nature’s visual calendar, signaling the change in season. Before long, the ground will be covered in a blanket of white, and instead of watching the frolicking barefoot campers of summer, I’ll watch North Country School students glide by on skis or bundled head to toe as they head off for evening barn chores.
For me, any change in season is an opportunity for reflection. Now that I’ve had some weeks since the closing of Camp, I’m drawn to reflect on my first summer as Camp Director and take stock. Overwhelmingly, I’m filled with gratitude: for the founders of this institution, and their clear-eyed philosophy of what summer camp should be for children; gratitude for the committed staff that show up to help create a child’s world each and every day of the summer, gratitude for families that entrust us with the care of their children over the summer weeks, and of course, an overwhelming gratitude for the children, the whole reason we are here.
Recently I’ve been delving into Treetops history, reading the writings of our founders, as well as camper and counselor reflections, both from recent times and those written upwards of 70 years ago. Again and again, I’m thrilled at the many routines, traditions, and values that have changed barely, or not at all over the decades. In 1954, Doug and Helen Haskell were presented with a scrapbook of letters, art, and photographs, as a show of celebration and gratitude for their 25 years of leadership at Treetops. One of the letters I found particularly touching and apropos was written by John Hoins:
The impressions I have and the way I feel about Camp Treetops are very difficult to put on paper. These feelings are new to me and I am not yet familiar enough with them to be able to form sentences that explain them. They are so many and so small and easy to overlook and ignore in the roaring of an adult society that it seems wonderful to me that people would notice them and dedicate a good part of their lives to operating a camp that follows the simple principle of allowing a child to remain a child.
There are too few children who know the feeling of a gosling or a lamb; who know that horses listen to what you have to say and what a chicken looks like with no clothes on. There are too few children who ever get the chance to look down from a mountain top or nothing but trees.
No child should grow up before he has seen the sun rise through clean mountain mists. No child should become an adult without having stood in the spray of a water-fall.
These things and many others come to mind when I try to write down my feelings. I can only say that I am grateful to have had my first counseling job with an organization as inspirational as this one.
In an era of machines and sidewalks it is gratifying to find people who still believe it is fun to climb a mountain.
When days later, I was reading a letter written by Super 2023, Ana Patterson, I could not help but feel teary and touched at the remarkable sameness of the sentiments, though her writing came nearly 70 years later. Ana describes an extended overnight wilderness trip she went on and was able to lead, due to her training and success at learning hiking guide skills.
This is an experience like no other: 5 days, 70 miles in the Adirondacks taught me so much about nature and myself. Camp is especially important now because of the quickly developing world we live in. Treetops is a 7 week break from all technology. It is so valuable to have this time away. Without camp there isn’t a time when kids can be completely removed from technology. At camp we are able to escape to nature and appreciate all that is around us. At camp, we are able to really be kids and not worry about outside stressors. At camp, I learn to live in the moment and appreciate what I have. At camp I am the epitome of who I want to be.
So, in reflection of my first summer, the enormous task, and even more enormous privilege I have in carrying the Treetops torch, I want to again express gratitude for our founders, our philosophy, the staff, the parents, and to all the campers, past and present, “who still believe it is fun to climb a mountain”.
Camp Treetops Director