Towering Pines Blog

The Challenge


Time flies. Few truisms are so true and so oversimplified as that idea. Still, it does capture that feeling of nostalgia that we all feel with each passing day, year, and decade. Already we are in the third week of camp. This is challenge week, and it’s alumni weekend. Can I tie those two ideas together for today’s blog? Challenge accepted!

Challenging oneself is a key concept here at camp. Yes, yes, it is important to challenge yourself regularly, but off in the non-camp world, the opportunities to do so may not be as pronounced as they are here. In order for campers to grow as individuals they need to be able to challenge themselves. That is a huge part of why camp is so precious to so many people: it gave them the chance to try something new, whether that is shooting a gun, sailing a boat, or riding a horse.

Don't move! Maybe they will go away...

Challenging yourself means going outside your comfort zone.

In the middle of the third sign up, the kids should be feeling pretty comfortable with their cabin group and the camp routine. This comfort creates a firm foundation from which they can experiment with a new schedule and aim for higher ranks, higher scores, and higher proficiency in their activities of choice. That firm foundation gives them a good place to explore from, something solid to return to if the challenge gets to be a bit too much. Challenging oneself means risking failure, but not challenging oneself only guarantees failure. The risk is what makes the successes so gratifying.IMG_5889 2

This system of controlled risk-taking has helped generations of young people find their strengths and weaknesses to become who they are today. The nearly one hundred alumni we have visiting Woodland and TP this week might be a testament to that system. People from all over the world are flocking back to the Northwoods to relive some of those memories and accomplishments from years bygone.IMG_5966 2

And it isn’t just nostalgia or fancy wooden plaques that draws people back. The feeling that alumni get when they see their name up above the mantle taps into something deeper than a longing for the past. It taps into the pride of that accomplishment, the success of the challenge and finding a strength where maybe they didn’t expect to. I don’t see a spray painted derelict flipper when I see my name on the Golden Flipper award in the museum. I remember breaking the surface of lost lake with the Mother Lode in my hands. I remember learning that there was nothing so scary as my imagination suggested in the darkness below the waves. I remember how a little boy who would hide in the woods rather than go to instructional swim grew into a boy with a commendable lung capacity, and a man with an affinity for the water.

Two of the three sisters.

Two of the three sisters.


We all have stories like that. Camp challenges us to write them. And I still challenge myself here. Who knew I could dig up the lawn and grow corn?

My garden is growing great, by the way.