Last weekend, I took a little road trip with some friends up to our old summer stomping grounds- Tyler Hill Camp. Located in the heart of Wayne County, PA., Tyler Hill’s the place I called home for six summers. This annual pilgrimage is a highlight of my year. After all, there are few things greater than good times with old friends and fine hillbilly air.
While I miss my experiences as a camper and regret never working at my camp, returning to Tyler Hill for a weekend always helps me remember and appreciate this place and the people that shaped my times there. Now, I don’t mean to get all Wonder Years narrator on you, but it’s hard to reflect on camp experiences without sounding sentimental. I grew up a lot during my time at camp, and going back reminds me of how much my summers meant to me then and now.
Perhaps the greatest thing about camp is its ability to reinforce that it’s people and relationships (whether brief, or long-lasting) that guide us most throughout our lives. Collective experiences are typically the ones we individually value most…and I can’t think of any place where I had more of these than at camp.
I know now something I didn’t back then- life in a bunk with twelve friends and three Canadian counselors was just like fraternity house living, only without the booze and women (still, camp life always managed to be crazy). In fact, camp and my fraternity house have many things in common, such as decrepit bathroom facilities, prison-like cuisine, and strange, wandering wildlife. And like a fraternity, camp also serves as a common bond between myself and others who were also part of it.
Returning to camp gives my friends and I the chance to re-visit our youth through a different perspective. While we were once confined to the pristine campgrounds, we now get to explore the many attractions of the surrounding community. Whether enjoying a stay at the luxurious local motor lodge, or eating at the famous Diana’s Place (a diner that, I shit you not, prominently displays a sign reading “You Kill it, We Grill It…Proudly Serving Roadkill”), it’s hard not to relish the pure redneck awesomeness.
While the world is constantly changing, very few things look different up here. It’s as if camp, and its neighboring people and places are part of some kind of time capsule (I was glad to see that the trucker-hat-loving maintenance man “Mumbles” is still cruising through the camp on his John Deere). Making the trip to camp is incredible because it doesn’t feel any different either. Regardless of where we are in our respective lives, my friends and I make it seem as if we’ve never left.
Sure, most of my camp buddies came from similar backgrounds as me, but the diversity of personalities is what I’ll remember most. It’s hard to explain, but to this day I still consider my Tyler Hill crew to be my best friends (even if I only see some of them once a year). I guess its because we don’t spend enough time together to get on each other’s nerves. We keep things simple and fun, without having to deal with the issues most other relationships face.
After returning home from my trip last weekend (along the way we passed plenty of highway roadkill that would look great on the Diana’s brunch menu), I thanked my parents for providing me with an invaluable camp experience… one that they were not privileged enough to enjoy. Sometimes it takes a little reminder to see how fortunate we truly are, and that’s why my annual return trip to camp is not only fun, but good for the soul. While every new year brings about more responsibilities and stresses, camp has a way of keeping things real.
Only 358 more days until next year’s trip.