Adventure Specialty Camp and Trekking Specialty Camp – Summer 1992
By Pati Egan
A few weeks ago, I introduced you to the first Specialty Camp Program. These campers were the only campers at Camp that week as it was held at the end of the summer. These pioneering programs deserve a closer look!
Adventure Specialty Camp, the first official rock climbing done by campers, took place during the last week of summer camp in 1992. This is the predecessor of Camp’s hugely popular Climbing AdventureCamp.
One of Camp’s first rock climbers getting assistance from a certified instructor in climbing.
Camp contracted with climbing professionals, since at that time, Camp didn’t have any trained instructors. Christy (Balich) McDougall was one of the first Ondessonk Staff to assist with this program.
Christy recalls that during this pioneering session, “Adventure definitely had rapelling, spelunking, and high ropes lead by non-camp people. I was just a Unit Leader for them. I was afraid of heights, but I got over it quick that summer!” Christy was an experienced Unit Leader and could motivate campers to be their best.
The group had to go off Camp property to do a high ropes course. They went to Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center– Southern Illinois University (Carbondale) for this program.
Adventure Specialty campers camped out and learned traditional outdoor living skills.
Campers learned how to climb “on belay.” This is an established method to safely climb rocks (and mountains like Mount Everest) that is usually done with a partner.
Trekking Specialty campers are the predecessors of all backpacking adventure programs. The original 1992 group were led by Mary Kay M. and Tony B.; both were former staff members with extensive backpacking experience. Pilar Velez was one of the assigned staff for this program. Pilar recalls that “Colleen Colyer, Pat King, and Monica “Mookie” George were part of the trekking crew.” All, including Pilar, were highly experienced members of Camp’s nature staff at that time. The Trekking Specialty campers were required to bring a backpack and well-broken-in hiking boots.
Here campers are learning how to use a map and compass to plan their hike. Mary Kay M. was a hiking adventure trip leader for the YMCA, and she had extensive skill in Leave No Trace camping. Tony B. had a great deal of experience in backpacking and camping. They, combined with the awesome nature crew with them, were a great team for this first backpacking adventure.
The campers visited some of the most unique and wild parts of the Shawnee National Forest. The beginning of the week was a buildup of skills that would prepare the campers for a three-day backpacking trip. They would carry everything that they needed on their backs, cook all their own meals, and learn how to do all of this with minimal impact to the environment. (Sound familiar Camper vs. Wild participants?)
As with all the programs that Camp Ondessonk has pioneered – fun was also a big factor!
Sometimes learning when to take a break is just as important as knowing how to conserve your energy and stay hydrated.
Both programs benefitted from the vision of Gene Canavan, who was Camp Director at the time. Together with his administrative team, they took a chance on a totally new concept to enjoy Camp Ondessonk. Seems like Camp has always been driven by dreamers who act on their dreams to make them a reality. Camp serves as a creativity magnet to draw staff and campers who are willing to take a chance and try something new. This was true in 1959, 1992, and today. Dreamers and doers – you are always welcome.
This is part 1 of 3 – next is Canoeing & Horsemanship. A huge Heepwah to Christy Balich McDougall and Pilar Velez for the photos and help with the Adventure Specialty Camp and Trekking Specialty Camp programs
Click here to learn more about Camp Ondessonk’s Adventure Camps.