When I returned for my third year as a camper I thought of myself as an expert on Camp Ondessonk. We camped nearby at Ferne Clyffe State Park, so our car was one of the first lined up on the camp road when the gate opened at 11 am on arrival day (it now opens at 1 pm). After a short picnic lunch at the Scenic Overlook picnic table near the Old Dining Hall, the registration process began and I was soon moving into my cabin. My parents and I parted when I finished my swim assessment. They were heading home.
Once back in my cabin in the unit of Garnier, I became a little restless. It would be over an hour before our first scheduled activity – a unit meeting with our counselors to learn names, rules, and stuff like that. I knew all that stuff. Remember, I was an expert. As an expert on camp, I decided to go for a hike to Hogg’s Bluff. I’d been there on my exploration hike the previous year and I was certain it was just past the rifle range. I departed the unit without raising any attention from my Unit Leader. I walked across the Lake Echon Dam and made a left turn. Yes, I was alone. Camper supervision procedures were much more relaxed in those days than they are now.
My hike led me to Hogg’s Bluff, a tall and mossy place surrounded by water on three sides. I climbed the footpath to the top and began to explore. The solitude of the Shawnee National Forest began to dominate my senses. I thought of the Native Americans that once walked there. According to my counselors from the summer before, the high bluff helped keep them safe from attack. I remembered learning that the depressions to the right as you top the bluff are gravesites. It didn’t take long before I encountered the spooky sensation that I was being watched by someone or something. I looked around more closely. The weight of my aloneness nearly made me faint. I was terrified. I was definitely not an expert. I ran down the footpath, turned toward camp, and sprinted up the cinder path to the safety of my counselors, other campers, and all of the parents still moving kids into cabins. It felt good to be in the presence of others.
Camp Ondessonk is on the cusp of achieving another round of significant progress. After all these years, I am still not an expert. I do know, however, that our future must include “the presence of others”. Your presence, to be more precise, is what our campers need. As a group of individuals working together, we become an expert. Our goals are as lofty as Hogg’s Bluff. We will build Monsignor Fournie Mini Camp Village and a new Rifle Range before summer camp 2015. If plans go as hoped, we will soon position ourselves to build a modern shower house and bathroom facility for the West side of the lake. Equally as important, we will welcome a new generation of summer campers to the Camp Ondessonk family as we continue our path of enrollment growth. Our achievements, whether big or small, will definitely be easier to attain with your presence. Please continue sending the kids in your life to camp. Please continue giving your time, talent, and treasure. Please be present. God’s children are depending upon you.
Camp Ondessonk- The Director’s Desk By Dan King Executive Director