Blue Heron Shares Night Eagle
Updated: Nov 6, 2022
(Blue Heron [below right] spent five summers at Night Eagle as a camper and more as a counselor. He still attends Work and Play Weekends and volunteers his time at camp during the summers. Below is an essay he wrote for his English class in high school.)
Since my 11th birthday, during the summers I have been going away to a magical place; a place where I can be myself, express myself, and surround myself with familiar and welcoming people and places. This place is Night Eagle, my summer camp, where, until recently, I have been a camper.
I would show up on a bright Sunday afternoon ready to tell all my friends about all the great things I had done all year. I would hop out of the car and immediately run the half mile up a dirt road leading to camp. On my way, I would pass a lake on my right that more often than not would be filled with campers swimming. I would see it again later on my right from the top of an earth dam separating it from another lake on my left. This lake is home to over 2 miles of berry-covered banks and otters swimming in and out of the roots and branches of fallen trees.
As I walked farther, I would pass Skunk Junction, our camp's trash/recycling station. It was also dubbed the Black Bear Buffet after a black bear made a habit of raiding it when campers were not careful to close the garbage bags. Beyond Skunk Junction, I would get the first sight of camp: a large clearing scattered with tipis and one larger structure in which was kept the camp's food.
This is no ordinary camp though. It’s a camp for boys ages 10-15 who want to get away from the grind of ordinary, technology-infested life and get closer to nature in a very literal sense. The only electricity is provided by a small solar panel which is used to run the camp's refrigerator and the water pump. Other than this, there is no electricity at all, and campers certainly do not have access to it.
The main focus of camp is Native American tradition and culture as well as arts and crafts surrounding them. We would all learn archery and how to throw an atlatl and tomahawk, as well as how to carve wood and make beautiful beadwork bracelets and “bone” chokers. While one might think that giving 36 teen and preteen boys knives and other lethal objects would be dangerous, it was actually a very safe and respectful environment in which young boys could be introduced to and made aware of “weapons” such as these.
The director, a father and teacher, would first introduce us to it all as anyone explaining safety would. He would explain what to do, what not to do, and the rules surrounding each object. But everything was explained in such a way that people remembered the rules because they made sense.
Respect is a huge part of the camp experience: respect for oneself, respect for one another, respect for one's surroundings, and a respect for life in general. Each morning after breakfast, we would have Morning Reflection and everyone would sit around the Clearing and listen to someone read a short story or quote about the American Indian or Nature. Afterwards, all 36 boys and 15 staff members would sit perfectly quietly and listen to the sounds of the clearing and ponder what was just said. At first, the younger boys would try to talk and goof around, but the older and more experienced campers would simply lead by example, and the younger campers would settle down. Even the rowdiest young boy would, by the end of camp, be calm and collected and be as responsible as any parent would wish their child to be.
After two or three weeks, it would be time to return to the hubbub of home life. Our parents would show up, and we would give our new friends a final hug goodbye, promising to return next year. As each camper got into his respective car, he would be saying to his parents, “Mom, Dad, I want to come back for 6 weeks next year!” And their parents would say, “We will see, dear.” With few exceptions, campers return for a second, third, or even fifth year, and they love the experience every single time.
Night Eagle has given me a second home to return to every summer. It’s is my favorite place on earth!