There is no arguing about the magic that takes place each summer at Surprise Lake Camp. A place you would never think capable of holding so many fond memories and experiences. The camp experience truly starts on the road. The road itself marks the beginning of a very magical journey, with its twists and curves that instantly set off the butterflies in your stomach. As you impatiently squirm in the car to see that “Welcome to Surprise Lake Camp” sign with your bags packed high in the trunk, you’re wondering “What was I thinking, agreeing to isolate myself from the world for 2 whole months?!” Well, no need to fear because it only gets better from here.
Whether it is your first year or tenth year at camp, there is always that feeling of uncontrollable glee when you reach camp and feel the dirt road beneath your feet because you are finally home. Back to a family full of people who know you better than anyone else. Home to the most beautiful lake you have ever seen and trees so green it almost seems impossible for one place to be so perfect. But that is exactly what it is, it is perfect.
When you take a step back from all the nature, you realize the true reason why you return summer after summer: the people. If there is one thing I have taken away from my 9 summers at SLC, it is that the people are what make it all worthwhile. Meeting your best friend, boyfriend, or future wife at a camp tucked away in the mountains is something you never expect to happen, but it does, each and every summer. I suppose this is the tricky part when trying to explain to “non SLC’ers,” how camp works because the true magic takes place during those 5 minutes you spend with someone in speciality, on an overnight, or on the waterfront and before you realize it, a lifelong friendship is unfolding. After that, it’s as if you can’t imagine what life would be without them. In camp, you spend those hot summer nights staying up late to talk about nothing significant with your bunkmates. You experience your first kiss behind the equipment shack… until a counselor catches you, of course. You form so many weird, confusing “inside jokes” and secret handshakes with friends, but this is what ultimately gives life to camp. The bonds and friendships made here are like no other and are inexplicable because you have spent every waking hour with these people. You share laughs and tears, talk about personal things, and open up your heart to people who, not so long ago, used to be complete strangers.
Before you know it, you are already packing your bags to return home, but everything is different now. You are different. You have grown, learned, and matured in this very place. On that last morning of camp everyone can sense the grief and heartache that is about to come. Ironically, though, camp ends exactly the way it started, on the road. In the car, your mom attempts to console you as tears stream down your face but you insist that she “just doesn’t understand.” How can she, or anyone for that matter, understand the most amazing 2 months you have just experienced with people who you will never forget? Camp becomes that one place where you can always act as a silly, energetic kid, regardless of your actual age, and without knowing it, you take in some of life’s most valuable lessons at the same time.
The strong and unique community we develop at camp in only 2 months is what separates us from the rest of the world. It is what makes us feel accepted, appreciated, and loved. It is why we succumb to the pressure of returning every summer because we cannot bear to be anywhere else. It is why we will always call SLC our home away from home and no matter where life takes us, we will always have our memories at summer camp to hold onto.