by Rachel Boyea
Ever since I was seven years old, I have spent my summers at 4-H Camp Overlook. Camp is way up in the Adirondack mountains in New York State, in a small town close to where I grew up. Some of my happiest memories occurred at Camp Overlook and I have made lifelong friends at the camp.
When you first enter camp, the first thing you notice is the dirt path, lined with tall, skinny, red pines. The deeper in you go, the more red pines you notice. They absolutely adorn the place. For me, such a large portion of my memories are associated with the pines, and when I see them I feel beyond nostalgic.
One memory that sticks out in particular was when I was around thirteen years old. I was suited up in my blue harness, on belay, and ready to start climbing. I stepped up on the ladder and made my way to a very tiny U-shaped metal bars jammed into the tree. From that point on, I had to climb those little metal bars all the way to the very top of the tree. At about halfway up, I realized the tree was bending and swaying in the wind. My mouth had gone completely dry. I felt like I had been climbing for hours. The metal pegs were so small, I was afraid I would miss my footing, and fall the 70 feet I had worked so hard to ascend. Eventually, I made it to the 2x3 wooden platform near the very top of the tree. I removed my carabiner from the belay and I hooked onto a zip line. I had to jump. My feet inched forward and I threw myself off the platform, fighting against all natural instincts. I free-fell for a good 10 feet before the zip wire had enough tension to catch me. Once my momentum came to an end at the bottom of the zipline, a ladder appeared so I could get down and so the next person could go. Soon after I got off the tree, I started crying because I was so startled from the experience.
Although stressful at the time, I laugh about this experience now. Now I am a counselor at Camp Overlook, and I am the one who teaches kids how to climb the trees and watches them zip for the first time. Once every summer comes to an end, I drive out the path lined with red pines, past the red gates, and onto the pavement, knowing that next summer I get to do it all over again.
Rachel is 18 years old and a student at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA.
Photo credit: 4-H Camp Overlook Archive