Except for one night under the stars in Indiana when I served as the appetizer, main entrée, and dessert for a gaggle of unusually large mosquitoes and another night under the clouds when an unexpected deluge forced me to retreat soaking wet into the back seat of a Volkswagen, I have really enjoyed camping over the years.

I can still fondly remember my first camping experience when my father and I slept in the hayloft of a barn at the old family homestead. I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 at the time and I can’t recall why we were there, other than the fact that the barn was to be torn down in advance of the building of the Cannonsville reservoir. I remember how safe and connected I felt with him, despite all of the nightmarish images that my imagination could conjure up.

I recall going to 4-H Camp in the mid 1950’s and sleeping on a cot on a platform under an army issue canvas tent in the company of a bunch of other 8 year olds. I enjoyed the swimming hole, the games, and my first woodworking project, a birdhouse with an opening that my brother would later observe could accommodate a crow. My experiences at Boy Scout Camp were likewise enjoyable, and were only dampened when I realized that Morse Code would remain “Greek to me” no matter how hard I tried to organize the dots and dashes.

One of the alluring qualities of the camping experience is the insight that surfaces when one’s comfort zone is tested. You’re out in the woods and the faint call of nature stimulates that primordial part of your being that hones your senses and makes you feel just a little more alive and a little more self reliant. You begin to dispense with those nagging worldly issues that have been all-consuming. You do so because their lack of real importance becomes clear in the grander picture.

And then there are the campfires. You find yourself mesmerized as you stare into the fire, crackling, sparking, warming, comforting, luring you to drift inward. Your fire mates all gathered in the circle murmuring, backs to the woods and all of its complement of night creatures. Someone hums a corny camp song and others join in. Your resistance fades and soon you’re singing too, part of a fireside union that conveys you back across time to mingle with the ancients. 

Someone strums a guitar, its sweet strums lifting straight up to the stars. Someone else softly beats a drum and the spirit of Dekanawidah holds court over your senses. You realize that you are surrounded by your brothers and sisters and that for this one evening you have all been initiated into the turtle clan. Then the stories begin.

This is a small part of what lays in store for those venturesome people who decide to register for our “4C-Camp for Adults”. I have been meeting with a group of very special, very creative people for the past year, designing a camping weekend that we feel will be a wonderful, fulfilling experience. 4C-Camp will take place at 4H Camp Shankitunk in Delancey over the weekend of August 28th through August 30th. Campers will sleep on bunks in primitive cabins, eat nutritious food, select classes from a fun filled curriculum, square dance, be entertained and end both evenings with a campfire, all of this for $90.

This is in part a community building initiative that the Office for the Aging and Cornell Cooperative Extension have joined forces to develop. In these difficult times when government seems to be struggling, it makes a great deal of sense to focus on strengthening our communities as a means of reestablishing order. Indeed, the 4 C’s stand for: camping to create caring communities. It is our vision that the people who attend the 4-C Camp will not only take back with them the joy from a fun and fulfilling weekend camping experience, they will also capture some of this collective energy and apply it later to civic activities at home.

Adults of any age are eligible to register, the more diverse our camp is, the better. Additional information and registration forms can be accessed by going to 4C-Camp.org on the web or contacting the Office for the Aging at 607-746-6333 to receive a registration packet.

Come to 4C-Camp, then the stories will begin.