"Across the Lake"

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"Across the Lake"

Post  Admin on Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:44 pm

A few summers ago I heard a beautiful Slovenian folk song titled “Gor čez Jezero,” or “Across the Lake.” This lilting, wistful song tells of how you look over a majestic mountain lake reminiscent of your childhood, only to realize that your childhood is lost forever. You can never go back. Ever. It has been almost 8 years since I last camped at Camp Crowell Hilaka. This was not by personal choice, however; I moved away from the Cleveland area when I was 12 years old. When I first heard this folk melody, I was immediately transported back to the Upper Lake/ Lake Linnea in the Hilaka side of the camp. To this day, I still remember beauty of the lake at all four seasons, and the fun I had hiking and canoeing there with my Girl Scout friends. Yet when I heard of GSNEO’s decision to temporarily close the camp, like the song suggests, I was jarred with the realization that just as with my childhood, I might never be able to go back to camp Crowell Hilaka. If this camp closes, not only will I lose an enormous part of my past, but we as a scouting community will lose a factor that will positively shape the minds of the girls that will one day affect our world.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time at Camp Crowell Hilaka, with Lynn Richardson’s Troop 131, and also two summers at the resident camp. My second summer at resident camp was the last program, and I was heartbroken upon learning I could not go back again. The memories made there were some of my favorite and are among the most vivid. I remember all of the sights cherished by many others, but I can especially recall bugging the girls in my troop with the most annoying camp songs ever written, accidentally whacking my friend with a lemi stick, searching for the Green Cathedral, and a particularly rambunctious talent show involving a green mummy bag at Kirby House one winter. While many of these experiences are fond, and simply that, many of the lessons I learned still actively shape the person that I am today. Through the informational hikes, sessions at camporees, and simply marveling at the beauty of the camp, I was instilled with love and respect for the environment and an appreciation for the natural beauty our earth has to offer. The practical aspects of camping gave my fellow scouts and I the skills, and hopefully the common sense, to survive in an environment away from civilizations. We planned our own campouts, events, and bought the necessary supplies, which helped us to develop organizational skills and an overall sense of proactivity. From these campouts, and the encouragement of Ms. Lynn, the other girls and I were shown the satisfaction of doing things on our own, and even caught a glimpse of our potential and capabilities as young women. Personally, my experiences at Camp Crowell Hilaka have helped me develop some of the quirks that distinguish me as a person; for example, my love of all things sassafras. But above all, camp was a way for us girls to escape from our everyday world, unwind, and simply be ourselves. School was important to me, and perhaps I was slightly obsessive in my study habits even then. I also didn’t have the easiest fitting in with the other girls at school. Camping at Crowell Hilaka with my Girl Scout friends, however, provided the perfect escape from those academic and social pressures.

I am a firm believer that Crowell Hilaka has, and still does, serve that same role for countless other women in Northeast Ohio. Among them, I can count my sister, mother, and grandmother. For those women, and many others, Crowell Hilaka has served many diverse roles and purposes. It served as a retreat from the same academic and social pressures I felt, and perhaps others, as well as a retreat from the hectic, technological world we now live in. It is a place to learn the same practical skills I learned—not only the skills to survive in the environment, but also the tools needed to build self-esteem and foster the development of good character. Lastly, it shows them the beauty and utter importance of the fragile world in which we live.

Even separated from the rosy haze of my memories, Camp Crowell Hilaka is a gem of a camp. It has a variety of beautiful natural resources, boasting of two lakes, many types of forests, a gas cut that is perfect for sledding, and of course, the Green Cathedral. These resources form a multitude of habitats and ecosystems that are home to many types of wildlife, including the infamous wild turkeys which once induced my Junior troop into nervous giggle fits. In addition to the natural wonders, Camp Crowell Hilaka offers a host of places to stay the night and explore. Among these sites are three beautiful old houses, which help make the camp truly unique. In addition to these buildings that offer plumbing and appliances, there are several cabins, tenting units, shelters, ground tent sites, and even a unit of Adirondacks! Considering these diverse, though neglected, resources, Camp Crowell Hilaka can offer a diverse camping experience for the most daring campers down to the timid ones who are afraid of bugs. The mill, swinging bridge, and bouncy Garfield Hall, all unique attributes, add to the flavor of the camp, and cannot be experienced elsewhere.

Another important aspect of these buildings are their histories. While the history comprised of the memories made at this camp are indisputably the most important aspect, their physical histories cannot be ignored. The houses are examples of period architecture of the early 20th century, and are not only historical but aesthetic. Even if the sentimental value to the girls who camp there is removed, the camp still retains value from the beauty and history of its buildings and grounds. With this in mind, Camp Crowell Hilaka should be saved not only for the sentimental value it holds in the hearts of the campers or the role it played in their formations of character, but also the physical and aesthetic beauty and history of the camp itself.

When I moved in 2002 I became, and still remain, an active scout in what is now the Mountains to Midlands council in South Carolina. Perhaps I idealized my experiences at Crowell Hilaka, but none of the camps or camping experiences I had could ever really compare. As I sent my sister, and then the Brownies and Juniors in my troop in Greenville off to Girl Scout camp, I was excited to see them grow, but also kind of wistful. It always saddened me to realize that they would never have the same wonderful resource that I did as a kid, Camp Crowell Hilaka. I could never show them the place where I had made all those wonderful memories, and perhaps even make some of our own. After I moved, I always had a pipe dream of taking my troop back to Crowell Hilaka, and even now I wish it for the troop I help. When I was younger, I took it for granted, like one takes childhood for granted—you think you can always go back. There was always that possibility that someday I would, and I took comfort in knowing that others could share in the camp’s magic. Yet GSNEO threatening to close that camp could close that door forever.

Like the old Slovenian folk song suggests, I never made it back to Crowell Hilaka. If the camp is able to stay open, perhaps I will. Although the memories and lessons I learned are vivid and actively influence the person I am today, the camp itself remains distant across the lake of my memory. Yet there are so many girls who have just gone to that camp, or have not yet been blessed with the opportunity. Please, do not let this gem pass by our Girl Scouts, both of the present and the future. Let them enjoy the beautiful lakes of Camp Crowell Hilaka and all they have to offer. Do not let them fade away into memory.


Annelise Gorensek
Adult Member and Volunteer
Brownie/Junior Troop 2481
Greenville, SC

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