If you have been to Wilderness before, you know the tradition here that whenever we leave a campsite, we leave a cedar sprig on the fire grate with a small rock on top of it to keep it in place. I’ve told my campers that we do this for two reasons: first, to show others who camp there next that we have left the site better than we found it, and second, if another Wilderness group camps there next, they can know that friends have been there.
This symbol was also used by the Voyagers and fur trappers when they left a campsite to signify that it was a safe place to camp, a safe place to call home for the night. For the Voyagers and for Wilderness campers alike, this symbol of safety and stewardship is like a big welcome mat as you scope out your home for the night.
This Wilderness Ethic of stewardship and supporting those who follow behind you is evident throughout the generations of those who have come to these islands and lakes. There is a constant cycle of learning from those around you, and then turning around to teach it to others also around you. Everyone has stories of how they came here, what they’ve learned here, of what they’ve taken home with them, but also how they can still come back and call this place a home.
Not only in learning how to paddle, bake bread, or tie a bowline – I’ve experienced this ethic in faith within this community. There are a lot of tangible learning experiences that happen here and therefore people are able to learn a lot about themselves and learn a lot about God. I’ve experienced God’s fingerprints in picking blueberries, wearing rain gear to church, and laughter while washing pot and pans. I’ve been encouraged to ask tough questions, challenge structures, and grow deeper.
I am so thankful for those who have come before me to create opportunities for me to experience this, so that we may in turn pass it on to others down the line. If you spend time at Wilderness, you will be challenged by the steep learning curve, physically and spiritually. As you learn and grow, remember those who have blazed the trail before you, and also remember those who will be following in your footsteps.
Guide ’15, DHS ’16, Program Coordinator ’17