Sperryville column for March 1

Sperryville writer Monica Worth is filling in for Barbara Adolfi this week.

Signs of spring

A drawing done by one of last year’s Rappahannock Nature Camp participants.
Courtesy photo
A drawing done by one of last year’s Rappahannock Nature Camp participants.

One of the true joys of a Rappahannock summer takes shape with the earliest signs of spring, right here in Sperryville. Generations of local young folks have come to know or better appreciate the riches around them through their experiences at the annual Rappahannock Nature Camp, now celebrating its 26th year.

This year, the camp is featured in a video produced for the Piedmont Environmental Council’s (PEC) 40th anniversary and premiering at the Paramount Theater in Charlottesville later this month. Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” is tapped to speak. PEC is a longtime sponsor of the camp.

Camp director Lyt Wood (who is also in the video) is experienced as an outdoor educator and has hosted the camp at his Sperryville property on the Hazel River since 1996. Another force of nature, Trista Grigsby, will return as assistant director. She is a gardener and musician as well as a teacher and director of nutritional services for Rappahannock County Public Schools. A host of artists, teachers and wildlife experts contribute their support to the camp year after year. And former campers often return as counselors.

The eyes have it

While I’m sure the video celebrating PEC’s 40th will be inspiring – and I sure want to hear Mr. Louv – I can attest that some of the most vivid stories of Rappahannock Nature Camp live in the eyes of the two dozen 8- to 12-year-olds who attend each year.

Granted, a few of those eyes are focused on the back end of the vehicles of parents, mentors and grandparents as they depart down the long driveway on the first morning of camp, leaving their uncertain charges in no-tech land for an entire day. But, by morning two or three, the same eyes are alive with anticipation as campers scramble out of barely parked cars and sprint to the rope swings or Frog Pond before assembling in the barn.

Wet and muddy and full of ideas for games and songs, for identifying bugs and critters and learning to understand and evaluate the wonders around them, it is the campers’ curious eyes that fill the woods and water for the next two weeks of long summer days. Wide eyes tend to be the norm as evening falls on the next to the last day of Nature Camp and the overnight camp-out looms.

Naturalized citizens

On the final day, which features an open house, the wide eyes belong to parents and friends as their seasoned campers stand proudly as citizens of the natural world, delivering spirited presentations on their myriad pursuits.

Time to rock

Here’s the hitch. I hear there are about 10 slots left for this year’s camp, so anyone who wants to enroll needs to do that right away. They fill up fast.

This year’s dates are June 18-29. The theme of study will be “Explorations,” encompassing the camp’s traditional haunts: the Hazel River, Frog Pond, Azalea Rocks and surrounding hiking trails. In addition, campers will choose and sign up for activities such as painting with watercolors, calling in predators and other animals, or observing the sun, moon, stars and planets. The camp hours are 9 to 3 Monday-Friday.

Tuition for the two weeks is $225. Financial assistance is available, and please do not hesitate to apply if you need it. Call Lyt Wood (540-987-9530) if you have any questions about that. The experience is too important to miss. Otherwise, registration forms are available at the PEC office in the old bank building in Washington, or at the kiosk in front of the Washington post office. Easy!

Isn’t it nice to think about endless summer days just as we begin to enjoy daylight after 5 o’clock again? I hope Barbara Adolfi has enjoyed her days away, and enthusiastically welcome her back to her column next week! Don’t forget to email her with any of your news or updates.

– Monica Worth