Quiet spot discovered 30 years ago endures today

‘I can remember every sight, every smell, every feeling’

By Erin Platt

Special to the Rappahannock News

I found a spot that was far enough away from the other campers that their voices blended in with the sound of the rustling leaves in the trees above me.

The forest was made of oaks, mixed with tulip poplars and a few hemlocks. In 1989, the hemlocks were still green and full and thriving. I sat on a downed tree and after only a few moments I knew this small piece of woods was meant for me to find and would be my quiet spot.

The writer, Erin Platt (dressed here in blue to the immediate right of the park ranger), was eight years old when she first attended Rappahannock Nature Camp. Courtesy phot

My tree had fallen long ago and was covered in mosses and lichen and bits of the tree would flake off on my hands each time I touched it. I came back to this spot every afternoon for two weeks. After the first day or two I had developed a routine for the time alone in my quiet spot. Upon arrival I would rake aside the leaves that had collected on the ground around my tree, often uncovering amphibian guests of my quiet spot.

There was almost always a small toad to be found, and sometimes I would catch a red newt by surprise and it would run off to find thicker ground cover. Next I would roll my seat over to check on the army of roly polys and earthworms that secretly dug their trenches without rest, concealed by the tree in my quiet spot.

The smell of the damp soil and decomposing wood was earthy and natural and comforting. After replacing their shelter, I would lay back on the log and close my eyes and just listen. I could hear the newt scurrying through the crunchy, dried leaves and a pair of squirrels playing tag in the higher branches above me. I could hear the chirp of a cardinal and the drumming of a pileated woodpecker on a snag across the forest. The murmur of swaying foliage synchronized with the dappled sunlight that found its way through the canopy and down to my face and closed eyes and I melted into the tree. In my quiet spot.

I was eight years old when I had my first experience at Rappahannock Nature Camp and nearly thirty years later I can remember every sight, every smell, every feeling. When was the last time you went outside and sat down on the ground and just listened? Listened with no regard for the dirt that will end up on your backside or the dew from the grass that is soaking into your shoes.

Listened without worry for the next appointment, the next text, the next social media update. I wonder. We all want our children to “go outside and play” but don’t we really want them to go outside and discover? To go outside and wonder? I wonder what I’ll find under these leaves. I wonder who lives under this fallen tree. I wonder what kind of bird I hear.

At Nature Camp my sense of wonder was encouraged and rewarded. I learned many facts about the animals and plants and atmosphere around me. More importantly, though, I learned how to respect, protect and be a part of the natural world that existed long before me and will continue to exist long after I’m gone.

Rapp Nature Camp will hold two summer sessions this year at Singing Creek. The Hazel River borders the camp on one side and campers will explore the river, forests, meadows and the frog pond, which is always teeming with life and action.

First session is for campers ages 8-12 and will be held June 18-29. Tuition is $300. Second session is for campers ages 12-16, to be held July 2-13. Tuition is $325.

If you are lucky enough to be 12, you can attend both sessions! You will find registration forms at www.rappnaturecamp.org as well as the Singing Creek News, a publication written and illustrated by the campers each summer. If you prefer to call or write, you may do so at 540-987-9530 or PO Box 145, Sperryville, VA 22740.

I am excited that my soon to be thirteen year old was the first camper to sign up for the new second session. Now if only there were a session for adults in the works. I wonder . . .

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