I’ve been to five continents and somewhere around 50 countries. I’ve made it to almost every state in the U.S. Yet still, the place pictured below remains one of my favorite places on earth.
This place is Bear Creek Aquatic Camp, a residential summer camp located on the shores of Kentucky Lake and run by the Kentuckiana Girl Scout Council. This past week I was in the area researching lake resorts for the Kentucky guidebook, and when I found myself just a couple of miles away from the camp, I couldn’t resist returning. It’s been nearly 20 years, since the first summer I spent there. I wasn’t sure what I’d find on my return, if perhaps, it were better to let my memories be memories.
But what I found was, largely, what I remembered. Things seemed a bit smaller (perhaps because I’m a bit bigger), and the counselors who were there preparing for the girls who were arriving soon seemed so young (perhaps because I am getting to be old). But the smell of pine that filled the air as you walked from the boating area to the swimming area was still there to tickle my nose. I could almost picture myself inside the still rustic cabins, whispering with friends until we fell asleep mid-thought. At the beach, I missed the trampoline from which we used to bounce into the water (replaced now with a slide for insurance reasons I’m sure), but I recalled the accomplishment of swimming across the bay and back. Running my hands along the multi-colored life jackets strung out between the trees, I remembered learning to sail, getting up on water skis for the first time, and the triumph of finally raising the sail of a windsurfer and going for a ride. At Inspiration Point, it seemed the words of campfire songs hung on the breeze. The lyrics of one of my favorites have stayed with me to this day, a sort of mantra for my life.
“On the loose to climb a mountain, on the loose where I am free. On the loose to live my life the way I think my life should be. For I’ve only got a moment, and a whole world yet to see. I’ll be searching for tomorrow on the loose.”
Bear Creek is a special place, one of those places that, over the course of a few summers, shaped me into the person I am today. It was where I got my first real taste of independence, where I gained confidence and learned to take risks, where I felt what it was like to be free. Nostalgia washed over me as I meandered through the camp. I couldn’t help but yearn to be young again, to be able to spend my summer there, to have the whole world seemingly in my hands. But as I stood at Inspiration Point and looked out across the lake, I hushed those wishes and decided instead just to be thankful for the time I had spent there, to be grateful for the experiences I have had and the person they have helped me become, and to appreciate the fact that one of my favorite places on earth is still there, sharing its magic with generations of girls.
Thanks, Bear Creek. And Happy 30th Birthday. May you have many, many, many more.