Have you ever returned to a place that played a major role in your younger years, and upon returning felt instantly transported back to that time in your life? It’s happened to me a few times throughout my life, but none as intensely as this weekend when I paid a visit to Camp Champions, the summer camp where I spent six summers of my youth. The summer camp where I made dozens of life long friends and countless more memories. The summer camp that taught me so many valuable lessons about life, many that I still utilize to this day.
Situated right along the shores of Marble Falls’ Lake LBJ, Camp Champions was a heaven on Earth – all year I counted down the days until it was time to make the long (and exciting) drive from our house in Sugar Land to the iconic giant spur located at camp’s entrance. And when I actually got to camp, it was pure joy. Waiting in a line of cars until they opened the gates at 11 am sharp; running to the Acropolis (the office) to find out which cabin I would be in that year; lugging my trunk that was always far too full of dance costumes, stationary, and a secret candy stash to my designated cabin area; rushing off to my cabin to see which of my friends would be bunking with me that year – nothing could beat that experience. Nothing, except maybe the three weeks that followed.
Camp Champions was a camp full of tradition. There were nightly torchlight ceremonies, weekly Trojan/Spartan wars, Wednesday night dances, Sunday night campfires, and days filled with every activity under the sun (seriously – they had everything from water skiing to rock wall to soccer to horseback) – to some it may seem repetitive (and hot – we spent all day outside and had cabins with A/C), but to me it was perfect. I lived for the tradition, and hoped for nothing different each year I went back. The activities from camp had a profound impact on the memories I’ve made since then. To this day, I can’t see a fireworks display without thinking of the spectacular shows that Camp Champions was known for (or remembering the screams of me and my friends as we tried to predict which color the next firework explosion would bring – we always wanted purple).
This weekend, I went up to camp to visit my younger brother who is spending his third year working at Champions, this year as the Head of Rock Wall. If we’re being honest, I was full of jitters and excitement the entire drive to Marble Falls – it was as if I was a 12-year-old girl all over again, making her way up to camp for the summer. Things that had faded from my memory suddenly all came rushing back, and as I thought about those six years of summertime bliss, I drove a little faster until I reached that good ol’ spur. I was back.
Driving up the winding road that leads to camp, the first thing that caught my eye was a shiny new pool, complete with a water slide and a lazy river – that was certainly not there when I was a camper. Back then, we were expected to swim in the lake – and I loved it! This addition was not what I expected to drive up to. But for as many new things that I saw gracing the camp grounds, I saw just as many familiar aspects – the same Acropolis that I used to sit under, the same cabins where I laid my head, the same Fillin’ Station where I filled my tummy. Even though camp changed (and why shouldn’t it modernize to be with the times), at heart, it was still the same ol’ Camp Champions that I knew and loved. And walking around with my brother as my guide, memory after memory came back, bringing me back to those fun filled summer days at camp.
After walking around every patch of grass on that camp, I left feeling such a sense of happiness. Attending Camp Champions had such an impact on my life (both then and now), and it was so amazing to see that even after all these years, those non-air conditioned cabins and sparkling blue lake could still bring me so much joy. Maybe one day, years down the road, I’ll be able to drive my own children from our home (wherever it may be) through the giant spur and down the winding road to Camp Champions where they will be able to make their own wonderful memories. Until then, the experience will be my own to remember…and I’m ok with that.