Session 2

Mission Moments and the Tawonga Backpacking Program

It’s hard to believe that today is the last full day of Session Two! With nearly two weeks under their belts, campers this session have really settled into Camp T life: learning their way around our property, making lasting friendships and trying all the Tawonga favorites, like lilypad slip n’ slide, crafting at A&C, swimming in the pool and lots and lots of Gaga (Israeli handball). 

They’ve also shared profound, transformative moments, from entering the “challenge zone” at our Challenge Course and discovering strength and bravery they didn’t know they had, to realizing the joy of pure belonging and acceptance within our welcoming Jewish community that celebrates all identities. These are what we call “mission moments”. 

One activity full of mission moments is our backpacking program. This session, all campers participated in a camping and/or backpacking trip, usually in Stanislaus National Forest or Yosemite National Park. Led by our experienced Wilderness Staff, younger campers and their counselors start their trips with a day hike in the morning, then drive into a serviced campsite and set up camp for the night. Once there, they cook dinner together over a campfire, roast s’mores, stargaze, tell stories and sleep under the stars.

Older campers venture on more adventurous trips; accompanied by a Wilderness Leader and counselors, bunks get dropped off at a trailhead from which point they hike two to eight miles to a campsite in the wild! Campers carry everything they need for the trip in their packs, including group gear like tarps and bear-proof canisters, as well as individual items like mats and sleeping bags. 

Campers returning from trips this session couldn’t wait to share highlights, like seeing so many stars that they were moved to tears, swimming in an ice-cold creek after a hot hike and jumping off a big rock into a deep and placid river spot. They also faced challenges like some mosquito bites and scraped knees, but campers supported each other through it all – building resilience along the way. The number one thing they have on their mind when they return: showers!

Other activities campers will remember fondly include: making tie-dye at A&C (and wearing matching shirts as a bunk!), writing songs with our song leaders and Jewish programmers, learning about local ecology during Forest Tikkun (tikkun means repair in Hebrew), exploring themes of the Torah at Ruach Hour, having a tea party at Stone Couch, performing at the Talent Show and getting wickedly messy during Gnarly. Today, when one camper was asked what they thought about their time at Camp, they shouted out, “two thumbs up!”

Tonight, all of Camp will come together for a very special Thanksgiving-style banquet dinner, followed by one final song session and closing campfires. These events are lots of fun for both campers and staff, and provide an opportunity to reflect on the time we’ve spent together. 

Each and every camper has shown tremendous growth and courage during their time here, and it will certainly be bittersweet to send them home through the “Tunnel of Love” tomorrow as we close out this beautiful session together.