Tawonga News

Why We Backpack at Camp Tawonga

By: Myla Marks

Before all-staff and supervisor training weeks begin at Tawonga, there’s an additional week of preparation lovingly called Wild Week attended by wilderness leaders. Wilderness leaders lead backpacking, day hiking and Quest programs and they, along with the staff working in our farm & garden, on the challenge course, and naturalists in our Teva program, make up the Wilderness Department at Tawonga. The department consists of some of the oldest and most experienced staff at camp, and they run many beloved programs.

Last week, we did an amazing activity where wilderness staff shared the reasons we backpack at Camp Tawonga and how it’s connected to the four-part mission. People wrote some really beautiful gems, and everyone left feeling connected to the “why” of what we pour our hearts into each summer.

Personally, I’ve been fortunate enough to experience Tawonga’s backpacking program from all angles: as a camper, Quest participant, counselor, wilderness leader, wilderness supervisor, and now as the Senior Director of wilderness programs. I’ve been able to witness firsthand the power of nature as a catalyst for transformative experiences, both for individuals and bunks. When campers return from the trail, their self confidence and resilience gained from spending a night or two in the wilderness is palpable, and their connection to each other even more evident.

I am excited to witness the awe-inspiring backpacking trips that the older campers will get to experience this summer, and am eager to hear about the endearing, momentous, challenging, silly and joyous lifelong memories made. Read below for one of the reflections from our Wild Week activity that speaks to a core piece of Tawonga’s mission – fostering a partnership with nature.

Years from now when a camper reflects on their backpacking trip, I hope they remember. . .
– the crisp scent of the Ponderosa pines
– the crackle of the fire and the vibration of the laughs around it
– the taste of camp oatmeal and their favorite toppings, plus extra hunger sauce
– the night chill beneath the stars and the comforting warmth within their sleeping bag
– the sight of a bear and the story that followed, bringing them closer to their bunkmates
– the sound of their breath and the burn in their legs as they climbed higher than ever before
– the moment of silence shared only between themselves and nature
– the step by step journey that begins and ends anywhere they choose
– the peaceful rest that follows giving their all
– the hot shower after a trip
– the drive for more

Myla Marks is a Senior Director at Camp Tawonga and oversees all wilderness programs, the transportation department, and is the senior health and safety officer at Camp. Myla specializes in youth development, recreation, outdoor education and risk management. She is beginning her 19th summer at Tawonga.