Action Packed Week

People commonly refer to the dog days of summer, referencing late July and August when it gets hot and slow and boring. It may be a little hotter around here (though still about 8 degrees cooler than even down the mountain) but this week was anything but slow and boring. Every single day was action packed!

Wednesday of this week probably holds the distinction as the most fun day of the Term. Mountain Day! A day of celebration and special events like no other day at camp. It’s celebrations have morphed over the years but we have celebrated some form of Mountain Day since the beginning. My favorite addition this year was the pinewood derby for the Trappers(rising 5th). Working with our Associate Director and sometimes carpenter, Thomas Gallagher, each boy designed his car. Thomas did the cutting and the boys did the decorating. There were some creative designs and even more creative decor. Races were held on a track 6 wide with color commentary provided by the counselors. Elated cheers went up for the winners as we whittled down to our finals race with the fastest car from each cabin. The boys took so much pride in their designs and decorations. Though this is not original to Alpine, the element of autonomy allowed with no troop leaders or adults seemed to bolster their confidence.

I got ahead of myself. Wakeup was special, led by costumed head counselors with music blaring. Campers streamed out of cabins decked out in all sorts of get ups. Word spreads quickly that it might be Mountain Day. So they are ready. Sometimes a costume is preplanned and put together, mostly it’s an inside out shirt with shorts on head and sunglasses, or something of the like.

Our counselors also coordinated costumes with Carter and me, as you may have seen in the photos! Unbeknownst to this old person, apparently Grimace, purple guy from my childhood’s McDonald’s commercials, has made some sort of comeback this summer. I’m told there are Grimace shakes and he’s somewhat of a star on Tiktok??? The funny thing about camp culture is that sometimes a random trend like this gets mentioned and then catches on as a running joke around camp. “Happy Birthday Grimace” became a regular refrain heard around camp. So Carter, always up for a trick, bought all the counselors purple paint and fake mustaches for eyebrows. And she dressed us up as Donald McRonald and Mrs. McRonald (my first name is Donald). First time walking in clown shoes for me. Don’t plan to do it again anytime soon. Campers loved it!

Country band Alabama is the music of choice for Mountain Day (the hometown boys hail from just down the mountain in Fort Payne, AL and still reside in the area). Dixieland Delight and Mountain Music swirled through the air as we enjoyed pancakes with chocolate chips and blueberries for breakfast. Spontaneous singing and dancing and even a conga line broke out while we ate.

Our Team Sports staff brought us a full morning of Olympic competition, tribe vs. tribe. Field events, tug of war, and some relays kept us busy all morning. And yes, there was music there too. That’s the beautiful thing about being unplugged for a time period. It makes you appreciate so much more.

For lunch, Mrs. Gail’s Mountain Day special: BBQ chicken awaited us. She slow cooks it all night. By the time it reached our tables it was falling off the bone. Served with green beans, mashed potatoes, salad, and strawberry shortcake, we feasted.

In the afternoon Roderick planned special activities including the newer tradition of playing of Alabama Gold Rush. It’s a hybrid between capture the flag, tag, and an egg hunt played by Scouts, Warriors, Braves, and Chiefs, throughout most of camp. The boys love it!

Hunters enjoyed a lazy afternoon playing on Little River at the Waterfront. The trappers raced the afternoon away, as previously mentioned.

The best part of the whole day (and maybe the term) came at sundown. The Alpine County Fair. With snowcones, large buttered pretzels, and ice cream I probably need not say much more. But there’s so much more.

Currency at the fair is dried pinto beans for games and a limited number of tickets for food items. Loaded with an envelope full of beans, boys are turned loose in the gym and field to play fair type games to their heart’s content.

Booths line each side of the gym. Take the Plunge (tossing rings into plungers), the Cake Walk, and Wheel of Fortune are a few of the favorites. And outside the gym there’s a chance to dunk your favorite head counselor in water with a baseball toss.

Thursday night we honored our 2nd year chiefs, our oldest campers in their final year, at our annual Council Ring ceremony. It takes place under the stars in our outdoor amphitheater, with a roaring fire and tiki torches providing light. My favorite newish tradition is the naming of a character trait for each 2nd year chief. Their counselors settle on a unique attribute that describes each boy and we reveal it that night in front of the crowd as we honor them. Together this year, our 23 last year campers have a combined 128 summers of camping at Alpine. Wow! Tonight Carter and I hosted these guys and their counselors for a steak dinner at our home at camp. We’ve watched these boys grow up each summer and it’s a sentimental night for all.

Friday a group of older boys from Climbing ventured out on a guided climbing trek with several of our climbing counselors and a guide from Higher Ground. They spent the day climbing on real, giant rocks at Sandrock Village. Friday and today brought the culmination of many activity competitions such as the Alpine Open at tennis and the Tour de Alpine at Mountain Biking. Many activities provide some sort of end of camp competition. Be sure and ask your boys if they got to participate in any.

Today also afforded an opportunity for our advanced fly fishing class to take a trip to Little River Canyon for some special fishing holes and gorgeous scenery. The canyon is the culmination of both forks of Little River flowing on top of Lookout Mountain and is the deepest canyon east of the Mississippi River. Full success for the guys as they caught quite a few smallmouth bass.

I almost forgot about last night! Our Glee Club show with Desoto, graciously hosted by the ladies in their warm and inviting new gym. For Second Term, the Glee club show was held for the first time since the summer of 2019. Suffice it to say, everyone was a bit excited! We bussed over to Desoto after supper on yellow school buses, compliments of our friends at Round and Round bus company. The ladies start the night off singing from both balconies, harmonies raining down on the Alpine boys. They are mesmerized.

Merrick McCool, veteran head counselor, and our Glee club director, ably leads our singing all summer with his band of musicians. Merrick makes everything at camp more fun (if you know him, you know this is true). Our boys climbed on stage and “brought the house down”. The set list included all the hits, Say It’s French Toast, Love Story, Earth Monkey, and others. We even debuted a new one last night, Party in the A-L-P to the tune of Party in the USA. Get your boys to sing you some Glee club songs on the ride home. It’s hard to believe that in 2023 you can gather a crowd of 300+ boys in a gym and have them sing songs at the top of their lungs, laughing and dancing with friends. It is a good thing.

This afternoon Roderick put on the annual Bubba Cox charity run for all of camp. Bubba was a much beloved and longtime Alpine counselor who lost a long battle to cancer about 18 years ago. Since then a run in his memory has become a wonderful 2nd Term tradition. Boys competed by age group, running a road and trail course of about 1000 meters. Winners in each age group garnered points for their tribe. More importantly, each camper or counselor who participated agreed to donate $1 from their store account towards cancer research. Alpine will match each dollar raised. We alternate donations between St. Jude’s in Memphis and our local Children’s hospital in Chattanooga, where our very own Alpine veteran and current camp parent, Avery Mixon, works as a pediatric oncologist.

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate our last Sunday together, set apart for rest and cabin time and soaking up those last few hours of summer. Second Term parents, hopefully you saw the email today about Closing Day. Gates will open at 7:30AM CDT and boys may be picked up between 7:30-10:30. Check your email for more details. We do ask that Monday remain closed to visitors so that our campers and counselors can enjoy one final day together.

On another note, I hope you received our email (or saw on Instagram) our announcement Friday about 2024 dates! They are also posted now on our Dates page of the website for reference. Registration will open at 7AM CDT on September 1.

This will likely be our last blog post of the term as there is much to do before Closing Day. Thank you, sincerely, from Carter and me, for giving us the privilege of sharing this place with your boys. As I sat with our last year campers tonight at my house, over steaks and hershey pie, I was reminded again why we do this. The Lord is at work in these boys lives, through the counselors and their fellow campers. Hearing their stories, questions, laughter, memories from earlier summers, was one of the highlights of my summer.

Thanks for reading and good night. We look forward to seeing you on Tuesday morning. Glenn