Written by Jake, MCE staffer and current Head of Land Sports at an MCE camp
Today, for the first time in two months, I did not wake up to the sound of a bugle. After a summer full of memory-making, camp has finally come to a close. The campers have been sent home, as have their overstuffed duffles. Equipment has been inventoried and stored, bunks have been swept and mopped, and even the trash bins have been cleaned and sent into hibernation for the long months that break up camp summers.
Wrapping up for the summer is a truly cathartic experience. As the bags are packed, and the campers and counselors board their buses, vans, and cars, you feel yourself saying goodbye as the camp transforms before your eyes. In 24 hours, camp goes from a hyperactive hotbed of childhood friendships to a nearly empty landscape that oozes memories of the summer-gone-by. However, although the campers may leave over the course of a morning, the logistic and emotional process of preparing for the end of summer is much more expansive, and spans the days both before and after the campers leave.
The Duffle Shuffle
It seems like just yesterday that we were receiving and unpacking the mammoth-sized duffles that preceded each camper’s arrival. However, with the end of summer approaching, these bags must be recovered from storage (or from the rafters), and packed as fastidiously and efficiently as possible. Counselors try to ensure that every single one of a child’s belongings makes its way into the bag, and that all items that are packed belong to the child – though this is certainly not a perfect science. Half-empty bottles of soap will be discarded, and single socks will be abandoned, and once the packing is done, attention can be focused on the people.
Time to Say Goodbye
Of course, this is one of the hardest parts of camp – the end. Once all packing and departure logistics are taken care of, it’s time to cherish the few remaining hours before the campers leave. Campers spend hours together hugging, crying, and writing each other notes and messages that will make the journey home. This period is particularly emotional for the oldest campers, who know that they will never again experience life as a camper at one of the beautiful camps they have called their summer home for up to eight years. At the Maine Camp Experience camp I work at, campers depart around 6 in the morning, and tears are shed in the early morning fog, as the buses roll out, signaling an end to summer.
Putting The Toys Away
Once the campers have departed, it’s time to begin the process of preparing the campus for the possibility of a harsh New England winter. This means ensuring that almost all equipment is packed and stored, and that almost nothing is left exposed to the elements. Ski boats and canoes will be stored inside, soccer and lacrosse goals will be stripped of their nets, and even the gymnastics mats may be rolled up for the summer. This is a somewhat daunting procedure, as there is plenty of equipment to be packed at these best-in-class camps, but perhaps the toughest part of this process is completing it. Suddenly, as the field-paint fades, camp transforms into a sprawling, continuous landscape that is no longer demarcated by the various activities that define each section. While this may be the end of camp, this does not mean the campgrounds will no longer be used – some Maine Camp Experience camps will invite schools or philanthropic organizations to rent the facilities post-camp, and MCE camps have even been known to host weddings on their beautiful grounds.
‘Til Next Year
Eventually the time comes for counselors to pack and leave. This process is inevitably bittersweet – it’s very tough to say goodbye to the place and the people you care about, but it’s also nice to become reacquainted with the comforts of a larger bed, or to remember what sushi tastes like. Goodbyes are also very different for counselors than for campers – on the one hand, you’re largely unsure of who will be returning next summer, or who has experienced their final summer, and sometimes it really is goodbye. At the same time, many counselors will travel together after camp is done, and will stay in touch throughout the years, as the friendships built between these young adults develop just as those between campers. So whether it will be a few days or a few years, it’s very possible you will be reconnecting with your camp friends before too long.
Eventually the time comes to hit the road and rejoin the rest of the world. After a summer full of smiles, it’s time to once again wait the ten months until we get to return again. And with the bugle behind me, I guess I’d better set an alarm.
Maine Camp Experience Resources & Tools
Looking for the perfect Maine camp for your child? Try out our helpful tool where you can select a camp by choosing: type of camp (girls, boys or coed) and session length (1-8 weeks). It helps to narrow down a few camps to a manageable list that includes rates. Then you can research these camps in more depth.
Next, be sure to contact our Maine Campcierge™ to discuss these camps as well as for free, year-round advice and assistance on choosing a great Maine summer camp for your child.
Talk to Laurie, our Maine Campcierge™, about choosing the right camp for your child and what to do in Maine.