Uriah isn’t the only one experiencing reminiscence during this trip. Haven grown up in Central NY, Florida was a common destination for us. My grandparents had a condo in Hollandale Florida, just outside of Hollywood.

All the grandkids had been sent down 1 or more times to visit them during various school brakes and being the youngest of all the grandchildren I was the last. I was in middle school at the time and the usual excursion to Disneyland was now off the list being that they had gone too many times and were getting older and did not want to go. They did take me to Sea World and another place with lots of exotic birds.  The fondest memory of that trip however was meeting my twin. Almost daily riding up or down the elevator to go to the pool people would say “hello Ellen, how are your grandparents doing?”  I was really confused at first why they were calling me Ellen until it was discovered they thought I was someone else’s granddaughter.  When they learned I was not Ellen they would all exclaim how we looked like twins, so naturally I had to meet this girl.  I’m not sure how we made it happen, but I eventually did meet Ellen and we became fast friends. We spent the rest of the trip together doing what pre-teen girls do, swimming, looking for boys, playing games and watching movies. Great times but sadly I didn’t stay in touch with her. 

Later on in high school I remember driving to Ft. Lauderdale for Spring Break with my friend Lori Marini.  We took turns driving all through the night to get there in one day.  We enjoyed much beach time, drinking in bars and sleeping. That’s about all I remember from that trip.

The memories that have really been triggered for the past month was my time working for Eckard Family Youth Alternatives in 1989.  My first career in my 20’s was working with youth. I served as a camp counselor, camp director and later the teen coordinator for the YMCA of Boulder Valley.  I always had a soft spot for kids with emotional issues or from broken homes so when a camper was getting kicked out for bad behavior, I would usually volunteer to take that kid on.  After doing this for some time and realizing that I was focused on only a few of the kids rather than the whole camp I was responsible for, I decided to go work with what was referred to at the time as ‘Juvenile Delinquents’.  I had found Eckard not long after completing my NOLS course. Though I didn’t have much counseling experience that outdoor experience came in handy and I was hired.  The main headquarters was in Clearwater Florida. This is where I went first to do my training, which included class work discussions, how to build a leanto and a river trip.  After training we got to choose where we wanted to serve. They had many camps throughout Florida, the Carolinas and Tennessee. I choose camp E- Toh-Kalu in Henderson, NC.  None of the teens had committed any terrible offenses, mostly petty theft and that sort of thing. The girls that I worked with were mostly runaways that had been sexually or physically abused. Once in the court system however, they were given the choice between Juvenile detention or Eckard’s camp so naturally many choose the camp.

It was an amazing experience. We lived in the woods in small mini-groups 2-3 counselors referred to as “chiefs” with about 12-15 teens. There were probably 6-7 small groups, making the whole camp around 100 teens or more.  In our little mini campsites we lived in leantos and the campers had various daily chores such as chopping or shaving wood, cleaning, or building something. Most meals were taken in the main mess hall except 2 day per week we planned meals to cook in our small camps. It was a pretty rigorous lifestyle especially since we worked 5 days a week 24/7. And when there were problems among the campers, we’d drop everything and go out into the woods to “work it out”. Rain or shine, day or night.  So on our only days off there was mainly only time for resting and doing laundry etc.  One of my favorite memories of that time was taking the girls on a back pack trip in Florida. I guess due to my NOLS experience that’s when my skill set really shined.  The day Uriah and I got into the Ocala National Forest, I suddenly realized I had been there before. I sent a text to my friend “Chief Laura” whom oversaw our backpack trip and she happens to be the only person I’ve stayed in touch with all these years. She confirmed that indeed we had been there and then said Juniper Springs was her favorite campsite. Amazingly we were only 7 miles from there and would be heading there the next day. Truth be known, when we got there I did not recognize being there before. One of my strongest memories of that trip was coming across a rainbow gathering along that trail. We stopped and all had a very interesting time talking to the people about what they were doing and why. I also remembered we did some site seeing on the way home after the backpacking visiting the beach and the fort at St. Augustine.

Yesterday we finally made it to Hendersonville. The Eckard camp had closed in 2009 due to budget cuts in State funding so we did not visit there. We parked at the library and I took a strole downtown. It had been 31 years and boy had it changed. My memory of downtown was just a few businesses on one main street. Now it looked like an earlier version of Boulder. Lots of cute little shops and restaurants on both sides of the main drag plus, a completely different feel!! The energy in the town in the late eighty’s was very backward such that I didn’t really feel safe. I used to drive to Ashville on my days off which felt like a safe haven to me.  Now Ashville is a huge City that Uriah did not care to stick around to see.  We only drove there to stop at Trader Joes from more chocolate bars. I guess it was a little too busy for the Sarge, so on to Hot Springs, NC and glory, leaving the memories of this wonderful time of my youth behind.


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