Wilderness Makes You Better

Austin Ashcraft July 15, 2022

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another ‘You too? I thought I was the only one.’” – C.S. Lewis

If you’ve been following my blog posts this summer, you will notice a consistent theme: I love the cabin-overnight campouts.  

I think it’s one of the best things we do here at Rockmont.  

There’s something magical that happens when a group of young men head out into the wilderness for the night with nothing but the gear they need to eat, to sleep, to play, and each other.  

Fully disconnected from technology, fully connected to each other.  When that happens, a space is created where they can let their guards down and feel a bit freer to be themselves. 

Last night, I was fortunate enough to accompany the Sycamore Tribe to Black Mountain Campground on the banks of the South Toe River.  

After all of the cabins set up their campsites and built their shelters, most of us walked a bit downstream to a beautiful watering hole filled with crystal-clear, chilly water and had a refreshing mid-afternoon swim.  

Then per usual, a lot of the guys spent the next hour or two building dams and skipping rocks. 

It was a scene of pure delight. 

Later on that evening, after dinner, all of the cabins split up in the woods to do their nightly cabin devotional together.

I thought I would stick around the fire and read a book, until one of the oldest cabins on camp walked up to sit around the fire and have their cabin devotion.

I got up to leave to give them that space, and they invited me to stay. So I did. And I couldn’t be more grateful that I did.  

It was such a gift for me to witness these 15- and 16-year-old guys opening up to each other, sharing about their struggles and the trials they are going through back home, and supporting each other as each one shared. 

There was certainly a wide variety of life struggles they were each going through with family, academic life, friendships, spiritual life in their search for God and meaning. 

I was honored to sit and be present to them as they shared these things.  It was a truly powerful experience, as many of them opened up about some of these things for the first time.  

Their counselor handled the conversation with grace and respect — I was blown away by how well he did. 

Many of these guys found great comfort in knowing their cabinmates shared some of the same struggles, that they weren’t alone, and this forged a new depth in their friendships.  

As I sat back and watched it all unfold, I thought to myself: “This is the heart of camp.  We talk all the time about growth, and this is such a tangible sign of that growth.”  

They were able to grow in depth of friendship with each other, a depth that many of them expressed they don’t have in their friendships back home. 

This is the gift of camp.  

And this is specifically the gift of what a night out in the woods with nothing but a campfire and some friends can do — allow us to pause, take a deep breath, exhale, and think about some of the deeper things of life that we often pass by in the name of “busyness.”  

Wilderness brings guys like these closer together and makes them stronger.  Wilderness makes you better.

Austin Ashcraft

Camp Director

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2 Comments

    This was a most inspiring message. My grandson, Asher Swalm is there. He certainly needs this type of involvement for some of the family problems at home. I know he loved the overnight stay & certainly gained from it. Makes going into 16, a
    Better stronger young man.
    Thank you, Nana in Mississippi

    Thank you… Gracias
    God Bless you… Dios los bendiga
    Rockmont has been part of my son’s life since 2014 and his favorite summer activity since then. This year, his first as a CIT has been even more special. Pablo it is what he is in great part thanks to Rockmont.
    Take care…
    Santiago Arcila

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