Last weekend, I attended my first ever sleep away camp. Rather than rehash everything to you guys, I'll just share with you the letters I wrote to my mom from camp. Yes, I'm almost forty, but what's sleep away camp without letters home to mom?
My first day at sleep away camp at Camp Connect was awesome. The thought of spending two nights and half a day tucked into Texas Hill Country without my husband or son or laundry or grocery lists or Kidz radio, alone was enough to say yes when I was invited to attend as compensation for telling you and my friends all about it. The drive to Lonehollow is breathtaking. When I got to the part of the drive where I was surrounded by lush green hills and had no cell phone reception, I was grateful for satellite radio. I think most of my life is like a dark, comedic, independent film, and when Luka Bloom started to sing Diamond Mountain on Coffeehouse radio on Sirius XM, and all I saw in front of me was a two lane road ducking in and out of hills of treetops all around me, I decided that was the intro to my film. That was where the overstressed almost forty stay-at-home mom escaping her everyday life in the suburbs drives through a beautiful countryside passing through small towns with charming shops and poppy fields, while sad, melancholy music plays and the credits roll and the song ends just as she reaches the entrance to the women's retreat revealing Narnia beyond the gate. Camp Connect at Lonehollow is Narnia for grown ladies.
After driving down a long road, passing through another gate and driving down a longer stretch of road and fully expecting to see bison roaming around, I parked in front of what looked like two giant ski resort wood and stone lodges and walked down the hill to Headquarters to check-in. Women were still arriving and after accepting a distinctly Texas beverage (cactus juice may have been involved, but there was definitely Tequila) and turning down a warm chocolate chip cookie, I signed up for my camp activities and received my room assignment. I won't tell you about how I followed directions incorrectly and went to a private cabin and how as I approached the cabin, I knew god had planned this trip just for me because he knows that when given a choice to bunk with strangers or alone, I will always choose to be alone, and how the door was locked and how I walked back down to Headquarters and was pointed towards one of the big "ski lodges" and giggled as I went back to the single cabin to retrieve my suitcase from the porch. However, I will tell you that when I entered my sleeping quarters and saw wall to wall luxurious bunk beds and all wood everything and walked into one of the bathrooms and saw ceramic tile and granite and brushed nickel and entirely-too-white-to-not-be-hotel towels, I smiled and nodded approvingly because I felt just enough happy down in my bougie soul to relax enough to let myself appreciate the prospect of being around women all weekend.
I wore my yoga clothes there because Sunset Yoga by the lake was the first item on the agenda after check-in. The last time I tried yoga, it was hot yoga and I ended up staying in the alternate poses, either sitting Indian style or shavasana (stretched out on my back) most of the class because I couldn't get into the yoga poses. I was determined to make this weekend one of growth, but when I reached lake side, snapped a pic and saw all the ladies perched confidently in flamingo pose, I backed slowly away. It was such a beautiful sight, actually. All yoga should be done beside a body of water. Anyway, I walked back to my bunk, a little defeated yet extremely happy because I knew there was going to be at least an hour and a half of uninterrupted reading time ahead for me. I fished my book out of my bag and posted up in a wooden rocking chair in a shaded area of the pebbled courtyard. At one point I saw a dove perched on top of the roof of a nearby building and I swear he looked at me. Then I heard what it sounds like when doves cry. Pretty sure our creator did this just for me. Then I saw a lady enter the courtyard with purple hair and a purple suitcase and I instantly knew two things: 1. She was a blogger and 2. We would be buddies. I was right.
My plan this weekend was to be active and drink water and green tea and eat salads and maybe lose a bit of water weight while away. However, when I arrived in the dining hall, which some of us affectionately and appropriately dubbed Hillbilly Hogwarts, not only did a glass of red wine magically appear in my hand, thanks the resident genie, Matt, but our gourmet chef...gourmet...chef...Chef Mike, saw to it that I would have enough fine breads, cuts of meats, cheeses and desserts to choose from that night and every mealtime that followed, that no water weight was getting lost at Camp Connect. That night, after a Tuscan supper and lava cake, I fought the urge to go back to the comfort and solitude of my bunk bed and joined the other ladies outside around one of two fire pits for s'mores with Godiva chocolates and some fireside chats. I didn't expect to stay with the group so late, but my bunkmates and I ended up being the last ones to leave and the four of us stayed up past 2 am just running our mouths in our bunks. The dining area is also the only place to get wifi, so we all made the most of being connected to the outside world and to take pictures. When I finally got in bed and just before my mind drifted off into sleep, I remember thinking how this beautiful place by the lake was suspiciously void of mosquitos. My last thought was of Narnia.
Day two at Camp Connect will probably be added pretty close to the top of my list of best life days ever. First of all, it started out with morning yoga, which I skipped, and a gourmet breakfast, featuring gourmet bacon, which I did not skip. I'll tell you about the rest of the day in bullets...
- I hiked to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain and tossed my burdens off the cliff. After breakfast, I joined a large group of ladies to head up the first hillside. It was a steep hike. Halfway up, our fearless leader and owner of Lonehollow, Meg, encouraged us to pick up rocks to symbolize our burdens (many of which, as women, we choose to carry) and carry them up to the top. I thought I wasn't going to make it, but several ladies rested when I did and I was never alone. Ultimately, I was willing myself to take each step, thinking left foot, right foot, until I made it to the top. I threw my rock off the cliff and really came down from the hike feeling lifted.
- I rode a horse! Titan is the biggest horse at Lonehollow and I was the biggest rider, so we were a pretty pair. I was terrified because he was so big and so excited to go. Our guide, April, was more than happy to walk and lead Titan and me on our walk around the property. I don't think I would have made it without her. She helped me and I helped her get her FitBit steps in! Everybody won.
- I had my eyes read and have a new personal mantra. I signed up for Bio-Optic Holography. It's a combination of the alternative medicine of iridology (identifying physical health issues based on patterns, colors and characteristics in the iris of the eye) and metaphysical intuition. Katherine's readings were accurate and her guidance was just what I needed. You know that I live for this kind of stuff and really am so glad that I did it.
- I made a craft for you! When I heard they were making nests in the craft room, I had firmly decided I would skip that one and go canoeing instead. It was too cold to get in the water though, and when I saw what kind of nests they were making, I went to the next session and was basically a rockstar of slip-knot making. Anyway, I made this for you and isn't it the prettiest camp craft ever?! The three green beads are my siblings and me, and the pearl is your favorite grandchild.
- I took a tour of the grounds and learned all about Camp Lonehollow, the annual summer camp for kids, which Lonehollow is known for, and actually want to send your grandchild to sleep-away camp there next summer! Can you believe it?
I did all that and still had time left for a bit of a nap. I slept through the wine tasting, but was on time for the French Provincial dinner. About dinner. I'll just say this: Gourmet Creme Brulee.
Day three was featured an amazing Sunday brunch, preceded by a wonderful demonstration and talk by a potter who made some beautiful vessels while speaking about it as a metaphor for life. It was a poignant ending to a perfect weekend.
By the time you read this, I will have returned to my everyday life, but I will be different. Women should return from retreats, not only rested, but enriched and empowered with a new resolve to be their best self and to live their best life.
This was the first Camp Connect, but the next one is already in the works for September 30-October 2, and there's talk of more Camp Connects to come, possibly one for every season! If I know myself like I think I know myself, September might be great timing to head back up the steep side of Rattlesnake Mountain.
Oh! Here are a few more pictures!