When I was asked to write a blog post for November, I was both excited and nervous – I am not by any means a writer and much prefer my “outdoor desk,” where I get to see the sun, and enjoy the sounds and smells of the Colorado wilderness. The desk where I get to watch campers grow as individuals and groups of teens transition into a family that will continue to defy their limits, together, over the years to come. So, I will attempt to bring my outdoor desk to this blog post.
As a child, I was fortunate enough to grow up participating in adventure and travel camps. It is where I learned to love the outdoors, appreciate my peers, and pause to take in the little moments. I am still close friends with my guides from these experiences, who are still role models to this day. Sadly, my outdoors experience did not come with a camp-based connection to Judaism. After I completed my Bar Mitzvah, I severed my relationship with my synagogue and thus with Judaism. I remained disconnected to my Jewish roots until I began my journey at Ranch Camp. The awe-inspiring beauty of our camp and this state, combined with the inclusive and truly unique Jewish experience found at camp, helped ignite a flame that encourages me to pass that same love for nature and neighbor along to all who walk through our gates. We have built a beautiful Jewish camp family with our campers, staff, and administrative team. This combination of humans creates a safe Jewish space where youth can connect to what it truly means to be human, be vulnerable, and be a family. It is my dream and goal that our impact as camp staff will encourage our current campers to do the same for others as their story with Ranch Camp continues to turn its own pages.
I was recently speaking with Courtney Jacobson, Director of Camp Shai, about her experience as a camper and staff in the Ranch Camp Tiyulim (trips) program. Something she said really stuck out to me about the value of these programs. She described that what they offer is a transcendent experience beyond what is possible within the realm of the physical plant of camp; ‘Sometimes you need to disconnect to reconnect to connecting.’
It hit me, in a different way, on so many levels. These tiyulim are more than disconnecting from traditional resources like running water, electricity, and our modern resources, like cell phones and internet. It is about the power of the soul of a group of people who are coming together in nature. Certainly a thematic element in historical and modern Judaism, as well as a core element of all Ranch Camp’s tiyulim. It made me reflect on my experiences at backpacking camps on the east coast, recalling my own challenges connecting to peers in school, connecting to Judaism, connecting to nature. I am in awe of what we are able to forge out in the wilderness with just a group of teens, their guides, and their tents. The power that each of these groups has to do something truly remarkable is truly remarkable.
Over the past few years, our team has spent a lot of time observing and listening to both campers and their parents regarding their experiences with Ranch Camp’s Tiyulim programs. We are continuing to do so as we move into a new decade of camping. The most consistent and common piece of feedback has been food on tiyulim. We hear you and we are continuing to make improvements to tiyulim meals, especially during the backpacking portions.
Our ‘common denominator’ practice will continue to stand strong in 2020: If there is a camper with anaphylactic food allergies, that food does not come on the trip. While we were able to provide allergen safe food in 2019, we did miss the ball with providing quality alternatives to removed products. We will focus on ensuring that each tiyul has enough proteins such as canned chicken or tuna. While we will continue to use dehydrated products for the backpacking portions of the trip, we will do a fresh produce food drop for our longer trips, T.A.S.C. and Teen Village, when they shift from to car camping.
We are also adjusting food organization and preparation on each tiyul. Each tiyul group will be broken up into smaller meal groups. Those groups will partner with one of their counselors to measure out, package, carry, prepare, and eat their meals both prior to their departure and during their time out of camp. Each of these groups will manage their cookware and even have their own cookbook to reference. This will encourage new levels of responsibility, creating new connections and opportunities for campers, ones that make not have been present in years past.
While food is the cornerstone of our change for Summer 2020, we are dedicated to helping each tiyul continue to evolve and improve. It is important that each tiyul is providing an appropriately progressive yet challenging experience. We are cognizant of choosing trails and forest areas that are not overused as to avoid detrimental environmental impacts across our state. Additionally, beginning Summer 2020, all of our guides will be taking a Mental Health First Aid Training to ensure our staff are trained equally for physical and mental health while out of camp.
Whether Tiyulim starts this summer or is a few years down for your family, we hope that the threads that tie our Tiyulim programs into our greater camp community resonates with you. John Muir, the “Father of National Parks,” has a unique view on hiking that speaks to me, to our camp community, and to the impactful connections made betwixt campers and all they interact with throughout their journey in the Tiyulim program:
“Hiking – I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter to the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origins of that word – ‘Saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the middles ages, people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land. When people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, the travelers would reply ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers, or saunterers. Now, these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”
Ryan Bocchino | JCC Ranch Camp Associate Director
Summer 2020 Tiyulim Itineraries
I am thrilled to share the itineraries. Please be in touch if you have any questions. 303-316-6330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.