I come from a nation where all countryside looks the same. Fields filled with sheep, cows and hay bales separated by hedges and copses of trees. I’ve been in the States for all of two days, and I’ve already flown over vast desert plains with nothing to see but mountainous rock formations, and driven through the dense forests in which our camp is situated. Two very different types of countryside, and nothing like I’ve ever seen before. The largest forest I have been in is the New Forest National Park in Hampshire, which covers 556 km². The Tahoe National Forest in comparison, covers 3,527km². It’s hard to comprehend something of that magnitude when you come from a country that is so tiny. The instant we left the desert plains of Nevada and entered the state of California, (which coincidentally is 180,360km² larger than the UK), the dry, arid rock gave way to impenetrable masses of impossibly tall trees. As we drove deeper into the woodland, we passed fewer and fewer buildings, with all signs of civilisation becoming distant in the rear-view mirror.
We arrived at camp this morning. I’m sat on my camp cot in my tent in Morning Sun, one of seven tent units. All of the staff have been assigned tents here whilst we complete a week of pre-camp training, I’m sharing with Twig and Scarlett (camp names). It’s cold up in the mountains at the moment, about 15°C during the day. Apparently it gets even colder at night, although the international staff have been gifted with incredibly thick, cosy sleeping bags which are designed for -20°F temperatures, so they’ll definitely keep us warm up here. Even though I’ve only been here for a day, I can tell I’m going to enjoy living in the mountains. There’s no reception so we can’t be distracted by phones, we don’t have a television and the only internet is on the computer in the upstairs office. These days we rely so much on our everyday technology that to not be able to use it will provide a long-overdue break, and give us the chance to spend our time enjoying being immersed in nature. There is so much to see here, I hope that we get the chance to explore as much of it as possible.
When I was told that camp would be rustic, I had no idea what to expect. Peeing behind trees, eating around a campfire and showering using lake water were all scenarios that had crossed my mind at some point. In fact, none of these worries were necessary. There is a ‘Biffy’ (Bathroom in the Forest for You) containing four mostly working toilets and four mostly working showers. We eat three meals a day in the dining hall, prepared by the lovely people working in the kitchen, and cook-outs are a treat every Wednesday night. The tents are on wooden platforms and occupied by four camp beds. The best part about them is that unlike many other camps, we don’t sleep in with the kids which means we will get a relatively undisturbed night’s sleep.
We have a week of pre-camp training in which to go through everything we need to know before the kids arrive. One week.