On a very rainy Friday in late February, 65 people stood staring up at me as I made some final announcements from the back of a truck. The trees were dripping and the puddles were getting bigger by the second. We were about to embark on the last leg of our journey to Camp Westwind, no more cars and no more cell phones, just nature.
Westwind sits on a small spit of land bordered by the ocean, the Salmon River and more than 500 acres of mature forest. I can remember being 9 years old and stepping onto the Salmon River estuary for the first time with my new cabin mates for a week of sleep away camp. It was one of those weeks that shaped my life. My cabin mates and I played games on the beach, hiked to High Meadow, discovered the caves and slept under the stars without our parents. I cried as I got on the bus to go home, Westwind had captured my heart, I looked forward to my return each summer and when I got too old to attend as a camper I returned as a counselor for four more summers. I would drive away from Portland and feel like the luckiest person, getting to spend the next three months at Westwind away from technology and surrounded by wetlands.
But that was nearly 15 years ago and as I stood in the rain I wondered if this magical place would capture the hearts of these newcomers, including my one year old daughter. After the hustle and bustle of arrival, moving into cabins and dinner everyone was ready to find out about the weekend plans and the history of this special place. In the warmth and glow of the lodge fireplace Duncan and Melany Berry shared photos, stories and songs that narrated their 50-year love affair and involvement with Camp Westwind.
Saturday welcomed us with blue skies and by Saturday afternoon, we were standing on High Meadow in short sleeved shirts gazing out at the Pacific Ocean, Salmon River estuary and Cascade Head. With my daughter on my back and my mom and brother beside me I couldn’t help but remember all the afternoons I had spent rolling in these grasses, staring out at the same view. Now 15 years later I stood with peers listening to TWC Land Steward, Kaegan Scully-Englemeyer, describe the importance of Cascade Head to the federally listed Silverspot butterfly. As we made our way down from High Meadow, people were talking about Marbled Murrelet habitat and estuary health, all topics and presentations from earlier in the day. The big trees and ocean breeze had everyone smiling and minds buzzing with new information and questions.
The day closed with an ocean sunset sipping donated Duck Pond Cellars cabernet and sharing best moments of the day, new knowledge and friends. The ocean, the river, the forest, and the feeling of being away had captured all of our hearts. It couldn’t have been a better way to re-visit this amazing place from my past and now a new tradition begins!