When the Reverend David Olson picked up his children at Camp Lutherock this year, it brought back memories of his own summers there.
Lutherock, in the mountains outside Boone, N.C., isn’t a traditional camp. It’s an outdoor adventure camp, which means it mostly just has a few rustic buildings and tents because most of the activities are outside. Everything from backpacking to river rafting to caving to rock climbing.
As I drive across the creek and start up the steep gravel road the memories of this place wash over me. Good memories, and lots of them. Memories of my years here as a counselor and then director. Memories of having fun with kids and my fellow counselors in God’s beautiful creation.
This time, I’m back at Camp Lutherock to pick up my kids after they’ve spent a week here as campers.
I first came here when I was 18 years old and began that next summer as a counselor. I spent four years here and loved every minute of it. While many of my friends from school were getting internships, or working at home trying to make money, or playing at the lake, I was here at Camp Lutherock all summer long. To this day I don’t regret a single minute of it.
Being here was a big part of making me who I am. My love of being outside and being with kids grew. I made friends for life here; I met my future wife Andrea, also a counselor, here. And it was here at Lutherock that I grew in my faith life to the point I decided for some crazy reason to become a Lutheran pastor and do ministry as a vocation.
But most of all I just remember having fun. From skits to jokes to just being silly and crazy, I laughed until my sides hurt. I realized something in those years that I try and carry with me to this day - life is a gift from God, meant to be enjoyed to the fullest.
As I reach the top of the mountain and park my car, I see my kids come running around the corner. I get out and they jump into my arms and I give them big hugs. They are talking so fast and trying to tell me so many stories at once I can barely understand what they are saying.
Before we go they want to show me something. We walk into the staff office where they have kept the pictures of each summer’s staff up on the walls for the last 30 years. They find 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, my four years here.
“Look at how young you and Mommy look, Daddy!” My daughter says. “You look so much older now.” I respond by telling her that’s understandable because it was more than 20 years ago. To which her counselor for the week, who is standing with us, says, “I wasn’t even born then!”
Being here makes me wish I could stay for a summer, but after a few hours we load up in the car to head back to Roanoke. Lutherock is slightly different but mostly nothing has changed, and everywhere I look I see things that bring back memories.
As we drive back down the mountain to cross the creek and head home, the kids are telling me story after story from their week and laughing so hard they can barely talk. I can’t help but smile listening to them and even find myself somewhat jealous of the pure joy radiating from them.
But it’s a reminder too that even though my days as a young, fun counselor are behind me I still want to spend every day I can enjoying my loved ones and laughing as much as I can. Maybe I’ll even sign us up at Lutherock for the family Oktoberfest weekend. There are always more good memories to make.
Images: Above, the cross at Camp Lutherock. Below, a flashback to a summer evening in 1997 - David and Andrea at Cross Rock, their favorite spot at Camp Lutherock.
Published in the July 2019 issue of The Record.