An Experience of Growth and Success at Junior Maine Guide Testing Camp

JMG Testing Camp

JMGs 2017 (Chris pictured second from right)

An Experience of Growth and Success at Junior Maine Guide Testing Camp

by Chris Klein – Camper ’00s, CIT ’17

“Show me a ‘J Stroke,’” said Brian, a certified Junior Maine Guide instructor sitting in my canoe. As I struggled to paddle up the river, the questions continued. “How would you fix a canoe after it hit a log?” “How would you load a canoe if you were going down rapids?” As Brian fired questions at me, my confidence in becoming a Junior Maine Guide began to fade.

As I docked the canoe, I had a gut feeling that I had failed even though I had spent hours that summer paddling around the lake practicing my canoeing skills. With my head hung low, I trekked back to our campsite to start preparing for the next test. After a week of additional tests including meal preparation, first aid, and shelter building, I returned to Birch Rock Camp. I had mixed feelings—relief that the stress of JMG Testing Camp was over, and anxiety wondering whether I had passed.

For seven years, I spent seven weeks of my summer at a small outdoor boys camp in Maine. On the shores of Lake McWain, Birch Rock Camp was a second home for me. Building fires, chopping wood, and sharpening knives were just part of an average day at Birch Rock. Each summer, I met many people who I admired, but the most impressive of them all were the small group of Junior Maine Guides. They were leaders, problem-solvers, and true outdoorsmen who had passed a rigorous week-long test in 21 essential outdoors skills. The summer of 2016, when I was sixteen years old, was finally my chance to put my knowledge and camping experience to the test and prove I had what it took to become a JMG.

The last week at Birch Rock that summer was difficult. Everyone felt the need to ask if I had passed just so I could tell them again and again that I didn’t know yet, but I did know I wanted to be a JMG more than anything. On Thursday, I saw Gabe, the JMG counselor at Birch Rock, walking to breakfast with a manila envelope. I sat at the table unable to eat, my mind and heart racing. Sliding my eggs to the other side of my plate for the hundredth time, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Gabe. I knew this was the moment I had been waiting for since I first learned about JMG as a young nine-year-old boy.

I could see Gabe’s lips moving, but I was lost in my thoughts. “Chris, you worked really hard…” Confused, I tore the envelope open. My eyes fell to the bottom of the letter: RETEST.

With what little energy I had, I thanked Gabe and then headed straight for my cabin. After my initial feelings of hopelessness and failure faded, my thoughts turned to next summer. I knew that JMG Testing Camp hadn’t seen the last of me. I was going to come back for a second year and pass!

I spent the off-season reading the training manuals and when I had the chance, building fires in my home fireplace. I even practiced first aid on friends and family when needed. Before I knew it, the summer of 2017 had arrived; my chance to become a JMG returned. I moved through the same challenges with Gabe at my side, teasing me, as he cheered me on. In the blink of an eye, Testing Camp was over—but this time, I knew I had passed.

Back at camp, I was more anxious than ever. Finally, Gabe pulled me aside and, with a big smile on his face, handed me the envelope. With a feeling of déjà vu, I tore it open. After two years of hard work, a feeling of great accomplishment and joy came over me. There, printed in big blue ink: PASSED.

Learn more about Birch Rock Camp

A warm, supportive community, where campers build self-reliance, master new skills and form long-lasting friendships

speak to a director


Dates & Rates

Request Info

American Camp AssociationMaine Summer CampMaine Camp Experience