Posted by: Birch Rock Camp

By Francie Campbell, Birch Rock trustee and parent

Campfires blaze at the heart of Birch Rock life. They gather campers and  counselors together in the Grove, at firepits dotted across the Hillside, and at  camp sites in the wilds of Maine. Fire is a commanding presence. It heightens all  the senses: a camper feels the dryness of the tinder, listens for the encouraging  crackle of twigs catching fire, watches for the tiny flames to grow, and smells  plumes of smoke as they blow this way and that in the breeze. And, of course,  memories are made of slightly charred hot dogs and s’mores cooked over a  campfire. 

Fire focuses attention. It’s the ultimate real-world phenomenon, demanding  seriousness, vigilance and responsibility. Birch Rockers flock to campcraft, our  traditional activity that teaches essential wilderness skills. A young camper has  to practice diligently and demonstrate keen aptitude before he can earn his Fire  Rights. Boys fall into the rhythm of camp life, an existence free of cell phones,  computers and social media. The daily routine of bells, meals, activities, rest  periods—and lots of good old-fashioned shooting the breeze—is the Be Here  Now mode for Birch Rock campers and staff. 

Campfires are so central to Birch Rock that the Saturday evening tradition of  skits presented by campers and counselors is known as Campfire. Everyone  throws himself into the whirl of story ideas, props and stage presence. Campfire is a testament to how boys are wonderfully capable of creating their own fun,  using nothing but imagination and teamwork.  

Each Sunday evening, Birch Rock gathers the whole camp for Treetalks at the  lake shore. This is the age-old tradition of discussing Birch Rock values and  ideals, all variations on our motto Help the Other Fellow. Once again, community  is forged around a blazing campfire.  

Every summer for going on a hundred years, Birch Rock continues to spark  profound changes in campers. When a boy throws himself into the camaraderie  and physicality of camp life—plunging off the catwalks into the shimmering lake;  dashing to capture the flag as the hills blaze with sunset; nestling into a  hammock with an engrossing book—something ignites deep down. A flame  catches in a camper’s spirit. After the summer’s Closing Ceremony, when every  camper tosses a birch chip into the fire, an ember of Birch Rock continues to  smolder in each boy through the year, till it’s time to head back to camp.