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Nature Studies and Outdoor Living Skills

Since 1925 Camp Westminster on Higgins Lake has specialized in nature studies and training young people in outdoor living skills. In many cases those experiences led to life changing careers. In other cases those experiences impacted their lives in various ways – such as a lifelong love of the out of doors or enabling others to have life changing opportunities in nature.

Lydia Frehse, the first director’s wife, inspired the building of the Nature Cabin and made marvelous collections of insects, leaves etc. for campers to enjoy and learn from. She wrote columns for the local papers on nature and eventually wrote “Flower in the Crannied Wall” about the flora and fauna at Camp Westminster. Mrs. Frehse wrote, “Wonder is experiencing a measure of the joy of life with an awareness of the perfume of a flower, the song of a bird, the power of wind and wave, the feel of rain on hands and face and feet after a sudden summer shower.”

This is how a former camper responded when asked about her camp memories. “What skills are still with me? Well, there is the one-match fire. I can cook in our fireplace when a storm knocks out the electricity. Daddy long legs and snakes do not freak me out, paddling a canoe-paddling a kayak. A knowledge of knots always comes in handy. Camp songs are excellent to sing to children while giving them a bath. If I can shepherd eight kids on an overnight canoe trip on the AuSable, I can get a scout troop to a museum in Boston.” -Martha (Schneider) Soden

Times and practices have changed. Today Camp Westminster practices Leave No Trace ethics at camp and on its expeditions. Many of us have picked up a leaf or a pinecone, veered off the trail on a hike, gotten too close to wild animals or pitched an apple core into the woods. While these actions may seem harmless at the time, the quality of our outdoor experiences and our children’s are at risk. Leave No Trace is first and foremost an attitude and an ethic. It is about respecting and caring for wildlands, doing our part to protect our limited resources and future outdoor opportunities.

A new camp season is approaching. A new generation of young people will experience the delight and discover for themselves what time in nature, in a rustic environment on a crystal clear lake surrounded by thousand of acres of state forest land will do for their spirits, their grades and their life choices. We know it will positively impact their lives just as it has done for generations before them.


Today’s Activity: Step outside, close your eyes and listen for the sounds of spring.

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