It happened. Even after we thought it might not happen, it happened. A small group of Santa Monica UU’s made it up the mountain to Camp de Benneville Pines as just the third weekend camp to use the site in more than a year.
Our slice of September that became a slice of October was amazing. The weather was perfect, with crisp fall air bringing in the scent of the pines. The moon rising over the forest in the dark was so magical it was almost indescribable.
The drive up the mountain revealed many of the difficulties that have been facing the forest — not just wildfires — but also trees lost to bark beetles. Mudslides have increased the danger of rockslides. The good news is that recovery is already in process with ocotillo and chaparral covering the ground in fresh green, the healthy trees still standing, and many that have survived both recent fires.
Janet James was there to greet us, and the weekend was full of hikes, workshops, games, and meals. More than one camper expressed how wonderful it was to simply sit and share food with friends they had been missing.
There was music-making, and hours were spent singing and playing around the hearth in the lodge. A gentle hike to the lake opened up an afternoon of blue skies and autumn leaves. There was meditation and yoga on Saturday, and a powerful discussion of the Seven Principles led by Amy Brunell on Sunday morning.
The Santa Monica campers were joined by some work weekend volunteers, who shared our meals and took care of some of the tasks of camp — tree limbs trimmed, leaves raked, and walls painted.
The camp that we love will take all the support we can offer to keep things going through this difficult time.
Thanksgiving Camp is already sold out, and folks will get to continue the decades old-tradition.
Camp will be closed December through March by direction of the Board, but there will be space for volunteers and work parties.
De Benneville Pines is a unique treasure. If you are a member of the congregation who goes often, you already know. If you have not yet been, put it on your calendar for next year. If you can contribute — with funding or skills, time, and sweat equity — this is the time for you to offer.
Not every church gets a bit of wilderness to cherish and to steward. Keeping our camp takes effort, and the benefits are almost indescribable.
More camp weekend photos from Cassie Winters.