And just like that, our 2012 masa (excursion) season has come to an end.  A few minutes ago, our last masa rolled back into camp.  This past week we had groups hiking, biking, spelunking, and climbing in the back country.  Our Ilanot (3rd/4th graders) slept out on our ranch and then had a day hike up Givat Ilanot (Hill of Trees);  last night, they had the first ever Ramah Space Station overnight (see the link on Facebook for more info)!  Amitzim chalutzim (campers with special needs) had a horse overnight and went to a wolf preserve today.  This week we ran a new masa for a group of Bogrim chalutzim (9/10th graders).  They left on Sunday and spent the entire week horseback riding with an outfitter near the Wyoming border, from the initial report, this new masa was a galloping success (pun intended).

This is a bittersweet time in our community.  On the one hand, it is amazing to see all the chalutzim return safely to camp.  The smiles, squeals, and laughter speak for themselves.  So does the B.O., the scrapes, and the bandages being displayed proudly by some of the chalutzim.  (As our head climber Elad Omer–himself a world class climber–says so often, if you spend 4 days climbing and have no scrapes to show, then you did not try hard enough).  On the other hand, it is hard to believe that it will be another 43 weeks until we can send out another masa.  We begin planning for our massaot in late September when we submit the first round of permits to the Forest Service for the following summer.  Throughout the off-season, we continue to submit permits, contract with outfitters, hire tripping staff, reserve camp sites, order gear, and do all the other preparations to send out 280 campers multiple times each summer.  The logistics involved are immense and each summer we get a little better.  While we still have a few kinks in the system, we know that next summer will be even better than this.

It will take most of Shabbat to hear even 20% of the stories being exchanged right now as everyone is showering and getting ready for Shabbat.  Here are a few of the highlights I have heard thus far:

n  Our JOLI masa used their climbing helmets and head lamps to go spelunking (cave hiking).

n  Our biking massaot had an awesome time encountering almost no rain and making full use of the space offered to them in the Budget truck that acts as a sag wagon.  One group even brought chairs to use when sitting around the camp fire.

n  The climbing masa found a forest fire lookout tower and hiked to the top of it, offering them an amazing view of the forest canopy.

n  One Metayalim group discovered that the streams in this area are frigid (and shallow).  One of the madrichot (counselors) was demonstrating how to walk near a brook when she slipped and fell in!  Another group found a hidden waterfall and chose to take off their shoes and wade in the cold water.

n  The horse masa was out of this world.  After repeated attempts to offer a horse masa to the oldest edah (age group), we have found a recipe for a terrific experience for all involved.

n  Hiking up a mountain is not always as fun as hiking down, but getting to the top, and seeing the views, makes one forget about the pain on the way up.

n  As yummy as the food was on the massaot, the fresh sandwiches at lunch today were that much more delicious because of all the dehydrated foods chalutzim have been eating these past few days.

At the moment, we are holding off on setting up for dancing and Kabbalat Shabbat.  The skies are overcast, and while it has not rained for 4 days, it looks like it might pour tonight.  If it does, we will spend our final Kabbalat Shabbat of the summer under the Ohel Moaid.  If the rain passes, we will have dancing and services in the Pardes Teffilah.  Either way, we will be emphasizing to our chalutzim that though their camp experience is coming to an end, we hope that the lessons learned during this week of massaot are only just starting to sink in and that their task over this weekend is to figure out how they will take these lessons and apply them back in their lives at home.

We will post pictures from this past week around midnight on Saturday night. Sunday and Monday are normal program days here at camp.

As always, please do not hesitate to be in touch with any questions, comments or concerns.

Shabbat Shalom