With more spots and trips than ever and major site improvements to Frontier and Pioneer, 2013 was an exciting year for our Outpost program. Now, to go along with that 50ft climbing tree, the new-and-improved archery range and low elements course, and the new Frontier dining shelters, we've added a different kind of something new: a person. Meet Stephen Ward, Glisson's first-ever, year-round Outpost program director...
(Below is an extended version of the article in the Fall/Winter 2013 edition of Echoes from Camp.)
When did you first hear of Glisson?
My friend Cody Fox told me and my now-wife Ellen to apply for summer staff back in 2009. He couldn't say enough amazing things about camp. The first time I ever visited Glisson was for that interview.
What summers have you worked?
Outpost counselor ’09 and ’10, Outpost co-director ’11, and then the year-long internship as an assistant program director ‘12-’13.
What’s your role here now?
Program Director of Adventure Camps, which includes responsibility for Outpost and the Challenge Course.
In one sentence, tell us about Outpost...
Outpost is a chance for rising 2nd to 12th graders to explore God’s creation together while building Christian community and learning outdoor skills.
How would you describe Outpost to a friend?
Outpost is an outdoor adventure program Glisson runs for rising 2nd-12th grade. We offer kayaking, backpacking, horseback riding, and rock climbing for Frontier and Expedition campers, which are our middle and high school campers.
...to a 3rd grader?
Outpost is a place where you can come and have an awesome time at camp, meet new friends, gain new experiences, learn new things and live outdoors for a week and learn more about God and about yourself.
...to a parent?
Outpost is a week-long camp that is very safe for your child and creates a safe learning environment. Campers will gain new experiences and grow spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially while they're here.
Why sleep outside when we have beds?
Because it's fun! Spending the night outdoors really is a unique way to experience God's creation. The simplicity is refreshing, you have to work together more, and being out of your comfort zone opens opportunities for growth.
What if I'm afraid of snakes?
We see wildlife from time to time along the trail and river, which is actually really exciting. As for snakes, they steer clear of us and we steer clear of them. Never had an incident.
Between campfires, headlamps and flash lights we've got that one pretty well covered. And you'd be surprised how bright the moon and stars are out there.
Ha, yeah. Georgia summers are pretty hot. Between creeks, lakes, rivers, ponds, and the shade of shelters and dense forests, we keep cool out there.
What kind of change have you seen during an Outpost week?
I’ve been a part of many groups where nobody knew each other at the beginning of the week; everyone was nervous. But by the end of the week we were all acting as a family and there were tears at the end. That happens just about every week at Outpost.
Tears happen every week?
No, the family part. But yeah, tears do happen.
What did you learn as summer staff?
Besides all the basic outdoor skills – I didn’t know any of that beforehand – bigger than that is the difference that can be made through small group Christian community.
Who at Glisson has impacted you?
Tons of folks. Bradley McEntyre had a huge impact on me as a leader during my summer as Outpost co-director.
Why are you in camp ministry?
This is where I feel God has called me. I feel I’ve been given certain strengths and passions and they align with being out in Creation and leading others in doing these outdoor activities. There’s no better place for that than Glisson.
What’s this we hear about a 10-day trip?
It’s happening! I'm super excited about the new "Pack & Paddle" trip. Check the website for details.
What's your favorite adventure activity?
Well, my personal favorite is mountain biking. My favorite that Outpost does...I used to say backpacking, but I've really gotten into whitewater kayaking thanks to the new trip we added last summer. I love it. I actually went out and bought a boat this fall.
What's your favorite place Outpost goes?
There are so many awesome places we go in north Georgia; it's hard to pick a favorite. Right now, I'd say it's a stretch of the Etowah River we paddle for the kayaking and whitewater kayaking trips. There are a few fun rapids to navigate, and the scenery is awesome. Stopping for lunch at Etowah Falls is a highlight of that trip for sure.
Favorite place in camp?
An old tent platform at the Pioneer site that’s perfect for star gazing.
How fast can you build a fire?
Scary fast! Ha, okay. A couple minutes.
Favorite campfire meal?
It's hard to pick just one, but I'd say “Hobo packs.” Foil-wrapped deliciousness slow-cooked on coals.
Who’s that in the photo with you?
That’s my wife, Ellen. She’s been on summer staff multiple years too as a counselor, section leader, and media team member. She’s a Prevention Specialist at a nonprofit in Dawsonville.
Got any kids?
A 4-legged fur ball, Lady K. She’s a mess!