A Camper's View of Northrop Camp from 30 Years Ago and from Today

This article by Hubert Ling was published in (mt) Washington Post, Mt. Washington, MA , September 1993. Vol II, No. 9. I tried locating this newspaper on the internet unfortunately with no success.

In the August 1993, Hubert and I, Millie, were up in the area. We hiked to Bash Bish Falls, dropped in on Northrop Camp ( 2 photos at the page bottom), and hiked up Mt. Everrett . On the way down we met a lady. We chatted and some how mentioned Northrop Camp and Hubert having been a camper. The lady was associated with a local newspaper and asked Hubert to write an article on Northrop which he did. Little did we know that this would be the last season. The article is given below.

Northrop camp has changed a lot since I was camper in 1954 and again in 1956. In those days we arrived by train to Copake Falls. After a trip by car to camp we were assigned to either the big house (combination of eating & cooking, dorms and laundry) or to the platform tents (two campers/tent).

Several things stand out in my mind: the ice cold showers and cold water only in the wash house, the great home cooked meals prepared by a very hard working cook, the hikes to Mt. Everett and Bash-Bish Falls, the visits to various Northrop friends and supporters, especially the Wolf's, the ice cold spring fed swimming pool, the blueberry and black raspberry picking and the nature projects.

Each camper had a nature project for the summer. My first project was on useful wild plants and my second project in 1956 was on identifying wild flowers. These projects extended into a lifelong hobby and career. I am now a plant propagator for the New Jersey Native Plant Society: there are currently two species of endangered plants on my window sill Helonias bullata and Kankakee mallow, and I frequently write for the Native Plant Society newsletter and occasionally publish on plant propagation in scientific literature.

Dr. Grace Petersen was the very dedicated nature director during my camp days. She taught biology at the high school level in NYC and spent the summers at Northrop. She introduced us to plants, birds, insects, rocks, and stars. Dr. Petrsen was a hard lady to stump but I did give her a hard time when I asked the names of some of the smaller mosses, various flies, and non-sporulating slime molds. Other than that she seemed to know just about all the kinds of plants, animals, minerals, and stars. I also spent one summer as a junior counselor which was my third stay at Northrop in 1958.

slime mold
slime mold

Dr. Petersen was the first person to show me a slime mold (Class Myxomycetes) or giant amoeba. She mentioned that this blobby giant amoeba we saw in the woods would move and we could detect movement if we were to put a stick or some other marker on the log where it was migrating and come back several hours later (slime molds crawl abut 1" in two hours). Later in college, I found that one of my biology teachers, Dr. O. R. Collins, did his research on slime molds. Since my curiosity was already aroused, I carried out undergraduate research with Dr. Collins, got out a series of publications, a Master's in Botany and a Ph.D. in microbial genetics along the way.

A few other events come to mind as I think about Northop: the afternoon candy sales, where we were limited to 25 cents (about 2 large candy bars), the informal food eating contests which I won: 13 pieces of bread, 3 bowls of soup, 2 dinners, and 2 desserts was my record. These contests were sqfuelched by the stodgy camp director who stated plainly the day after my record that while she wanted us to eat as much as we needed, 25 loaves of bread for 20+ people per day was a bit much (before the contest, we had been averaging 7-9 loaves per day).

Blueberries were an important component of the Northrop experience. The campsite and surrounding land is filled with low bush blueberry, and an occasional high bush blueberry or huckleberry. The campers were encuraged to pick as fast as possible: the two fastest pickers were rewarded with crumbs left in the giant pie pans. Our cook always left about one extra piece in the pan to encourage harvests. I won every blueberry picking contest we had. While 5 cups of blueberries in a 60 minute period may not seem like much of a record, try to coax them from 6" high wild low bush blueberry plants with many tiny berries.

I also remember winning the best costume contest with a paper bag horse head and horsetail(a plant) for the horse's tail. I lost 2 years later with an anterior paper bag cat head and a cattail posterior.

Dr. Petersen also organized the reception for friends of Northrop held annually at Hunter College. Selected recent Northrop alumni were asked to present the results of their summer projects. We were all very nervous but Dr. Peterson assured us that any Ph.D present would be very understanding if we made any scientific errors. After all, the experienced biologist in the audience had to start somewhere and many of them had a real career boost from Northrop camp.

I would personally like to thank the Northrop Foundation and all of its friend and neighbors for providing inner city kids a chance to establish an intimate relationship with God's creation.

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northrop 1993
Main building and some of the cabins, August 1993