Anne Winter is a former camper and current board member. Read along as she shares memories from campout nights spent at her favorite campsite, Coyote Triangle. Do you have a favorite campsite at Camp Wood YMCA?
I was 12 years old the first time I camped at Coyote Triangle. I remember thinking it was a special, secret campsite because it required hiking down camp’s main road until you had almost left the property. Then there on the left, invisible unless you knew to look for it, was a narrow trail that led into the dark woods.
Luckily, the trail soon gives way to a rocky hillside that climbs above the tree line and offers stunning, far-reaching views of the Cottonwood River Valley. I remember pausing on the trail with my cabin mates, sleeping bags and pillows slung over our shoulders, and marveling at the view. It was like nothing we’d ever seen before.
As our counselors unpacked ingredients for our dinner, we collected twigs for the campfire in the nearby woods, discovering an old shed whose interior walls were covered with antique Kansas license plates. (We were later told it was an old outhouse!) We picked what we were pretty sure were blackberries--though we were too afraid to taste them. And we got ridiculously muddy in a creek trying to catch the dozens of tiny frogs jumping from bank to bank.
After the sun set we gathered around the fire ring and ate our “hobo dinners” straight from the foil packs they were cooked in. They tasted like smoke and every potato was somehow burnt while the carrots remained hard. We declared them the best meal we’d ever eaten.
That night, we sprawled on our sleeping bags staring up at the stars and talked deep into the night. We talked about home, we talked about the dance the next night, we talked about God and music and school and how tired we would be the next day. When coyotes began to howl from a distant hillside, we howled back. Then, with nervous laughter, pulled our sleeping bags a little closer to one another. It was a glorious way for a bunch of 12 year-olds to spend a summer night.
Thirty-four years later, I returned to Coyote Triangle with my husband to camp for the night. Coyote Triangle had been set ablaze just a month earlier during the spring burn season—a practice that helps to preserve the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. Though the ground remained charred, grass was already growing back thinly and early summer flowers sprinkled the hillsides. The campsite was more beautiful than I’d remembered it.
As we explored the hilltop that evening, we were surprised to discover several old campfire circles that had been laid bare by the fires. The stone rings were set out along the edge of a steep bluff—the perfect perch for watching the sunset over the Cottonwood River valley. From the bluff, my husband spotted dozens of turkey strutting in a field below. In a few weeks, these fire rings would be invisible under a thick layer of grass. As a summer camper, I would never have seen them.
Late that night, I crawled out of our tent and sat staring at the stars as a train rumbled by in the valley. I wondered about the campers who had gathered around Coyote Triangle’s forgotten fire rings. Who were they? What adventures did they find on this hillside? Did a campout night like I experienced here have as much of an impact on them as it had on me?
Campout night is long-standing and cherished tradition at Camp Wood YMCA. Do you want a similar experience for your child? Explore our camps at www.campwood.org/camps and register today.