Since I appear to only be writing for myself, I’ll keep up my plan to post things as they come to me even if they are in no chronological order whatsoever.
As of this posting, I’m closing in on compiling the best possible record of all campers to have ever attended TrailRidge - The Buladean Years (and those three years after we vacated the property that I continued TrailRidge as a travel camp).
In the process of attempting to find names of all past campers, there are several whose names keep popping up for a variety of reasons...and most of those reasons have been positive.
Seeing Scott Andrews show up in various newsletters and in photos reminds me of a lot of great memories. And one of those, possibly not a great memory but certainly memorable, dates back to that first summer in 1982.
I’ll make a long story short. Scott, who was about ten at the time, and Brett Sulzer, about 14 years old at the time, were on an overnight trip to the Appalachian Trail shelter behind camp with counselor Carter Friend and a few other boys. Somehow or other some dirt bikers had gotten onto the AT (now impassable to bikers) from Hughes Gap and had ridden the trail past where our campers were camped. Because of stories that had circulated earlier in the season about rabid bikers kidnapping kids, etc. that some staff member had told...when these bikers came through someone yelled “Scatter” or “Hide” or “Take Cover” or something along those line. Everyone took off and hid. A few minutes later they all came back together. Then the bikers came back to get on the main road and our campers did the same thing. But this time, I guess because it was getting near dark or because two boys decided to run farther than they did the last time...those two boys...Scott and Brett were nowhere to be found.
Counselor Carter Friend wasn’t quite sure what to do. I don’t think we had discussed losing campers during orientation. But it was now dark and all the calling for the kids wasn’t going to do any good. Carter made a decision to stay up and keep calling for the boys while letting the other kids get to sleep. He figured it wouldn’t do much good to attempt to get back to camp in the dark. So early the next morning Carter comes running down to camp (I imagine the distance from that shelter to TMC was a mile or less but without a decent trail it’s not an easy hike). He alerted us and at that point panic creeped in.
I could only imagine what could have happened to Scott and Brett. We had only been open a few weeks and I could see this as the end of the camp after one season. We called the local sheriff’s department, but they weren’t too interested in helping out because they figured the boys were actually in Tennessee. The AT where this shelter was located is right on the NC-TN border. So we mounted our own search teams to start looking. There were no cell phones for communications then (or if there were...there would have been no signal). Gus and a couple of people started at Iron Mountain Gap and hiked “north” and another crew started at Hughes Gap and hiked “south.”
I believe it was Nancy Thompson who took a camp vehicle (or perhaps her own car) and drove on over to the community of Burbank, TN which is at the base of Roan Mountain and somehow or other...there sat our two lost campers on a bench in front of a store. They weren’t able to call the camp because we were so new no one knew of us or perhaps Nancy beat them to the phone.
They were tired, hungry, and happy. We were tired, happy, and relieved! The boys had scattered that second time just a little too far and had become disoriented. They decided it better to stay put and make the most of a long night instead of trying to find their way out in the dark. That was a very smart and mature move for two young boys from New Orleans.
When daylight arrived they made their way downhill, found a road, followed it, and ended up at that store where we found them.
It was a happy reunion. Both boys returned for several more summers, especially Scott.
The parents got a telephone call from us explaining what had happened. They, to their credit, were understanding and supportive.
And while it has been nearly 30 years since that day...I’ve never forgotten it.
And I imagine we put in a “what to do if you, a camper, or everyone” gets lost session into future staff orientations.