Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Takahano, Grief, and Camp Fire USA.... and Hope.

Yesterday, I became a member of an alliance dedicated to preserving some incredible land outside of Boulder for future generations... I can take clients, children or adults, up to this incredible 640 acre parcel of land and get to know this place deeply... as deeply as I knew Camp Takahano, the camp I grew up going to.
Inspiration Hill at Takahano, with The Rocks in the background

And, here come the tears. What are these tears about? Camp Takahano was my home away from home. I knew every acre of that 200 acre camp. I knew where the streams led, where the wild mint grew, where the spring was and the monkey bridge that led the way toward the Appalachian trail.
The Monkey Bridge

Takahano was where I felt the most joy of anywhere. Takahano was the home of so many memories, of so many magical places hidden from view.... It was my escape from a difficult school life where I was constantly tormented by bullies. I learned about knots and knives and firebulding, started assisting in those classes by age 10, was teaching them on my own by 13, and was first paid to be the “lead outdoor skills instructor” at a Camp Fire camp at 16.
The Pond behind the Farm House

The tree house

When Takahano went up for sale, I sobbed. I was 18, and wondering how the hell I could afford to purchase that 200 acre piece of land so it could continue to be the source of so much for kids in the Washington, DC area. I was petrified that it would be purchased by a developer and that my 200 acres of heaven would turn into a housing development. This grief of losing Takahano has seated itself deep into my being.
Meals around the fire behind the farm house
Camp Fire's logo from my childhood
Grief is a part of my path. I grieve for the loss of the camp I called my second home. I grieve for the death of Camp Fire's club program. Which, by the way, is doing well now due to the dedication of Rosemary Pezzuto and others who volunteered countless hours and years of their time and passion to revive the Patuxent Area Council of Camp Fire. See for the exciting news of what Rosemary has created with my childhood organization. Rosemary was one of the Camp Fire club leaders when I was a child. She was the one who stepped up when the council was in danger of shutting down, and held the vision of continuing the hundred years of Camp Fire tradition and memories in the Washington, DC area, even after our camps were sold and our club program dissolved.

Camp Fire's logo today

Rosemary has hundreds of kids attending summer camp as I write this. She has created a resource for thousands of kids and their families, as I sit here across the country and grieve about what was lost. As I look at Camp Fire's website, and Rosemary's Facebook page, my tears become tears of joy... and of hope... What do I know about what has happened with Camp Fire in the 16 years since I graduated from high school and left home? Very little, honestly. In the 16 years since I moved away, Camp Fire's Patuxent Area Council has revived and grown, and is thriving in a way that fills me with immense gratitude for Rosemary's dedication to the kids of Maryland and Washington DC.

What can I learn from that dedication? What can I learn? I realize, now, as I sit here writing this, that I share the dedication that Rosemary has. I have also dedicated my life to creating the same kind of deep connection to place that we all had with Takahano. I went to school for Animal Behavior and Environmental Studies, and got a master's degree in Environmental Leadership. I've been an outdoor educator for how many years? 18? 21? 24 years? Where do I begin? I've been a naturalist for close to 30 years... Why not start that count with my obsession with identifying every salamander and snake and tadpole at Takahano?

I have the opportunity, now, to create the same kind of memories here in Colorado. I've already done a lot, exploring the open space and national forests outside of Boulder, teaching about the plants and animals that live there with my meetup group, Boulder Naturalist Outings. ( I've explored many miles of rivers that stretch out onto the plains, and made friends with owls and eagles and coyotes along the way.

Lefthand Alliance
But now, by joining the Lefthand Alliance (, I see so many possibilities of deepening my work by getting to know the Alliance's land deeply. I applaud the work of the founders. This area is so rich with wildlife and magical places. I barely know any of it, honestly. But, I share the vision of my new friend Ira, who is dedicating his life to this place. He says on the Alliance's website:“The Alliance offers an invitation to directly connect with the Father Sky and Mother Earth. It offers a sanctuary to enjoy a 'Rocky Mountain High'. She offers abundance in the earth, the forest, the wild- life, the water that continually flows as the Lifeblood of the Father Sky and Mother Earth dancing with love. This is my version of heaven, and I love sharing it with each of you.”

This very well may become my version of heaven, too, as Takahano was when I was a child.

Special thanks to my mom, Marg Bond, for leading my Camp Fire group, being the director of Camp Takahano for so long, and, you know, for everything!
Mom and I on my wedding day!


  1. Photos of Takahano are all taken by Alice Beard, another Camp Fire leader from my childhood. Thanks Alice!

  2. What a wonderful story, Lauren. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. This is a very beautiful post, Lauren. Your heartfelt connection with this place comes through bright and shining. It is an inspiration just to read it!

  4. You're welcome, Lauren! Someone happened upon your words yesterday and suggested that I give a look. Those were great memories. Life is about making NEW memories. WoHeLo! ... Alice

  5. I just ran across your post about Takahano, and it brought back fond memories from the early 1970s, which I think was soon after Camp Fire Girls acquired the property (my recollection is that the Harrison family donated it).

    When I started going there, the only structures were the farmhouse and an outhouse. We spent lots of time there, and it was a beautiful place. I remember once looking out over the meadow in front of the farmhouse at night and seeing a sea of fireflies blinking away. Another time, in June 1972, a group of us hiked up the mountain to go backpacking on the Appalachian Trail, just when Hurricane Agnes hit the area. Fortunately, some adults must have asked "What were we thinking?" and met us where the AT crossed a road to bring us back to the camp!

    Thanks for sharing your memories.

  6. Camping at Takahano in the 1970's are some of my favorite memories. We tent camped at Takahano during Hurricane Agnes and the water started pouring down the hill and everyone had to seek shelter in the farmhouse when the tents washed out. It was an exciting time!