Over the recent Labor Day weekend, I had the opportunity to join seven other Tamarack alumni from around the US and Canada, on an amazing four-day canoe trip in Boundary Waters, Minnesota. While everyone on the trip didn’t know everyone going in, a history with Tamarack was the common thread that connected the group. Four members of the group, Matt May, Marc Gould, Steve Winkleman, and Irwin Weingarten, bonded as tentmates on the 1984 Alaska Trip and have a lifelong friendship. Matt (now a professional outfitter in California, who, today, helps plan Tamarack’s travel trips), organized our trip. Michael Mellen and I met as staff working together with Matt at Brighton and family camps in the late 1980s. We have all been close friends ever since. Michael even officiated at my wedding. Another participant, Dror Glickman, worked one summer with us as an Israeli staff member in 1987. Finally, former Tamarack camper, staff and board member, Jimmy Sugarman rounded out the group. Jimmy and I met staffing a Western Trip together in 1990 and have been great friends ever since. Coincidently, his daughter served as my daughter’s Western Trip counselor this past summer.
Four days of being off the grid, canoeing and camping in the backcountry on the lakes of Boundary Waters was refreshing and recharging. The weather was beautiful as we listened to the sounds of loons and spotted bald eagles from our canoes. While some of our tripping skills felt a bit rusty at first, we realized we could still portage a canoe, read a topographical map, build a fire and pitch a tent. When we discovered we didn’t have challah or wine for Shabbat, we improvised with some tortilla shells and a sip of bourbon. As we learned at camp, sometimes you just have to be resourceful. The final evening, while sitting around our campfire after a makeshift Havdalah, we were surprised by a spectacular visit by the northern lights. It was incredible and a spiritual moment.
As I reflect on the trip, I can’t help but further appreciate the continued influence that Tamarack has on our lives and on this trip: The relationships that began as teenagers enduring and strengthening through the decades. New camp friendships that can still develop, long after our last days of being a camper and counselor. A continued love and appreciation for adventure, challenge, and the outdoors. The need to disconnect from our phones and just be present. An Israeli, who came to camp for just one summer still connected to many Americans so many years later. Former tentmates laughing like they could have been on the Alaska bus in 1984. The appreciation of an intense game of euchre. The joys of outdoor cooking. Experiencing a trip Jewishly and spiritually. While we may think of the Tamarack experience as one for kids, for so many alumni, the impact lasts a lifetime.