Coordinators Kal Bowers is back with another chapter of their of their original story, Wash Your Hands, Send Your Letters. This week, he checks in with the Beavers and Porcupines of Merrowvista.
Chapter 4: Biking Beavers and the March of the Porcupines
Have you ever seen a bounty of Beavers busily biking by? The cars that passed the biking Beavers certainly had not. You see, it takes three whole Beavers to ride a bike: One to sit on the seat and control the handlebars and gear shifts, and the other two to hang off the stick the first is sitting on, continually doing pull ups in order to power the pedals. With helmets made of coconut shells and their panyard racks chalk full of sticks and logs, the Beavers had been peddling through the Ossipee Region for the past three days.
The Wishing Tree had challenged the Beavers to adventure outside of the valley to discover the other dams in the area and to represent Merrowvista in the greater Beaver community. And that they did! Throughout their journey they had visited neighboring colonies of Beavers they had never encountered before. Some colonies even invited the Beavers of the Dam into their homes, showing them new building techniques and, one time, even sharing a delicious, leaf-based meal with them.
In return, the Beavers of the Dam told their new friends of Merrowvista and its scrumptious moss and leaves. As their trip was ending in a day or so, The Wishing Tree wanted to give them a warm welcome back into the community, and after reading this letter from a camper, they knew exactly who to contact.
Dear Wishing Tree,
Hey! It’s Ruby! I have been a camper at MV for a few years now, and I was in Little Haystack last summer as a Four Week Trailblazer. When I was a Pioneer in Moosilauke, I always told my leaders I was going to the Super Biff, but I was really coming to see you. Is it true that you really grant wishes if somebody throws a stone through the Y in your branches? I think they’re right, because some of those wishes came true.
I just graduated from 8th grade a couple weeks ago, and I was asked to be the class speaker. It was over Zoom…which was different, but it was still a very nice ceremony. In my speech I talked about camp and the things that it has taught me. I miss it, did this whole thing have to happen this year?
I was going to be an Explorer this summer, and I guess I’m still an Explorer, I’ll just have to wait until next summer. I’m excited to do hiking and canoeing, but I don’t know about biking. I know how to ride a bike, but not that well. I keep thinking about Voyageur and Odyssey Walk-In, and how cool it would be to one of those kids walking their bike back into camp. I’m worried that I’ll miss being a Trailblazer because the Four Trails kids spend so much time outside of camp. But Walk-In is enough to get me to at least try.
See ya next year,
From their perch in the Meadow, the Wishing Tree bellowed…
Ahoy there! You spiny chaps!
It’s time to come out and listen!
This letter I’ve read from a camper today.
Cause my ancient eyes to glisten!
Out on the trail, as we speak right now
Are 15 Beavers voyaging home!
Their arms are tired, their tails are tan,
Up the hills and valleys they roam!
Upon their return, celebration is in order,
Full of cheering and dazzling signs!
I challenge you to paint and color
Banners and posters of the affirmation kind!
A list of the Beaver’s names I’ll send
Courtesy of our fabulous friends the Roots
Make a personal sign for each of them,
As budding artists, you I recruit!
You must march from your homes in the forest,
Though they may be cozy and undisturbed,
Head to Lodge of New Jersey!
Porcupines, I beg that you heed my word!
The Porcupines of Weston Shelter were a quaint, keep-to-themselves colony of Mammals. Living in the tall Trees that surround Weston Shelter, the Porcupines only rarely ever ventured outside the area near the Squirrel Biff, and when they did, it was to munch on the bark, stems and nuts they found so delicious. The branches they called home served as their ultimate happy place; therefore, the Porcupines didn’t really get out much. Their dramatic appearance and tendency to spend time alone led the Porcupines to live quite a solitary life, and that was something that they were OK with.
But sometimes, certain Porcupines wondered what life would be like to have some company or what life was like up near the Farmhouse. What really kept them away from the rest of the community was they were nervous for what the other animals would think of them. In their mind, the last thing a Rock Troll or a Beaver would want to see coming toward them was a giant ball of spikes, and so when the Tree had asked them their favor to venture to the other side of camp, the decision whether or not to go caused major anxiety among the colony.
There were some Porcupines that felt that it was far too dangerous to travel that far away from their home base and warned that the woods around New Jersey were a dark and precarious place, full of unfriendly inhabitants. Yet a group of 10 tweenage Porcupines felt excited by the idea of exploring the other corners of the Valley, sometimes feeling they had been missing out on what was happening up the hill.
So, much to the protest of their loved ones, the March of the Porcupines began at dusk. Moving up the hill in single file, the bright eyed and spiny tailed Porcupines sang a song as they marched past Danforth Lodge.
Whoa ho ho, here we go,
Up the Danforth Hill from to and fro!
Explorers We, sent by the Tree,
What’s at New Jersey Lodge, we’ll wait and see!
They stumbled and bumbled up the hill as the sun set in the Valley. To their right they passed the climbing tower with its colorful handholds as they chugged along, singing their song. The moon lit their path to the right of the Lower Parking Area, where the mischievous Raccoons were scavenging in the nearby dumpster, their yellow eyes flickering in the moonlight. They looked curiously at the round, slow moving spine-balls hiking up the hill, and wondered what could possibly be bringing the shy-natured Porcupines so far away from their homes.
The Porcupine that had been leading the explorers, Quilla, locked eyes with one of the Racoons perched on top of the dumpster. For only a moment, Quilla, paused before nodding to the Racoon and continuing upward, signaling for the rest to follow. The Raccoon nodded back, surprised that a Porcupine would be so bold as to challenge their territory near the dumpster. The Racoons had found a new level of respect for the Porcupines after that day, for they realized that it was the Porcupine’s valley just as much as it was theirs.
After three hours of a grueling uphill climb, the Porcupines finally made it to the A-Field where a midnight breeze blew across the grass. Above, the stars shone brighter than they had ever seen before, and Quilla and crew paused to look at the glowing gemstones that dotted the sky.
With New Jersey Lodge in view, Quilla led the party towards the Whale Watch in front of New Jersey. Interestingly, the lights were already on, and from a distance, they could see movement in the lodge. Nervously, the Porcupines discussed whether or not they should move forward towards New Jersey.
“We’ve come this far, we have to see what’s inside!” Quilla said to the group.
Cautiously, she led the way as the Porcupines made their final accent of the New Jersey Porch. As they reached the double doors, the Roots stretched out from under the porch to open the door. The doors swung open to reveal dozens of Chipmunks and Squirrels prepping the materials needed for sign making.
The Porcupines stared wide-eyed at the 30 or so four-legged creatures that populated the room. Squirrels jaws dropped as the Porcupines introduced themselves to the rest of the crowd, “Um…we were sent by the Tree to make signs for the Beaver’s return,” said Quilla sheepishly, “but it seems like you all have already started…”
“We’re here to help!” said a bushy-tailed Squirrel, “The Tree sent us too!”
Together, 40 or so four-legged mammals got to work. Squirrels rolled out giant sheets of paper while the chipmunks cut straight lines with their teeth. Porcupines poured paint into wooden bowls while others cleaned the paintbrushes in the sink. Glitter and string flew through the air as the Porcupines sang their song for their new friends. The Chipmunks had a song of their own in classic acapella style, which they chirped to an enthusiastic audience.
The Porcupines were surprised that these were the “scary” inhabitants of the L-Village Forest the rest of their colony were scared of, but in reality, the Squirrels and Chipmunks could not have been more kind. With new friendships being formed and paint being splattered, the mammals of New Jersey worked through the night and the next morning.
By the time dawn broke, they had perfectly painted and decorated 15 individual signs for each of the returning Beavers. Representing all the colors of the rainbow, the signs sparkled with glitter and vibrant colors, lettered with the names of each of the Beavers. High fives and pats on the back abounded, the paint covered rodents stood on the New Jersey Porch admiring the 15 signs drying on the ground.
As the Beavers completed their accent of Camp Hill, a proper New Hampshire rainstorm floated in from over the mountains just in time for Walk In. It wouldn’t be Walk In without a little rain. The artists on the New Jersey porch quickly brought their signs under the safety of the overhang as the Roots began to ring the Bell continuously, hundreds and hundreds of times, to signal the beginning of Beaver Walk In.
“But our signs will get wet if we try to walk them across the A-Field! They’ll be ruined!” a concerned Chipmunk chirped from the NJ Porch. The rest of the group sadly nodded their heads in agreement, feeling disheartened.
“Don’t you get it,” said Quilla, “this isn’t about signs or paint or glitter. This is about being there for the Beavers when they come back into camp, to show them how proud of them we are. Who cares if the signs get wet? They’ll see that we tried.”
The Wishing Tree was not going to let a little rain get in the way of all of their hard work, so all at once, he instructed the Trees near New Jersey to lean down to make a tunnel of branches and leaves, allowing the Porcupines and their friends to reach the Farmhouse with their signs completely dry! All the animals stood in wonder watching as the branches used their leaves to create the tunnel, stretching all the way to the Farmhouse. The Bell still ringing proud, the Porcupines grabbed the signs and rushed towards Walk-In Hill. The sound of the Bell resonated throughout the valley, which inspired the rest of the Porcupines by Weston Shelter to venture up the hill in the storm.
As the Beavers rounded the corner near the Shop, walking the five bikes up the final hill, they couldn’t believe what they saw. The tree branches were filled with Squirrels and Chipmunks cheering and singing and holding their beautiful signs. Porcupines jumping up and down signs above their head lined the road as the Beavers made the final push. Birds cawed and flew over the Beavers heads, dropping flowers from their beaks as confetti.
The Wishing Tree clapped from Meadow in the rain making the Trees shake, so proud to see the incredible show the Porcupines had put on. They especially clapped for Quilla, for she was the only one to truly understand the reason why the campers and staff held this strange biannual tradition. It was to come together as a community, to celebrate the accomplishments of the ones that they care about, and why not make it a show?
The tree shouted:
To Porcupines! To Quilla!
I can’t believe you actually did it!
The signs you made, radiant and bright,
The Beavers nor I will soon forget it!
You’ve made it feel like Summer here
In ways that I didn’t believe.
The energy and love that you demonstrated today,
Is comparable to that of what Campers achieve!
That night, after the Beavers did their bike love and emptied their panyards, they met the Squirrels, Chipmunks, and Porcupines on the A-Field for a night of stargazing. For the first time, the Porcupines felt like they were a part of a group, a community, a larger family.
The next artifact was on its way to the Circle, a stone paintbrush used to make the exceptional signs. The fire sparked and grew as the Tree representing the Explorers placed the brush next to the Skippers License and the Pool Noodle, in the section where hundreds of Explorers have sat and sung over the years. Explorers that were nervous to bike, Explorers that didn’t know if they would like it, Explorers who challenged themselves to take what they had learned as Pioneers and Trailblazers and apply it to a mobile community.
The Tree shook its head and wiped a tear. They couldn’t wait to see what came next. At this point, anything was possible!