If you grew up and went to public school in Carroll County, there’s a good chance you spent a week during your sixth-grade year at Camp Hashawha. For many tweens, that week meant dipping a toe into the independence pool — a week away from home, running around in the woods with friends, no contact with parents, no electronics, and the chance to hang out with pretty cool high school-age counselors.

For those who didn’t go to Outdoor School, hopefully you’ve found yourself at Hashawha for some other reason — a butterfly festival, hiking, a weekend retreat, star gazing, summer camp.

Hashawha is one of Carroll’s most precious gems, and for me personally, it’s a sanctuary. There is an area right outside the front entrance of the main building — it features a fish pond and a small waterfall, and a bench that bears my mother’s name. The water feature area was constructed in memory of my mom after she passed away in 2008. She taught sixth grade at West Middle School for almost 30 years so she got to spend a week with her students at Hashawha each year — and she loved it so much she became a naturalist there over the summers. She found calm and solace at Hashawha during some of the most challenging times of her life.

My mom’s birthday is July 5 and I’m hoping to spend some time with family and friends at Hashawha, hanging out on her bench and admiring the fish in her pond. My children have grown up spending time at Hashawha — releasing butterflies to celebrate the construction of the water feature, attending Outdoor School, making crafts at festivals, hiking, picnicking. For me that place is almost overwhelmingly full of rich memories of both my mom as I was growing up, and as a mom watching my own kids grow up. I’m so grateful to the very dedicated people who keep Hashawha running and beautiful.
If you haven’t spent time at Hashawha, or at the Bear Branch Nature Center at the same location, I urge you to find your way there this summer. In this issue we hear from local experts about the positives and pitfalls of being hyperconnected all the time. Do yourself a favor and leave your phone in the car, grab your bottled water, and give yourself the time and freedom to explore. Or just sit on Donna Lappas Griffith’s bench and listen to the waterfall and watch the wildlife scurry by. Maybe the feelings of freedom and independence that come with spending time in nature aren’t just for the sixth-graders.

Here’s to a happy summer that hopefully includes disconnecting and enjoying Carroll County’s amazing outdoor retreats. And a happy birthday to my mom.

Best,

Kym Byrnes