Camp Meraki lets seniors relive childhood memories at summer camp

3-day retreat held in Texas Hill Country

By Ellie Holmes - News Producer
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WIMBERLEY, Texas - Over the weekend, seniors from the Central Texas area got the chance to relive their childhood at summer camp. 

Fitness company Aging is Cool hosted Camp Meraki at John Knox Ranch, which sits on 254 acres in the Texas Hill Country, tucked between Canyon Lake and Wimberley. Fourteen men and women between 63 and 82 spent the better part of three days at camp, just like kids — picking a bunk bed, making tie-dye, canoeing and even trying their hand at archery.

With the trend of "adult summer camps" on the rise, owners Amy and Damien Temperley wanted the experience to be authentic to summer camp experienced as a child. Being adults, of course, there were a few added perks -- air conditioning and happy hour. 

SLIDESHOW: Aging is cool

"The word Meraki means to do something with great love or passion," Amy said in a press release. "We believe that life should always be lived with Meraki, and this new camp is a great way to ignite those fires, have some fun and let loose a little.”

Here's a quick diary of what Camp Meraki looked like: 

Friday:

Campers arrived mid-afternoon to pick out bunks and get settled in. Most of them traveled from the Kyle/Buda/South Austin area, where Aging is Cool does most of their business. 

Once everyone arrived, they gathered for a few get-to-know-you and name games, with a brief rundown of what the weekend would look like and quick snack. The group was given a brief tour of the campgrounds, located along the Blanco River on the Comal-Hays County line. Once they had their bearings of where things were, they made their way to the arts and crafts cabin to tie-dye shirts. It's possibly the messiest fun at summer camp, but a moment where creativity can truly shine. 

A taco bar was set up for dinner, with freshly homemade cookies for dessert. As is tradition, the first night at John Knox, there was a campfire -- which included camp songs, skits, s'mores and wine. 

The night concluded with togetherness -- clusters of conversation on cabin porches running into the evening, with cicadas as nature's backdrop music. 

Saturday:

Skies were overcast, so the weather was comfortable from the early morning into much of the day. 

An eggs-and-bacon breakfast was first thing at 8:00 a.m., followed by archery. The group had a few skilled archers, hitting the target nearly every time. This was an activity where campers truly blossomed. It's hard to do archery — it's harder when body parts don't move the way they did in earlier years. But with help, instruction and a sprinkle of self-confidence, nearly every camper that took aim and fired hit a target. It also helped to have their fitness instructor as the person leading the activity.

A quick walk up the creek led to canoeing. Campers maneuvered their way along Carpers Creek, which runs along the southern portion of the ranch, and into the spring-fed swimming area Blue Hole (not Jacob's Well Blue Hole, this is another Blue Hole). The water stays a constant 72 degrees and makes for a great place to swim when the heat is unbearable, bu there would be no swimming today. Canoes fit two or three people at a time -- two to paddle and one to sit back and enjoy the view. 

Once canoeing was done, it was a soup and sandwich lunch before free time. Campers were free to rinse tie-dye, take a walk or maybe even a short snooze. The day moved on to arts and crafts, where campers made picture frames for their camp photo and had a quick snack. 

Low ropes were next -- team-building exercises at ground level, compared to those a dozen or more feet in the air. Low ropes focused on critical thinking and teamwork. Campers stood on a tarp (an imaginary raft in the middle of a flood) and  were challenged to figure out how to flip it over after it "sustained damage to the top."

A quick happy hour and lounge time followed, then dinner. After the meal of baked chicken and mashed potatoes were evening activities. Owner Damien led "useless talents," which included mind-blowing card tricks. Campers and staff also shared memories and momentos during show and tell, understandably different than when the activity is done with children. No video games or new toys -- instead, momentos were from decades-old volcano eruptions in Hawaii, dogtags of parents who fought in World War II and a license plate commemorating Texas' centennial that made it's way from a classic car to a personal walker, to name a few. 

Wine and snacks winded the evening down, with plenty more porch chatting as the fireflies emerged and the cicadas sang the night to an end.

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Sunday:

Does camp have to end? 

Sunday started with a French Toast breakfast and light packing. Camp energizers were next — silly dances made up to goofy pop songs from throughout the years. These are legendary at camp and are typically sung after meals and at campfire. It's a good way to help burn off full bellies before walking back up the hill to finish the morning. 

Campers were returned their tie-dye, and might it be noted: they were stellar. To wrap up the day on a positive note were "warm and fuzzies," where campers signed cards with a memory or compliment of each other. By the time one camper's card made it around the table, it was filled with more than a dozen sweet comments. A group photo, thank you's and last clean ups finished off the day and the weekend fuzzies, where campers signed cards with a memory or compliment of each other.

The Future: 

The Temperleys said they are thrilled with how the first Camp Meraki went. Evaluations are in the mail, but campers, too, gave positive feedback at closing.

They hope to offer Camp Meraki once again in the fall and to more people. 

If you or someone you know is interested in camp, or Aging is Cool's other services, visit their website.

Disclosure: The writer of this article is a producer at KSAT 12, a volunteer at Camp Meraki and alumni of John Knox Ranch.

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