A few weeks ago, the LightHouse Board of Directors held its annual retreat at Enchanted Hills Camp, atop Mount Veeder in Napa. Although I had visited the camp before to take part in a Tactile Arts and Graphics Symposium, this was my first opportunity to visit as a board member, and my first since the devastating fires that swept Mount Veeder in 2017.
Enchanted Hills offers its visitors a chance to disconnect from the chaos of city life, appreciate the peace and rich complexity of the natural world, and focus on fellowship, skill-building and discovery. As they arrive at EHC’s dining hall, visitors find comfortable couches flanking a blazing fireplace, where they might chase away the winter chill with a cup of tea and a leisurely conversation. The kitchen staff who are all blind, provide a warm welcome along with meals that are memorable for the vibrant flavors of locally grown produce and freshly baked bread. The dining hall also features a detailed map of EHC with tactile structures, pathways and labels, so that all people, whether sighted or blind, can refer to it as they learn to feel at home.
Although the dining hall is just as I remembered from my last visit, EHC’s landscape bears reminders of the 2017 wildfires. Some buildings are gone, along with swaths of trees and greenery. Some trees still stand strong and growing, though their bark is singed. The legacy of the fire is a testament to the adaptability of nature and the resilience of the LightHouse staff and community. Already, new platform tent bungalows (simple, clean and filled with light) have been built to replace lost housing. New growth is everywhere: willow trees, quick to grow tall, are already taller than most campers just two years after planting. The camp’s soundscape is peaceful but dynamic: I heard wind through the old trees and the new, innumerable birds, purposeful footsteps and laughter, and the sound of a shovel turning earth as one more willow prepared to take root.
I remembered well the redwood benches in EHC’s amphitheater, each constructed by blind master carpenters and engraved with bold tactile motifs drawn from Napa’s local flora. These benches now hold the names of community members who contributed to EHC’s recovery effort and helped the camp weather its losses without missing even one summer of camp programs. When campers enter the Redwood Grove (whose name is boldly carved in foot-high letters on a redwood’s stump), they will always sit with the legacy of those who ensured that music will ring out in that place for decades yet to come.
Enchanted Hills Camp is a place where everyone, whether blind, sighted or somewhere in between, can build confidence and a sense of belonging while taking on new adventures. As our board screened a retrospective of film shorts captured throughout the camp’s history, we saw generations of kids, families and adults enjoying camp traditions like hiking, swimming, horseback riding and canoeing that still go on today. It’s exciting to be part of the EHC community at a time when the camp is offering even more: sessions for blind artists, musicians and woodworkers, in order to expand the camp’s fundamental mission of fostering community and helping campers explore new challenges with confident blind mentors.
To experience the majesty that is Enchanted Hills Camp and Retreat for yourself, why not sign up for a session this summer by exploring the variety of offerings on our camp website? Or plan your own group retreat by visiting our retreat website? Then, stay tuned for details to come about our 70th anniversary of EHC celebration this August 2020.