We all remember Hurricane Irene who roared through the entire East Coast late last month. Thousands of people were impacted from Irene and people have still been struggling to get back onto their feet. YMCA Camps of Medford was extremely fortunate to come out with only a few downed trees, but a handful of our fellow YMCA summer camps were not so lucky. YMCA Camp Mason was without power for a handful of days and Frost Valley YMCA was devastated by flash flooding, along with most of Up-state New York.
Frost Valley YMCA is the camp where I first learned about “camp magic” and has been a home away from home for me since I was 8 years old. For those of you who have heard the stories from 2004 here at camp, this story has some of the same tones of devastation and community coming together to help.
Around 11am on August 28, 2011 as the rain fell here at camp, I received a phone call from a friend who told me the rain had been coming down really hard at Frost Valley and Biscuit River had breached its banks and consumed Pigeon Lodge, one of the original buildings at Frost Valley. Roads had been washed away, mountains were being washed away, but everybody (including 50 students) was safe in the DH. Over the next couple of hours Facebook was filled with comments about what was going on and as pictures started to appear of the damage, we all sat wondering what we could do.
In the week following Irene, over $40K was already donated to assist in re-building at Frost Valley which was a true testament to the power of the alumni of Frost Valley. Of course I was taping my feet waiting for the first chance to head up and help clean-up.
Last weekend, a handful of Frost Valley Alumni made the trip up on a Friday night, oblivious to the true destruction from the storm. We walked around late at night trying to see under a full moon some of the damage, but it was just too hard to see. When I woke on Saturday morning, I walked down to where Pigeon Lodge once stood only to see a fraction of the foundation in its place. Apparently the river which had been re-routed almost 100 years ago took back its original path…which went through Pigeon Lodge.
As we walked the banks of the Neversink River, we pulled out pieces of what was once Pigeon Lodge. After about 7 hours of picking up, we came to the final resting spot of Pigeon Lodge. On the bank of the Neversink River was a 50 by 200 foot pile of Pigeon Lodge that had come to rest. Mashed together with rock and tree, we all stood in amazement of the sheer force of Mother Nature. After about 10 minutes of looking for a point of attack, Jerry Huncosky, CEO/President of Frost Valley YMCA made the call to start heading back, because trying to pull debris would be too dangerous.
As we walked back to camp on what once was the Neversink trail, we looked around to see nothing but rock and downed trees. We stood in a handful of locations and Jerry explained to us what Frost Valley was planning on doing to re-build, each time saying how grateful he was that it was not worse.
Later that night, I had the chance to hear some 1st hand stories from some Frost Valley staff and how the day un-folded. Having somebody bang on their door at 5am being told they had to evacuate only to see their transportation be a giant back-hoe. How as reports of the damage started to trickle to the outside world, the comments of support came in. How with each hour that passed, the staff talked about how they would start to re-build even before they knew of the true damage. How they realized it all could have been much worse and most importantly, that everybody was safe.
Frost Valley Builds Strong….Want to help out? Please had to www.frostvalley.org for more information.