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The View From Up High

by Denali Johnson
Ropes Supervisor

Denali at the tower

Ropes Supervisor, Denali Johnson, shares her love of the Alpine Tower

When I think of Camp Harlam, I think of the Alpine Tower. As a camper that was my favorite activity, and the moment I looked forward to every summer. I didn’t care how blistering hot or incredibly humid the weather was, I didn’t care if it was just my bunk or one of the older village groups, I LIVED for that moment when I stood at the top and could overlook all of camp and the rolling Pocono mountains. As a camper the Tower was where I found my confidence. As a teenager the Tower was where I found my sense of humor. As a CIT the Tower was where I first found love. As a staff member the Tower was where I found my sense of responsibility. And as an assistant the Tower was where I found my leadership skills (and the ability to break-down a climbing structure in the middle of a summer thunderstorm). This summer, I’m looking forward to taking these leadership skills to new heights as the Ropes Supervisor.

Perhaps the reason I identified so much with climbing was because my journey at camp also started with a giant leap of faith. I didn’t know a single person at Camp Harlam my first summer. I was awkward and shy (hard to believe for those who know me now) and came from a pretty sheltered military environment. My grandparents were concerned about the lack of structured Judaism in my life and pushed for me to pick a Jewish summer camp, which they graciously paid for. I remember sitting at the kitchen table, flipping through the brochures and locking onto the photo of the Tower. It was ultimately the adventure program that convinced me to give Harlam a try.

Years later, I realized the best part about being an Adventure staff member was teaching the “challenge by choice” model. We helped kids pick a goal, not necessarily the top, and push themselves out of their comfort zones. We knew when to encourage them to go farther, and when lower them down. Often campers scrambled to the top, only to freeze when they had to climb down. It was hard to trust the harness, the tower structure, and the staff member belaying you.

But that is what Camp Harlam is all about. Even if it’s scary, and you don’t know what to expect, you can trust the support will be there. Jewish summer camps are filled with love and enthusiasm. They make it okay to be excited about things, when back at school it’s only cool “not to care.” I carried that enthusiasm through the rest of my life; at camp and at home. Before Harlam I didn’t know what a kehiliah kedosha was, but Camp Harlam made me ME and I am so thankful to be back in this beautiful place.

We can’t wait to have YOU back in this beautiful place. The Ropes staff is preparing for your arrival–so get ready for an amazing summer at camp, and for lots of exciting moments on the tower, wall, low ropes, swing and zipline.

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