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Unplugging: Home Away from Home

Andi Minter
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Sun rise

Andi Minter and Kelley Parsons watch as the sun rises over the valley.

I guess I’m what you’d call a city girl. As a native Houstonian, I’ve grown accustomed to the constant noise, hazy skies and inescapable smells that come with growing up in the fourth largest city in the United States. But for two weeks out of the year I get the chance to step away from the hustle and bustle of the city and into my own little piece of heaven: summer camp.

I first fell in love with Laity Lodge Youth Camp over the summer of 2014, going into my freshman year of high school, and I’ve gone back every year since. Located on the Frio River, near Kerrville, Texas, the beautiful canyon is the polar opposite of city life.


Andi Minter and Kelley Parsons canoe on the Frio River. 

For starters, there’s no cell service. I know the thought of no cell phones for 14 days would give most teens sweaty palms and a raised heart rate. But for those of us who’ve experienced it and lived to tell the tale, you’ll hear that it was actually enjoyable. The lack of service allows for time to really focus on building friendships and engaging in camp activities without the distractions of social media or communication with others. It’s almost like a bubble where all that exists are the canyon and the people in it; you don’t have to worry about what’s going on in the “real world” outside of camp.

The pure beauty of the location itself is amazing. The hills, the river, the stars, all fit together to create a picture-perfect valley. My friends and I took full advantage of the short time we had there by waking up early to watch the sunrises, hiking in the hills, swimming in the Frio, and spending long nights laid out under the stars.

There was one day when a few girls from my cabin and I climbed into a couple of canoes and made our way down the quiet Frio, cooled by the huge shadow of the canyon. After a few minutes we spotted a small fresh water spring off to the side of the river. Feeling adventurous, we “parked” our canoes and began the slippery trek up a small path leading to the source of the spring. It only took us about five minutes to get there but we decided we weren’t finished yet, so we kept climbing. We hiked up past the trail until we were forced to scramble over enormous rocks, edge our way around trees and push through bushes. Eventually we got to a clear point that was high enough for us to look out over the entire valley. We were hot and exhausted but the sense of accomplishment combined with the breathtaking view made that moment a memory that will stay with me forever.


Andi Minter and Kelley Parsons pose for a picture at the waterfront. 

By far, the best part of camp are the friends I have made. I initially went to camp with my friend, another rising junior from Memorial High School, Kelley Parsons, and I left with multiple friendships from all over the country that will last a lifetime. I don’t know if it’s the lack of service, the canyon, the activities or a combination of it all, but it’s amazing how quickly you grow close to people, both campers and counselors alike.

Summer camp gives you a chance to take a break from the chaos of life at home and step into the “bubble,” where you can meet new people, try new things and enjoy the beauty of nature.

Kelley said, “It allowed me to separate myself from my everyday struggles and helped me to focus on greater things than who got more ‘likes’ on a picture.”

It’s truly a special place and I know I’ve made memories there that will last a lifetime.

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