“What’s Love Got To Do With It?”

Viewpoint of a Patapsco Valley State Park Camp Host

Camp Host Betty Anthony

It begins with a single mellow chirp, but quickly the sound escalates to become a distinct chorus of birds and other area wildlife. It is dawn in the forest and with the very first rays of sunlight comes another opportunity to experience life as a camper in the oldest woodland in the state of Maryland, the Patapsco Valley State Park, at Hollofield, in Howard County.

For more than forty years, our family never experienced a year when at least one visit was not made to this venerable setting: sometimes just for a weekend; sometimes for a more extended stay; always with anticipated enjoyment and wonder at what it is like to escape the bonds of urban living. It has consistently represented a chance to slow down, to breathe deeply, and to put to good use a few vicariously gained and only slightly used skills in outdoor survival.

When we learned about the need for volunteers to serve as campground hosts, we gratefully grasped the opportunity to help others see what we have seen, hear what we have heard and live what we have lived in these woods. Motivated by pure love, what started out as a few days of visiting has turned into months of residency here yearly. The job of camp hosting has become a much sought out and proudly assumed “employment” for two able-bodied retirees with a lust for the outdoors and a need to conquer the quest of truly helping others.

As camp hosts the opportunities are endless for meeting and assisting a number of people from all over the land. Many who visit are from local cities and communities, but many are from all over the continent. Some even visit from abroad! The reasons for their selection of this park are often as varied as the places from which they travel to arrive here. They do arrive here daily in their motor homes, towing their trailers, and hauling their tents and screen houses. Newborn babies and seniors are often a part of the family scenarios. They find in this park a friendly place to come home to following a day at a local festival or an afternoon of appointments at our area health facilities. For many others, the park is a destination for hikers, fishermen, and scouts. Others have fallen in love with the dream of campfires, fireflies, and long silent nights in the woods. Their need for information, directions, maps and firewood provides the camp host with pleasant but challenging opportunities to be a much-needed resource and of vital assistance.

The daily routine necessarily includes assuring campers that restrooms are clean and well supplied; that all are well informed and mindful of campground rules and regulations; that everyone puts forth effort to respect the privacy and rights of others; that firewood is available; that trash and clutter are properly discarded; that traffic patterns are carefully and safely observed; and most of all, that the natural resources are constantly preserved, protected, and always available to enjoy.

Lodged firmly and fondly in our memories are the exciting adventures of, for instance, participating in the “scales and tails” campfire program as “pied pipers” enticing children to attend. We could never forget the call from the ladies in the steam-filled ladies room to “please remove” the renegade black snake that took up temporary residence under a bench ; the midnight visit of a whole raccoon family to an unsuspecting and unappreciating family campsite in the middle of evening dinner! Memorable but perhaps somewhat less exciting are the sounds of the nightly C&O freight train that dreamily rumbles through; the sound at dusk of mating local owls; the familiar smell of firewood burning; and the unexpected comfort of a dry tent after days and days of soaking rain.

From our perspective, being Patapsco Valley State Park camp hosts means simply ,and yet profoundly, a real chance to “give back” just a bit of the joy and pleasure that we have experienced in this most wonderful of settings where “mother nature” gently shares her wealth of outdoor treasures with those who would care to venture in. In response then to the rhetorical question raised in the popular song “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” This camp host duo responds quickly with the word, “Everything!” We love the park just as surely as this wonderful place has loved us and our children over the years! As a result of this undying “love affair” we therefore adore and deeply appreciate the opportunity of volunteering to serve and preserve it!

by Betty Anthony