The primary setting in REDUCED and REUSED is an “old, abandoned camp.” However, it’s actually an active camp, consisting of 700 acres, that has been in operation since 1927. Of course, we aren’t entirely sure “when” REDUCED takes place, so perhaps by then it could indeed be considered both of those things.
The lake is a real lake, eight acres in size as it says in REDUCED; the “old” infirmary and shower/laundry room are real locations, as are the numbered sites. Many readers of the novels know exactly what I’m talking about, as many have been there as either campers or counselors or both. And the hills in the books are named after the actual hills. Many of you remember those famed “7up” hikes!
There are indeed shelters up on top of Pioneer Hill, and at one time there were tanks on the crest of Tank Hill. The current camp ranger has verified the existence of the underground cave on Sunnytop, and of course the spring, down past Site 3 and behind another camp unit, is well known. The cave opening on the cover of REUSED is up behind the office building; the photo was taken on a recent trip down there.
The stone posts of the camp gate are a familiar site to a campers and staff, past and present, as are the roads leading to them – all accurately named. The towns and landmarks in both books are real, and exist today in the St. Louis area.
As for my own history there, I began as a camper in the early 70s and ended as a staff member in the mid-80s. I’ve been down there, camping, in all seasons and all weathers. I’ve hiked over a good portion of the camp, and it’s as familiar to me as my own backyard.
I’ve had my share of adventures at camp, starting with getting bug spray in my mouth the first year, nearly stepping on a copperhead the second year, and almost drowning in the monsoon that erupted right after a tent camp out in the meadow. I’ve wiped out on my bike, gotten the worst case of poison ivy I’d ever had in my life, and been stepped on, kicked by, and dumped off of more horses than I can count, all the while having the BEST TIME EVER at camp. Surprisingly, to me and to others, horses never made an appearance in either novel.
I met some of my closest friends at camp – I won’t name them, because I might miss someone and would never hear the end of it! But I will say that I’ve stayed in contact with some since the late 70s and recently reconnected with others that I first met in 1972… and the really cool thing about this place? I often run into others who I never did meet during summers down there, but we still have a connection. Some of these “new” friends came to camp for years before I first became a camper, and others were there a decade or more later.
But we’ll always have camp. Probably sounds silly or strange to those who were never there, but to those of who were – we know better.
The cedar trees are calling
And whispering a tune,
For it’s nature’s peaceful love song
To the winds they gently croon.
The emerald hills are fading
And the sunset’s glowing gold;
And the whippoorwills are calling
While the moon is growing bold.
Farewell, we take memories
That years cannot fade.
Our Cedarledge friendships,
Our promise, remade.