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ROUGH TERRAIN Beck races on a hilly and rocky course on his mountain bike. “I like longer courses because of the terrain and how it’s not just the same thing over and over,” Beck said. “On these courses, it’s about navigating the hills and maintaining a good pace because the course is so long.”
Tour de Beck
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Curtain call
Curtain call
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Sophomore takes on 20 hikes through nine states,

Sophomore takes on 20 hikes through nine states,

Wind whips at your hair as you hike up the steep winding trail. Your backpack feels as though it has gained an extra five pounds and you feel the back of your neck starting to burn from lack of sunscreen. However nothing matters because all around you are towering orange cliffs, above is a cloudless blue sky, and when you listen you hear the rush of water flowing from the Virgin river. This is the Narrows hike in Zion national park in Utah, it was also the highlight of Jonah Kaplans’ ‘26 trip this summer. 

Kaplan has been attending Camp Tamarack in Ortonville Michigan for the past seven years and has been awaiting his turn to go on the “Western Trip.” Tamarack provides students going into their sophomore year the opportunity of taking a five week long trip through several national parks out West. The trip includes stops in Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and several locations in Utah. The journey begins at Tamarack where students board a bus to drive to Scott County Park in Iowa.

“Over the first couple of days it was a lot of driving, up to six to eight hours per day,” Kaplan said. “Then coming back to camp we spent a lot of time on the bus as well. However it was manageable and fun because I was surrounded by my friends the entire time.” 

There were 25 kids on the trip. Going into it, Kaplan knew half of the group from his previous years at camp during session one. The rest of the campers were regular attendees of session two. 

“It was really two friend groups mixing which I was looking forward to,” Kaplan said. “The group got along really well, especially the guys. The girls were cliquey at first but they worked it out.”

While there were a variety of national parks some of the most notable locations were: Rocky Mountain National Park, Arches National Park, Zion National Park, and Mount Rushmore/ Badlands National Park. The longest site they camped at was in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. 

“My favorite campsite was in South Dakota. It was a KOA (campsite of America) site which tends to be nicer,” Kaplan said. “However my favorite state we hiked in was Utah, because of the diversity of the environment. We went through both Colorado and Arizona, so Utah really felt like the perfect mix of two. Also the Utah national parks are my favorites, like Zion and Arches.” 

The first campsite activities were relatively unstructured, campers would arrive at the site, set up camp, and swim or play a game. Counselors also created several bonding activities for everyone to play. 

“The best game was a continuous game we played throughout the trip, everyday someone was assigned a weird task and we had to make them do it without them knowing,” Kaplan said. “Mine was to make one of the girls take a bite out of a raw onion.”

Towards the middle of the trip, once bus rides got shorter and stays at campsites got longer, there were more structured activities. Almost everyday campers would go on a day hike and there were two backpacking trips where they slept on the trail. 

“Jonah had been talking about how excited he was to go on the backpacking part of the  Grand Teton National Park trip ever since I can remember,” said Kaplans’ friend Ben Bernstein ‘27.

On the backpacking trips the group was split into two random groups with two counselors each. They hike and sleep on the trail for three to four days then meet back at the designated “homesite” to get back on the bus to head to the next location. 

“Jonah had one story about a backpacking trip that was really crazy that he still talks about,” said his mother, Helen Kaplan. “Basically his group was on a hike and they took a wrong turn because the trail wasn’t clear and got lost. Eventually they began rationing water due to being practically in the middle of nowhere. But they randomly ran into three older ladies who were on a hike and who were nice enough to give them water.” 

Helen Kaplan got to hear about this story during one of the two calls her son was allowed to make during his trip. 

“Originally I was a little nervous about the no contact part,” his mother said. “However I’ve gotten pretty used to it after all these years of both of my kids going to camp. Also I have a lot of faith in the program and began just looking forward to when he would get the chance to call home.” 

The strict no phone rule is to allow campers the opportunity to truly disconnect and focus on nature and appreciate the places they were visiting.

“Even though I was slightly nervous about going on a camping trip this long when I had only gone on brief ones before with family I am really grateful I went,” said Kaplan. “It was an amazing experience and one I would recommend to kids younger than me. Now, I am currently considering going on the 40 day trip to Alaska.”

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