A half-century of Adventure

(John Andrews in the Denver Post, August 21) A notable birthday occurs in Colorado this week. Adventure Unlimited, the Denver-based youth organization and summer camp, is turning 50 years old. Hundreds of people from several countries will gather to celebrate at what was once my parents’ ranch in Buena Vista. It’s an occasion that has everything to do with what our family is about, who I’ve turned out to be, so with your indulgence this column will be rather personal. In June 1955, before the Air Force Academy or the Broncos, before Interstate 25 or Dillon Reservoir, when the names Love and Lamm were still unknown in state politics, when Highlands Ranch was just cattle and Vail a virgin valley, a young couple from St. Louis started a boys’ camp at a rented lodge on Cottonwood Creek near the ghost town of Harvard City in Chaffee County. The result, during half a century since then, has been unforgettable growing-up experiences in the high country for thousands of kids, beneficiaries of a Christian ministry eventually named Adventure Unlimited

But the camp that first year had no name and only 20 boys. My brother Jim and I were two of them. Our little sisters Nornie and Sally, camp mascots, frequented the corral. The director was my father, “Cap,” John Kneeland Andrews. His helpmeet and partner was my mother, Marianne Hutchinson Andrews. When a girls’ camp was later added, she directed that. Mom passed away in 1978, Dad in 1998. At the big reunion starting Friday, we their four children will join countless other former campers in honoring them – and in reliving generations of sweet summer memories.

Encouraged by the ’55 season, my folks bought the old Hargis place northwest of Buena Vista, Sky Valley Ranch, and that’s been home base for the camps ever since. The adjoining property, Round-Up Ranch, was acquired in 1958 from the estate of Dr. Al Marquard, Dad’s mentor in Colorado camping. Marquard had earlier built the wonderful facility on Chalk Creek that is now run by Young Life. Jim Rayburn and Don Reeverts of that organization were role models to my father. So were Jack Cheley with his family’s camps at Estes Park and Sandy Sanborn with his at Florissant.

You can’t describe the magic of summer camp with such dry abstractions as recreation, education, inspiration, or even salvation. The plain phrase “learning by living” comes closer. Sierra naturalist John Muir wrote of “these vast, calm, measureless mountain days… opening a thousand windows to show us God.” For Cap and Marianne, that summed up the real adventure they hoped would overtake boys and girls on the riding or hiking trail, rafting the whitewater or staging a corny talent show.

The Christian Science church, my parents’ faith, owes a great debt to Adventure Unlimited. I do as well, though I long ago converted to the “mere Christianity” of C. S. Lewis, George MacDonald, and G. K. Chesterton. My column title for some years elsewhere was “Cap’s Cap,” our A/U camp nickname for a side peak of nearby Mt. Columbia. The connotation was that of a high vantage point for clear thinking. From up there, I settled on a dozen core beliefs:

(1) We live in a God-governed universe, not a vast random accident. (2) Truth exists, and is knowable by you and me. (3) Morality is built into the very structure of reality. (4) Freedom is the master value.

(5) Rights come from the Creator not the state, and they inhere in individuals not groups. (6) Free markets and private property best allocate resources and multiply wealth. (7) Democracy is possible because we are not beasts, and necessary because we are not angels. (8) The few can never know enough or care enough to rightly rule the many.

(9) A word is worth a thousand pictures. (10) Newer is not necessarily better. (11) You cannot criticize the Bible; it criticizes you. (12) People matter most of all.

There you have it, my Cap’s Cap credo. And how I treasure the campfires, summits, and bunkrooms where most of those lessons were learned, poorly as I sometimes show it. Happy 50th, Adventure Unlimited.