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  • Writer's pictureChristine Powers

Ever heard of Camp Maple? Why it matters.

In 1858, theologian and leader of the transcendentalist movement Ralph Waldo Emerson and William James Stillman led an expedition of 10 thought leaders and 10 wilderness guides into the pristine wilderness of the Adirondack Mountains in New York for the month of August. They set up a pretty complex site, dubbing it Camp Maple (click to see the famous painting).

Their mission?

Blazing new paths (literally), cross-pollinating ideas, sharing fellowship, rejuvenating their health in the "pure air", and making discoveries about the natural world. And they did.

Most Americans know who Emerson is, but William Stillman?

William Stillman was born in Schenectady, NY (1828-1901) and lived a wild and dramatic life. Stillman enigmatic; a somewhat sickly and temperamental author, one of the earliest photographers, journalist, wilderness guide, painter, diplomat, and even a revolutionary in Europe later in life. He was also the founder of the first graphic arts journal in our nation, "The Crayon."

It took Stillman YEARS to convince the elite and somewhat soft men of the Boston intellectual scene to take this adventurous journey with him as their guide.

Flawed and brilliant, Stillman blazed a path where he went. We are all capable of making a significant positive impact no matter how imperfect we are.

Each participant lived a life that was committed to uplifting humanity in their unique way... through their philosophies, theologies, creative works, legal practice, scientific discoveries, diplomacy, political activism, and service to Abraham Lincoln (but that's another story).

This ground-breaking trip made national news and was dubbed the Philosophers Camp by one newspaper and it spread like wildfire. The mythology and importance of this excursion became one of the prime movers in the creation of the Adirondack State Park and the land preservation movement in New York in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Over 6 million acres today, and comprising 1/3 of ALL the land in New York State, the Adirondack Park is the largest protected park in the contiguous United States. This magical land is home to vast swaths of forests and rolling farms, picturesque villages, world-class hiking and skiing and camping, mountains and valleys, lakes and ponds, free-flowing rivers. It is my home.


Below is a photo of the trails of raspberry bushes that cover acres and acres on our land.

I feel deeply blessed to have been infused with inspiration from William Stillman.

Sitting in my home in the Adirondack Mountains writing this, I am humbled and passionate about carrying on their mission in my unique way. I resurrected the idea of this expedition and all that it meant in 2018 by creating the Philosophers Camp retreat and global community. By hosting 4 camps and graduating almost 30 participants in 18 months, we have surpassed where their vision fell due to the strife of the coming Civil War.

While you know me as the mind and energy behind Philosophers Camp, it's actually these brilliant and creative minds who traveled here and started a very special mission over 160 years ago that deserve the credit.

Those were troubled and turbulent times with uncanny similarities to today.

A lesson I have learned this year is that 2020 is actually NOT so extraordinary in terms of humanity seeking to know itself and battling it's lesser angels. This is a theme played out over and over.

By studying the history of the Philosophers Camp, I came to understand the life cycle of our ever-upward spiral, even when it appears to be going backward. It brings me a sense of context, and with that, peace.

May peace find its way to you today.

Blessings from the Adirondack Mountains where present meets past.

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