Tiny Discoveries In The Smokies



Tristan gently moved the rock to the side, careful not to disturb the tiny purplish-black salamander that had been hiding under it. He leaned in closer to get a better look, barely breathing so he didn’t scare the big-eyed critter away. As he looked through his handheld magnifying glass, he noticed the salamander’s shiny skin had light speckles, reminding him of the constellations he had seen in the dark sky the night before. He had never seen the stars so clearly before last night when he saw the smear of the Milky Way high above him.

Discovery-Camp-Gar-SecristThis is Tristan’s third day of Discovery Camp at Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. Just halfway through the week, he has already encountered so many new ideas, people, and interests — experiences he had never imagined himself having. He made paint out of river rock, examined the translucent wings of a dragonfly, swam in the chilly Middle Prong, caught fireflies, and sang by a campfire. Tomorrow, he and his new friends will hike to a waterfall, where he’ll let the water come over his shoulders, soaking him in his newfound love for the outdoors.

Girls in Science - Tremont Camp - David Bryant2Tristan’s story is not unusual at Tremont, an environmental education center located inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Townsend, Tennessee. Throughout the summer, campers (ages 4-17) spend 3 to 10 days living and learning in the park, experiencing the outdoors in new and exciting ways. For many, this is their first overnight experience away from home; Tremont’s teacher naturalists are highly skilled at making everyone feel welcome so that Tremont’s campus feels like home throughout their stay.

Tremont offers a variety of summer camps to serve different interests, abilities, and age groups, including camps for the whole family. Campers can choose exploration-based camps, such as Discovery Camp, Firefly Camp, or Smoky Mountain Family Camp, or they can select a science-based experience, such as Girls in Science Camp or the Backcountry Ecological Expedition. Teenage campers may opt for something wilder, camping in the backcountry during Teen High Adventure Camp or the Wilderness Adventure Trek. Registration for all camps includes food and lodging (or camping equipment for the backcountry explorers) inside the national park.

Tremont-Waterfall-by-Luc-BurnierWhen Tristan heads back to school in the fall and is asked what he did over the summer, he’ll talk excitedly about the stars, the salamanders, the s’mores, and the new friends that he hopes to see again next year. He won’t be able to put the feeling into words yet, but he’ll always remember how his week at Tremont made him feel so large and so tiny at the same time.

Wilderness Adventure Trek - Tremont Camp - David Bryant1Give the young adventurer in your life the unique opportunity to explore, play, and learn in one of the most ecologically diverse parks in the world. Registration is currently open for 2022 summer camps; in fact, some have already sold out! Learn more and register for an awe-inspiring summer adventure at gsmit.org/summer-camp.


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