Echo Hill: A Final Salute to the Class of 2023’s Fall Retreats

By Luke B. ’23
Photos by Mrs. Wilikofsky

This past week, the eighth grade went on a fun-filled yet educational trip to Echo Hill Outdoor School, on the eastern shore of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay. After a two hour bus ride, we arrived at the school. It was cold and wet, but the weather could not dampen our spirits. The counselors greeted us at the dirt road leading up to the dorms and dining hall, and as we lugged our bags through the winding trail, we could not help but wonder what was in store for us over the next few days.

We were not disappointed.

DSC_0005
DSC_0007
DSC_0008
DSC_0186
DSC_0095
DSC_0096
DSC_0097
DSC_0057
DSC_0005
DSC_0011
DSC_0178
DSC_0510
DSC_0081
DSC_0024
DSC_0024
DSC_0026
DSC_0029
DSC_0031
DSC_0054
DSC_0061
DSC_0065
DSC_0074
DSC_0076
DSC_0160
DSC_0168

Every morning, we were woken up about an hour after sunrise by a large metal bell outside our dorms. The concept of time wasn’t relevant in this secluded region of the bay. There weren’t any clocks on campus, and if you inquired what time it was, the counselors would most likely respond, “It’s Echo Hill Time.” The idea was to help us enjoy our three hour activities rather than constantly be checking our watches.

After enjoying a delicious breakfast of cheese omelets, bagels and more, we would receive our schedule for the day. We would spend the majority of each day with our tribes, each made up of 10-12 students and a rotating roster of counselors. We might start off with an adventure class, where we swung 50 feet above the ground in pure ecstasy, or climb a 70-foot tower with our classmates cheering us on. Maybe we’d just play dodgeball, laughing as foam balls whistled past our heads.

And then, after a lunch of chicken, cornbread and mashed potatoes, we might walk the circuitous paths of the farm and visit the goats, feeding them and watching them interact as we discussed survival instincts of herbivores and how they have been biologically conditioned to avoid an untimely demise.

To follow up on the theme of survival, we walked down to the beach and learned how to build fires and small, wind-resistant shelters using only the resources around us. We’d use pine needles and twigs as kindling, and dry wood to build our shelters. We realized that submerged aquatic vegetation was useful for blocking out the wind, and since we were feet from the bay, it was quite blustery.

We’d walk in complete darkness at night, reveling among the nocturnal wildlife and watching the high tide twinkle with the lights of Baltimore from across the bay. Or we’d go canoeing through swampland that had been preserved for more than 70 years, while vultures and small animals looked down at us imperoiusly. After our evening activities, we’d reunite each night at a campfire, where the counselors would serenade us with guitars and lively tunes.

Echo Hill was an experience none of us will ever forget. We bonded as a class, and the class consensus is that it was an amazing final Middle School trip for our grade to enjoy together.