Being a Girl Scout has been one of the most important things in my life, giving me experiences I would never have had otherwise and that have shaped who I am today, both personally and professionally. Most important were camping experiences–summer camp every year from 1968-1977, week-long backpacking trips with my troop every spring break from 1973-1977, and Wider Opportunities, which took me to Utah (1974) where 50 girls from around the country studied the ancient Fremont people and learned their survival skills, to Wyoming (1975) to backpack for two weeks near Yellowstone, Colorado (1976) for two weeks of backpacking, jeeping, and horseback riding, and then the United Kingdom (1977) where we toured London, Edinburgh, lived with Girl Guide host families at the British seaside, and then camped on the grounds of an eighteenth century English manor home with 120 other girls from around the world. There I met Suzanne from England’s Isle of Wight (here pictured with me in 2019; I’m on the right). She became a lifelong friend; we and our families (including her daughter whom she named for me) have visited each other on both sides of the Atlantic many, many times over these 40 plus years, and we talk now on Facetime every week; she has truly become my sister, just as we Girl Scouts and Guides are supposed to be to one another.

Camping gave me an intense love of landscape and the outdoors, inspiring my husband and I to buy an off-grid cabin in the forests of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula where we and our daughter spend our summers, cooking often over the fire and always singing songs. And perhaps even more important, my Girl Scout trips out West inspired me to study the art of that region, ultimately enabling me to earn my Ph.D. and become a professor of American art with a specialty in the history of western landscapes.

I am a Lifelong Member of Girl Scouts, and I strongly believe in the values the program has long held. I am extremely disheartened, however, at recent trends deemphasizing traditional programming in favor of more corporate interests. Most distressing is the move away from traditional rustic camping and the experiences that camps gave to so many girls. The sale of so many beloved camps throughout the country is a tragedy of untold dimensions. I hope that stories like mine, and so many others, that demonstrate the value of these special places and the opportunities they provide will help persuade current administrators of Girl Scouts to return to the roots of our organization that so many of us cherish and that have made us the women we are today.