Photos and text by Grant McClure | South Carolina Wildlife magazine intern

Follow Second Year Camp Wildwood campers as they travel from King’s Mountain to Walhalla and back.

On a muggy day in June, twenty-one teenagers arrived at Camp Wildwood in Kings Mountain State Park and began a week-long journey across South Carolina’s Upstate. Camp Wildwood instructs campers on topics like hunter education, fisheries biology and wildlife management while fostering a spirit of environmental leadership — and having a lot of fun.

Second Year campers are selected to return the following summer based on leadership potential. The second-year program nurtures that leadership by challenging students outside the confines of Camp Wildwood.

After one night at Kings Mountain, Second Year students piled into two vans and headed to Walhalla Fish Hatchery. There, the group learned about South Carolina’s trout stocking program from a fisheries biologist. Following a lesson on South Carolina’s ecosystems, students held a baby alligator and an albino corn snake.

The high schoolers explored the dank depths of the unfinished railroad at nearby Stumphouse Tunnel, their voices echoing off the cavernous walls. At the base of Issaqueena Falls they caught salamanders while hopping rock-to-rock.

The campers navigated swift rapids through the hemlock-lined valley on the Wild & Scenic Chattooga River. Grace Powell described her time on the river. “I feel like the group really bonded during the rafting trip, and I think trusting in each other played a big part.”

Suspended by a harness, the group braved the ropes course at the Clemson Outdoor Lab. The course demands physical and mental strength. Camper Noble Moore added, “It pushed me out of my comfort zone.”

After grilling out at Cowpens National Battlefield, Jalen Wilkerson reflected on the role of outdoor education. “It helps you realize the importance of the future. You might not think about it, but our generation can save the environment from destruction.”

Since 1954, Wildwood has fostered thoughtful, environmentally conscious young people like Grace, Noble and Jalen — empowering campers to conserve South Carolina’s natural resources.

Learn more about Camp Wildwood here.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.