The Hike That Made the Man

His name was synonymous with what we called our 10kw generator at Camp Shasta. He maintained it and switched it from gasoline to butane, making it a far more consistent provider of our evening light.  It was our only source of electricity and, therefore, a significant contribution to our safety and quality of life. 

He came to Purple Sage in the early fifties as a young boy with his younger brother and sisters.  His world-renowned father called me to his office for a serious discussion about my responsibility to offer certain growth necessities for his children that he was unable to provide due to his work. He said, “I need you to make my children dirty and bloody, things I cannot do.” What a remarkable man! 

Camp and their groups did their best to create these opportunities for them. The story that follows is special: We were on a backpacking trip in the Sierras, above Yosemite Valley, and the oldest, who was at this time about 8 or 9, said that “The pack is too heavy, and he couldn’t go any farther.”

I told him I would take him to the valley, and he would be with a younger group enjoying less demanding activities. He shook his head, so I said, “All right, I’ll carry your pack.”

He started to cry and defiantly looked at me and screamed, “f—-you, I’m not giving up.”

He didn’t and carried his pack on one of the most arduous hikes we have ever been on. (That’s another story).

That hike took place in the Fifties.  Recently, in January 2023, he told me that that hike made him a man, and he has drawn upon that experience ever since. I believe what he said. Certain events have the potential to change us. We can run, we can hide, or we can face them. He did and became his own person. In my eyes, he has always been a man!


Author: Sy Ogulnick

Sy Ogulnick received a BA from UCLA, Teacher’s Credential from Los Angeles Board of Education and completed phase I (Master’s portion) in a Doctor of Behavioral Science program at California Coast University. Sy leased and operated a summer day camp in LA. He and his wife then purchased virgin wilderness land in Northern CA, where they built and operated a coed summer camp. They moved to Las Vegas, NV, and purchased, built and operated a community children’s program for families staying in a major resort casino in Las Vegas. They have created programs for children nationwide that employed many people and in the process developed successful training programs for personnel. This led Sy to lecture on how to train staff and the creating of community within the workplace. Sy was then invited to speak at professional conferences on how best to hire and train employees, which led to his becoming a consultant in the art of improving relationships in a work environment and eventually to his epiphany that “Leaders are the primary problem and the answer to the personnel issues that arise in the workplace.” Sy has written numerous papers on the subject of interpersonal relationships, leadership and power. He has lectured throughout the United States, has been interviewed by the media and has appeared on many radio and TV talk shows

One thought on “The Hike That Made the Man”

  1. Sy, I wonder how many of us former campers had similar experiences backpacking, I know I did. My first summer at camp we backpacked in the Warner Mountains up to a glacial lake and I wanted to quit, and thought I would never make it. You kicked my butt up that mountain convincing me I could make it, and I did.

    As I’ve shared with you, my grandchildren are going to a summer camp in Minnesota this summer, and I’ve been reminiscing about my time at camp and that first backpacking trip and comparing it to my last backpacking trip when a group of us hiked a circular route out of Tuolumne Meadows and returned there a week later. We hiked 40 – 50 miles on the John Muir trail, near Mt. Lyle, and returning over Kiop Pass at about 10,500 ft. and back down to Tuolumne Meadows. My first trip and my last trip, bookends of my backpacking experience with camp. I was last to get to the lake in the Warner Mountains and first to reach Kiop pass, sitting 5-10 minutes alone with God, overlooking the High Sierra’s. I have a momento from Kiop Pass, a piece of rock that sits on my bathroom counter reminding me every day, that we are the only ones that limit our success. A lesson I have to believe most everyone who attending Camp Shasta learned.

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