This weekend I attended a retreat organized by my church at our region’s camp and conference center, Loch Leven. I have been to Loch Leven as a camper many times throughout my childhood and youth, and last year I was able to be a counselor at Mini Camp for our youngest group of kids (2nd and 3rd grade). It has always been a special place for me, as well as for many other people.
This place is so special to me that I wanted to post pictures and a little (okay, BIG) advertisement on its behalf, in hopes that you might discover it and see for yourself how Loch Leven can help to renew your spirit.
Loch Leven is inside the San Bernardino National Forest, about 90 minutes away from Orange County (sometimes more than 2 hours when traffic is misbehaving). It’s not too far up the mountain, but far enough away from “normal life” that it is easy to forget how close “civilization” really is.
The first thing you’re likely to see is the main lodge, surrounded by breath-taking nature. At Loch Leven you get a little bit of everything: mountains, trees, grass, lots of dirt, a creek, trails, critters, wild animals and best of all – Peace. Though the highway is just down the road from Loch Leven, you don’t hear the traffic and noise. Just the soothing sounds of God’s creation.
Below the main lodge is the meadow, where in the summer afternoons of church camp you’ll hear the squeal of children greeting each other and playing games. There are benches in the shade and a gazebo where small groups can get together for discussion or individuals can go for meditation or talks with God.
The main lodge has an attached dining room, equipped with a fantastic staff who provides wholesome meals for retreats and camps. The dining room overlooks the meadow and mountains, providing a fabulous view of the sunset each night.
And speaking of things you don’t need to bring: cell phones and alarm clocks! There’s hardly any cell coverage, which will help you to detach from the “real world,” and Loch Leven’s got you covered when it comes to waking you up or getting your attention:
This bell can be heard from all over the Loch Leven property and is used to wake you up in the morning, call you to meals, alert you to emergencies if any and can also be used to bring groups together for their gathering times. Little kids consider it a privilege to be allowed to ring the bell and are often given the chance as a reward for helpful behavior.
There are many hiking opportunities at Loch Leven. Dirt trails that lead to benches and gazebos, bridges that lead to more lodging, meeting areas and the creek, and swinging bridges that just beckon you to cross to the more “woodsy” areas of the campground.
Two favorite hiking destinations are Inspiration Point and Sam’s Peak. Both give you access to beautiful sunrises and amazing views, as well as time for personal reflection. Inspiration Point is accessible to any who enjoy a leisurely hike with minimal effort. Sam’s Peak is for those more adventurous and in good health. With the help of friends, I was able to climb up to Sam’s Peak in high school, despite having bad knees. I doubt I’ll be able to make the trek again. But it is a wonderful feeling, knowing that I was able to share that experience with my fellow campers. Being up on Inspiration Point and Sam’s Peak gives you a great view of the mountains and also reminds you of how far away (or close, depending on your perspective) you are from your normal life.
My two favorite parts of Loch Leven are the nature and the fellowship.
Camp just isn’t “camp” without the laughter, tears, learning, sharing, growing and changing that happens in a group of people. The people you meet at summer and church camp can end up being your best friends. You may only see them once or twice a year, but when you do meet up again, it’s like you were never gone. They become your secret-keepers, your brothers and sisters, your teachers.
I highly recommend you check out this beautiful oasis. It is a great place for company team-building retreats, church retreats, outdoor education programs, and much more. Renew your spirit. You can thank me later.