An Interview with “the Two Jacks”, From Owl Campers to Teen Volunteers

Owl Camp is a great way to build friendships…It’s fun to watch younger campers make that connection as well.  

Jack McCarthy-Smith

When is the first time that you remember doing something with LandPaths?

Jack McCarthy-Smith: My most vivid first memory was with Jack (Mattson) when he caught a dragonfly. The other one would be with Kai Anderson catching frogs out of a port-a-potty at the original spot at Rancho Mark West. And, I guess just hiking around the property because I’ve been there a bunch.  

Do you remember how old you were the first year you did Owl Camp?  

Jack McCarthy-Smith: I want to say, 5 or 6. I never missed a year. Even if I only went for two days, I always tried to go.  Rancho was just down the road from my house so it was a super close summer camp. Right in my backyard pretty much. And my parents were like, “Oh this will be cool, you get to go outside and learn nature stuff.” After being a camper you can upgrade to being an apprentice, which both of us started doing. And then as soon as we turned 14 or 15, we started volunteering.  

Jack Mattson: It was the same time as Jack. First or second grade. I’ve done it for seven or eight years? I would pretty much do one to two weeks and then I started doing every single week.  

How has it been going from being an Owl Camper to an Owl Camp volunteer?  

Jack McCarthy-Smith: Well, I find it really fun, because you are outside. I do enjoy being around the campers. They’re very happy and cheerful and usually not very negative and there’s also the reward of service hours. An incentive, I guess. It does look good on a college resume.  

Jack Mattson: When you’re a volunteer you have more responsibilities, but you really get to help out and help younger kids understand a lot more things about the area. I would recommend doing this to others because it’s a really good opportunity to learn about the environment and experience being out and helping others.  


How has Owl Camp impacted your life?  

Jack McCarthy-Smith: It’s made me very focused to always be there. I dedicate roughly five weeks of my life every year to Owl Camp. I try to do the max. You get to know some of the returning campers and the staff. It’s been really fun. One really great moment happened last year. The first week we started we had a camper that had pretty much never been out in the woods and was terrified of getting poison oak and touching plants. She wasn’t very interested in going in the creek or the pond. By the end of the week, she was totally cool. She could identify plants. She said, “I’m ready to go out!” It was so great to watch her slowly get over that fear.  

It’s also a great way to build friendships. That’s how both of us (gesturing at Jack) got to know each other. It’s fun to watch younger campers get that connection as well.  

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