Pinecrest is over and the TOPS niners are back. Every year you can watch the nervous, divided incoming class transform before your eyes into a strongly-bonded unit. Smiles replace gazes once avoiding each other in the halls. Hands move faster than ever to help others out and teachers get annoyed of the chatter that wasn’t there before. What’s so unique about this is that it takes not a year to form such everlasting bonds, but a mere four days. We call these four days Camp Pinecrest– the origin of many inside jokes that last through the years.

What makes Pinecrest so successful in integrating the freshman class together? I think that it’s the powerful feeling of belonging that hits you the moment you arrive. It’s not about the zip-lining or the kayaking adventures, although those are pretty cool. It’s more the timeless traditions that you get to be a part of. Things done every year that you feel grateful are passed to you, because of the amazing sense of togetherness they create. I’m sure not many will forget the table-shaking chant shouted with vigor every breakfast, lunch and dinner at Kakindewin, or Secret TOPS(SHH!).

The seniors are also another reason why these trips are remembered with such fondness. These people, after having experienced Pinecrest in their first year, come back and somewhat relive the incredible memories they had. They help lead the niners and are happy to act silly. They make Pinecrest a place where you can be who you are and connect with people.

The TOPS spirit that is brought every year to Pinecrest makes it something unforgettable, and that spirit is the reason why again and again this trip is so successful. And if not that, there’s always something about the Muskoka air.