Wallowa County’s Divide Camp for vets looking toward expansion

A young veteran was released from treatment for severe PTSD symptoms just two weeks before, arrived at Divide Camp last summer. He was angry, scared and miserable.

A six-day nature hike through the mountains and woods surrounding the facility on the Sheep Creek Divide, around 18 miles from Joseph, allowed him to find new confidence, including catching his first fish with a fly rod.

“When he came out, the smile on his face just radiated joy,” said camp director Julie Wheeler. “Those are the things that really excite me.”

Divide Camp, a nonprofit dedicated to the healing of psychological and physical wounds of post 9-11 veterans, served the needs of 44 veterans during its 2017 season. It was the camp’s fifth year of operation.

The program allows veterans to reconnect with themselves and loved ones through nature in the form of backpacking, hunting, fishing, whitewater rafting and other outdoor pursuits.

Wheeler said that veterans have bagged 12 elk thus far with Divide Camp tags donated by local landowners and ranchers. One rancher even specified he only wanted amputees to hunt on his property.

The camp’s therapeutic benefits are not derived through mental health therapists, but from the landscape and the veterans themselves.

“Two kinds of therapy happen at Divide Camp: The campfire and the front porch,” Wheeler said.

The director has 23 years experience in working with traumatic stress.

The camp has not been without its critics. A war of words erupted on Facebook earlier this year.

Wheeler said the camp specifically serves

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