The setting of Camp Moss Hollow couldn't be more different from Washington, perched as it is on a mountainside in Fauquier County.

Naturally, the sights and sounds are different, too. Today my assistant, Alex MacCallum, reports on the animals and plants that call it home.

Last summer, a group of unsuspecting campers took a routine hike through the woods of Moss Hollow. As they trudged upward, a few of the campers at the front of the line started screaming and running.

"I just heard a whole bunch of kids running down the hill, screaming. Then I saw it, and I started running," said Brittany Carethers, 14.

A brown bear had wandered onto the hikers' path, startling the young urbanites.

But after a few minutes, the calmed campers continued their hike, despite the run-in.

"He wasn't, like, humongous. He was just a cub," Brittany said.

The bear, on the other hand, high-tailed it out of there the minute it saw the incoming campers. "It just started running down the hill," said leadership trainee Renate Padmore, 19.

The encounter became the most talked-about incident of the summer.

"The stories that came out of it, some were far-fetched and some were just made up," said Michael Shirley, a program director at Moss Hollow. "The bear went from three feet tall in some stories to 12 feet tall. A lot of kids have never seen a bear, so they were excited."

Brittany Holloway, 16, who was a camper at Moss Hollow for six years, has heard about the incident. "I wish I'd seen it," she said.

In her years at camp, Brittany saw a woodpecker, a three-legged fox, deer and other animals. But her favorite animals are snakes. "I saw a snake once. It was black and not too interesting," she said, sounding disappointed.

This summer, Brittany will be a leadership trainee -- a highly sought-after position, similar to a counselor-in-training, for which many former campers apply. She'll be on the lookout for bears and snakes.

Most of the kids who attend Moss Hollow have never seen many of the animals they encounter at camp. "I found a lot of kids hadn't seen a deer in the wild, or a raccoon," Shirley said.

Shirley said many of the boys like to search for animals in the creek. They look for crayfish, water bugs, frogs and the rare but exciting box turtle. On hikes, campers sometimes spot foxes, tree squirrels, lizards and deer.

"They generally ask a lot of questions when they run across an animal, like where they live and things of that sort. We try to answer as best we can," said Shirley.

Moss Hollow is set on a series of rolling hills, surrounded by hundreds of acres of forest. The place is teeming with wildlife.

But the staff also teaches the campers about animals they probably wouldn't happen upon on a hike. Last summer, Hope Asterilla, director of the camp, invited educators from the Wildlife Center of Virginia to come to Moss Hollow and teach campers about birds native to Virginia.

Megan August, the center's education coordinator, gave one of the presentations. Bringing a red-tailed hawk, a kestrel and a great horned owl, she told the kids about birds of prey. She then took the birds out of their cages and explained each bird's story.

"The kids were really receptive to it," Megan said.

Even the seasoned leadership trainees were impressed. "I've never seen big pretty birds like that," Renate said. "It was really interesting."

Megan emphasized that introducing kids to nature early is important. "The key to getting kids to be environmentally conscious is to have them learn about it at a young age, to instill in them a sense of respect and care for nature," she said.

In turn, nature provides a nurturing environment for the campers. Asterilla said she believes that being surrounded by nature is healing for kids from the noisy city. And interacting with nature becomes a learning process.

"They see a snake basking on a rock, waiting for a mouse. It shows them that the snake controls the field mice population," she said. "It allows kids to see themselves as part of the big picture. It lets them understand the cycle of nature."

Send a Kid to Camp

Our Send a Kid to Camp campaign needs to raise $750,000 by July 23 to support summer activities at Camp Moss Hollow. As of yesterday, Washington Post readers had donated $187,017.05.

Here's how you can contribute: Make a check or money order payable to "Send a Kid to Camp" and mail it to: Attention, Lockbox, Department 0500, Washington, D.C. 20073-0500.

To contribute online, go to www.washingtonpost.com/camp. Click on the icon that says, "Make Your Tax-Deductible Donation."

To contribute by phone with Visa or MasterCard, call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in KIDS, or 5437, and follow the instructions.

Salad Days

Our partners in fundraising for Camp Moss Hollow are area McCormick & Schmick's Seafood and M&S Grill restaurants. The proceeds from certain menu items every Wednesday are donated to the campaign. Today it's the spinach salad with strawberries at McCormick and Schmick's and the traditional Caesar salad with croutons and spiced pecans at M&S Grill. Bon appetit!