High Summer

Greetings from Hilltop. It’s another beautiful day here on the shores of Westsound. It’s warm, though not uncomfortably so, like many parts of the country. The campers know how things work at camp, know their schedules, know their cabinmates and counselors. We’re right in the middle of the session. As an adult, it can be tempting to want to shake them out of their stupor, to say, “Camp will be over before you know it! Be sure to treasure every moment!” And sometimes I do. But, it’s also beautiful to just let them be in the moment of high summer at summer camp in the San Juan Islands, not thinking about anything else. We should all be so lucky.

It’s been a great and full week at camp. We’ve had our Fourth of July parade and festivities. We had Ruth Brown Day, a surprise day filled with tradition and adventure, centered around an all day scavenger hunt filled with characters and different themes. Lots of intermediate campers got to go on their trips. Campers sailed on Carlyn. Of course, we had regular classes and evening activities.

Tomorrow, the Seniors depart on their trips. Intermediate trips are a fantastic introduction, but with older campers, they get a real immersion in the trip experience, with 6 days and 5 nights in sea kayaks, war canoes, a sailboat, or backpacking in Olympic National Park. When people ask me what makes camp work, my most basic response is that we take young people out of their normal environment and put them in a novel, natural environment with different adult supports than the ones they’re used to. To that, we add challenge and intentional group dynamics. And that, with apologies to anyone who likes to say that camp is magic, is about 80% of it.

Trips are perhaps the purest distillation of that model. The challenge is the key part. For a 10 year old camper coming for the first time, getting on the bus and being away from home for four weeks is plenty of challenge. There’s no need to add more. But for our oldest campers, many who have been coming for years and think of camp as their most comfortable place, we’ve got to up the ante a little. Going out on trips is the perfect challenge. It’s real, but attainable. Campers are often a little nervous going on Senior Trips for the first time, or even the second. There’s the sense of the unknown, the physicality, the different group of campers and staff that they’ll be with for the next six days. Having been here for a long time, I’m quite used to seeing the seniors be a little bit nervous on their way out here. We get updates from the trips when they’re out there, but they tend to be about logistics and check ins. It’s not until the trips actually return that we see the campers proud of what they’ve accomplished, bolstered by new friendships made and old ones renewed inside their trip groups, but also thrilled to see their friends coming back from other trips, so looking forward to their last few days of the session together. It’s a sight to see.

But, we don’t want to jump ahead too much. While the Seniors are out on their trips, we’ll have a wonderful week here in camp with the Juniors and Intermediates. We’ll have the smaller group, so everyone gets just a bit more attention. The 13 year olds, out of nowhere, are the oldest kids in camp and get to practice their leadership. We’ll have special traditions for the campers, most notably Burger Bar on Wednesday. At Burger Bar, the Heads will give the kitchen staff the night off, dress themselves and the Lodge in a theme, and cook burgers, fries, and milkshakes for the whole camp. Each cabin will dress up in its own theme, and have a chance to show it off at flags. For Evening Activity, we’ll watch a movie projected onto a sail in the Boat Barn (the only screen time of the whole session). Kids really look forward to it. I have staff that have specifically requested not to have that day off. (I promise I am not making this up.) It’ll be a ball.

And through it all, we’ll be enjoying high summer at camp in the San Juan Islands. It’s a beautiful thing, and everyone here, myself included, is lucky to be a part of it. Thank you for sharing your children with us. Be sure to follow our daily updates on our Instagram stories, and we’ll see you back here in a week.