Summer Camp Questions
September 24, 2003 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Did you ever go to summer camp? Today I ran across the Adirondack camp and was struck by the beauty of the pictures on the site. However, I was stunned by the expense when I looked at their tuition rates. All of my summer camp experiences were at Boy Scout camps (Philmont, Emerald Bay, El Rancho Cima and Camp Orr). I never knew it before, but there are lots of kinds of camps: fine arts camps, camps for disabled children, camps affiliated with various churches and other organizations. So, did you go to camp? What was it like?
posted by Irontom (50 comments total)
Do you ever long to go back? Does anyone here still work at a camp? Know a camp owner? Is there anything equivalent for adults?
posted by Irontom at 12:49 PM on September 24, 2003

do you mean like camp camp?

i went to a state-funded arts summer camp in nj and had one of those "greatest of my life"-type experiences. impressionable youth and all.
posted by armacy at 12:58 PM on September 24, 2003

Is camp camp aimed at the general adult population or just the GLBT community?
posted by Irontom at 1:03 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to Philmont when I was 15. It was a life-changing experience. I cannot wait until I have a son and I can go with him (assuming, of course I have a son and he wants to go when he's 15...)
posted by zsazsa at 1:04 PM on September 24, 2003

I hit Philmont in '93, and I have to agree, it's a remarkable experience, as much as backpacking with other smelly guys for two weeks can be.

The best part was when my best friend beat the snot out of this little whiner we had on our trip. Now *that* was a life-changing experience.

I worked at Boy Scout camps as summer employment all the years I was in high school. It probably doesn't bear mentioning, but it's funny how camp counselors, when not around campers, become unsavory characters.
posted by rocketman at 1:16 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to Mitre Peak Girl Scout Camp in the Davis Mts. in Texas and loved it. One of the best memories was a counselor reading James and the Giant Peach to the whole camp during flash flooding while we took cover at the highest point in the camp.
posted by lobakgo at 1:23 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to a Commodore-camp , where all of us aspiring geeks played with our Amigas. Naturally we swapped a lot of warez. And of course, confirmation camp, the Evangelical Lutheran church's finest recruitment tool, especially around here.
posted by lazy-ville at 1:25 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to a crappy camp, but I worked as a whitewater guide at an upscale girls' camp all through college. Being a male counselor at a girls' camp is the greatest experience on Earth. No kids to live with and five adult women for every guy!

As for the price of camp, it's worth it. I'm as down-to-earth as folks come, but the amount of fun and new experiences at a good camp is money well-spent if you can afford it. Nobody is getting rich off those camps, anyway. The owner might make a profit, but most camp owners either inherited the camp from the dead relative than founded it in the early 1900's or were already wealthy when they bought it. They outlay on food and maintenance is astounding (even if the staffing's pretty cheap).
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:37 PM on September 24, 2003

I was in the ol' scouts, and as far as I can remeber, Philmont isn't exactly cheap. Regular, close to home scout camp was about $100 per kid for a week, which is cheap. While I'm sure there are some god-awfully expensive camps out there, I wouldn't exactly be complaining if you could afford philmont and the other camps ;)
posted by efalk at 1:48 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to a camp that no longer exists ( Camp Olympus ). It was quite an experience. I ended up getting thrown out, after misbehaving once too often. At one point, amazingly, they confined me to the office of the camp for a period of a few days. I cannot recall being that bad, but who knows. Overall it was quite stimulating but a few things I culd have done without. Two words -- color war.
posted by RubberHen at 1:54 PM on September 24, 2003

...and then this one time? at band camp?
posted by keswick at 1:58 PM on September 24, 2003

I was pretty lucky in the summer camp department - maybe being an only child, or maybe my parents were just deperate to get the hell rid of me. Went to Ranger Rick nature camp, Space Camp (overrated, and no space shuttle launch), Sail Caribbean. Plus two summers at academic summer camp/school, which I dreaded but turned out to be one of the best experiences of my adolescence. (Fellow nerds!)

Probably the coolest camp was with Skinner Brothers in the Wyoming mountains, a kind of survivalist butt-kicking kind of outdoor thing. On the survival hike part we caught fish, trapped rodents with horsehair nooses, and shot a beaver - and ate em all with gusto.
posted by gottabefunky at 2:03 PM on September 24, 2003

This is where the evil adults maliciously and repeatedly threw me into the dirty red water of eastern Oklahoma under the lame pretense of "teaching me to swim", thereby emotionally scarring me for life and contributing to the festering wound of rage and resentment that is my soul.

Oh, and we made lanyards.
posted by yhbc at 2:06 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to an one-night camp for christ or some such deal and it was awful. the other campers messed with my food, chased me around with super soakers, and popped water balloons in my sleeping bag. they also beat up on me.
posted by mcsweetie at 2:12 PM on September 24, 2003

at band camp?

Well, band camp...

Heh. In all seriousness, my parents couldn't wait to offload us to summer camp. I think it was the happiest time of year for them, really. Mostly, we went to girl scout camp...which was kind of a bummer for my brother...until high school... (I kid...I kid.)

I loved summer camp. We did all kinds of groovy things...field trips to Washington DC, backpacking through the Blue Ridge Mountains, sailing to the Bahamas, scuba diving in the keys...other than the mosquitos, I can't remember better times as a kid than summer camp.
posted by dejah420 at 2:12 PM on September 24, 2003

I had fun with the Timex/Sinclair 1000 at a religious computer camp, but the less said about that the better.
posted by gluechunk at 2:15 PM on September 24, 2003

Interlocken. Yeah, it ruled. It's a very cool organization, running many programs beyond the summer camp, as well. Very much international. They focus on arts, community service, outdoor activities... and do them well. Not just in the summer camp, but in all of their programs.
posted by whatnotever at 2:28 PM on September 24, 2003

I remember going to scout camp at Melawkwa (sp?) near McKenzie Pass in Oregon. It was this run-down camp near a beautiful lake. I still remember having to get the tetanus shots from stepping on the rusty nails and the rain that soaked us out the last day of camp, as we tried in vain to light a fire by pouring on girl scout juice (lighter fluid, neat name huh?)

One year a bunch of us brought water guns - the Supersoaker CPS 2000 variety with the huge barrels and one gallon capacity. We started raiding the other campsites and apparently got one nearby troop so nervous the female scoutmaster felt threatened and tried to get us thrown out of camp. It might have been a big deal but I think us guys were too busy looking at the first pr0n magazine any of us had every seen! OMG! Look at that woman!

And then a hike up the Middle Sister (tall nearby mountain), where this guy was throwing rocks at chipmunks and the leader warned him he'd have to eat it if he killed one. Well, as I found out, chipmunk tastes pretty good, though there's little meat on them.

And then it rained. Every camping memory in Oregon ends with that.
posted by Happydaz at 2:31 PM on September 24, 2003

One of my best summers ever.
posted by Grod at 2:32 PM on September 24, 2003

I'm a veteran of Camp Hough, Camp Sam Wood, Camp Seneca Lake, and I've even got a bit of Pok-O-MacCready in me! Which, for those of you who have been living in some sort of goddam hole, is the birthplace of the fabled, and always controversial Patch Sprint!
posted by Oddly at 2:41 PM on September 24, 2003

I worked at a camp all through high school and it's still by far the best job I've ever had. Getting paid to play with kids and your friend all day cannot be beat.
posted by fancypants at 2:42 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to Camp Hackenslash this summer. Does that count?
posted by majcher at 2:44 PM on September 24, 2003

Ah yes. Summer camp. One more of those weird American traditions.
posted by salmacis at 3:19 PM on September 24, 2003

Went to camp for other kids with Cystic Fibrosis, which was great fun until I turned 13 and all my friends started dying. I didn't go back after that year. It was too depressing to sit around with my remaining friends and talk about who was dead and dying.

I also did a "Man and his land" (now defunct) camp for two summers sailing around the Carribean on a big sailboat. Learned to sail, cook, clean the boat, navigate, race. Pretty cool. That one wasn't cheap, though.

Also did girl scout camp, which sucked.
posted by aacheson at 3:24 PM on September 24, 2003

"Ah yes. Summer camp. One more of those weird rich white Eastern American traditions"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:25 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to The Paula Program at St. Mary's College for two summers.

Totally life-changing.

When I went, it was a pretty small program, maybe 30 girls total. There was some math, but it was mostly liberal-arts oriented. Really it was best described as "smart girls' young feminist camp"

But it was the first time I ever really spent time just around other "smart" girls. At age 13, that was incredibly liberating. I met one of my best friends there, and years and years later, we still keep in touch. She was the first vaguely goth/punk person I had ever met in real life. (I went to a Catholic school in Kentucky, I was sheltered) I finally realized that I had always felt out of place trying to conform, and, wow, maybe I didn't actually have to. This was huge.

Also, got introduced to a lot of cool literature, took part in my first real writing workshop, it was good stuff. If I ever have a daugher, I hope I can give her an opportunity like this.
posted by antimony at 3:47 PM on September 24, 2003

Am I the only person who sorely resented being shipped off to summer camp every damn summer? The summer when I turned 15 and was able to get a job rather than going away to Camp Mosquitoes-Hell-and-Sunburn was the most glorious summer of my life.

Maybe I went to the wrong camp.
posted by catfood at 3:51 PM on September 24, 2003

I also went to a computer camp one summer, which provokes a lot of eye-rolling and "that explains a lot" comments from my friends when I mention it to them.

Actually it was pretty much like regular camp (I attended a few of those too) except instead of making lanyards we went into a cabin set up with a bunch of C64s and wrote Logo.

Unfortunately, though I have a few good memories from those summer camps, I also have a lot of bad memories. It often felt like I was in a budget production of Lord of the Flies and if I didn't settle into a good social sphere early on it would be a painful experience.

Once the social pecking order was worked out, the more aggressive kids would pass abuse down the ladder, and as a not-very-aggressive kid who was not too high on the ladder, I remember being the subject of some unpleasant pranks. Toothpaste in the hair, clothes soaked with water, that kind of thing.

But the kick-the-can game after dark, and the high-rope thing that reminds me of the "Eliminator" from The Secret War of Lisa Simpson -- those were fun.
posted by hashashin at 3:57 PM on September 24, 2003

I went to Adirondack Camp in 1985. It was wonderful! Thanks so much for the link, Irontom.

...and as I recall, yes, most of my fellow campers were rich kids from New York City.
posted by bradlauster at 4:14 PM on September 24, 2003

Field Hockey camp: three weeks of soggy torture that only repressed suburban teenage girls could devise and withstand. A better experience was Telluride Association Summer Program, totally free, in the lovely bohemian hills of Ithaca, NY. More joy, less sheet toothpasting.
posted by onlyconnect at 4:44 PM on September 24, 2003

When I was 15 or so I spent one of the best weeks of my life canoeing around Lake Rotorua and Lake Rotoiti, camping every night in a different location and spending the better part of every day on the water. The fact that there were about 15 guys and only 3 girls created a little tension, but that just added to the fun as we all clamoured for attention. The best part was probably shooting the weir between the lakes - pretty easy the first time (downstream), but a real challenge the second time (upstream).
posted by dg at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2003

I was very, very deeply involved with a small, two-week, all-girls summer camp in New Hampshire. I was a camper from the age of 8-17, and then I was a counselor there for several years. The place is very cult-like, it practically took an intervention to get me out of the organization.

there is something particularly hellish and scary about a group of 30+ grown women running a camp for 60 girls -- women ranging in age from 18 to their 60s, all of whom care very, very deply about something as inconsequential as an all-girls, two-week summer camp in New Hampshire.

It's like, after all these years, I have my life back. Camp can be evil.
posted by palegirl at 5:04 PM on September 24, 2003

mr_crash_davis--Sure, my summer camp marked by the red star was awash with rich, white, Eastern American kids. Not. There are actually a number of camps for underprivileged kids and many camps have scholarships or reduced fees for kids who need it. Us paroles can make lanyards too.
posted by lobakgo at 5:14 PM on September 24, 2003

Errr...that should be proles. Thank you, spell check. Although I'm sure there are camps for juvenile delinquents too.
posted by lobakgo at 5:24 PM on September 24, 2003

That's funny, Grod. I didn't think it was *that* great. But I wasn't really into the whole arts thing, anyway. I guess I enjoyed some parts, though. Certainly a nifty place, now that I think back...
posted by whatnotever at 5:36 PM on September 24, 2003

Crash: Scout camp was $150 for me. I think we raised the money for it through candy bar sales or something. So no on the white male privilege thing (although it WAS Oregon, and I dont' recall ever seeing a single black kid at camp.)
posted by Happydaz at 5:40 PM on September 24, 2003

Yawgoog Scout Reservation. Every year.

Scouting is probably the most affordable summer camp program available today; my son's week at Bear Creek Scout Reservation was only $150 this year (or which fundraising paid half). Even so, Councils do scholarships and reduced fees as a matter of course for units with financial woes.

It probably doesn't bear mentioning, but it's funny how camp counselors, when not around campers, become unsavory characters.

I think that's true for most teenagers. 8)
posted by Cerebus at 5:46 PM on September 24, 2003

I loved camp. I went to a few general-activities camps, then spent seven summers at a riding camp. No canoes, no lanyards, no archery, just horses and a swimming pool and forty (mostly rich, white, Eastern) girls.

I was a nervous kid and only felt safe on horseback. Camp sort of loosened me up. Pranks were equal opportunity; no one got singled out. We all got the cold-water hose over the shower wall and the underwear on the flagpole.

One summer, a bunch of girls put everything of mine up on the rafters of the dorm: the bed, the bookcase, the trunk, the laundry bag, etc. They even ran an extension cord up there to power my bedside light and re-made the bed once they'd moved it. It was priceless. (Yes, when we stopped laughing, everyone helped me get my stuff back on the ground.)

I think the social structure worked because we were intensely competitive riders, and the best riders weren't necessarily the coolest kids. Everything balanced out, and I have so many great memories. Thanks for bringing them back, Irontom.
posted by swerve at 5:47 PM on September 24, 2003

efalk -

I should have been clearer. The four camps I mentioned were spread over several years (I hit Rancho Cima several times). I spent an entire spring season mowing lawns and saving my money so I could afford the Philmont fee. (the site is currently not responding, but but the basic fee in 1998 was $325). We (one adult and three scouts) drove for 18 hours to get there. It was the greatest 3 weeks of my life.

Twenty years later, I still have vivid memories of sitting on the side of a mountain, watching a thunderstorm trapped between two peaks across the valley. Of coming across a field of wild strawberries beside a tiny mountain stream while we were lost. Of stars beyond number filling the night sky. Of my 2 best friends, back when we were 14 and still thought we were gonna be the kings of the world (summer of 83, if memory serves).

I still see bits and pieces of that trek in my dreams, too. I've been thinking about this for the last couple of months, and it's gotten me re-evaluating my life, trying to decide exactly where I got off the path that I wanted to follow, and thinking about how to get back to it. I've spent too much time trapped behind a desk, and not nearly enough time outdoors.
posted by Irontom at 6:58 PM on September 24, 2003

Haven't we all?
posted by dg at 7:33 PM on September 24, 2003

I worked at an upscale camp in New Mexico for a few years. It was called Brush Ranch and Disney actually did a reality show called Bug Juice about it. My absolute fondest memories from my childhood are from the week-long camp I attended that costed about $100 per kid. I believe the tuition at Brush Ranch was around $3000-$5000 for 4-6 weeks but the counselors were lucky to make a grand for 3 months work.
posted by Ugh at 8:45 PM on September 24, 2003

Costed? As you can see, academics weren't part of the curriculum.
posted by Ugh at 8:47 PM on September 24, 2003

The teen years saw me galivanting off to various ballet 'camps' but when I was younger I not only experienced all the Girl Scout camps anywhere near the greater Dallas area, I went to Philmont, too.

Apparently, the birth of two females drove my father to become a Boy Scout leader of our local church's troop, which meant I got to tag along to Philmont and make irritating goo-goo eyes and cootie remarks to his troops. Heh.
posted by romakimmy at 9:28 AM on September 25, 2003

Amongst other tennis camps, I went to the Nike Tennis Camp at Pepperdine University, which is not the Nike sponsored nightmare you could imagine it to be. Great idea to have that camp in a university - as a teenager it's fun to find yourself in student dorms and mingling with students at lunch. Good tennis and other activities (like "casino night" where you gamble for candy..)
posted by ruelle at 9:31 AM on September 25, 2003

I never went to camp, too expensive for the middle son of a sheet metal worker. I did hang around outside a lot though in my teens. You could smoke there.

*nods to jonmc, sips at a gin-and-juice, cranks up the Springsteen, sneers enviously*
posted by UncleFes at 9:56 AM on September 25, 2003


Fes, i dont think jonmc posted to this thread...
posted by Irontom at 10:55 AM on September 25, 2003

I'm STILL nodding to him!
posted by UncleFes at 11:01 AM on September 25, 2003

I went to Girl Scout Day Camp for two summers and went to another day camp called Mohawk Summer Camp in Naperville, IL for three years. Girl Scout camp was OK and I really liked Mohawk.

I didn't go to any overnight camps until the summer after eighth grade. Then I went to an academic camp called Mindpower '87 at Manchester College in Indiana. That was fun...I kept in touch with some of my friends there for years afterward. The summer after freshman year of high school I went to Illinois Teenage Institute. At that time it took place at a 4-H camp in Monticello (I think), not at a college campus like it does now. It was absolutely one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

The summer after senior year of high school I went to a French immersion camp at Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy and then to the Washington Journalism Seminar at American University. That last one was 95% rich Eastern kids, 4% rich kids from other places and 1% non-rich kids (like me). They were actually pretty cool though. : )
posted by SisterHavana at 11:47 AM on September 25, 2003

Great post, brings back memories of Yard's Creek Boy Scout camp, spent several summers there. There are enough memories from there to make a song, for sure: cutting my finger instead of the orange before I had the official "permission" to use a knife (what was that card called)?

The camp was on land adjacent to a big pumping station, during the night they pumped water up a massive 10' diameter pipe, and during peak electricity demand let the water rush back down to drive a hydroelectric generator. It would be cool to ride the water back down if it wasn't for the huge turbine to get ground up in...

The water in the lake had alot of algae in it, very slimy. Merit badges: Archery, Rifleshooting?, Fishing, Swimming, Basketry, Canoeing, etc. At night, a lantern lit up the latrine area, we called it the "Beacon of Hope". Many games of Pit and Skip-bo. I quit my first, and worst, job ever from a pay phone up there, no more slinging 50 pound bags of horse feed or stitching smelly horse blankets.

Lifechanging: I was playing around throwing rocks at a chipmunk on the way to dinner one night, and I hit the poor guy, hard. Twitching, dead. Sad. Disappointed in myself (did anyone else care?).

Heh, for a Leatherworking merit badge, I made some sort of Public Enemy embossed thang, with, of course, a lanyard attached... I seem to remember some shenanigans, we rang the bell at the chapel on the lonely side of the lake with a slingshot, scared the crap out of the waterfront dude, he thought it was the danger alarm bell. Oh, and the ole "kiss the blarney stone" gag, that was fun.

I'm reading Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man right now. What is my relationship with the boy that attended summer camp 15 years ago? Is it possible to communicate with him? What has changed about me? Who cares?
posted by joecacti at 1:54 PM on September 25, 2003

If someone can afford to send their kid to a $6000 summer camp, they can afford to do something more worthwhile for their kid. Or with their kid.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:26 AM on September 26, 2003

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