Archive for July, 2014

Tracy Bachmann | July 30, 2014

Smallest to tallest

Today I ventured into no-woman’s land. That’s to say, I ate lunch in boy’s camp. [Side note, did you know that women were not allowed past the infirmary until 1966? That’s a whole other blog post!] And OH, how much fun did I have?!

First of all, lunch was incredible. Pork loin cooked to perfection (thank you Lois), mashed potatoes, apple sauce, broccoli, bread and pumpkin cake for desert. I *tried* to avoid the cake, but Lordy, it was just too good.

The bugle calls the waiters to lunch ten minutes early. They line up in the kitchen, trays of food in hand, and once the rest of camp is in the dining room, the waiters process in.

Smallest to tallest.

Boys line up in order from smallest to tallest!

Waiters line up in order from youngest cabin to the oldest cabin.

And I have to tell you guys, I got choked up. I watched the smallest boy, a young man that I don’t know much at all, walk past me – carefully, wobbly, balancing the tray of food for his cabin. Next, the Colt division, slightly more confident. Then the Labrador puppies of camp, the Juniors (their bodies haven’t quite caught up to their feet, you know?!) sort of gallop past. And finally our oldest waiter. Senior, Davis Altorfer, *fourth generation* Highlands man and a boy I’ve known since he was *this big*, strolled through the door, confidently wielding his tray, looking around, laughing. It was like I saw the face of *my* son pass quickly by, through the ages to ultimately end up six feet tall, with a goofy bandana around his head (but totally rocking it, you know?!). You don’t know when these moments are going to sneak up on you, but man-oh-man. It got me today.

All weepiness aside, there are incredible moments in that dining room, hidden away from us lady-folk, specially reserved for campers and staff men. Moments like when Kent Taylor was recognized by Kent Overbey for climbing the stone fireplace blindfolded and then teaching a class to graduate Adventure/Ropes. Like when the boys that got stuck in the kitchen just before announcements reappeared from the kitchen and everyone clapped for them! (So funny!) Like when Andy blessed the mysterious aroma of the garlic bread (what?!). We all know that breaking bread with people is sacred, but I’d offer that at Camp, these meals are extra special.

The boys haven’t realized it yet, but they’re changed beings after this third week. As we ease into the last week, it’ll sneak up on them. And they’ll be processing the changes that have taken place this summer all year long. Camp just gets under your skin that way.

This summer. This life! It MOVES, folks. Here we are ten days out from the end of our 111th summer. I don’t want it to stop! We have so much further to hike! So many more balls to throw. So many more times to jump into Plum. But it’s looming out there.

For now, I’ll sit lakeside, talk to my future Senior campers in the boating bay and discover the mystery of garlic bread. I’m not ready to pack up yet!

And on that note…

I ❤ CH // tracy b.

6 Responses

  1. Carol Viliani Bachmann says:
    July 30th, 2014 at 11:27 pm

    Tracy, thank you once again for your down to earth, comedic and inspirational mom thoughts. I so look forward to it them:)))

  2. Becky says:
    July 30th, 2014 at 11:32 pm

    Crying over here…

  3. Scott Altorfer says:
    July 30th, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Beautifully written, Tracy! I can sooo picture Davis from your description.

  4. Kevin Robertson says:
    July 31st, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Ok Tracy, I just craughed (cried/laughed?) for the first time. Didn’t know those two emotional responses could be elicited from a blog. If only there were cyber tissues.
    And now I’m hungry.

    Thank you. Really.

  5. Kristin says:
    July 31st, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Tracy—You got me!! Wasn’t expecting the tears……the beauty of camp….

  6. Jose Cubillos says:
    July 31st, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks so much for your posts. Laura and I read them religiously as they always bring smiles to our faces just thinking about our boy and how many awesome experiences he is having. We can’t wait to get to Camp next week and see everybody. Thanks again for the wonderful writing. Jose.

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Andy Bachmann | July 29, 2014

Tales from Tower Three

Anyone who has been to camp knows of our famous towers. Our lake neighbors love to come down and gawk as the boys perform feats of courage and craziness as they leap into the air, 18 feet above the water.

From down on the dock, the towers are really not that daunting. But once you climb them, and stand on that third platform in particular, it can seem like you’re 500 feet off the surface. And it can be intimidating. I still get nervous when I stand up there.

So the other day when I saw a camper from way down in Cabin 25 take his first step off Tower Three I knew I got to witness one of the greatest moments of the summer.

There are lots of “firsts” at Camp. First time you paddle a kayak, first time you get up on water skis – heck! – first time you are away from your parents home for more that a night! And we love to celebrate those “firsts.” We celebrate them because we know how special they are. We know how important they are in helping to shape these young men lives into our Worthwhile Man line that says, “Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.”

Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.

“Give me the courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can.” The little guy who *jumped* pictured above.

That little guy from Cabin 25 stood on Tower Three for 45 minutes. Then the bugle blew, calling the waiters to come get supper ready. But the lifeguards didn’t budge. And neither did his cousins (all 4 of them). Everybody stood by, eyes to the sky, waiting.

He’d walk to the edge, then skitter back. He’d try to take a running start, only to stop short. He stood there for an eternity. Finally his cousins climbed up, and jumped off, to show him how easy it can be. One of our lifeguards went up and jumped off, showing him how he could do it. But still, he waited…

Finally, first call blew, calling all of us to supper. And suddenly he did it – he took off of that tower and even before he hit the water the roar of the crowd erupted. It was awesome. He emerged from the water triumphant – beaming with pride and accomplishment.

All of our sons are experiencing plenty of soul-stretching, discomforting moments of first-ness all the time. And when they do something new the smiles that shine forth from their faces are those of young men who know that they are living into a new reality; a world where they are beginning to get the sense that if they set their mind to something, then chances are good that they can accomplish it. Whether it’s jumping off Tower Three for the first time, or simply being away from mom and dad for four weeks. It is a special thing to witness those breakthrough moments. And it is a moment that I don’t think any of us will soon forget.

Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.

Andy B.

4 Responses

  1. Kevin Robertson says:
    July 30th, 2014 at 7:43 am

    Good morning Andy,
    What a beautiful, moving, tear-inducing post. Your words make me want to jump off something. Perhaps I’ll start with this sofa and move on fiercely to leaving the comfy confines of my executive chair.
    What you and your staff, as well as Tracy and her poetic blogs, do for these boys, and for us tearfully appreciative families back home, is beyond worthwhile. We’re all better off for CH.
    Thank you so much for making this happen. For making my boys into solid, tower jumping little men.
    Now push Ty and Noah off that darn thing.

  2. Donnie Adams says:
    July 30th, 2014 at 8:10 am

    I will never forget the cheer when I finally made it off of there; truly one of the most affirming moments of my life. I’m not sure I even realized the impact of those moments on my life, but I don’t think anyone could put it better Andy – it is because of these moments, surrounded by such support and encouragement, that I continue to push myself into an unknown, knowing I’ll be ok.

    Thanks CH

  3. Jim Loomis says:
    July 30th, 2014 at 4:44 pm

    I was also one of the campers that stood on tower three for a long time before I got enough courage to jump off. That was my first year at camp, as a Junior. After that first jump you couldn’t keep me off of it. Soon I was diving off of it. I was even afraid to go water skiing. Again once I got the courage I never stopped skiing. I even was a ski instructor once in a while when I was a counselor. Camp is the best place in the world to try and excel at new activities.

  4. Hayden Bingham says:
    August 7th, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    I realize that this is for parents, but I’m going to come back as a CIT next year so… (close enough?)
    Anyway, I will say that the Towers (specifically T. III) are some decent practice for (supervised!) cliff jumping on some of the trips (Chapel Beach Cliffs on Pictured Rocks Nat. Lakeshore, and the Pictograph Cliffs on the Basswood River in BWCAW (Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness))
    “Hands on life-vest, Elbows against sides, Push away from cliff-face, Legs straight, Feet pointed, Enjoy the ride.”
    Although, the towers at camp are somewhat less rudimentary than a rock precipice jutting out from a 65 ft cliff (BWCAW).

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Tracy Bachmann | July 27, 2014

Highlands Time

Whew!! What a weekend! Have you had a chance to look through the gallery? Yesterday was a gorgeous day. Hot and sunny. It may have been the best day all summer! The Steeplechase, Senior Carnival and Games on the Hill were EPIC. Call me crazy, but it’s a day like yesterday that really makes camp feel like a big family. We are bonded after participating in decades-old traditions. One hundred and eleven. Now that’s a birthday, you guys. We did our very best to celebrate in style!

The biggest Seniors start off the race with a bang.

The biggest Seniors start off the race with a bang.

Today it seems like someone must have known that we were tired and gave us a cool, quiet and intermittently rainy day. The kind of day that makes turkey dinner taste especially good!

During Sunday Assembly, we got to take a look at some old medium-format photos of camp from *way* back in the day. Andy walked us through a little history of the first few summers at camp, when the boys simply felled trees and cleared the space for what is now Junior Hill (not sure what that activity would have been named. Lumberjacking?). You might find the history of camp interesting, too, and if you haven’t already, take a look at the Highlands Archives for all sorts of fascinating stories about former campers and staff members.

After our brief history lesson Shaun Trenholm offered a reflection on the art of saying “thank you” in a letter. Shaun’s words remind me how lucky we are to know each other here at Camp and how each one of us has something unique and important to offer to the group. Shaun’s legacy at Highlands is legendary. He started Highlands as a camper in 1968 and then started coming back as a counselor in 1984. I’ve not met many people that illustrate the Highlands Honor Camper Qualities so well. THANK YOU Shaun for all that you do for Highlands!

After the noon meal, we enjoyed an extended rest hour. Then boys enjoyed open activities this afternoon. The best thing about Sunday, though, is Sing. The fun just keeps on coming!

We are looking forward to the week ahead. Week three of four, my favorite week at camp. The boys know each other now, and real friendships have developed. Many guys have been on their trip. They have attended all the activities and had the opportunity to experience trial and failure and then…success! I am incredibly happy that *my* kid has the time and space to work on dropping a ski. He’s been at it for two whole summers, and he got very close on Friday. He’ll get assigned to skiing this week, and he’ll turn up at free-time and I bet he is slaloming by this Friday. That’s the true gift of four weeks at Camp. Time and space to figure out what you are good at, and what you would like to improve upon.

These boys amaze me. From the Cub that’s learning to repel in Adventure, to the Senior that’s hiking 100 miles across Isle Royale – I’m inspired by them. I’m inspired by our counselors that have the patience to teach and coach them. I’m inspired by the opportunities for leadership our older campers have.

Your boys will have four (or maybe seven) weeks to play, grow, learn, stretch and lead. And Camp has had 111 years to play, grow, learn, stretch and lead.

How lucky we are.

And on that note…

I ❤ CH // tracy b.

One Response

  1. Enrique Azcarraga says:
    July 27th, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    Its been around 40 years since I was a Highlands camper. The experiences I had and what I learned then, will allways be a part of whom I am today.
    111 years is a lot, but there are surely more to come.

    Enrique Azcarraga
    70’s camper

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Tracy Bachmann | July 23, 2014

Divide and conquer

Wednesday is Division Day at camp, a time when boys divvy up into their divisions and spend the afternoon together. The Colt division gets to cruise into town today to goof off at The Waters water park in Minocqua, grill out at Clear Lake and end the day watching the awesome Min-Aqua Bats ski show. It’s an action packed day for sure, but they aren’t the only ones having a great time. The Cubs are packing up and spending the night on local Pallette Lake, they’ll roast marshmallows, play in pristine water with a sand bottom and get good use out of their sleeping bags and flashlights! God bless those Cubbie counselors who wrangle all twenty or so eight, nine and 10 year olds! The Senior division will convoy down Plum lake by whatever means available – kayak, canoe, etc. to tie up at the Sayner Pier. They’ll cook out in Sayner and play softball on the Sayner ball field. Juniors will have camp all to themselves tonight, cooking out on our large stone grill in the adventure ropes area and play games. These Wednesdays are a nice break in the routine. They offer up a little more free time to the boys, a slightly longer rest hour and time to just enjoy being together with all the boys in their age group. The cooks like it too, as it’s their night off!


Everyone gets into the action during the Steeplechase. Pictures from 2013’s race give you a little taste of the fun!

We are gearing up for the camp birthday this Saturday. We will turn 111 this year, and I have to say, I think we’ve never looked better! We celebrate our birthday each year with the world-famous Steeplechase, a two and a half hour Army/Navy relay race, with a course that runs through camp and even around Five Pines and to the Star Portage! Each boy participates in their own crucial event in the race and it’s a rip-roaring good time. Events range from pin bowling, to soccer dribbling, to jumping through a hoola hoop from Tower Three. The relay culminates during the nail-biting water boil and Baker tent set up and breakdown. The fun starts about 9 a.m. and goes on throughout the morning ending around 11:30 a.m.

At 3 p.m., the Seniors host camp down in the Row for the random-little-known-games Olympics – the Senior Carnival – complete with homemade dunk tank, pillow fight jousting and bug juice chugging! And what do you win at this Carnival? Bachmann Bucks of course.

The fun doesn’t stop there. After the Carnival, we have a picnic supper on Junior Hill followed by Games on the Hill, also a Highlands highlight. This is also an Army/Navy competition filled with wheel barrow races and the copyrighted Broom Race (you have to see it to understand it). Saturday is ACTION PACKED and is my favorite day of the whole summer.


A great day to ski, sailing, not so much!

The weather continues to be dry and cool, which is better than wet and cool. We’ll take it! Check out this glassy lake photo taken just an hour ago. I don’t know how those sailors got all the way out there with such low wind! It’s just camp magic, I suppose.

We hope you guys at home are having half as much fun as we are here at camp!

And on that note… 

I ❤ CH // tracy b.

2 Responses

  1. Kristin says:
    July 23rd, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    Tracy-We love your blog! Your wonderful writing and detail makes us feel like we are almost there with the boys. Thank you!
    Kristin Kuesel

  2. Mac says:
    July 23rd, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Reading through these posts of camp brings am right back to it all. I feel like I’m there experiencing it all over again. I even remember building the stone fire pit when I was there. How I miss it so much!

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Tracy Bachmann | July 21, 2014

Trippin’ into week two

Hey Highlands fans! First, an apology on no blog post until now. I hope you have all been thoroughly digesting the many great photos in the gallery (thank you Mike Bachmann) in the absence of a written update. Enough apologies and on to the news! Today is HOT. Hazy and sweaty. In fact the office assistant, Sally Glowiack just said, “Last week we needed a heater and this week we need a fan.” Indeed. While it was cool last week, the boys hardly seemed to notice. They happily skied, canoed, played soccer and all that other stuff that boys do at camp. Cabins 2, 4, 5, 7 (basically all the Seniors not on trips!) and cabins 23 and 25 all got to enjoy canoeing today. Free swim was very popular today at free time! Cabins 21, 22, 23 and 24 channeled their inner Katniss today at archery.


Tripping is a blast at Camp Highlands!

This is the height of tripping season here at camp – about 30 boys are out on trips right now. Cabins 14 and 12 just set out for their three day hike in the Porcupine Mountains this morning. I heard from one of the counselors that their camp site tonight is really fabulous. In fact, a million years ago before Andy and I had kids, he took me hiking up there and we lounged on large flat river rocks while the water flowed around us at the exact camp site where your kiddos will be spending the night! That’s quite a reward after their nine mile hike the boys were looking down the barrel at this morning! Cabins 15 and 17 from the Colt division just set off on their three day canoe trip on local waters. Folks, if I could sneak out of camp for three days, this is the trip I’d want to do. The boys paddle on a local chain of lakes and learn how to make double decker PB&J pita sandwiches (at least that’s what my kid learned to do on that trip)! They swing on a rope swing and have a generally fabulous time. We hope it continues to stay nice and dry for them! Yesterday Highlands boys enjoyed some friendly competition with a neighboring camp, Red Arrow. Our Colts won soccer 1-0 and our Seniors basketball team gave a solid showing, to end in an unfortunate loss. Last night your boys enjoyed their first of three Sunday Night Sings. Sing followed open activities all afternoon, where boys chose their favorite activity. Also, back by popular demand are Pinewood Derby Cars! Fifty boys will craft their cars over the coming weeks and then compete in some serious racing toward the end of camp. For lunch today? Chicken tenders. Lois reports that the boys ate 350+ and would have gladly eaten more. You’ve gotta love it.   Honestly, I wish I was a camper most days˜Ñ. And on that note… I ❤ CH // tracy b.

2 Responses

  1. Carol Viliani Bachmann says:
    July 21st, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    I love your blogs Tracy! They are just what the doctor ordered for parents wondering how things are going…which they do!
    There is just enough information and covers all the bases! We thank you for taking the time for this with all the details. And you are right; the blogs make me wish I were a camper:) Mike’s photos are great! Love to you at Camp, Carol

  2. Jose Cubillos says:
    July 31st, 2014 at 3:09 pm


    Thanks so much for your posts. Laura and I read them religiously as they always bring smiles to our faces just thinking about our boy and how many awesome experiences he is having. We can’t wait to get to Camp next week and see everybody. Thanks again for the wonderful writing. Jose.

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