Tracy Bachmann | September 18, 2017

Getting our feet wet at 2017 F+F

A note from Tim Bachmann:

Did you know the Monilaw family hosted a scaled down version of Friends and Family in the 1930s and 40s? It was not promoted; it was just their friends and family, mainly from the Hyde Park and University of Chicago neighborhoods. This summer of 2017 Friends and Family was new and fresh. How fun, considering that this was the 50th F&F season (since 1968).

Friends and Family has evolved, with alumni being the largest contingent. In fact, every boys’ camp cabin but three held an alumnus this summer. It was the largest ever showing and a harbinger of things to come. In addition to alumni, there were personal friends and ’perennials’. Several families with kids at an optimal age to get their “feet wet” in advance of boy’s camp or nearby girl’s camp joined in the fun.

And boy did they get their feet wet, seeking out and holding in their curious young hands various snakes, frogs, toads, crawfish and salamanders. It was a fascinating phenomena, enhanced dearly by the generous and patient E.O. Wilson trained Harvard zoology major, and now wildlife painter, Brad Davis, an alumnus from the 1980/90s.

Getting our feet wet!


After some coaching from Dr. Brad on where to obtain a particular creature, the kids consistently came up miraculously full handed. Brad would then hold court as professor, teaching all children (and drawn in adults) everything notable: how to hold it, its formal name, behavioral patterns, special adaptations, diet, habitat, and so forth. Perhaps the largest ever bullfrog was briefly coddled (one assumes to the dismay of the animal). But, before any lasting harm was done, the fun-to-hold-being was released with great care.

One such student of Dr. Davis, a young Luke Keeley, was so enchanted by the cornucopia of wildlife, that he was compelled to ditch his family entirely, joining the Davis clan at all hours  (except sleep) in constant pursuit of the ample fare! His parents both lamented and rejoiced in the abandonment as complete joy was found!

For the rest of us more subdued nature lovers, there were record numbers of bald eagles, loons (six  on the east end of Plum Lake alone), owls, woodpeckers, white tailed deer, turtles, butterflies and meteors.

Meanwhile, others engaged more vacation like camp pursuits. Star Creek was up, and offered a deeper paddle than ever, before running into the inevitable downed trees and beaver dams. There were more barefoot water skiers than ever (at age 46, and 51!). It smacked of a ‘Staff Ski!’ if Shane Overbey hadn’t just had shoulder surgery, he would certainly have entertained us with some backwards barefoot. Next year, Shane!

Some lounged on the raft and hung out at the all new Senior Pier and towers. It was the place to be as always during the warmer days. Sailing, kayaking, canoeing, golfing at Plum Lake Golf Club, tennis, archery, adventure, crafts, softball, frisbee golf, and Capture the Flag were all enjoyed as always. And for the first time, a Camp Highlands four-mile wilderness loop along the gorgeous shores of Star Lake was tramped, starting and finishing behind Freeland Field. Thanks to Jim DiDomenico and Brian Boos for blazing and marking this wonderful new trail with lovely CH trail makers. This loop is going to be a great addition to CH forever and ever! Wow!

Hiking the 4-mile loop around Star Lake and Back Bay.


For cooks night off, many descended on the Sayner Pub for its jovial north woods setting and famous pizza. Word had gotten out to the alumni whose families own summer cottages in the area, and for a moment there it could have been 1989. The establishment was wall to wall Highlands! What a reunion, and what a blast!

There were a few very tolerable if not enjoyable stretches of rain – one of them, peacefully, at night. The other led to the offering of a rain hike on the east side of Star Lake, an adventure that entails hopping in a camp van and driving around Razorback and the northwest side of Star to get to the trailhead. The soft rain soon cleared and the wet, green forests enchanted, with spots of sun here and there. A pit stop at Stillwaters was enjoyed on the way home. Talk about relaxing!

It was remarked, “I didn’t realize how much I needed this.” I believe that the moment one enters the indoors, that optimal natural flow begins to wain. Yes, it is not simply being in the wilderness that makes us feel good. We enjoyed not flooding our eyes with the blue light of the screen, and getting away from the workaday pursuits modern life demands of us.

Highlands is not the Peninsula Hotel (although, camp lies on a peninsula) but is more relaxing than the Peninsula Hotel. For, only in the quietude of the wilderness can the human body regain its natural flow, and not just for an hour or two a day. 24 hours is best. During sleep, the thinner the layer between you and the outdoors, the greater the impact. 

Better than a hotel!

So, we reveled in life as it should be. Immersed in the beauty of Plum Lake and Vilas County, we came down, fitfully at first. More and more each day, we napped and slept like buzzed out logs – not necessarily knowing who or where we were when we awoke! Yes, sleep can get very, very deep at camp. We turned our faces towards the sun and wind and water and woods and relaxed. Not at once, but gradually, those with the longest stays obtaining the deepest levels of revitalized health. Being in the lake itself, a refreshing curative. Am I sounding middle aged? I sure don’t feel like it when I’m swimming in Plum Lake!

And so I found myself, after all had left Camp, still walking from Mom’s house down to Cabin 2 to sleep – like a wild dog. I had all of camp to myself. Eerie, you say? No, not at all. I love it. The cry of the loon; the black sky with a billion stars; the sound of the wind in the trees; and water lapping on the shore. These are the sights and sounds of eternity – something I’m not connected to as much anymore and that therefore are more valuable to me. I cherish them more than ever in this rapidly changing world.

It’s September 7th, 2017: the 3rd anniversary of Dad’s passing. It seems hard to believe. We miss him so much. On the last day of boy’s camp, right before Banquet, Andy dedicated ‘Reflection Point’ as a place to remember him by. It is so nice there now – behind the clubhouse overlooking the lake – atop the hill. What a view. It was his favorite place to reflect on life – and what a life it was. The new swings and boulders and landscaping. It turned out so well. How pleased and grateful we are to have this place. It is directly connected to the Clubhouse and the fire pit below, the place where Harry Gillet first set foot on the property back in 1904. What a spot to be connected to the place so many have loved over the past 114 years and love today.

The new Mike Bachmann reflection area is a great place to consider what it means to be a Worthwhile person.

Hope to see you next summer! Mom, Andy, Carol, Lukas, and I will be waiting for you! 

Save your Spot
You can save your spot now by filling out our online enrollment form. Please note that because of popular demand, we’ve created two sessions – first session (Saturday – Wednesday) and second session (Wednesday – Saturday) or join us for the full week!

We took several great photos of you and your families. You can access those photos by going to the Camp Highlands Gallery and entering in the password: camphighlands – enjoy! A big thanks to Tim Bachmann for taking the helm as resident photographer!

A special thanks to our wonderful staff. It was a beautiful contingent. The men and women that raise their hands to stay on for F&F are always, always THE BEST. This summer was no exception, with David Kuesel, Shaun Trenholm, Johnny Zokovitch, Seth Fox, Tucker Nienhaus, Madi Kugler, Charlie Yokom, Ethan Williams, Matt Stepanich, and Phillip Seubert staying on to share the old place with us, and help us enjoy ourselves. Not cooking for a week! Because: Chef Lois Craig  was joined by Carly Notorangelo, Natalie Trujillo, and Lex Smith. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!

All-star staff!

4 Responses

  1. Cathy Winter says:
    September 25th, 2017 at 10:25 pm


    Missed seeing Highlands this summer! Alec and Lucas Winter kept us updated on the adventures of camp. Looks like our Erik may be joining the CH legacy at U. of Chicago next year. Going to be playing football. He is very aware of the rich history between Highlands and Chicago. Please let your mom know that the entire Winter Family sends our best. My sister Sarah and I hosting our 40th Campo Fiesta staff reunion at our Papoose Lake cabin in late October. Yes, camp is for a lifetime! Warm Regards, Cathy

    • Tim Bachmann says:
      September 27th, 2017 at 6:27 pm

      Lovely response, Cathy. Thank you. It warms our Highlands Hearts to hear that Erik may be playing on the same athletic fields as the first ever Heisman Trophy winner, Jay Berwanger. Doc Monilaw coached on the same fields and many, many CH staff members played for various U. of C. teams. It’s great that both Minne Wonka Lodge and Campo Fiesta are still getting together for reunions! I’m sure you know Mom was on staff at Campo Fiesta during her college years.

  2. Kris Milner says:
    October 24th, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    The Milners also missed seeing Highlands this summer as John had some internships in Ft. Worth Tx where he goes to school at TCU. Highlands has been a very special place in his growing years, and we wouldn’t change it for the world! Thanks for all you do!!!

    • Tim Bachmann says:
      October 31st, 2017 at 8:20 pm

      Thank you for your reply, Kris. We look forward to John’s return! And, you are all invited to join in for Friends and Family. People always say: “I wish you had an adult camp.” We do – it’s called Friends and Family! Cheers, Tim

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Tracy Bachmann | July 13, 2017

This Matters

Friendship, unplugged, fun, outside of our comfort zones, nature, becoming our best selves. This matters.

I was recently talking with a father of one of our campers. He shared how his son was receiving a LOT of pressure to attend the summer clinics of his chosen sport. The coaches were holding out starting position offers like bait, and head-shaking shame if this boy chose a path different from the one they were suggesting. Fortunately for us, the boy (and family) didn’t take the bait.

We have staff here who still remember when Division I athletes would come to Highlands. Our program director remembers how during free time, these athletes would pull out every heavy object at camp to haul around Senior Row. Meanwhile, they were also leading trips through the wilderness of the north woods; teaching boys the importance of hard work and perseverance in achieving one’s goals; and modeling for them the honor dignity of being a well-rounded human being. Not just an all-star athlete.

This father I was speaking with said the decision for their family was an easy one. “My son is not going to be a professional athlete. So skipping the summer sessions should not feel like he’s sacrificing a career. Five, ten years from now, none of that stuff will matter. THIS matters.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Better, Worthwhile, Highlands,

4 Responses

  1. July 13th, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    Love this!! Let the kids be. Let them work hard and achieve things and fail at things and have some fun and learn hard things. Let them be better than the other kids in one area and worse in another. It’ll be ok. They will learn to appreciate their fellow humans so much more. 4 weeks at camp is the best thing in a boys life. Being a boy. Learning from other men. Figuring out who they are away from the ball field. Finding an identity that has nothing to do with their home life, or school life, or sports life. It is just purely who they are. Love Camp Highlands for that.

  2. Mary Sennott-Shaw says:
    July 13th, 2017 at 11:51 pm

    Wise words from a wise dad!!! Well thought out decision! Bravo, Sir to both you and your fortunate son! I can think of nothing that gives a young man better or more tools for life than summers (the more the better) at Camp Highlands.

  3. July 14th, 2017 at 5:55 am

    We need to remember to let our children live in the present moment. It’s gone in a blink.

  4. Kris Milner says:
    July 21st, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    Highlands is the best! John drove there this week from his job in Fort Worth, Tx just to hang out after being a camper and counselor for 10 years. Highlands Ra

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Tracy Bachmann | July 11, 2017

This is not a blog post

We were making memories here at CH last night. The air is warm, the lake is cool and the boys are free and brave! How lucky we are.

Photo Credit: Tim Bachmann

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Tracy Bachmann | July 10, 2017

Welcome Second Term

And just like that, second term has started! Drop off was a bit damp, but you’ll be happy to know that today the skies are clear, the lake is gorgeous and the boys have a great northern Wisconsin day ahead of them. Today’s schedule includes safety talks in the various areas of camp and swim tests. After that’s complete, the guys will get to it with activities.

The Instagram Story is a great way to get a quick taste of what’s going on around camp. But keep up! The clips disappear after 24 hours!

We’ll start uploading photos to the gallery this evening, but in the meantime, don’t forget to check out the Instagram Story – it’s where we’re doing a lot of posting this year. You’ll love it.

As a side note, Andy and I will be living out your reality, as we drop our middle daughter off at her camp this morning. I’m full of jitters – a mix of excitement and heartache – you guys might know a thing or two about that! Even after five years of going to camp, she gets excitedsadnervoussuperhappy on drop off day. This is one of those profound concepts that Michael Thompson talks about in his book, Homesick and Happy – the idea that we can have simultaneous conflicting emotions. You can be completely thrilled to be having an amazing time at camp AND also feel really sad missing your family. Can you tell I’m trying to talk myself into having the right attitude about today’s excitedsadnervoussuperhappy drop off?

And on that note…

I ♥ CH,
Tracy B.

5 Responses

  1. Cathy Winter says:
    July 10th, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Your girls will be in good hands! My Sarah Dehkes) is back at Red Pine teaching swimming and loving her campers!

    • Kris Milner says:
      July 11th, 2017 at 10:27 pm

      Here here! My daughter is teaching sailing and tennis at Clearwater and driving the ski boat. Camp is the best!

    • July 12th, 2017 at 10:16 am

      I never worry about her once she’s there. It’s just me that needs the help! Ha!

  2. Julie Armstrong says:
    July 13th, 2017 at 9:53 am

    Hi Tracy, And Caroline Armstrong (friends with Sarah Dehkes) is the canoeing instructor and has little ones for her campers!

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Tracy Bachmann | July 5, 2017

What? It’s Over???

Happy Independence Day, we had an awesome time here at Camp Highlands yesterday. After lunch the individual divisions grouped up for their “Division Day.” Cubs took the busses into town to Jim Peck’s and pizza, Colts made PVC marshmallow-shooters, and Juniors and Seniors yutzed around camp, playing on a giant slip-and-slide and cooked out. The weather was wonderful. At 9, all of camp loaded up on busses to head into Sayner to watch the amazing fireworks show. Our caretaker also happens to be the fire chief and reserves a VIP location for Highlands every year. The boys reportedly hung out in “cuddly piles”! Ha! And did you check out this video of the eagle that was swooping around camp yesterday?! Amazing!

Here’s what you need to know about the final days of camp:

Wednesday: Stunt Night…our infamously famous talent(less) show. 7:15 p.m.

Thursday: Kerchief ceremony in the evening.

Friday, July 7: Parents are invited to arrive at 3 p.m. to hang out, watch the football tournament, meet your child’s counselor and bunkmates. Please sign in at the water carnival or the office to get your name tag when you get to camp, thank you! Picnic supper is at 6 p.m. followed by our final banquet festivities which conclude around 8:30 p.m.

You are free to take your son after the banquet, please communicate that with your son’s counselor and with the office.

Boys depart camp Saturday, at 8:45 a.m. on the bus back to Chicago. **If your child disembarks in Madison (1 p.m.) or Rockford (2:15 p.m.) PLEASE contact the CH office.

If you haven’t updated your travel information in your parent log in area, please take the time to do so. If you still need to RSVP to the final banquet, you can do that by emailing us at camp. THANK YOU!

It’s going to be a great week!

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