Archive for the ‘tradition’ Category

Tracy Bachmann | June 25, 2017

Track meet, meet the the decathlon

The track meet is almost as old as Camp Highlands itself. It’s a reminder of the early close ties to the Chicago Lab School and an emphasis on worthwhile pastimes such as track and field.

Today? Today, we took it up a notch. After a tie in last year’s meet, Andy and Craig had a moment of brilliance and the decathlon was born! Ten events, lots of boys and staff and a few rubber chickens – that’s what a decathlon at Highlands is made of. (Well, actually, a decathlon at Highlands is made up of the long jump, shot put/softball throw, 50 yd. dash, Frisbee relay, riflery, archery, canoe race, chicken launch**, a cross country run, and final division relays.)

76 boys ran in the cross country race on Friday evening.

S E V E N T Y – S I X  B O Y S – over three quarters of camp ran in that race. Boys like *my kid who is not a runner (never has been) and RAN! I guarantee you, the lion’s share of boys who participated aren’t runners, but they took the initiative and showed up. Isn’t that what life is all about?

Not being sure if you’re capable, but showing up anyway.

I was proud of each and every boy who turned out for that race.

The other cool thing about the decathlon is that it took up the. whole. day. Yep. We finished at 5 p.m. with an ARMY VICTORY, and were quickly ushered off to supper (Sloppy Joe’s) and then into the world-famous (no, really) Games on the Hill. Games were damp but fun and welcomed a NAVY VICTORY. So we’re all pretty much winning here, see?

As you may have noticed, the weather has been kind of…meh. But these young men haven’t shied away from going for it. They’re learning, playing, paddling, tossing, batting and RUNNING toward life.

And on that note…

I ❤ CH,

Tracy B.


Those are rubber chickens in sling shots being caught in baskets. Check out the Instagram Story for some action shots.

One Response

  1. Angie Vaughan says:
    June 25th, 2017 at 7:39 am

    Awesome praying for better rain for you CH!!

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Andy Bachmann | June 29, 2016


This morning, walking up to flag raising I overheard one of our staff guys comment to a young camper as he was gazing out over the boating bay, “Another day in paradise, eh?” The young man simply grinned and nodded. Another day in paradise, indeed.

It’s been quite a week at Camp Highlands. This past Saturday we had our 4th of July Army/Navy Track Meet (on the 25th of June…don’t ask…) where it was LITERALLY neck and neck the entire time, INCLUDING our final lap on our final relay which saw an absolute TIE at the finish line, resulting in the first ever TIE of the track meet. At the announcement in the Dining Hall, with the anxious Admiral Armstrong and General Fox waiting to hear who would bear the brunt of the challenge, what I thought would be a disappointing announcement actually produced the opposite result. The hall erupted in cheers, and a spontaneous chant of, “Highlands! Highlands! Highlands! We’re all friends!” Everyone was thrilled—and the General and Admiral thought it only fair that they BOTH participate in the challenge. Go Highlands!

On Sunday at our Assembly, after telling the boys the story of I’m Third, we had some powerful testimonies from some of our men from Cabin One. It was great. Then, with a heavy heart I inducted Ross Freeland into the Camp Highlands Hall of Fame, and announced that we have renamed our ball fields, “Freeland Field.”

And then we added a new Honor Camper Quality to our list of 17. The new quality added is one that is exemplified in the I’m Third motto. This trait encourages us to measure our sense of self esteem and pride against a higher moral code; a moral code that places our value in the ways in which we act and interact with the world around us, not by the amount of “likes” we get on our selfies.

Truth is we are flawed people; we make mistakes and fall short; we let our vanity take advantage of our morals, and our desires overcome our hopes and visions. And that is just part of who we are. Which is why this value is a good one to have.
This value affirms us in our brokenness, and invites us to give life a go again; to try, and to fail, and to try again.

So we add our 18th honor camper quality. It is, “Humility.”
Author CS Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

Contrary to what popular culture may want us to believe, we believe that the greatest rewards in this life come from our ability to live well, love others and be of good service. And this trait is the cornerstone to understanding that and living into it well. And this place is one where we are affirmed in our willingness to try again, to be good to one another, and to have a great time while doing it. Another beautiful day in paradise, indeed.

Better. Wortwhile. Highlands.

2 Responses

  1. John Zokovitch says:
    June 29th, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Love this post Andy. I know how much Johnny thought of Ross and I am glad he will think of him every time he sets foot onto Freeland Field. I’m so thankful for you, your staff and family, and everyone at Camp Highlands.

  2. LIz powell says:
    October 7th, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Nicely said Andy. I love how you brought the number of likes into their reality in contrast to what we “mature” and broken adults know about leading a worthwhile life.

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Andy Bachmann | July 15, 2015

CHOF’s on Parade

I had an interesting realization the other day.
I was sitting with THREE of my former counselors at supper. And there were only 4 of us at the table.

How lucky am I?

Someone recently remarked to me that they thought it might be odd that we have SO many CHOF’s on staff. To me, it would be odd NOT to have them here.

I’m a big fan of depth; whether it is on my staff here at Highlands, or really in any worthwhile organization. At a camp, having guys who are 19 years old is important. They can be your high energy, every minute is an opportunity to do something zany, let’s go ahead and play dodgeball for two hours kind of guys. And their energy and enthusiasm drives camp—keeps it action packed and adventurous. And we need that- and we love that.

But it is also important to me to balance that with our seasoned veterans- our 24 year old guys who are swinging through Highlands during their grad school years, or as a last gasp before they head into the corporate world. These guys can still bring the enthusiasm, but they’re also the guys who are willing to step up to leadership opportunities; whether it is leading our big trips or teaching fellow staff members about trip safety and cabin bonding. They are gold.

And then I have our CHOF’s (Camp Highlands Old…Fellas). The CHOF’s are those of us (yes, us…) who range in age from 27-77. Dave runs the trip room. Otter helps there, and pretty much anywhere else he’s needed. When not at Highlands, Loren is a teacher in Kansas; here he teaches canoeing. Kent is a retired teacher and cross-country coach. Here he leads our low-ropes course, and is the head counselor of our youngest guys. I have 14 guys over the age of 40 on staff.

The value of having this 60 year swing in staff age is that I have a grounded, well-rounded group of guys who can bring their passion for all things Highlands, and provide the kind of coverage and decision making skills necessary to ensure that our campers have an incredible experience here. Their history at Highlands (heck, I have a few 19 year old guys who already have 10 years at Highlands!) means our values and the qualities we hold dear run deep. Both (2!) of our new staff men caught on pretty quick to the Highlands Way. My hope is your campers catch the spirit as well. I believe that having the old guys around is just as important as having the young. And I consider myself quite lucky to have the opportunity to bring them all back, year after year after year. To me, this is just one of the reasons why we have thrived for so long at Camp Highlands. And, to me, it is so cool to have my first counselor here, my last counselor here, and not one but TWO of the guys in the middle.

Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.

From right to left, AB's last counselor, Craig Ericksen, his first counselor, Dave Baker, and one from the middle, Jim DiDomenico

From right to left, AB’s last counselor, Craig Ericksen, his first counselor, Dave Baker, and one from the middle, Jim DiDomenico

3 Responses

  1. Jackie Langas says:
    July 15th, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    The varied ages of all the counselors is one of the things that makes Camp Highlands a very special place!

  2. Kris Milner says:
    July 15th, 2015 at 9:10 pm

    Absolutely, such a great strength of staff at camp for my son’s five years as a camper and now in his third year as a counselor. It is amazing! He is just departing for an 8 day hike on Isle Royale leading a group of 6 guys carrying in and out all of their food and supplies to hike 110 miles.
    Please pray for their good weather and fortune. Highlands Rah!

  3. Julie Ott says:
    July 20th, 2015 at 12:38 am

    What a great article. As a mom of campers (and now seasoned counselors), seeing young counselors made me confident that my campers would benefit from the electric energy that youth provides. Seeing the more mature staff allowed me, as a mom, to be confident that the electric energy would be safely contained! Older counselors provide security to parents who may be separated from their children for the first substantial length of time, but more importantly, they allow campers the security of exploring and growing while knowing that someone who looks and acts just a bit like mom or dad (or grandpa or grandma) will know exactly what to do or say if they encounter a rough spot or just need some advice.

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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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