Monthly Archives: July, 2015

Making the most of our days

July 07, 2015

  1. As our days grow shorter, we are still jumping, running, playing and growing.

    As our days grow shorter, we are still jumping, running, playing and growing.

    My kid has been working toward graduating from skiing for three, maybe four years. But what does that mean? And why is it taking such a long time? Here at Highlands we mark our progress through an activity by Achievement Credits (ACs). Each activity has a long list of measurable and achievable goals that boys work through. Week by week, over the years. Once a boy has made his way through all the ACs, there is usually some final piece of the puzzle to complete: a written test, teaching the activity or some other major hurdle to jump.
    Our counselors take awarding ACs seriously. Boys really have to work for the credits. It’s not a gimme situation!
    On Thursday before final banquet we have an event in the club house called the Kerchief Ceremony. Each camper is recognized for ACs earned over the summer and their achievements are memorialized forever when each boy upon leaving the club house places his stick into the Fire of Friendship. It’s a powerful marker for the hard work our boys have put in. But it marks not only the baskets shot, riflery scores made or whitecaps sailed. It marks the four weeks of living without the comforts of home! It marks the growth and independence each boy has exhibited. It marks the friendships forged through living the Honor Camper Qualities.
    We are a week away from our final banquet, and rest assured, our sons are still thriving, growing, learning and challenging themselves! As the sun starts to lower in the sky and the days grow shorter, we are still running, playing and making memories. We will make the most of these last sweet days of summer.
    On that note…
    I <3 CH,
    Tracy B.
    Today's schedule is action packed – per usual!

    Today’s schedule is action packed – per usual!

  2. 10 Day forecast – for fun


    It’s hard to not have an awesome time at CH!

    I just had a parent text me and tell me how sweet our 10-day forecast looked. True story. Our apologies to you folks in Texas, Florida and even Illinois (who are experiencing the weirdest summer weather ever). But the amazing outlook doesn’t just stop at the weather here at Highlands.
    How can you have a bad day that starts off with pancakes!? That’s what the boys enjoyed this morning before they set off on their wild adventures.
    How can you have a bad day when after your awesome breakfast you then end up at the adventure ropes course with Kent Overby (cabins 21, 17, 9, 13). Or maybe you’re like cabins 1, 24, 17, 25 looking down the barrel at some time skiing on Plum Lake. I’m a big fan of the stand up paddle boarding (SUP) activity – cabins 22, 13, 6 and 7 will be exploring the lake that way today. I can smell the smoke from the fire that the expedition activity built this morning and figure the guys from 14, 13, 22 and 21 are going to have a ball boiling water. The fellows from 24, 25, 10, 15, 16, 18, 9 and 14 will be hooping it up on the basketball court today. I mean honestly. What’s not to love?
    There are several trips out on the trail or lakes and waterways right now. Two Isle Royale hiking trips are out, and cabins 12 and 11 are in the Porcupine Mountains on a three-day hiking trip.
    I’d say we have a 99% chance for a great time.
    Birthday Weekend Approaches
    We are 112 years old this Saturday. One-hundred and twelve summers, you guys. Now that’s something to celebrate! Per our tradition, we’ll kick off our Steeplechase event at about 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. If you are in the area, you’re more than welcome to swing on by to watch the fun. It’s my favorite day of the whole summer. Steeplechase is an Army/Navy relay that covers not only all parts of camp but a good part of Plum Lake. Whether it’s casting a line into a hula-hoop or pin bowling, kayaking around Five Pines island, or being a part of the water boil team, each boy has his own special part to contribute to his team’s success.
    Saturday after noon we’ll have a Senior Carnival down in The Row with all kinds of wacky homemade games including a dunk tank, pillow fighting and bug juice pong. This is good clean fun.
    We’ll have our picnic supper on the hill at 6 p.m. followed by Games on the Hill. The day literally does not stop.
    And on that note…
    I <3 CH,
    Tracy B.



    Completely in the Flow on Plum Lake

    And just like that, we’re in the flow…
    “Flow” is a big thing at Camp. There is only one way for our waiters to flow around the kitchen to pick-up food or drop off dishes. When we remove the tables and benches from the Dining Hall there is only one door that we use; and whether we’re clearing it out or putting it all back in determines which way we will flow. When we all are in the flow then things are running smoothly, all systems are “go” and life is good.
    This week we work towards flow in a more pseudo-psychological way. When things are flowing then that means campers no longer have to ask where to put the wash buckets, which way they should go to Riflery or what we do during rest hour. When we all know where we’re going and what we’re doing, then life is good.
    I’m happy to report we’ve found the flow.
    Camp is bustling. Our activities are in full-go mode. Cabins 15, 17 and 18 are out on their three-day canoe trips, and our two Isle Royale trips and Pictured Rocks trips are already on the trails. We’ve played Capture the Flag, had our first Division Day and the ladies from Red Pine Camp came over for a social. We know each others names, have figured out who goes where and with what and we know what all those bugle calls mean.
    I love it when we hit the flow. It means the odds of homesickness have dropped dramatically. It means our staff and full termers have gotten over the “newness” of second term and are feelin’ good. And it means we can all get out and do what we’re here to do; which is make the most of our Highlands days. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s 78 degrees and there’s a sweet wind blowing!
    So on that note, I guess I’ll get my own flow on and get outside! It’s a beautiful day at Highlands!
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.
    Ps. Check out the new pic’s on our gallery and catch a glimpse of your favorite camper in the flow!

  4. 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

  5. The Stage is Set…

    We were anticipating rain and not a drop has fallen. The bus has arrived and campers have been settled. I once again feel the excitement in the air; but now the voices that echo out, “Ga-Ga-Ball!” are different than the ones I heard just two days ago. Second Term has officially begun, and I am already so excited for this new batch of campers to be here.
    One quick glance through the cabin list this year and you might think we were in the 1980’s or 1990’s. It has been so fun seeing all these alumni drifting through camp—guys of my generation—dropping off their sons for their first (or fifth) Highlands summer. And we have a great crop of newbies, too! (I’m listening to an “old” camper explain the mailboxes to a new camper as we speak…and it’s kind of hilarious.)
    The next 17 hours will have us memorizing names, listening to rules, learning about water safety, gun safety and archery safety; as well as learn how to be waiter and request an activity. Then swim tests, and BOOM! Right into the flow of camp.
    Exciting times are in store for us this summer. Our staff is outstanding – one of the best I can remember (and no, I don’t say that every year…) and they are all pumped for Second Term.
    So the stage is set- the players have arrived, and it’s time to raise the curtain on Act 2 of our 112th season. If it’s anything like Act 1 we are all in for a treat.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.


    Boys race off the bus, everyone grabs gear and the field is cleared in 8:23 flat!

  6. First term winds down

    It’s started, you guys. The rush toward the end of the term. This morning boys are out at open activities trying to rack up as many ACs (achievement credits) as possible, as this is the last day to have them awarded. ACs are the way we track progress through an activity; they’re a list of skills and achievements that we mark in the all-mighty AC book. On Thursday evening we have a Kerchief Ceremony where we honor each boy’s hard work over the summer.

    The rest of this week just flies by. Yesterday was the last Division Day and the Cubs headed into town to Jim Peck’s and the Lumberjack show. They really live it up, those Cubs, lead by Kent Overby. They ended the night with ice-cream at the Corner Store. The other divisions picnicked together and hung out knowing this is the last of the typical days at camp.

    Tonight we look forward to the world famous Camp Highlands Stunt Night, which is our answer to a talent show. Boys have been working on their skits for at least a couple hours now (ha!). What we lack in actual talent, we more than make up for in kookiness and fun. Thursday night is the Kerchief Ceremony and Friday is the final banquet. Poof! And just like that we will pack your boys up and send them with their parents or on the bus back to Chicago on Saturday.

    Of course a lucky handful of boys will be staying all summer with us. Those guys have an action-packed day on Saturday including a trip to The Waters, a movie, pizza at Alexander’s and ice-cream at the corner store. Full term boys have the luxury of knowing they have another FOUR weeks to meet new people, perfect their shots on goal, get up on skis, and hang out on the most beautiful peninsula on the planet. If you think your boy might want to stick around for another four weeks, give us a shout. There are a few spots left for second term!

    Here are some things you’ll want to know if Saturday concludes your son’s time at Highlands this summer:

    Friday is the final banquet. Parents are invited to arrive at 3 PM. You’ll be directed to parking in the upper lot or on the football field. You’ll be able to watch your boys at assigned activities, meet their counselor and finish packing up their trunks. You’re invited to join us at the picnic supper on Junior Hill at 6 PM. The awards and banquet follows and wraps up about 8:30 PM. If you have not RSVPd online, that’s OK, you can just email Tracy and let her know and we’ll add you to the list. See you soon!

  7. Teddy Roosevelt’s Fourth of July (or something like that)

    We are full of fun here at Highlands today! It’s been non-stop action since the time the bugle blew this morning. While we still have several trips out, most are back in camp which added to the festival feel in the air. We had regular activities scheduled this morning, but at lunch the counseling staff announced that this afternoon’s theme day would be “Teddy Roosevelt Day” a.k.a. “1908 Day.” Don’t ask why, people. It’s camp. This sort of weirdness abounds!


    Bucket Brigade!


    Trust Busters


    Food and Drug Administration


    More bucket brigade for good measure!

    Boys were split into six multi-aged teams and competed for time or points at six different wacky activities, including but not limited to: The Great White Fleet Race (kayaking around Five Pines), The Panama Canal Bucket Brigade, The Food and Drug Administration (quality control of gourmet concoctions made by our kitchen staff) and The Conservation Scavenger Hunt!

    Following T.R. Day, we had a picnic supper on Junior Hill complete with ice cream followed by all-camp capture the flag. And if that wasn’t enough for one day, boys are now headed off to evening dip and then they’ll pile onto busses and head into Sayner where our very own caretaker, Kevin Rassmussen (also the fire chief!) saves Highlands the best spot for firework viewing. While the pyrotechnics might not be Disney World, the pole position the boys have guarantee an amazing show.

    The weather has been incredible this term. While we’ve had a handful of chilly days, most days have been great. Warm in the sun, cool in the shade. You just can’t beat it.

    We’ll continue to upload photos over the next few days, so keep your eyes peeled for your favorite CH camper!