A Different Kind of Summer

May 19, 2020

  1. Dear Highlands Families, 

    Thank you for your continued support during the last few months as we have worked to understand the current health crisis and its effects on camp. This has not been an easy time for any of us and Tracy and I appreciate your patience as we have grappled with how to proceed this summer. After weeks of intense discernment, we have come to the heartbreaking conclusion that we cannot safely operate camp this summer, and we have to cancel our 2020 camping season. 

    We did not come to this decision lightly. We have consulted with our staff, state and local health officials, the American Camp Association, and numerous camp directors. We also have talked one-on-one with many of you, as well as our families and campers. We have examined just about every conceivable way we might be able to offer a bit of the Highlands experience for our boys. Unfortunately, at the end of every discussion, the risks for our campers and staff are too great and do not outweigh the benefits.

    We are so sorry. And we are so sad.

    We know this is a profound loss for you and for your campers. We know it will be especially hard for our last-year Seniors, those fellows who have come up through the ranks at Highlands and were looking forward to being the kings of the hill, the mentors of all, the leaders of the camp. To them, we say: Gentlemen—stay tuned. We are cooking up a very special program just for you for next summer before you join us on the staff. 

    And to all our Highlands men and families: Stick with us fellas—we’re gonna be back bigger, bolder and better than ever next year and you don’t want to miss out on the magic. You can enroll today for summer 2021, and any tuition you’ve already paid will be credited to next summer. Of course, if you’d like a refund, we will return all monies paid via check. You also may consider making a donation to the Camp Highlands Scholarship Fund so that boys who might not otherwise be able to come to camp may attend. (You will receive a subsequent questionnaire asking you to share your intentions in regard to 2021 and refunds.) 

    Highlands is more than just a summer camp in the Northwoods. It is a philosophy that seeks to put the other fellow’s needs before your own. It is a community of worthwhile men who help us discover the strength of our own character. It is a constant reminder that when we can unplug from the busy world and spend some time in the wilderness, we are better people for it. These truths are universal and can be lived by each of us, every day. 

    We know you will have questions. Please take a moment to review our Frequently Asked Questions. And don’t hesitate to reach out via email or phone call.

    Stay safe, stay strong, and until we meet again, fare thee well good Highlands men. 

    Yours in Camp Spirit, 

    Andy and Tracy Bachmann

  2. Dinglebat: May 2020 Edition

    New Honor Camper Quality: Patience

    We have all sharpened our skills of patience in the last two months. Heck, maybe we need to add that to our Honor Camper qualities this year in honor of the strangest spring any of us can remember. Camps across the country are waiting to hear the recommendations from the CDC and the American Camping Associations. They’ve promised we should hear from them soon and as soon as we’re able to review the guidelines, synthesize their recommendations, and formulate our summer plan, you will be the first to know, no later than May 22.

    While we don’t have any revelations about this summer to share yet, we do have some Worthwhile things for you and your family to think about, read, watch, create, and discuss this week.

    The Power of Fire

    What is it about staring into a fire? It’s one of the best things about summer at Camp—roasting marshmallows, the Fire of Friendship during Kerchief Ceremony, the water boil during Steeplechase. Did you know we teach boys how to start a one-match fire? We consider it one of those life skills, like knowing how to tie a proper square knot.

    Check out this guy using advanced maneuvers with his cord drill and pump drill. If your boy needs something to occupy his time, set him out to see if he can pull this off. We will all be really impressed!

    We’re going to put Andy Bachmann to the test this week. Can he start a one-match fire? Keep an eye out for him on Instagram and Facebook. It sounds easy, but is it?

    Questions to Ask Your Camper Over Dinner

    “How have you changed over your time at camp?” Or, for the new camper, “How do you think you will grow at camp?”

    What We’re Listening To

    Andy and Tracy are big fans of business-oriented books and lectures. We really enjoyed this interview with Disney CEO, Bob Iger. Our favorite part of the podcast was when he explains that his greatest legacy is knowing that he’s put the right team in place for the future.

    An Anthem for The Great Pause

    This song, “Heavy” by Birdtalk, has been on repeat at the Bachmann house lately. The words “Leave What’s Heavy” resonate with us as we take time to consider what our priorities in life and business are. What are you going to leave behind from your life before C-19? What have you learned about yourself that you’ll carry forward?

    The Power of a Handwritten Note

    At least once a summer someone talks about the power of a handwritten note at Sunday Assembly. The great Sharon Bachmann was the master of the note—they don’t have to be long or fancy. Heck, decent spelling and handwriting are optional! What’s not optional is the intention it takes to put pen to paper, find a stamp, and get it in the mail. We hope you’ll reach out to your friends both young and old in the coming weeks. Email me to get a list of last year’s campers and staff.

    1918 at Camp Highlands

    As you know, 1918 was a devastating year for our country with the end of World War I and the 1918 Flu pandemic. We asked our camp historian, Tim Bachmann if there was anything written about it in the CAHIBO, the camp yearbook. In fact, there was no mention of the epidemic, but there was a long list of Highlands men who served in the Great War. Those who died in combat were noted with an asterisk.

    From Andy: Get out Into the Woods

    In this time of social distancing and quarantine confinement, I’ve found that my saving grace has been getting out to our local parks and greenways and spending some quality time in nature. I’ve always loved getting out into the woods. When I was a counselor one of my favorite activities to teach was Expedition. I loved teaching tree identification and tracking. So here is a challenge to you: can YOU name 5 different trees in your neighborhood? Do you have any white or red pine trees (like we do at camp)? What about maples or birch trees? It is empowering to stretch our brains and our relationships with the natural world. When we know the world around us, we feel a deeper connection to it, and in this time of social separation, we can use all the friends we can get!

  3. Staying Healthy and Safe in 2020

    The health and safety of our campers and staff is always our highest priority. We are watching events closely and are working with the local health department and following state and federal guidelines regarding COVID-19. We all have questions about what the next few weeks will teach us, but in the meantime, here’s what we can tell you.

    How will COVID-19 affect camp this summer? 

    • Our dates remain the same—we are Highlands—which means we are optimistic, realistic, resilient, vigilant and flexible. 
    • We are monitoring things closely, and staying in touch with our families regarding school closures and/or modified schedules. 
    • Please keep us posted on what your school district plans are. 
    • We will keep you up-to-date via email and on the blog

    What are your plans to keep everyone safe during the summer?

    • We will implement our screening during check-in (as always) and update it as prescribed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Camp Association (ACA). 
    • We always have hand sanitizer on the tables at meals, but will also set up additional handwashing stations as necessary. 
    • We will increase our cleaning and disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and objects during camp, including equipment.
    • We will follow all health department and CDC guidelines regarding sending staff or campers home if they become ill. 

    Who is responsible for keeping Camp safe and healthy?

    • We have two registered nurses on staff that work closely with Andy, Tracy, Craig and our head counselors to ensure all protocols are followed. 
    • Our caretaker Kevin Rasmussen is also the Sayner Fire Chief and an EMT. He is an invaluable link between Camp and the community. And his wife Barb, is a paramedic and they live on the property with us. We are so lucky to have them on our staff.
    • We work closely with the Vilas County Health Department and the ACA to create policies that have camper and staff health at the forefront.
    • We will follow all CDC guidelines.

    Links you might find useful

    On a personal note, I’ve been examining my priorities this week. It turns out they mostly revolve around food, family and dogs. We are lucky that we have a stocked pantry (which I cleaned out this weekend!), warm beds to sleep in, and friends and family to call or video chat with. We are thinking about ways we can be “Worthwhile” either in-person or virtually. Starting today, I’m going to write one letter per day to the people I love. What ideas do you have to keep focused on the good things in life? I’d love to hear from you. 

    I ♡ CH, Tracy B.

  4. Chicagoland Meet and Greet CANCELLED — FacebookLive instead!

    When life gives you Coronavirus, make a Facebook Live event! (catchy, right?)

    In the name of social distancing, we’re going to take our meet and greet online this Sunday. We will do a short presentation and take a quick peek at some unseen camp footage and be available to answer your questions online. Come join us as we try out some new technology maneuvers (could prove entertaining for that alone!) and get you schooled up on this summer at Highlands.

    Here’s the scoop: Just log on to Camp Highlands Facebook page on Sunday, March 15 between 1:30—2:30 CST and see what’s cooking! We’ll see you on the interwebs!

  5. Milwaukee + Chicago, Here we Come!

    Calling all new and returning campers, alumni, friends of camp and people that want to know more about the amazing place we call our summer home…Please join us for a casual information session and to get excited about the upcoming summer. We’ll watch the videos from 2019, do a brief information presentation for those who are new to Highlands and Horsengoggle for some sweet Highlands swag. (If you don’t know what Horsengoggle is, come on Sunday and find out!)

    If you can’t make it, but know someone that would like to know more about Camp, please send them our way.



    Sunday, February 9, 2020 / 1–3:30 PM


    1447 E Goodrich Ln, Milwaukee, WI 53217 (the Kuesel home)



    Sunday, March 15, 2020 / 1–3:30 PM


    Chicago Highlands Club, 2 Bluebird Trail, Westchester, IL

    Please RSVP

  6. What if we unplugged?

    I spend a goodly amount of time fantasizing about crushing my smartphone.

    It’s a love/hate relationship. I’m connected to my family, clients, news, and entertainment around the clock, but I’m also connected to my family, clients, news, and entertainment around the clock. Know what I mean?

    Scientists are still debating the effect screens play on our kid’s super-plastic brains, and guidelines are changing all the time. What we do know is that when we’re on our phones we’re decidedly NOT outside exercising, reading a book, laughing with a friend, playing the guitar, holding someone’s hand.

    Some researchers are now recommending we totally unplug for one day of the week to reduces stress and anxiety as a reset our monkey brains. I wonder if I could do it? Could you? Now, imagine being 14, and constantly bombarded with dopamine-generating messages and images (some good, some not so good). 14-year olds with plastic brains and little impulse control. I’m guessing they aren’t going to unplug themselves, either.

    That’s where camp comes in. I’ve seen the impact of a hard unplug in my kids when they return to me after four weeks of camp: tan, smiling, a little dirty and HAPPY. They’re completely relaxed and in the moment. They’ve made connections with new friends, improved skills in canoeing and tennis as well as sharpened those 21st-century skills like grit, resilience, and initiative. They’ve relinquished the pain of constant connection, “likes,” and comparison to other folks. No wonder they feel and look great.

    Don’t just take my word for it, though. One of the great privileges of being a camp director is receiving the essays that boys write about camp on college applications, back to school reports or senior speeches. Read our friend Grant’s application essay below on why he enjoyed his zero-technology summer last summer.

    By Grant B.

    If was spending the weekend with my family in a place with zero technology, I would do many activities outside in nature. Some of these activities would include hide and seek with my siblings, making a fort in the forest, carving objects out of wood, doing puzzles or board games, exploring nature with my siblings, hiking, fishing, skipping stones or playing cards.

    I would do these activities because I enjoy them. Over this past summer I involved myself in nature more than ever. I went to camp for three weeks in Northern Wisconsin, specifically Sayner, Wisconsin. At Camp Highlands we weren’t allowed any electronics and our cabins didn’t have windows or electricity. So we resorted to a lot of other activities, most of those are included in the previously listed activities. During our free time we would play UNO or Texas Hold’em to pass the time, which I really enjoyed. We also played lots of games at the end of the day, such as capture the flag, buffalo hunt or infection. All of these include a lot of running and tactics, and because of that I also love games of that style. During camp we went on a five day camping trip to Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula. After our long days of hiking we would pass the time by going down to Lake Superior and skipping rocks, getting firewood or just exploring the surrounding nature. Some of the campsites were amazing such as Masse Homestead which we went on the dunes at night and looked at the stars which were very easy to see as there was no light pollution. I also enjoyed hiking as we also had very nice views of the various rock structures that makes Pictured Rocks famous.

    Because of camp I learned how much I really love nature and the various activities that can be done in nature. So I would implement most of those activities to pass the time in a place with zero technology because at the end of the day I enjoy those activities more than being on my phone.

    We agree. Thanks for sharing, Grant!

  7. Final Week 2020

    Harry Potter Day

    Saturday was epic. If you couldn’t tell from the photos what was going on, it was Harry Potter Day, complete with Dementors and Quidditch! My favorite activity was the log roll (very en pointe, right…ummm?) which involved boys running down a line of old windsurfer boards tied in a row. If my life depended on it, I could not have completed this challenge. The boys had a great time, the weather was perfect and we wrapped up the evening by watching Harry Potter outside on Junior Hill. Days like that make me believe in magic!

    A Case of the Lasts

    Sigh. We’ve entered into this last week of camp with lots of wind in our sail, but you can’t help but notice that the breeze has changed. The boys are out getting the last of their Achievement Credits (ACs), planning their stunt night skits and collecting lost and found to go into the laundry tomorrow. It’s hard to believe that parents will be rolling in on Friday, just a few days away. Here is what the next few days holds in store for the boys:

    Tuesday, The last Division Day

    The skinny: Cubs have the busses and will be headed into the nature center, eating a picnic dinner at Torpy Park and then they’ll enjoy the lumberjack show…That’s a pretty authentic north woods afternoon.

    The Colts and Juniors will be playing games and the counselors have set up a slip and slide on the golf course for the boys–fun! The Junior Division will be enjoying “dream hot dogs,” with an assortment of toppings.

    The Senior Division will be lounging around camp–extended rest hour (!), skiing and games.

    Wednesday – Stunt Night

    The laundry goes out on Wednesday and the boys will go to scheduled activities. Wednesday night is our Stunt Show which is like a talent show, minus the talent. Campers put on goofy skits, and we sprinkle some musical numbers in. It’s silly old-fashioned fun.

    Thursday – Kerchief Ceremony

    Thursday, boys will get their laundry back and go to scheduled activities during the day. Thursday evening is a quiet and contemplative ceremony called the Kerchief Ceremony. Boys are recognized for ACs earned throughout the summer, and it helps us keep the Fire of Friendship burning in our hearts all winter long.

    Friday – Final Banquet

    Friday’s festivities kick-off between 3:00 and 3:30 p.m. with the Water Carnival. The camp store will be open from 4:30-5:30 for your last-minute purchases. The family picnic starts at 6:00 p.m. followed by the awards ceremony about 7:15. The whole night wraps up about 8:30. We really look forward to hosting you. While it’s our preference boys stay the night on Friday, your boys may leave with you Friday evening after checking out with your child’s counselor. Saturday pick up is 9:00 a.m. and all boys should be out of camp by 10 a.m. If you have any questions, please call the office. Thank you!


  8. Groovin’ at Highlands

    Nearly a week has gone by–time flies when you’re having fun!

    Your boys have been AFTER it. The weather has been largely cooperative, if not entertaining. Last night’s storms had us hanging out on the porches watching the sky. That’s the amazing thing about being unplugged: instead of a screen, we connect with the people and the nature that surrounds us. The winds that swirled up brought with them a quick rainbow and white caps on Plum. Who needs The Bachelor when you’ve got mother nature showing off!?

    Thursday we participated in an Ultimate Frisbee competition with three other boy’s camps. I’m happy to report we dominated that event. Counselors Sam P. and Trey T. are Ultimate superstars and that translates to the boys at Highlands. Not only did we win, we did so with a healthy dose of good fellowship and sportsmanship.

    Wednesday was Division Day. Cubs went on their overnight on a local lake, Colts were out on their 3-day canoe trips (they’re already back with great stories to tell), Juniors went into town to play laser tag and mini-golf. That left the Seniors in camp where we hosted our gal pals from Red Pine. Tradition has the guys and girls participating in an epic scavenger hunt followed by tubing, games, a picnic supper and a dance.

    Do you have a Senior that you haven’t heard from yet? It might be because he’s out on the trail, as we’ve already got boys out on several trips to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

    On this chilly Saturday morning, we’re playing “Risk“–an awesome all-camp game of strategy and fun. The weather cooled off significantly today, and while the overcast skies don’t make for the best photographs, we’ll take it after the last few scorching hot days.

    We’re getting excited for the Camp Birthday next Saturday. You’ll want to set your alarms for that one (09:45 CST), we’ll be posting the all-morning event on our Instagram Story.

    The first week is over–that means boys’ nerves have settled a bit, they’re finding their camp legs and making new friends. This week they’ll look forward to earning more Achievement Credits (ACs) and really getting into the Highlands groove.

  9. Fun + Festivities + The 4th

    We’ve had an awesome week here at camp. I would have told you sooner, but alas, nearly the entire Chicagoland area vacations in the north woods, and it appears that all those folks streaming and uploading their Instagram stories has clogged up the ol’ internets! Here’s to hoping things are better this week.

    Here’s the skinny on what’s been going on. Wednesday was Division Day. The Colt cabins were out on their canoe trips, Cubs had an overnight, Juniors played laser tag and mini golf and our Senior division (those that weren’t already on trips) canoed and kayaked down to Sayner to picnic and play football at the park.

    Thursday led several more of our Seniors on their trips to Isle Royal, Boundary Waters and Pictured Rocks leaving camp with mostly younger campers. This is a sweet time at camp when most of the big boys are out and Cubs, Colts and Juniors reign supreme. We had a 4th of July state-to-state competition with five stations around camp including a hysterical event down at Senior pier where boys had to jump into the lake from the towers, swim to the raft where they were given a wooden match and then had to swim with it above water (like the Statue of Liberty! Ha!) to the shore where they received points if the match could be lit. That evening we took a bus into Sayner for a top-notch fireworks display.

    Friday was a sleep-in, since we got back to camp so late on Thursday night, followed by a day of regular activities.

    Saturday, we had an awesome all-camp Theme Day – and you’ll love this, it was called“Camp Risk.” (This mom inserts her raised eyebrows.) But it’s not that kind of Risk. It’s this kind of Risk! Theme days are always popular and we’ll be posting more photos. Two of our most pep-filled counselors, Johnny and Seth cooked it up, but the whole staff participated to make it one of the best theme days I can remember.

    Can you believe that we’re already planning for the end of camp? Next week, Division Day is on Tuesday, Wednesday will be Stunt Night, Thursday is our Kerchief Ceremony and Friday is our banquet dinner. If you haven’t RSVP’d to Friday’s picnic dinner, go ahead and do that now. We just need a head count to make sure there are enough cheesy potatoes!

    We’re squeezing every last bit of fun out of these perfect Wisconsin summer days. How lucky we are!

  10. CH Update

    The weather is trending toward SUMMER. Yes! Boys are getting into the groove, they’ve got the routines down and now they’re getting down to the business of making those real friendships and measurable progress in their activities. Next week will fly by with the Decathlon and the Fourth of July on the horizon.

    Trips and Division Day

    We’ve already got our Junior cabins 9, 11 and 13 out on the trail. Several Senior trips will set out on Sunday and Colt canoe trips will all depart next week.

    Division Day was this past Wednesday. Cubbies had an overnight camping trip on Pallet Lake (weather cooperated!), Colts had the busses and went to the Waters (a mini-water park), the North Woods Wildlife Center and picniced at Torpy Park in Minocqua. Our Juniors hiked from camp to the next lake over, where they swam and cooked out. And our Senior division hosted our pals from Red Pine Camp for Girls. Division Day is nice—the routine is shaken up a bit, the divisions hang out together and the vibe around camp is relaxed.

    Highlands Decathlon 

    Saturday is the Decathlon (formerly known as the Track Meet). This is an all-day, all-camp event complete with the long jump, shot put and….a chicken launch. Did you know that this all-camp event dates back to the earliest days at camp? And while we’re all about tradition, we’re also about maximizing fun. That’s why we’ve added events like riflery, archery and a canoe slalom course. Everyone participates and one team will emerge the victor!