Posts by Andy Bachmann

A Better Man

March 12, 2019

  1. One of the first times I heard someone at Highlands talk about, “being a better man,” was at the very un-glamorous hour of morning dip. I was a camper at the time, but many of us would file down to the Towers for a quick dip in the morning before breakfast.

    This was a particularly chilly morning. I remember, I for one, was not thrilled at the prospect of jumping into the brisk waters this northern Wisconsin dawn. But it was just one of those things that we did. And I think we did it because all our counselors did it. And if they were doing something a little wacky, a little out of the ordinary, a little challenging then I wanted to be part of it, too. Because, to me, these guys were the coolest of the cool. They were my role models in life. In attitude and approach to life, too. I wanted to be like them.

    I believe it was Luke Hoyne who was particularly vocal about not feelin’ the morning dip on this particular morning. And I still remember Scott Jensen’s response to his trepidation.

    “It makes you a better man.”

    Luke (and I, and many others) ended up jumping in on that frosty morning.

    Camp Highlands is a place where we are invited to participate in the change in our very own natures; to challenge our assumptions and attitudes about things that might be “too cold,” too daunting or too difficult, and digging a little deeper into our souls, knowing that whatever challenges we may face, we come out on the other side. We know we will be better men for having tried. At first, we often surprise ourselves with our own success. But success breeds success, and the next thing you know, making the hard or difficult choices (other people might naturally want to shy away from) become easy choices for us. We do it because we know we will be better for it; and when we’re lucky, the world will be a better place, too.

    So how about it, men of Highlands? What experience did you have at Camp Highlands where you learned a valuable life lesson about how to be a better man?

    Share your reflections here. We promise you’ll be a better man for it.

    Since I’ve become the Director at Camp Highlands, I end almost all of my Sunday Assembly’s and all of my End of Term Banquets with our most commonly held belief at Camp Highlands. That we are all striving to be Better Men, learning to be more Worthwhile Men, and that makes us Highlands men in the end.

    My Grandfather, Snow, was well known for his common refrain, “How lucky we are,” and I couldn’t agree more. We are so very lucky to have Camp Highlands in our lives. We hope you feel the same way about having it in yours.



    One of my absolute favorite things about camp is the laughter. I think I laugh harder and more often here than I do anywhere else.
    We’ve reached that time of the season where the smiles come easy, the nods are affirming and everyone leans on the best of intentions in our interactions with one another. It’s a special time of year.
    Today I was walking around and I was caught off guard by what I suddenly noticed. Friendship. All around. Everybody’s got a buddy. There are packs of boys lumbering and strutting around with the calm cool confidence of a boy surrounded by his pals. The little guys sprint as a posse to the next great thing. Whether it’s the last notes of the mess call at flag raising that mark the “GO!” of the sprint to the dining hall, or the bugle call announcing free time (and store time!), there is an urgency to EVERYTHING for pretty much all of them. And it’s awesome.
    But what caught me off guard was when I realized that back home, there aren’t packs of pals. There may be a few if you’re lucky. Maybe one “best bud” to yuck around with. But not packs like this. Our guys are surrounded by fellows who will be their best friends their whole life long. And here, in this week, at this time of the season, they are so comfortable, so casual and so cool just hanging out. And when they do, they laugh. And that laughter is a beautiful thing to hear.
    How lucky we are.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.

    1916 or 2016? It's all the same.

    1916 or 2016? It’s all the same.


    These guys will be pals for a long, long time!


    There is something magical about the full moon this time of year. It peeks up above the treeline about the time the fellows are headed down for evening dip. The beautiful skies the last few days, combined with the magical silver bridge that starts small but stretches across the water as the night grows is a wonder to behold.
    On Sunday night during our brief intermission at Sunday Night Sing, the sun broke out of the clouds and an incredible double rainbow appeared above Hooks Point. Sunday would have been my Dad’s 76th birthday, and it definitely felt like a warm greeting from the man who has meant so much to this place. So I did what I figured he’d do. We all ran outside to ooh and ahh at the skies before heading back in for the second half.
    Life has shifted into a gentle flow around camp. The boys are in the routine; the new guys aren’t as baffled by all those bugle calls and the kids who were proclaiming to be homesick are having a harder and harder time proving they’re not having a blast. Most cabins have made it through all our activities, and some new favorites are popping up. It’s great to watch these guys go from Archery to Ultimate Frisbee to Water Skiing to Crafts. Yet another reminder how awesome camp can be.
    Most of our trips are either out and back, out on the trail or about to head out. Seniors are in Pictured Rocks, Isle Royale and about to head out to the Boundary Waters and Apostle Islands. This Wednesday Cubbies head out for their second overnight camping trip of the term. This time they go to Pallate Lake, a place Kent Overbey proclaims to be one of the best campsites in the northwoods.
    Life is good up north.


    Flag in Dining Hall

    Our flag from 1908 (Camp was 8 years old by then!) hangs proudly in the dining room

    The Fourth of July is a little funny around here. Really, it’s just like any other day–except that we have the boys board buses to head into Sayner for a front row seat at the Sayner firework display. Although it’s SUPPOSED to be a surprise, truth is most of them already know. But that doesn’t make it any less fun.
    Yesterday morning I had an all camp contest to see who could tell me the year and presiding President was when the flag that hangs in our Dining Hall hung over the capitol. There are 46 stars.
    Believe it or not, a number figured it out. Whether it is because they are history buffs (which a few folks are) or because they remembered from our Teddy Roosevelt Theme Day last year, in total 14 boys got it right. (The answer is 1908, Teddy Roosevelt; but it’s special because the 46th state was admitted to the Union on the 4th of July of that year. Cool, huh?)
    Here at Camp Highlands we celebrate the gifts of independence. Not in a, “Rah, Yay, America!” way, but in a way that is perhaps a little more in tune with the character of independence that fostered such actions to make this country great so many years ago. The gift of self-rule; self-control and personal responsibility are high on our list of what celebrating independence is all about.
    Another contest I had (and will continue to have until Wednesday noon) is to see who can memorize our 18 Honor Camper Qualities and recite them in front of everyone in the Dining Hall. It’s a daunting feat; one that Hans F., Brewster H., Declan M., Jack R. and Quinn B. have already taken on, and accomplished. Impressive acts of initiative and leadership that are serving to inspire us all.
    This is the kind of independence we cherish at Camp Highlands. When young men aren’t afraid to take on a task and see it through to completion, for the honor, pride (and ice cream) the accomplishment merits.
    How lucky we are.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.


    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.



    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!

  7. 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

  8. 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!

  9. Byron Shinn 1934-2015

    Byron Shinn spent 49 summers at Camp Highlands for Boys.
    Recruited as a young man by the man who was the director of Highlands before Mike Bachmann (William J. “Doc” Monilaw), Byron was one of the unique figures who could speak to the history of Highlands dating back to a time before those of us familiar with Highlands could even comprehend. Other than Mike and Sharon Bachmann, no one has spent more seasons at Highlands than Byron Shinn.
    He was an integral part of camp life. He will be most remembered for his love and dedication of the sailing program. You could often hear Byron’s booming bass shouting cryptic sailing lingo out across the lake, telling boys to “Ease the main sheet!,” “Don’t pump the tiller!” or “lift up your daggerboard!” He was a stickler for proper terminology; and many befuddled boys quickly learned the importance of knowing what was what. Byron took special pride and pleasure in leading the sailing trips at Highlands. He would skipper a 32’ foot sailboat on Lake Superior with 4 or 5 boys on board; and by the end of their journey each of them would know the pride and joy of taking the helm while under sail. He was well known for his cooking skills on those trips, and boys would often return to camp regaling their cabin mates with tales of Byron’s hearty breakfasts and delicious steaks.
    Though never a camper at Highlands, he did climb the ranks of the staffing positions; as counselor, trip leader, and eventually one of our head counselors. He took great pride in the fact that he was one of the trip leaders of Mike Bachmann’s first canoe trip, and was the man who taught Mike’s grandchildren to sail.
    In his later years at Highlands, Byron played an intregal role in probably the most important place in all of camp; the kitchen. At Highlands, the boys are tasked with serving as the waiters for their cabin mates; and as you can imagine, not all 9 year olds are up to the task of properly setting the table, serving the food, or cleaning up efficiently afterwards. Byron masterfully made clueless young campers feel at ease with the proper protocols. He would arrive early before every meal, entertaining the campers with tales of why the knife blade always faces the plate (a ritual enacted by the knights of the middle ages, he claimed) as well as remind us all of the most important tool on the table, the ever present spatula!
    His service and dedication will forever be remembered. Already a member of our Camp Highlands Hall of Fame, Byron Shinn will live on in our hearts as a most worthwhile and true Highlands man. He will be missed.
    There will be a service of remembrance at 2 pm on Saturday, June 13th at the First Congregational Church of Western Springs. 1106 Chestnut, Western Springs Illinois.

  10. Some sad news

    Dear Highlands Family,
    It is with a heavy heart that I write to you today. I recently spoke with Loren Shinn, and he passed along the news that his father and our friend Byron is in hospice care as he faces the end of the illness that he has battled these past several years.
    After a meeting with his oncologist, they agreed that they had exhausted their best possible treatment options, and have decided to transition Byron’s treatment plan to pain management.
    Byron continues to live at home, with assistance coming in regularly. While his physical state is deteriorating rapidly, he still has a warm heart and welcomes your thoughts and prayers. If you are so inclined, please drop him a note to:4309 Grand Ave. Western Springs, Illinois 60558.
    Byron came to Highlands after being recruited by Doc Monilaw. That was in 1953. He took great pride in telling us that he took my father on his first canoe trip. Byron has shown many of us the great grace and joy of sailing. I have never seen him more alive than when skippering a 32’ boat through the Apostles- always with a grin on his face. Byron has been an active Highlands man for most of his adult life; sharing his love of Highlands with Loren, Carter, Janine and of course, our beloved Nanette.
    His voice will forever be a part of the soundtrack of my Highlands experiences. Whether it is his bass harmonies on “Now the Day is Over” or his reminders to pick up the, “ever present spatula!” or hollering at campers sailing on Plum to “ease the main sheet!” This would have been Byron’s 50th summer at Highlands. Though he won’t be with us on at camp, he will certainly be in our hearts. And Byron will forever be a part of our Highlands days.
    Please keep the entire Shinn family in your thoughts this summer,
    Many blessings to you all, and until we meet again, fare thee well.
    Andy Bachmann