1. Dear Highlands Supporters,

    We’re in the middle of our 118th season here at Highlands, and I’m proud to say that the magic on Plum Lake continues. We have our highest enrollment numbers in years, with both first and second terms “full.” And nearly all our staff is comprised of returnees. How lucky we are!

    We are also lucky, thanks to the generosity and thoughtfulness of so many of you. This year, because of your donations to the Highlands Honor fund, we have improved our beautiful facilities while honoring our history. THANK YOU.

    At Highlands, we’ve been climbing for more than four decades. In 1981, two staff men built our first “Adventure” course. But Kent Overbey oversaw it for the better part of thirty years. Countless young men learned one of our core Highlands values, the “courage of the man who knows that if he will, he can,” thanks to the gruff and loving encouragement of Kent Overbey. He often said, “Confidence expands proportional to the distance from the ground,” to boys as they struggled with their first experiences of climbing and rappelling down our Adventure wall. After 41 years of life lessons and use, it was time to update our facility. And update it we did!

    We are proud to introduce our new climbing wall and zip line, newly dedicated as “The Overlook,” in honor of Kent Overbey’s guidance and leadership for all these years. Thanks to your generous donations, Highlands campers will learn the essential lessons that Kent taught us for decades to come. Thank you for your support.

    Tune in tomorrow, Saturday, July 23, as we celebrate Highlands 118th camping season with our Steeplechase and Birthday Army/Navy Fundraiser. Former Admiral Jim Ott and Former General Loren Shinn will be checking in all day on Instagram and Facebook to encourage our respective teams to out-raise one another for this year’s friendly competition. Please help us spread the word!

    See you tomorrow and go Highlands!

  2. What you need to know about 2022

    “It’s time to start thinking about the importance of your summer.”

    —Craig Ericksen, Program Director

    A Summer of Potential and Adventure

    We are getting geared up for 2022, and we hope you are too! We know you have questions about this summer, and we’re here to answer them.


    Have you signed up yet? If you haven’t, that’s OK, but don’t wait! We start working on cabin assignments in the late spring, and it’s helpful for us to know your plans. Are you interested in camp but would like information about scholarships? Email Tracy to find out about availability and our process.

    Health & Vaccines at Camp

    One thing we have learned through the pandemic is that we can’t predict what Covid has in store for us. Health and safety are our top concerns at camp. We strongly recommend a Covid vaccination for all camp participants, but it is not required at this time.

    We’re staying vigilant and fluid and working with our health team, (including a pediatric cardiologist and two infectious disease doctors) to help us create policies as necessary. We will inform parents if policies change.

    We require all camp participants receive a negative Covid PCR test within 72 hours of their arrival at camp. You will submit this form on your CampMinder account before opening day.

    If you have any questions about why we have made this decision, please reach out! We are more than happy to discuss this with you.

    Medications at Camp—New in 2022!

    In our ongoing commitment to meet the needs of our campers who require medication while at camp, as well as comply with all the state regulations regarding medication dispensing for summer camps, we require that you:

    • Send all prescription medications—including pills, inhalers, epi-pens, HGH, topical creams, etc. clearly labeled in the original packaging in a gallon Ziploc bag.
    • Please write the camper’s name in Sharpie on the Ziploc bag.
    • The Ziploc bag must contain the Prescription Medication Form, which gives dosage time and quantity. (this form is also in your CampMinder account).
    • All medications brought to camp must be submitted to camp health staff during check-in and must be fully documented on the Health History & Exam in your CampMinder account.
    • A physician must prescribe vitamins (gummy or otherwise).

    Remember, we stock common over-the-counter medications like Ibuprofen and Tums. You do not need to send your child to camp with these medicines. Please call us with any particular concerns.

    Travel to Camp

    If you plan to ride the bus from Chicago to camp, please complete the travel form no later than May 1. Thank you!

    Gear and Packing

    We love gear at Highlands! By following the packing list, your camper will have just what he needs. You can find the packing list on the website and on your CampMinder account.

    Parent’s Handbook

    One of the best things you can do to make preparation for camp go smoothly is to give the Parent’s Handbook a good review. Even if you’re an old hand at Highlands, we’ve updated some things and it might save you a few minutes of wondering or confusion throughout the months leading up to camp. As always, Andy and I are always available for a conversation

  3. Bringing back the Rangers in ’21

    2020 was a weird year. Our young people bore much of the burden of a closed-down world with missed opportunities and rites of passage. At Highlands, our oldest boys missed their opportunity to be the big men on campus: to sub for counselors on their day off or to take the youngest camper for their first sail on Plum Lake. One of the biggest losses, though, was their opportunity to take that last big trip as a camper—what many alumni have called a life-changing experience.

    In an effort to ease this loss, we have BIG NEWS. After many months of planning, we are proud to introduce The Rangers — Highlands Wilderness and Leadership Experience.

    What is the Ranger Program?

    To bridge the gap for boys who missed their last year as a Senior—a critical capstone to their Highlands experience—we’ve rekindled the “Ranger Program” run at Camp Highlands for 14 years from 1963–1977.

    The Ranger Program is a full-immersion experience into the Highlands Wilderness and Leadership Program for young men ages 16 and older. Since our inception, our goal as a camp has been to provide “real wilderness experiences” that help us become more Worthwhile Men. Rangers will participate in multiple wilderness experiences, both hiking and paddling, in and around the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Additionally, each Ranger will become fully certified in Red Cross lifeguarding or Wilderness First Aid and participate in the Highlands pre-camp leadership experience.

    Boys who participate in the Ranger Program will be the first in what we hope to be many years to come and will have their name placed on a special Rangers plaque.

    We hope that boys will then go on to be CITs for the second half of the summer, drawing a salary and beginning their life on the Highlands staff!

    Who is eligible to participate?

    Boys who would have been last-year Seniors in 2020. They should have finished their 11th-grade year of high school in 2021.

    Space is limited to 8-10 participants. Applications are due to Camp Highlands on March 28.


    $3,600, includes all Red Cross certifications and transportation, a special quick-dry Rangers t-shirt. Parents must also purchase trip insurance for approximately $180.

    Leadership: Two terrific Highlands men, Brian Boos and David Kuesel will be leading this year’s trip. David K. is a second-generation Highlands man, a trained EMS, and has worked with kids in a school setting and at camp for a decade. Brian Boos is a teacher, coach, dad of three kids, and the son-in-law of Kent Overbey, Sr., our last leader of the Ranger program from 1969-1977 (need we say more?). Finally, Program Director, Craig Ericksen (a former Highlands Ranger himself), has been helping us plan the trip and is working on finalizing our permits.

    The Itinerary*

    • June 10: Rangers arrive at Camp Highlands to become Wilderness First Aid or Lifeguard certified. Rangers will participate in pre-camp preparation for the summer of 2021, including leadership training, landscaping, painting, etc.
    • June 21-24:  Travel to Escanaba, MI on the Little Bay de Doc and do three days in kayaks exploring sea caves through the Penninsula Kayak Company
    • June 25-29: Travel to Munising and hike Pictured Rocks
    • June 29: Travel to Hancock Portage Canal in Houghton and fly via Sea Plane(!) to Isle Royale.
    • June 30-July 4: Hike portions of Isle Royale
    • July 4-6: Canoe the fast waters of Boise Brûlé River

    *based on permit availability and capacity, our itinerary may change slightly.

    How to Sign Up

    Log into your CampMinder account to apply today.

  4. Built to Last

    We hope this message finds you well in body and spirit at the beginning of this holiday season. We are writing today because we have exciting news to share with you. 

    Tracy and I, as well as the entire Bachmann family, are committed to Camp Highlands’ ongoing success. It is in this spirit we are proud to announce that Camp Highlands for Boys is now Camp Highlands for Boys Foundation, Inc. 

    Camp Highlands for Boys Foundation is our newly formed 501(c)3 non-profit that will ensure the magic of Camp Highlands will endure for future generations. The foundation will serve two purposes. First, we will incorporate our camper scholarship program, the Mike Bachmann Campership, into our management. Through this scholarship, we will steadfastly continue the mission of making it possible for children to experience the gift of camp. (We are grateful to the American Camping Association of Illinois for their stewardship of this fund to date.) 

    Our second purpose is to bolster Highlands’ programs and facilities. While the rustic charm of Highlands is part of what sets us apart, maintaining our facility in a way that is best for our campers and the environment is an ongoing effort. With your support, we will offset the costs of maintaining cabins and buildings, updating tennis courts and athletic fields, improving our bathroom facilities, and updating our equipment.

    An advisory board of five members will oversee the Camp Highlands for Boys Foundation. We are thrilled to announce that Mark Ulfers, Anthony Moore, David “Fuzzy” Zoeller, and Mike Pinney have already agreed to serve on our board. I will continue serving the Foundation as the Executive Director.

    We want to assure you that the traditions and values that have sustained Highlands for 117 years will continue under our leadership. With the help of our board members and YOU, Highlands friends, we can look forward to another century of character-building for boys and men.

    We hope you will join us in celebrating this new adventure and help us secure the future of CHfBF by making a gift to the Highlands Honor fund. All gifts qualify as charitable contributions (under the CARES Act for 2020 only, a taxpayer can make up to a $300 cash donation to a 501(c)3 without itemizing the deduction) and will be used to increase accessibility and enhance the camp and camping experience for generations to come. 

    You may donate online or by mailing a check made out to Camp Highlands for Boys Foundations, Inc. (Please mail checks to our winter address: 1319 NW 30th St., Gainesville, FL, 32605).

    Tracy and I consider ourselves two of the luckiest people on the planet. We have been entrusted as faithful stewards of Camp Highlands, and we intend to remain so for decades to come. We are so fortunate to be able to invite you to join us on this journey. Thank you for your ongoing support of Camp Highlands. 

    Andy Bachmann
    Executive Director
    Camp Highlands for Boys Foundation, Inc.

    PS. We’re trying to reach out to as many Highlands Men (and families) as possible. Can you help us spread the word by sharing this news with your former cabin mates, counselors, and CHOFs of old? Please direct them to the Highlands Alumni Network page, where you–and they–can sign up to receive updates on all that’s happening at camp.

  5. Planning, Preparation, Perseverance

    What is the plan for Summer 2021?

    We are 100% focused on making the upcoming summer an awesome experience for your boys. As you all know, we did not convene camp last summer. There were just too many unknowns in the spring when we had to make our decision, coupled with our county health department’s request that we not open. However, many camps did convene, some didn’t go so well (Tennessee and Georgia made big headlines) but many camps did so safely and without incident.

    We’ll be heading into 2021 using guidelines from the CDC and the American Camp Association as well as using best practices that safely-convened camps implemented. That includes (but is not limited to):
      • quarantining staff before children arrive,
      • cohorting children while at camp,
      • masking/physical distancing when children are not in their cohort,
      • testing before kids come to camp,
      • a closed campus (i.e. people are not coming and going—once we are in camp, we stay in camp),
      • monitoring of children’s temperatures,
      • new handwashing stations,
      • special protocols if a cohort does end up with someone with covid (i.e. they’ll still have fun!),
      • eating outside as much as possible and if not outside, then in shifts, physically distanced
    While we can’t guarantee that there won’t be an isolated case of Covid at camp, we can put all the procedures in place to ensure there isn’t transmission between groups. Additionally, we are optimistic that testing becomes better/easier. We are working hard to ensure this coming camping season is fun, safe, well organized—and that you’re looped in all along the way. We will be holding Zoom hangouts on the first Monday of the month starting in February, so stay tuned for details about those.

    Save Your Spot

    Is it too early to consider what your boy’s summer plans are? We don’t think so! (Summer can’t come soon enough if you ask us.) As we coast into the early winter months, our hearts long for the pristine shores of Plum Lake, new friends, disconnecting from our screens, and plugging into nature. 

Many families have already signed up for 2021—and that’s fantastic—Second Term is nearly full, in fact. If you haven’t saved your spot, now’s a great time to do it.

  6. Opportunity to Live Third

    It is mid-spring, and I am sitting in a coffee shop attempting to get organized for the week. Everything is great, besides the fact that I am incredibly camp-sick. Camp-sick is the phrase that I use to describe my longing for the summer- to be in the Northwoods of Wisconsin again with my best friends on the planet. I use this camp-sick phrase most often when talking through homesickness with some of the young, Cub Division campers. I make it very clear to them that while they are definitely going to miss their parents while they are away from home, these are completely normal feelings, its emotional toll pales in comparison to waiting 300 days each year for camp to return. A day does not go by where I am not thinking about Camp Highlands for Boys. Sometimes I feel bad for my non-camp friends who are with me when I start laughing to myself about camp happenings. It is impossible to accurately portray how important and deeply rooted my passion for Camp Highlands is.

    I am going to attempt to explain why Camp Highlands’ message is so important to me, and why I feel it is an important message that all young people should have the opportunity to hear; why it ‘works’. While it’s impossible to isolate just one reason why Camp Highlands’ message is so important. It is simple, with opportunities for application at all hours of every day. In short, Camp Highlands’ message to me is about living and embodying the best version of oneself, to be someone who knows the difference between right and wrong and is firm in their steadfast commitment to doing the right thing even if no one will catch you doing the wrong thing. It is about putting others before yourself because you cannot go through life alone. The “I’m Third” motto is the base, but for many years it was too difficult a concept for me to understand in terms of what it actually means to ‘Live Third.’ You need people to live into the slogan for others to be able to understand how it truly looks. I am inspired by the examples that the men and women of Highlands have consistently displayed, from my childhood through the present.

    It is very easy to be angry at the world–it can be an incredibly unfair place with nowhere for you to place your emotions, with no one to blame for your situation. This is an uncomfortable position to be in, and often one people are not sure how to navigate; no one practices handling uncomfortable/unfortunate situations. But, when you interact with people on a daily basis who are committed to living differently, who are committed to the growth of someone’s character, it is inspiring.
    Each person adds their own ‘flare’ to what it means to be a Highlands Man/Woman–to live Third–and I am constantly developing my personal definition as well. Consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: until you feel truly safe and secure in your situation, you are not able to step out of your comfort zone to make a mistake. This is the environment that Highlands is passionate about creating for its campers from the second that their parents leave them, whether that is at the camp bus stop, or on the stoop of their cabin. The Camp Highlands staff is committed to helping you navigate the difficult situations that you will inevitably confront as a young man via structured, safe, situations, as the boys are learning how to manage their independence for the first time. What will you do when there are high winds and you turtle your Sunfish sailboat? How will you choose to continue the hiking trip when you are hungry and you have blisters on both of your feet? These situations translate directly to real life where there is not one solution. There is something tangible about the energy at Camp Highlands- the vibe if you will. It is contagious, and a great lens to look at life through.

    I am near the end of my first year as a teacher. I became a teacher because I wanted to be like my counselors at Camp, many of whom were teachers. I want to continue to come back to camp because there is nowhere else in the world where you can have an awe-inspiring conversation with a guy no older than 8 years old, and then immediately follow that with a story that has you on the ground laughing, told to you by a guy who is somewhere between 70 and 80 (but you are not quite sure because he has never answered you straight-up about it and you have been asking for 14 years). I digress.
    One day, I had a police officer come speak in my classroom with my students, and one thing that he pointed out that made a ton of sense to me was that in today’s world, it is possible to find/see things on social media that anger you from the start of your day until you go to sleep. For example, you check Instagram and you see a picture that upsets you, then later in the day you follow a Twitter thread that makes you impossibly frustrated, you think Facebook may have something nice but since they were stealing your data it is just more of the same things that upset you earlier that day, and then at the end you check Snapchat only to see that the person you wanted to Snap you back opened your Snap 4 hours ago and did not respond. Sleep, Repeat. This is the reality of the current social media era that we are in. I know this because I see this with my 7th graders every day.

    If you are never shown another way, if you never have a role model who lives their life different from this, anger may be the most common emotion that you experience (self-doubt, self-loathing, confusion, etc.). I was very angry as a child. That is why Camp Highlands is important now more than ever. All of the 7th graders in my school could benefit from having Shaun Trenholm (ST) remind them that the difference between doing a good and great job at something is about 10 minutes. All of the parents in the world would benefit from watching the most senior counselor at camp hang out with the youngest campers at camp without any technology (for the last 25+ years) and continue to work to relate to them, to be stern when appropriate, but to provide each camper with the opportunity to make their own mistakes even when society tells us that these children are too young to truly know the impact of their personal decision-making.

    Even though I hate that stinking pot that Kent bangs at 5:55 am on the Thursday mornings after a Division Day Cubbie overnight, we have 7-year-olds taking down tents and being responsible for ensuring that we leave our space better than we found it. These opportunities are authentic, and they are crucial to a young person’s growth and development, especially in adolescence. Even though I was struggling with Calculus during my senior year of high school, it was a challenge that I chose to take on because I had the personal confidence of having completed a 7-day, 100+ mile hiking trip in Isle Royale through Camp Highlands the previous summer. I was given a safe opportunity to experience some of the purest, strongest, most difficult emotions that I had ever felt to that point. I also learned the power of perseverance, and how far I was able to push myself mentally to achieve what I set out to; there was no other choice.

    Here’s Seth decked out for Highland’s 115th birthday. He’s full of pep, one of our favorite Honor Camper Qualities.

    Thus, in a world where it is so easy to be angry and to remain angry, to see people who choose to live in opposition of this negativity is why I feel that Camp Highlands’ message is so important, and why it is so important to me. Without the examples that the Highlands men before me displayed, I am not sure where I would be today… who would I look up to? Who would be my group of friends that I would go to first when my parents got divorced? I do not know, but I am glad that this is just hypothetical. In truth, I became a teacher so that I could continue to work at Camp Highlands.

    I am so grateful for the opportunities that my parents gave to me being a camper for 8 years and beyond, and I am so thankful that people like the Bachmanns, Kent Overby, Craig Erickson, and Lois Craig prioritize character development over anything.

    Trust the process. I’m Third.

    Seth Fox (this is my 14th summer at Camp, I am from Wilmette, IL, and my favorite activity is footsketball).