1. 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!

  2. 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!


  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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! 


  6. Authentically Worthwhile

    Did you know we have a Better Authentic Recipe™ for becoming a Worthwhile Man developed over 116 consecutive years of running camp?

    Hanging behind my desk is a rough, hand-typed quote by Theodore Roosevelt that I’ve never noticed. Until this year after Andy and I watched Brené Brown’s “The Call to Courage” special on Netflix where this quote is a keystone to her presentation. Andy pointed out that Roosevelt’s words have been watching over me for years. It reads:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    There are many things I love about this quote as it applies to a summer at Highlands. Heck, it even uses the phrase “who spends himself in a worthy cause.” As a place that puts supreme value on being “Worthwhile,” this quote radiates the Highlands Way. 

    At camp, boys are challenged at every stage. From the time they’re tearfully dropped off, to nervously waitering their first meal, to unsteadily playing basketball for the first time, boys are tested. They are inherent “doers of deeds, large and small.” 

    The successes and failures of your boys at Highlands are their’s alone. He repelled blindfolded at the low-ropes course. That’s Tyler’s achievement. He shot a bullseye at archery and built a really cool shelf in the wood shop. Those are Leo’s wins alone. But the triumphs are easy. 

    What about he “who errs, who comes short again and again”? When John drops the football during a scrimmage? Or Jacob loses his temper with his cabinmate and says something he’s not proud of? That’s all their defeat, too.

    I’m guilty of it. Making life easy for my kids. I advocate for them, I attend all the things (well, mostly), I proofread vocabulary at 10:30 the night before it’s due (shakes fist at sky). But that’s what makes camp so important. You. Aren’t. Here. To. Help. Them. 

    Boys and young men are desperate for ways to differentiate themselves, especially during adolescence. Individuation is critical to developing into a healthy adult. That’s why teenagers do all kinds of ill-advised things – they just want to prove they are NOT their parents. They’re looking for a unique community and for validation, but in order for it to work it has to be authentic. Enter all today’s ills: drugs, recklessness and the underbelly of the internet. Ugh.

    But at Highlands, we’ve got a Better Authentic Recipe. Our counseling staff (of whom exactly 100% are returning this year!) are expert facilitators of the ol’ individuation process, although, I doubt that’s what they’d call it. They allow your boys the space and opportunity to “fail while daring greatly” in the words of Roosevelt. And it’s not just by learning skills in baseball or canoeing. The real impact comes after persevering through tough days on the trail, overcoming homesickness, making new friends and being a little bit uncomfortable on a cold afternoon. When the days and activity credits (ACs) are counted up at the end of the season, your boys are a better, more worthwhile version of themselves.

    Highlands Better Authentic Recipe™

    1 part self-reliance
    1 part courage
    1 part willingness
    1 part screen-free, pristine, north woods environment 

    Mix together in a 116-year-old vessel lined with support, experience and leadership. Add a dash of a loon’s call. Dip in Plum Lake 2-3 times. Repeat.

    Moms, dads and all the caregivers out there – don’t kid yourselves. You’re also daring greatly by letting your boys come to camp. It’s not easy to let them go for 3, 4 or even 7 weeks. But you do. And we thank you for the opportunity to be a part of the process on their path to manhood. 

  7. First Day Fun, Food and Friends

    We asked our Cub head counselor, Kent Overbey to do a rain ceremony to keep the weather at bay, and it worked. Yesterday’s predicted thunderstorms held off and today’s forecasted rainy drear has been replaced with a damp, warm, overcast day. 

    The morning started off with our safety talks and general getting-to-know-you tours around camp, but by mid-morning, the boys were at their activities. We’ve already started snapping photos and are posting some goodies on our Instagram Story (grab your favorite millennial to help you if you don’t know what this means).

    The first couple of days of camp are transitional – even for boys who have been here for years, they can be tricky – new friends, old friends, getting back into the swing of things. Lois makes this a little easier on all of us by stacking the deck when it comes to meals. Today’s menu consisted of pancakes for breakfast, chicken tenders for lunch and supper will be homemade turkey soup and sandwiches. Did you know Lois has cooked for us for more than 30 years? She’s in charge of all the meal planning this year and helping her out in the kitchen are Car, Becky, Becca and Caroline. We are so thankful for this team! 

    Other things going on around camp:

    • We have two resident eagles that are stalking a family of merganser ducks
      in the boating bay – stay strong mama and baby ducks!
    • We’ll pass out shirts to the boys tonight so they’ll be ready for Sunday Assembly 
    • Trips are already going out – hiking in the Porkies and more coming right up
    • Wednesday afternoon is Division Day and we’ve cooked up some new things for this summer, stay tuned for updates on that stuff

    I ?CH,

    Tracy B.


  8. 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).

  9. A Better Man

    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.


  10. We’re cooking up good stuff for 2019!

    We’re zooming into 2019! Here are some things you can look forward on the ol’ internet….. 1. A new website….soon! You’ll be able to more easily access the information you need, but you’ll still have access to the great stuff you’ve grown accustomed to – photos, online registration, etc. 2. We scored big with a special delivery from our 1964 camp photographer, Robert Esposito. Dozens of beautiful, previously unseen photos will delight you on our social media. Make sure you follow us on Instagram to keep up. 3. Keep your eyes peeled for lots of new videos on the Camp Highlands YouTube page. We can’t wait for our 116th camping season, which is less than 150 days away on this cold January 28 afternoon. Stay warm out there, folks!