Category Archives: fun


July 07, 2016

  1. 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!


    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.

  3. Riding the Winds

    IMG_5635“If you surrender to the wind you can ride it.” – Toni Morrison

    The 28-mile an hour winds have blown in a camp full of boys today. We are incredibly thankful for the energy and spirit they bring with them.
    All the bus campers arrived before 5 p.m., beating Jim DiDomeninco’s predicted arrival time of 5:07 p.m. (Winning!) As tradition dictates, we’ll be eating spaghetti tonight – 20 lbs. of spaghetti, that is! Lois and Greg do an great job in the kitchen. Did you know Lois has been our head chef for more than 20 years? And Greg our awesome sous chef is joining us for his second season. We are psyched!
    I wish you could see the scene when the busses arrive. In a matter of just a few moments all boys, duffels, trunks, lacrosse sticks, backpacks and tennis racquets are unloaded quickly and delivered to their cabins. As a mom, I watch the scene and think, “isn’t there some sort of system here?” Apparently you don’t need much of a system when you have 113 years of Highlands magic (and experience) in your pocket. In fact, nearly 100% of our staff has been here before, and of those returning, most of them have been campers here their whole life. They know how it goes! Check this time lapse from this afternoon out (note the end when a pick up soccer game starts!)

    Tonight after supper, the boys will play games by division, get the lay of the land, hear some baseline rules and cap the evening off with s’mores. Yep. It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.
    Because the camp gods are smiling down on us today, it’s WARM. But our guys will have to wait until tomorrow’s swim tests before they dip. By lunch tomorrow, every boy will be tested and given the low-down on how our buddy system works. We take our waterfront activities very seriously. As Andy always says, “You never walk alone when you walk with safety.” 
    There’s a vibe in the atmosphere, and I think it’s more than these gale-force winds. It’s something bigger. 113 years of magic, excitement, heritage, tradition and love is in the air.
    113 years. We’re ready for you.
    And on that note…
    I ♥ CH,
    Tracy B.

  4. 10 Day forecast – for fun


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

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

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

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


    Bucket Brigade!


    Trust Busters


    Food and Drug Administration


    More bucket brigade for good measure!

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

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

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

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

  6. Fourth of July Fun!


    We're feeling extra proud of our flag today!

    We’re feeling extra proud of our flag today!

    Hey Highlands fans! Happy Fourth of July! We drag our celebration out over the week here at camp. As you know, we celebrated the Fourth last week during our annual track meet, but the fun doesn’t stop there. We’re cranking Motown in the office and getting geared up for a great day! Today, we’ll be eating a red, white and blue fruit salad with strawberries, blueberries and bananas along side Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes, peas and fresh carrots. To finish off that all-American meal, we’ll have blue cake with cream cheese frosting. YUM.
    The weather is gorgeous. Cool in the shade, warm in the sun. Nice and crisp. The perfect day for land sports like baseball (cabins 11, 14, 21, 24, 15 and 18) and soccer (cabins 21, 16, 17 and 25). There’s also a sweet breeze on the lake. It’s a nice day for a sail (cabins 25, 18, 23).
    First term is a whirlwind of trips. As you know, each boy goes on an age-appropriate trip. Cubs have a weekly overnight on Wednesday, Colts enjoy the sweetest canoe trips on a local chain of lakes, Juniors hike in the Porcupine Mountains. Cabins eight and 12 are out on the trail as I write this. The Seniors go on an assortment of big trips. Right now we’ve got Seniors canoeing in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota and boys hiking 100+/- miles on Isle Royale.
    Tonight the boys that aren’t on a trip will load up on a bus to head into the booming metropolis of Sayner, WI (pop. 207). I have traveled around the world, and have seen fireworks in Sienna, Italy and Okinawa, Japan – and I’m here to tell you, the fireworks in Sayner, WI are astounding. Our very own caretaker Kevin Rassmussen (also the Sayner fire chief!) heads up the festivities and saves Camp Highlands a primo viewing spot and positions our buses for a quick getaway. It’s a late night for these guys, but so fun!
    Can you believe that this time next week, you’ll either be here at Camp or about to pick your son up at the airport or bus!? Time flies when you are having fun.
    Remember if you haven’t RSVP’d to our family picnic on FRIDAY, we encourage you to do so. We would love to see you!
    And on that note…
    I ❤ CH // tracy b.


    Perhaps you’ve heard of “gagaball?” It was new to me—but for the last couple of years the fellow who trains our lifeguards every summer has been STRONGLY encouraging me to get one. So this year, I did. And it’s a blast.
    Players enter the “pit.” A hexagon frame about two feet tall, 17’ across. Then they take this little ball, bounce it, then start to bat it around trying to hit the other players on the leg, from the knee down. You get hit below the knee, you’re out. Pretty simple. But the campers go crazy for it.
    One great thing about gaga is it is a self-policing game. Players know when they’re out, and they go out. Games rarely last more than 3 minutes. And they’re FUN!
    A few days ago, a bunch of Cubs and Colts were playing, and the chants started. “Cubbies! Cubbies!” vs. “Colts! Colts! Colts!” I don’t even remember who won; but someone did. Then, during the NEXT game, when there were only two players in the pit, they started chanting again. But this time it was, “ANYONE! ANYONE!”
    Today we celebrated the Fourth of July (on the 28th of June- I know! I know! But YOU try to get 21 trips in and out of camp in 21 days. The first Saturday of the term we have everyone in camp, so we do our All-Camp games) and it was a testament to the art of friendly competition.
    As you know, we divide all of camp in to two teams: the Army and the Navy. Once you’re on a team you’re on a team for LIFE. And so are all of your offspring. I’m a third generation Navy man myself. There really is no rhyme or reason for it- it’s just how we can divide into two teams for our all-camp competitions.
    So this morning we had our Army-Navy Track Meet. And it was a great one- it came down to a 25-point difference at the end—and with over 700 points at stake, that is a slim margin! We run, jump, put and throw- and here’s the thing. MOST of these guys have never competed in track events before. Many don’t even really know about them. So the amazing thing is when we see kids who have never run a 50-yard dash in their lives before run one and then WIN. And suddenly they have a whole perspective on what they can and can’t do. And maybe- just maybe this one win in this one event will change the shape of their lives forever. I know of more than a few Highlands men who learned to love the track and field thanks to their participation in our track meets here at camp. It’s a great event. It can make a hero out of anyone.
    And here is another thing I love about the track meet- at the end of the day we all just love to watch a good race. The Senior Relay is the big event at the end. When our fastest, oldest 4 guys from each team run about a 400-meter lap each. It is SO exciting- with everyone cheering for their team and shouting for their guy, and hoping for your team to pull through in the end. And sometimes they do! But sometimes they don’t. And today, what I loved seeing was that at the end of the big race, with all of camp gathered around hooting and hollering and shouting their teams, when the winner crossed that finish line -he stopped. And waited. And the first hand he grabbed was the guy he just beat. Then all of the relay guys gathered around, from both teams, and shared a smile and a hug for a race well run- and suddenly we weren’t Army or Navy anymore. We were Highlands. They did this with no prompting from a counselor. They did it because that’s how we do it at Highlands. This is the art of friendly competition. And it was on proud display today. It was a great day at camp.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.
    Andy B.

  8. Boys Will Run

    Sometimes I take the little things for granted. And then something as simple as watching a flock of boys run past me will remind me of just how special summer camp can be.
    This morning I had one of those moments. I was sitting on the office porch enjoying one last cup of coffee before the onslaught of the day, and the bugle blew- and there they were- a flock of Cubbies clomping past the porch on their way to their activities. Running. I don’t know what it is about these little guys, but it seems like they are always in a rush to the next great adventure. They greet the day with enthusiasm and pep (Honor Camper Quality #3), and they don’t let a moment go to waste.
    Some of that zest probably comes from the compressed energy of the last two days. Long car or plane rides. A forever-taking bus. Then all those safety talks! Riflery, Waterfront, Boating Bay, Free Swim. Then the instructional talks- how to be a waiter, how to request an activity, how to put up a tent, how to sweep the cabin, how to make a bed! And then the swim test! And then the bad weather drill! It’s no wonder they’re ready to rock on this second day at camp.

    photo 2

    Waterfront safety talk. Boring? Maybe. Important? You bet!

    Ross gives the thumbs up after a successful storm drill. Boring? Maybe. Important? You bet!

    Ross gives the thumbs up after a successful storm drill. Boring? Perhaps. Important? Definitely!

    But all this preparation is what makes for an exciting and a safe summer. So today, it is time to RUN. The fellas in Cabin 24 told me they have the BEST day today. Kayaking, Archery, Adventure (our ropes course) and Riflery. Then they couldn’t wait for Clubs this afternoon. Two will be making model rockets. Two have signed up for our Soccer tournament. All four were brimming with enthusiasm and excitement for this great adventure called “camp.” And all four were running all around, with nobody telling them to stand still or calm down or be quiet or act right. Because they were acting right! They were boys, being boys.
    I can’t remember the last time I ran just for running’s sake, but next time I see that flock of Cubbies blazing by, I think I will join them.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.
    Andy B.

  9. Playin' around at camp

    Seniors dash down the hill during the broom race at Games on the Hill

    Seniors dash down the hill during the broom race at Games on the Hill

    Hello Highlands fans! Where is the time going?! Only 11 more days left of camp. I’m on the countdown big time this year because, like you, I’m missing my own campers. While our daughter’s camp doesn’t post photos, I’ve been able to catch a glimpse or two of my kid over there and while it makes me miss her even more, I see how TAN and HAPPY she is. I can’t wait to hear about her time away. I’m happy to report her homesick letters (the ones where she begged us to “GET HER OWT!!”) have subsided and she admitted at visiting day that she “had kind of forgotten about us.” I consider that success!
    This weekend was big in the life of Highlands. We turned 110 on Saturday. I feel like we are looking pretty youthful and spry given our ripe old age! We celebrated in traditional Highlands style, with the Steeplechase on Saturday morning. At 7:30 a.m. instead of being woken by the bugle, instead, campers were roused from their beds by the crazy Army/Navy staff entrances. You’ll see photos of this nonsense (staffers sitting on the hoods of cars, the mom in me does NOT approve). But the kids LOVE this. There’s music blaring and it’s a great way to kick off the fun that then ensues.
    As you know camp is divided into two teams, Army and Navy and they competed in countess events. Each boy participated in at least one leg of the race, and often two. These events ranged from jumping off the towers into hula hoops, to dribbling a soccer ball around cones, to kayaking around Five Pines island, to casting a fishing line into a spot in the lake. It is my favorite day at camp. And while the weather left much (VERY) to be desired, that didn’t stop the boys from having a GREAT time. The highlights of the race are the water boil and the baker tent race This year, the teams were neck in neck until the very last event, which was the long kayak race around Five Pines . Woah. It was crazy! Two second generation Highlands men competed, Trey Taylor and Reed Altorfer. While Kent had the lead early in the race, Reed must have paced himself, because he pulled it out for a Navy victory. His prize? A kiss from the Lady of the Lake. (Just ask your boys for an explanation.)
    The fun didn’t stop there. Camp was treated to the senior carnival in the afternoon and a picnic supper and Games on the Hill.
    This is a week where many of our oldest campers are out of camp. They have headed off on their big trips to Pictured Rocks, Boundary Waters, sailing in Lake Superior and kayaking north woods waterways, among others. It sort of changes the vibe in camp and lets us act a little smaller. Tonight we’ll be treated to the music of Jim DiDomenico, lead singer of Underwater People, and we’ll roast marshmallows and have a big old dance party! Tomorrow is Division Day and the Juniors will head out of camp to play laser tag and picnic on a local lake. That’s a lot of fun.
    Speaking of fun, your boys are having lots of it. I had the rare moment of just hangin’ out on Junior Hill yesterday, soaking up the sun and watching our young teens play giant jenga (again, thank you to our craft instructor, Becky D.), goof around with some funny balloons that make totally inappropriate noises when you let the air out of them, and throw a Nerf football around. It’s amazing what boys will do when left to their own devices on a sunny afternoon for an hour or so. In the incredibly scheduled times in which we live, I think the few unstructured moments at camp are so good for our boys. I believe in these moments of freedom is where real creativity and growth can happen. I saw boys share, laugh, play and lollygag. In the wise words of Snow Nothdurft, “How lucky we are.”
    Keep those postcards and letters coming. It’s not the packages that the boys love so much, but instead the excitement of something real in the mailbox. They check it every day (sometimes 16 times a day). Tomorrow the real zoom-time begins.
    And on that note…

  10. Saturday Fun

    This weather! Ah! I wish you all could be here. It’s pretty darn great. Warm, breezy and perfect. We’ve got lots of trips coming in and going out over the next couple of days, and while this morning was regular activities, this Saturday afternoon camp will be engaging in some serious all-camp fun. Andy Bachmann is living out his dreams of having a real-live Game of Thrones event. Complete with four teams, Starks, Lannisters, Barratheons and Targaryens. While this means nothing to me (or probably most of the campers, for that matter, it’s not exactly kid-stuff), the staff is excited and if the staff is excited, the campers are excited. Andy says it’s basically a four-way game of capture the flag. I’m guessing the pictures will be pretty great. Stay tuned!