1. Ross in the stern of the war canoe about 2014.

    Ross in the stern of the war canoe about 2014.

    Dear Highlands Friends,
    One of the most powerful Sunday Assemblies from the past decade was when Shaun Trenholm unpacked his trunk, but instead of bringing forth clothes or camping gear, he pulled out letters that he had written to the people who had most influenced him in his life. In that assembly, he encouraged each of us to write those letters to the people who have made a significant impact on our lives.
    In this spirit, we invite you to send a verbal letter to our most worthwhile man, Ross. As you know, Ross is in a fierce battle with gastric cancer right now. He and Anna and Eli are doing everything they can to wage this fight. But it is an exhausting battle. And the difficulties weigh heavy on everyone’s hearts. In a recent visit I had with him, the best time we spent was when he and Anna and I could laugh about stories from this past summer and other great moments from our past. It was clear that the cherished memories bring a smile to his heart, and to Anna and to Ross, those smiles are golden.
    So we invite you to participate in keepsake CD of cherished memories and stories with Ross. The instructions are simple.
    Call in to the number listed below. Enter the 5 digit code. And, when prompted, share your name and then share your story. When you are done you can simply hang up, or listen and re-record your message if you are so inclined. It’s as simple as that. We will keep the recording lines open for one week, ending next Wednesday, March 16th. Then the CD’s will be sent to Ross and Anna by the end of next week.
    We think he would love to hear your voice talking about a special time you shared together, a story about him that always makes you smile, or what you think makes Ross uniquely special. Remember when leaving your message that a meaningful story or shared memory will make the most impact. 
    This is simply one more way we can boost Ross, Anna and Eli’s spirits and let them know how loved and cared for they are by people the world over. So, if you are so inclined, prepare your thoughts, remember the joy, and share your story with our most worthwhile man.
    Thank you for your love and support.
    Here is all you need to do: 
    1) Call LifeOnRecord, 1-800-606-0697 by midnight Pacific Time on March 16.
    2) When prompted, enter your Invitation Number: 16075
    3) Record your message after the tone. Remember to say your name. When finished you can either hang up or press the # key. If you press the # key you’ll be given options to listen to your recording, accept your recording, or re-record it.
    Feel free to forward this onto other people that know Ross so that they can contribute to the keepsake as well. Callers outside of the US and Canada can reference this link for dialing instructions: ‪http://www.lifeonrecord.com/faqs.htm#countries
    Thank you for helping to make this a wonderful gift for Ross, Anna and Eli.

  2. What makes a Worthwhile Man?

    Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

    Andy took a very long walk!

    I am fresh back from a 500 mile walk across Spain, where I followed in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who, for the last 1600 years or so have been making the journey to Santiago de Compostella, the purported final resting place of St. James the Apostle. It’s a journey I’ve wanted to make since I was 15 years old, and, thanks to the good graces of my wife and family, was able to do it.
    Obviously a 500 mile walk will give one plenty of time to think on things. And one of the things I thought on was, “What makes a man worthwhile?” It’s a term we use a lot at Camp Highlands – due to it’s central place in the philosophy of the Highlands Way. And it’s a good question for each of us to consider (as is, for that matter, what makes a person, man or woman, worthwhile?), and one that provides terrific insight into our own expectations of character and quality.
    Now – spoiler alert – I am not going to divulge to you the characteristics that I feel MOST exemplify a worthwhile man. But I will gladly share with you that each summer (and this past summer in particular) I can proudly say that I saw outstanding qualities of worthwhile men played out every single day by our exceptional staff. Whether it was in the kind way they offered encouragement to a boy trying to water-ski for the first time, or the gentle way they steered some rambunctious campers towards more peaceable solutions to who gets to play teatherball next. Our staff is the secret to our success at Highlands – and I am always so proud to say that we have an almost 100% return rate for our staff. That means consistency in character, in values, in heritage and in fun. The men and women who make up our staff are the ones who define what a worthwhile man or woman is. And they are the examples your sons look to to help steer them right.
    It is time for me to start hiring our staff for next year – and while I know we will have an extremely high percentage of returnees, we are always open to the next outstanding young man (or woman) who will help us round out another excellent season at Camp Highlands. Do you know a great young man (or woman) who would be an outstanding addition to our Highlands family? Then please, send them my way! And, if you haven’t yet done so, don’t forget to sign your boys up for our upcoming season. Because I can guarantee that they will be cared for and counseled by outstanding men and women who exemplify the Worthwhile way. So what are you waiting for? Join us for our 2016 season!
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.

  3. 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

  4. Take a trip


    From sailing to hiking to kayak or canoeing trips. Highlands trips teach boys self-confidence, appreciation of the natural world and life skills they will take with them through all the days of their lives.

    “We put out more trips this week than [other camp that shall remain nameless] does all summer.” –Craig Ericksen, Program Director.
    Editor’s note: This was said not as a slight on another camp. Craig was just stating a fact!
    Sometimes I stand back and watch in awe as our Program Director, Craig Ericksen works his magic. It’s no easy feat making camp run as smoothly as it does. Craig keeps track of who is on their day off, who is teaching what activity, who is cleaning the bathrooms, who lifeguards at 4:30 swim, who is working in the kitchen, who is driving out what trips, who is ON trips and where our campers will be scheduled for their activities (keeping their activity requests as a high priority). It takes a special brain to manipulate all that data.
    So in a week like this one, where we have six senior campers and three staff canoeing the Boundary Waters of Minnesota, eight campers and four staff hiking Isle Royale (from one of the island to the other), seven campers and two staff hiking from one end of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore to the other, one junior cabin canoeing our local lakes, another hiking the Porcupine Mountains AND four campers and two staff sailing through the Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, I marvel at his wizardry. Did I mention that HE is one of the staff members sailing on Lake Superior? Oh, and tomorrow we’ll send out four more trips!
    Meanwhile we have those of us in camp fully assigned and cared for, scheduled and covered for a regular day in the life at camp.
    Why do we inflict this kind of pressure on ourselves? Because we’re Highlands, of course.
    Our cabins are about as rustic as you can get. We have no screens on our windows, no electricity, and the closest running water is about 20 yards away. Yet these four wooden walls become our second home away from home – and when we hit the trails and the lakes we appreciate even more how little we truly need to be content and cared for. Suddenly our rustic cabins seem like the Ritz!
    Our tripping program has been part of our fabric since our inception. We believe it is important for our campers to experience the joy and wonder of nature; and learn the skills required to care for themselves and the wilderness around us. That is why we inflict the high level of scheduling madness upon ourselves that we do. Because we believe that the men of Highlands are better men for the wilderness experiences we offer. We believe that the challenges one faces out on the trail are character-shaping opportunities that help prove to ourselves that if we set our minds to something, we can accomplish it. It also happens to be a ton of fun.
    Thank you, Craig Ericksen, for your ability to help us deliver the Worthwhile experiences we do.

  5. Dear Highlands Staff


    Yo’ T., Noah T., Ben C. and Jordan T. are just some of the incredible Camp Highlands staffer that bring the perfect combo of fun, safety and experience.

    Dear Highlands staff,
    We probably don’t say it enough, but we are so thankful for YOU. Without you we’d just be a spot on the map. You are special to us in so many ways.
    From the CIT who taught me the proper way to mix the sanitizing bleach mix for the pots and pans in the kitchen, to the 70+ year-old guy who insures each trip goes out with the right tools and food – we appreciate you.
    We notice when you take the extra effort to roast marshmallows with your cabin on Five Pines in the evening. We notice when you holler words of encouragement to that boy who is almost to the top of the clubhouse chimney. We notice when you put your arm around a fellow when he’s feeling blue and just listen.
    We notice when one boy asked another boy to “smell his ice-cream” and then pushed the cone in the other boy’s face, and you didn’t yell at anyone. You said, “I’m waiting to see if they’ll work it out.” And guess what? They did.
    We notice when you tell your guys to brush their teeth and blow their noses. Really.
    We notice when you get up at 5 a.m. to start baking muffins and when you stay up until 11 p.m. to put turkeys in the oven. Thank you for keeping our bellies full and happy with homemade food!
    We appreciate the time and energy you put into keeping Highlands clean and tidy. Lodge staff, we appreciate the hours you spend beating rugs and serving meals to our guests and making sure everyone feels welcome at camp.
    When you truly appreciate the boys in your cabin – when you laugh at their jokes and make them feel incredibly loved – we notice.
    You know how you are spending the better part of your waking hours with a zillion boys of varying ages, backgrounds, abilities, personalities and volume control? Well, we know that’s the hardest job out there. We know.
    In a 17 short days, camp will be over. But long after the last cabin window is pulled closed, the time and energy you put into each boy will continue to permeate their lives – like a slow-release medication. The 11-year old you took a little extra time with in skiing might translate that attention into success in school and with his peers. Can you imagine that?
    When you showed an extra measure of patience or humor with your cabin, you were modeling powerful behavior. Your dedication to the I’m Third motto, your commitment to the Worthwhile way and your appreciation for the men that came before you is contagious and inspiring.
    We know Highlands is a special place, not merely a spot on the map. Highlands is a vortex for manhood. A place where boys can try, climb, learn, fail, succeed, fall and soar (in no particular order). And without you, the most powerful ingredient, that magic would not exist.
    For all you do, we notice and we are thankful.
    And on that note…
    I ❤ CH // tracy b.
    Rocket building with Nick K., our Cub head counselor

    Rocket building with Nick K., our Cub head counselor

    Archery with CIT John M.

    Archery with CIT John M.

    It's always a party at the slack line with Alex M.

    It’s always a party at the slack line with Alex M.

  6. Feeding Highlands

    Not many camps can boast the kind of food we eat here at Highlands. At many camps, food is prepackaged, frozen and fast. At Highlands, meals are homemade. Meatloaf is mixed (70 lbs. at a time), cakes are made from scratch, and hundreds of pancakes are lovingly flipped – for groups of 150-180 people, three times a day! WOW. And the woman that makes it all happen is none other than CH Hall of Famer, Lois Craig. For 24 summers Lois, with her team of kitchen assistants, has been fueling the bodies and minds of our young men. We thought you might like to get to know her a little better.
    TB: Lois, I’ve never known Highlands without you, and I’ve been here for 15 years. How long have you been coming to camp?
    LC: This summer will be my 24th summer. My parents were good friends of Snow and Mim (Sharon B.’s parents). After graduating from Illinois State University, I started teaching home economics in the small town of Bath, Ill.. I started cooking for camp that summer of 1974 and continued until 1976 when I met my husband, Dale. We visited a number of times when my kids were growing up. On a camping trip with our two kids Lindsay and Andrew in 1990, I was really surprised that so many of the people I had worked with in the 70’s were still here! Kent Overby took Andrew, and sold him on being at camp. And I have been coming back since 1991.
    TB: What’s your favorite thing about being on staff?
    LC: I really enjoy working with a great group of people and spending my summers out of central Illinois.
    TB: There are so many great things that you prepare, I’d be hard -pressed to pick a favorite. What’s your favorite meal at camp?
    LC:  Meat loaf is my favorite, and penne pasta with meatballs is a close second.
    TB: I always knew you loved to sew, knit and bake, but I was shocked to learn you played the flute!
    LC: And the piccolo! I played in high school and college. I always thought it would be funny to play Brahms lullaby instead of Taps at night!
    TB: You mentioned to me you like to read. What about TV?
    LC: I just finished “Catching Fire” the second book in the “Hunger Games” series, and NCIS is the only TV show I try not to miss.
    TB: I know it’s hard to beat being the head chef at Highlands, but if you could trade places with any person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional, with whom would it be?
    LC: I would like to be Guy Fiere for a week. I love to travel, and to do that and eat great food at the same time seems incredible!
    TB: Ok, last question. Finish this sentence: Not everyone knows…
    LC: I’d been to 48 states, and many parts of Canada and Mexico by the time I was 16. My husband of 35 years, Dale and I added Alaska to that list. I have yet to go to Hawaii. Another thing that not everyone knows is that I have two brothers and two sisters and I’m the only one who never went to camp.
    TB: Well we fixed that didn’t we!? Thank you so much Lois for your commitment to Highlands. You are truly one person we couldn’t live without here at Camp!
    Do any of you CH fans have special memories of Lois? Maybe you’d like to throw out a big THANK YOU? We’d love to hear about them on the blog. Leave us a comment!
    [slideshow elements=”3″] [image link=”http://www.camphighlands.com/wp/wp-content/themes/camp-highland-for-boys/images/lois/lois01.jpg” caption=”Lois with her husband Dale”] [image link=”http://www.camphighlands.com/wp/wp-content/themes/camp-highland-for-boys/images/lois/lois02.jpg” caption=”Lois and baker, Marcella, stand with their beautifully decorated Camp Highlands birthday cakes”] [image link=”http://www.camphighlands.com/wp/wp-content/themes/camp-highland-for-boys/images/lois/lois03.jpg” caption=”Lois making french toast for 150 and the great spread for the end of term banquet”] [/slideshow] Remember, if you have questions on the end of term festivities, take a look at yesterday’s post.

  7. Staff List is STELLAR!

    It is my great pleasure to share with you the counseling staff of 2012!
    Some folks are first term, some are second, but all will be staff this coming season. Once again we have an amazing return rate for our counseling staff, with only one fellow never having been to Highlands before. I am very excited for the summer to get here, and with guys like this leading the way, it is bound to be another magical season at Camp Highlands.
    Our Counselors-in-Training are:
    Tom Kuntz, Cooper Kupferberg, Alex Martinson, Alec Winter, Ed Linquist, Tom Frankenthal, Marshall Sheetz, Mario Velazquez, Pablo Oria, Austin Sennott, Alonso Cano, Santiago Castro, Tom Lubenow, Logan Means and Kevin Miner. 
    Our Assistant Counselors are:
    David Dean, Joshua Ericksen, Colin O’Brien, Ben Conrad, Chris Dahlman, Nate Henderson, Sam Escamilla, Andrew Barber and Drew Halverstadt.
    And our stellar counseling staff are:
    Ross Freeland, Ian Astle, Kent Overbey, Matt Schaible, RJ Bruce, Evan O’Brien, John Gallagher, Pat Gallagher, Alec Grassi, Don Kuntz, Tommy Popalisky, Teddy Popalisky, George Swartz, Dan Cleveland, Chris Nyweide, YoQuarius Tucker, Will Faber, Nick Katzmarek, Shaun Trenholm, Jim Ott, Loren Shinn, Shane Hoerbert, Jim DiDominico, Gordy Rahr and Noah Thacker.
    And how lucky are we that we also have returning this summer:
    Lois Craig, Steve Ronkowski, Kayla Stelzel, Jill Ragsdale, Kent and Peggy Taylor, Jill Wright, Jani Freeland, Dana Barton, Byron and Nanette Shinn and Craig Ericksen.
    Joining us for the first time this summer, we have:
    Jackie Nettles (babysitter), Becky DiDomenico (crafts!) and Kathleen O’Donnell (lodge).
    What a great staff! As campers continue to enroll, don’t be surprised to find new names added to the list. In the meantime, I am so thrilled that these great people will be joining us for our upcoming season at Camp Highlands. 
    See you soon!
    Andy Bachmann
    P.S. Watch for a new camper list this week, too!

  8. Meet Camp Highlands: RJ Bruce

    First up in our series of introductions to some of our fabulous staff? RJ Bruce!

    RJ Bruce carrying a trunk

    RJ carrying a trunk into his Cubbie cabin (Kurt Bokern pictured on the left)

    RJ is from Northbrook, IL, a suburb of Chicago. At camp he is a counselor in the Cub division and teaches Drama. He also organizes and directs “Stunt Night” at the end of each term. In the off season, RJ is an actor and singer in Chicago as well as a freelance music director and vocal coach. His greatest ambition in life is to become a CHOF (Camp Highlands Old Friend, the loving term we have for our older counselors).
    We had a couple questions for RJ.
    How long have you been coming to CH?
    I started coming to camp when I was 10 and only missed one summer so…12 years.
    If you could trade places with any person for a week, famous or not, living or dead, real or fictional – with whom would it be?
    If I could trade places with anyone, it would have to be Nathan Lane. He is by far one of the greatest comedic actors alive and to be able to do what he does would be incredible. Plus, he has worked on Stage, Screen and TV. How awesome is that?
    Passions, obsessions, pre-occupations?
    Reading, singing, riding my bike, eating, Shakespeare, Sondheim, teaching and of course Camp Highlands! 
    Favorite album, book or TV show?
    NCIS, hands down! Best ensemble show on TV.
    Something that surprised you about CH?
    Something that surprised me about camp was how easy it is for all of us to pick up right where we left off at the beginning of each summer. It always feels like we never left.
    Favorite meal at CH?
    I could never pick just one so my tied top-two are Sunday Turkey Dinner and Lasagna!
    Not everyone knows…
    Not everyone knows I’ve never been outside the continental United States. I have however seen Canada, from Isle Royal!
    My favorite CH memory is…
    My favorite CH memory is getting on the sea plane at the end of my Isle Royal trip my last summer as a camper. Knowing that I had just finished a trip that I never thought I could do was a pretty amazing feeling. Also, the Monkey Business performance after the banquet my first year on Senior Row.
    Best thing about spending a summer at CH?
    The best thing about spending a summer at CH is learning to step out of your comfort zone and try new and difficult things, all while knowing that everyone is rooting for you and will be there to support you no matter what.
    Thanks RJ! See you in just a few weeks for our 109th camping season!