Category Archives: summer 2015

Fare thee well from Friends + Family Camp

September 09, 2015

  1. A note from F+F coordinator, Tim Bachmann…

    “Fare thee well for you must leave us, do not let the parting grieve us, but remember that the best of friends must part, must part. Adieu, adieu good Highlands Friends, Highlands Friends! We’re sorry, that our days must end, days must end – But we’ll be back next year as happy as can be, fare thee well, fare thee well, fare thee well!”

    fandfcampThe 47th annual Friends and Family Camp Week has come and gone. The last of our guests has driven out. Staff members have put away the kayaks and canoes, sailboats and paddle boards. The outboards are out of the water. The tennis nets are down. The kitchen staff is busy cleaning out freezers and refrigerators. It’s leftovers for one last lunch. It’s a sad day – but a beautiful one. It’s warm and the lake beckons, though seems much quieter.

    We had a banner year this year at Friends + Family Camp. Every cabin was occupied. With our late father, Mike, not here – we simply did what we had to do. We stepped up on the bench of the Doc Monilaw dining room porch and filled his shoes with ours. Andy, Ross and I were no funny-one-of-a-kind Mike – but we were still full of caring, and this was enough. We found that Highlands is still Highlands, and that the ever present void left by Dad’s absence was not something so powerful so as to steal our joy. Camp is still here – if not on an ascent. Thank you, Dad – we saw you all summer in the breathtaking rainbows and moments of pause. We remembered your specialness so many times, and in so many ways.

    One of my first campers, Rob Rousseau (Cabin 23, 1985), was here with his two sons. Who do you think taught them to water ski? It was David Kuesel, the son of Artie Kuesel. Artie taught Rob how to ski – now 30 years ago. Others had the same experience, perhaps with Kent Overbey teaching their children at Adventure. We had 34 alumni on the Peninsula with their respective friends and family. They were universally surprised by the number of faces they knew!

    In 1963, Norvil Beeman made a decision. It was yes or no – to sell camp to a 23 year old staff member named Mike Bachmann. Norvil’s answer was yes, and the rest is history. Those of us at CH this summer have Norvil to thank. In fact, this was true more than ever as Norvil’s extended family was with us for a family reunion. Daughters Dottie and Marty were with us – stars of their clan. Memories, reflections, and gratitude for Norvil and his wife Cleo were recorded. Thank you, Beemans!

    Tonight, we will take the post camp staff out to dinner. For me, it is one of the highlights of the year. Despite the fact I wasn’t here for Boys Camp, I love these men and women. They have worked SO HARD! They are true Highlands! We will dine at the Clearview Supper Club on Big St. Germain Lake. It will be a wonderful night full of reflections, stories and laughter. Most of all, it will be night full of appreciation –  for the beautiful North Woods, each other, and Camp Highlands. There will be a bittersweet feeling we already feel in our hearts – the realization that another beautiful, happy season at Camp Highlands is over.

    Check out the photos on the gallery of all the fun we had. The password can be requested by emailing tracyb@camphighlands.com.

  2. End of Camp, what you need to know

    Today marks the beginning of the end of the term (excuse me while I dry my eyes!). Here is what you need to know about this week.
    Tuesday: Our final Division Day. The boys hang out as a division, cook out and our cooks enjoy a night off.
    Wednesday: The evening brings us Stunt Night our infamously famous talent(less) show. 7:15 p.m.
    Thursday: Kerchief ceremony in the evening.
    Friday, August 7Parents are invited to arrive at 3 p.m. to hang out, watch the football tournament, cheer for our 5K racers, meet your child’s counselor and bunkmates. New this year: Please sign in at the office to get your name tag when you get to camp, thank you! Picnic supper is at 6 p.m. followed by our final banquet festivities which conclude around 8:30 p.m.
    You are free to take your son after the banquet, please communicate that with your son’s counselor and with the office.
    Boys depart camp Saturday, at 8:45 a.m. on the bus back to Chicago. **If your child disembarks in Madison (1 p.m.) or Rockford (2:15 p.m.) PLEASE contact the CH office.
    If you haven’t updated your travel information in your parent log in area, please take the time to do so. If you still need to RSVP to the final banquet, you can do that by emailing us at camp. THANK YOU!
    It’s going to be a great week!

  3. Making the most of our days

    As our days grow shorter, we are still jumping, running, playing and growing.

    As our days grow shorter, we are still jumping, running, playing and growing.

    My kid has been working toward graduating from skiing for three, maybe four years. But what does that mean? And why is it taking such a long time? Here at Highlands we mark our progress through an activity by Achievement Credits (ACs). Each activity has a long list of measurable and achievable goals that boys work through. Week by week, over the years. Once a boy has made his way through all the ACs, there is usually some final piece of the puzzle to complete: a written test, teaching the activity or some other major hurdle to jump.
    Our counselors take awarding ACs seriously. Boys really have to work for the credits. It’s not a gimme situation!
    On Thursday before final banquet we have an event in the club house called the Kerchief Ceremony. Each camper is recognized for ACs earned over the summer and their achievements are memorialized forever when each boy upon leaving the club house places his stick into the Fire of Friendship. It’s a powerful marker for the hard work our boys have put in. But it marks not only the baskets shot, riflery scores made or whitecaps sailed. It marks the four weeks of living without the comforts of home! It marks the growth and independence each boy has exhibited. It marks the friendships forged through living the Honor Camper Qualities.
    We are a week away from our final banquet, and rest assured, our sons are still thriving, growing, learning and challenging themselves! As the sun starts to lower in the sky and the days grow shorter, we are still running, playing and making memories. We will make the most of these last sweet days of summer.
    On that note…
    I <3 CH,
    Tracy B.
    Today's schedule is action packed – per usual!

    Today’s schedule is action packed – per usual!

  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. The Stage is Set…

    We were anticipating rain and not a drop has fallen. The bus has arrived and campers have been settled. I once again feel the excitement in the air; but now the voices that echo out, “Ga-Ga-Ball!” are different than the ones I heard just two days ago. Second Term has officially begun, and I am already so excited for this new batch of campers to be here.
    One quick glance through the cabin list this year and you might think we were in the 1980’s or 1990’s. It has been so fun seeing all these alumni drifting through camp—guys of my generation—dropping off their sons for their first (or fifth) Highlands summer. And we have a great crop of newbies, too! (I’m listening to an “old” camper explain the mailboxes to a new camper as we speak…and it’s kind of hilarious.)
    The next 17 hours will have us memorizing names, listening to rules, learning about water safety, gun safety and archery safety; as well as learn how to be waiter and request an activity. Then swim tests, and BOOM! Right into the flow of camp.
    Exciting times are in store for us this summer. Our staff is outstanding – one of the best I can remember (and no, I don’t say that every year…) and they are all pumped for Second Term.
    So the stage is set- the players have arrived, and it’s time to raise the curtain on Act 2 of our 112th season. If it’s anything like Act 1 we are all in for a treat.
    Better. Worthwhile. Highlands.


    Boys race off the bus, everyone grabs gear and the field is cleared in 8:23 flat!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. Whaddaweek!

    Division Daydreams

    What an amazing first week we’ve had! Boys have had so many new and fun experiences. Wednesday was Division Day, (a.k.a. cook’s night off). Boys hang out as a division and have great time. Cubs went on an overnight campout on a local lake. Colts were all out on their 3-day canoe trip. Juniors got to go out of camp to play laser tag and get ice-cream at the Corner Store. Seniors canoed and kayaked en masse all to the way down the lake to Sayner where they ate a picnic supper and played softball in town.

    Senior Social Surprise

    Thursday we surprised the Senior boys by going over to one of our fantastic sister camps, Red Pine for a social. It’s been reported to me that staff waits to break the news to the guys right up until they are about ready to go. Apparently it helps with nerves and cuts down on excessive cologne use (ha!).

    On Track for Fun


    Many young men have learned to love track at Highlands.

    Saturday we celebrated our all-camp Track Meet. We had an incredible day. Perfect weather, really, warm and sunny, cool in the shade. Each boy participated in all events and when the points were tallied up, Army was a clear victor. The afternoon brought clubs, where boys could sign up for different activities ranging from slack line to rocket building. The day wrapped up with a picnic on Junior Hill, followed by the world-famous Games on the Hill. I didn’t run in any event, didn’t play any game and I fell into a puddle of exhaustion at the end of the day!

    Sunday Reflections

    Lucky for us Sundays are very mellow around Highlands. After a delicious breakfast of egg casserole, fruit and cinnamon swirl coffee cake, boys took care of cabin chores, had one activity period and then headed off to soap swim. Boys put on their nice white Highlands t-shirt and headed up to Sunday Assembly. They look so handsome quietly lined up on the Hill before filing into the clubhouse.

    Assembly is a great time to reflect on the accomplishments of the week. Andy posed the question, “Who tried something new this week?” to the boys and I’d guess 85% of the room stood up. A few boys shared what they tried: Cooper T. shared he tired the adventure ropes course, Drew L. taught lacrosse by himself, Michael C. slalom skied for the first time, Mason W. learned to bridge playing cards (!!) and Tanner S. kayaked for the first time. I’d say the new experiences covered the gamut.

    Hula-hoop of Safety

    Andy talked a good bit about our hula-hoop of safety and how we’ve all had to step out of that hoop slightly this first week of camp. It’s in this next “hard-but-safe-ring” where we are challenged and learn the most. Boys were tasked with three things this week: to continue trying new things, to “be somebody,” (ask your camper about what this means) and to put the other fellow before ourselves. Probably good advice for all of us!

    And on that note…

    I ❤ CH // tracy b.

  9. We're Rolling!


    After a brief storm last night, this full double rainbow appeared over the lake!

    Well after yesterday’s crazy weather: wind, rain, beautiful hot sun, more wind, a storm and then a double rainbow (!!), we’re glad today’s just plain perfect. It’s breezy enough for sailing (cabins 8, 12, 4, 1, 9, 11), but back bay is plenty calm for skiing (cabins 16, 8, 15, 10, 22, 3, 4, 1). It’s sunny and mild, perfect for land sports like baseball (17, 23, 13) and Ultimate Frisbee (4, 12, 1, 2, 22, 23). Honestly, you can’t go wrong! If you don’t know your son’s cabin number, then click here for the Cabin List.
    Boys started this great day off with a pancake breakfast. AND….tonight is TACO NIGHT. That means crazy costumes and a party vibe. Everyone loves taco night. But the big news of the day is that tonight’s game is all-camp capture the flag! Boys will get their Army/Navy assignment and play the game in two giant teams. The guys love this night!
    And on that note…
    I ❤ CH // tracy b.

  10. #BEFREE

    IMG_0075It’s hard to say goodbye to the ones we love. You know them. The army of iPhones, Androids, Kindles and Nooks. Oh how we’ll miss you.
    I overheard our Office Assistant, (the amazing) Sally Glowiak as she accepted one boy’s cell phone. She said, “Congratulations! You’re FREE!”
    I love that. I love that Sally made a point to emphasize the positive impact of what we hope to accomplish by being “tech free.” I love that this older camper WILLINGLY brought his phone into the office to be held in safe-keeping for the season. And I love that we have upheld a tradition that goes back to the beginnings of the camping days.
    At a gathering of the American Camping Association that I attended last year, I heard one camping expert admonish camps for trying to take away the tech. “Embrace it,” he told us. “Use it to your advantage!” he told us. He seemed to think that the more our campers were Facebooking their experiences—the more they Tweeted about it, texted about it, Instagrammed about it, the better it would be for us. “It’ll drive traffic to your site, which will drive campers to your camp.”
    When Tracy and I started talking about it, we both came to the same conclusion.
    When Camp Highlands was established in 1904, their primary mission was to give boys, “a real, wilderness experience.” This was when the most cutting-edge technology in the city of Chicago was a gas-powered “Horseless Carriage.” This even predates things like the toaster, the radio and the theory of relativity. THAT was the world from which parents wanted their boys to escape. Can you imagine?
    It is a liberating experience to go gadgetless in this day and age. And I am here to tell you, when you allow your boys to #BeFree of the gadgets and the gizmos, something incredible happens. They run. They play. They have conversations. And they are engaged in the right-here and the right-now, and nothing else matters. And they do just fine…
    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all be so lucky?
    Camp Highlands has been in the business of providing young men and boys with real wilderness experiences that shape character and inspire self-discovery for 112 years. And we’ll take a pre-toaster world any day.
    Better, Worthwhile, Highlands.