A note from Tim Bachmann:
Did you know the Monilaw family hosted a scaled down version of Friends and Family in the 1930s and 40s? It was not promoted; it was just their friends and family, mainly from the Hyde Park and University of Chicago neighborhoods. This summer of 2017 Friends and Family was new and fresh. How fun, considering that this was the 50th F&F season (since 1968).
Friends and Family has evolved, with alumni being the largest contingent. In fact, every boys’ camp cabin but three held an alumnus this summer. It was the largest ever showing and a harbinger of things to come. In addition to alumni, there were personal friends and ’perennials’. Several families with kids at an optimal age to get their “feet wet” in advance of boy’s camp or nearby girl’s camp joined in the fun.
And boy did they get their feet wet, seeking out and holding in their curious young hands various snakes, frogs, toads, crawfish and salamanders. It was a fascinating phenomena, enhanced dearly by the generous and patient E.O. Wilson trained Harvard zoology major, and now wildlife painter, Brad Davis, an alumnus from the 1980/90s.
After some coaching from Dr. Brad on where to obtain a particular creature, the kids consistently came up miraculously full handed. Brad would then hold court as professor, teaching all children (and drawn in adults) everything notable: how to hold it, its formal name, behavioral patterns, special adaptations, diet, habitat, and so forth. Perhaps the largest ever bullfrog was briefly coddled (one assumes to the dismay of the animal). But, before any lasting harm was done, the fun-to-hold-being was released with great care.
One such student of Dr. Davis, a young Luke Keeley, was so enchanted by the cornucopia of wildlife, that he was compelled to ditch his family entirely, joining the Davis clan at all hours (except sleep) in constant pursuit of the ample fare! His parents both lamented and rejoiced in the abandonment as complete joy was found!
For the rest of us more subdued nature lovers, there were record numbers of bald eagles, loons (six on the east end of Plum Lake alone), owls, woodpeckers, white tailed deer, turtles, butterflies and meteors.
Meanwhile, others engaged more vacation like camp pursuits. Star Creek was up, and offered a deeper paddle than ever, before running into the inevitable downed trees and beaver dams. There were more barefoot water skiers than ever (at age 46, and 51!). It smacked of a ‘Staff Ski!’ if Shane Overbey hadn’t just had shoulder surgery, he would certainly have entertained us with some backwards barefoot. Next year, Shane!
Some lounged on the raft and hung out at the all new Senior Pier and towers. It was the place to be as always during the warmer days. Sailing, kayaking, canoeing, golfing at Plum Lake Golf Club, tennis, archery, adventure, crafts, softball, frisbee golf, and Capture the Flag were all enjoyed as always. And for the first time, a Camp Highlands four-mile wilderness loop along the gorgeous shores of Star Lake was tramped, starting and finishing behind Freeland Field. Thanks to Jim DiDomenico and Brian Boos for blazing and marking this wonderful new trail with lovely CH trail makers. This loop is going to be a great addition to CH forever and ever! Wow!
For cooks night off, many descended on the Sayner Pub for its jovial north woods setting and famous pizza. Word had gotten out to the alumni whose families own summer cottages in the area, and for a moment there it could have been 1989. The establishment was wall to wall Highlands! What a reunion, and what a blast!
There were a few very tolerable if not enjoyable stretches of rain – one of them, peacefully, at night. The other led to the offering of a rain hike on the east side of Star Lake, an adventure that entails hopping in a camp van and driving around Razorback and the northwest side of Star to get to the trailhead. The soft rain soon cleared and the wet, green forests enchanted, with spots of sun here and there. A pit stop at Stillwaters was enjoyed on the way home. Talk about relaxing!
It was remarked, “I didn’t realize how much I needed this.” I believe that the moment one enters the indoors, that optimal natural flow begins to wain. Yes, it is not simply being in the wilderness that makes us feel good. We enjoyed not flooding our eyes with the blue light of the screen, and getting away from the workaday pursuits modern life demands of us.
Highlands is not the Peninsula Hotel (although, camp lies on a peninsula) but is more relaxing than the Peninsula Hotel. For, only in the quietude of the wilderness can the human body regain its natural flow, and not just for an hour or two a day. 24 hours is best. During sleep, the thinner the layer between you and the outdoors, the greater the impact.
So, we reveled in life as it should be. Immersed in the beauty of Plum Lake and Vilas County, we came down, fitfully at first. More and more each day, we napped and slept like buzzed out logs – not necessarily knowing who or where we were when we awoke! Yes, sleep can get very, very deep at camp. We turned our faces towards the sun and wind and water and woods and relaxed. Not at once, but gradually, those with the longest stays obtaining the deepest levels of revitalized health. Being in the lake itself, a refreshing curative. Am I sounding middle aged? I sure don’t feel like it when I’m swimming in Plum Lake!
And so I found myself, after all had left Camp, still walking from Mom’s house down to Cabin 2 to sleep – like a wild dog. I had all of camp to myself. Eerie, you say? No, not at all. I love it. The cry of the loon; the black sky with a billion stars; the sound of the wind in the trees; and water lapping on the shore. These are the sights and sounds of eternity – something I’m not connected to as much anymore and that therefore are more valuable to me. I cherish them more than ever in this rapidly changing world.
It’s September 7th, 2017: the 3rd anniversary of Dad’s passing. It seems hard to believe. We miss him so much. On the last day of boy’s camp, right before Banquet, Andy dedicated ‘Reflection Point’ as a place to remember him by. It is so nice there now – behind the clubhouse overlooking the lake – atop the hill. What a view. It was his favorite place to reflect on life – and what a life it was. The new swings and boulders and landscaping. It turned out so well. How pleased and grateful we are to have this place. It is directly connected to the Clubhouse and the fire pit below, the place where Harry Gillet first set foot on the property back in 1904. What a spot to be connected to the place so many have loved over the past 114 years and love today.
Hope to see you next summer! Mom, Andy, Carol, Lukas, and I will be waiting for you!
Save your Spot
You can save your spot now by filling out our online enrollment form. Please note that because of popular demand, we’ve created two sessions – first session (Saturday – Wednesday) and second session (Wednesday – Saturday) or join us for the full week!
We took several great photos of you and your families. You can access those photos by going to the Camp Highlands Gallery and entering in the password: camphighlands – enjoy! A big thanks to Tim Bachmann for taking the helm as resident photographer!
A special thanks to our wonderful staff. It was a beautiful contingent. The men and women that raise their hands to stay on for F&F are always, always THE BEST. This summer was no exception, with David Kuesel, Shaun Trenholm, Johnny Zokovitch, Seth Fox, Tucker Nienhaus, Madi Kugler, Charlie Yokom, Ethan Williams, Matt Stepanich, and Phillip Seubert staying on to share the old place with us, and help us enjoy ourselves. Not cooking for a week! Because: Chef Lois Craig was joined by Carly Notorangelo, Natalie Trujillo, and Lex Smith. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU!