Back at camp


I’m going to do something new this year, trying to keep up with the increasingly digital world; I’ll be posting a blog two or three times a week this summer in order to help inform our camp families on the daily happenings at camp. So many wonderful things take place here during the summer that don’t make their way into the reunion video, website pictures, or letters home, and I want everyone back home to feel as involved as possible. So if you have any suggested topics or things you would like to know more about, please email me at Gabe@birchtrail.com with your suggestions.

Most of you probably wonder what goes on at camp before your children arrive and here’s the answer: a lot. There is a great deal of work to be done before the campers arrive, and it all starts pretty early.

Barbara, LBD, and I arrived at camp May 1st after a long and uneventful drive north. The dogs could barely contain themselves as we turned onto camp’s long, hilly driveway. In fact, we didn’t even make it all the way down the hill before letting them jump from the car and take off into the woods in order to reestablish the land as their territory. We didn’t see them again until it was nearly midnight, when they whined at the cabin door and crashed to the floor in that kind of blissful exhaustion that sometimes makes me wish I were a dog.

There is nothing quite like being Up North in the woods of Wisconsin when all is calm and empty. The cabins all sit still and silent; the usual soundtrack of laughter, cheers, and talking has been replaced with the natural playlist of loon songs and grasshopper chatter. When I woke up this morning, the lake was smooth as glass, and–if I can anthropomorphize for a moment—seemed as melancholic without the campers to keep it company as I am.

It was sunny and warm here for the first few days, however, springtime in Wisconsin is always a little unpredictable in these parts. On our first Friday back at camp it snowed for the majority of the day and we wound up with almost four inches of snow. Our tennis pro, Zac, came up for the weekend and we had an epic snowball fight on Friday night.

Staff members will slowly trickle in one by one, and camp will begin to take its shape; the maintenance and cleaning will begin with the To-Do list on my clipboard nearly reaching the floor. After the winter, each cabin and building needs to be cleaned and prepped. The docks and diving board need to be wheeled in and secured into the lake (the water always seems to be extra cold the day we put the docks in).  Additionally, all the athletic equipment will be brought out of storage to take its place throughout camp: tennis and volley ball nets will be hung, soccer goals set into place, hand and foot holds will be bolted into the climbing wall, and miles upon miles of fishing lines will be painstakingly untangled. Each activity area is cleaned and given a thorough once over to inspect for safety and maximize the fun potential.

All the boats are stored inside throughout the winter, so ski boats must be inspected, serviced, and put in the water. Over 100 canoes and sailboats will be washed and polished and taken to the waterfront and be secured to their moorings. It usually takes at least one whole week just to get Barbara’s flowers, lawn art, and swinging wooden benches positioned just so around camp. The grass will be seeded and mowed, seemingly endless piles of leaves will be raked, each dish and glass will be washed and sanitized, and the lodge floor will be swept and mopped for the first of many, many times this summer. And of course, the soda machine will be stocked in preparation for the first soda raids of the summer.

In some ways, this physical setting-up of things helps us all mentally prepare for the work and fun ahead of us as well. With each lifejacket that gets hung up by the waterfront, all the weeds that get pulled to make way for flowers, and with every window that opens to air out the stuffy remains of winter inside our buildings, we get a little more excited for everyone to hurry up and get here.

While we get things ready up here, I’d like to remind you about a few things you can do on your end. You should have completed your daughter’s camper forms by this time, and if not, we ask that you please take a few minutes to finish them and send all those papers our way. It’s incredibly important for us to have all the information on your daughter in order to help us with cabin placements. Also, your invoices should have been paid by the 15th of this month; if there are circumstances that prevented this from happening on time, please contact us.

The snow has melted again, and camp looks absolutely beautiful. As I walk the grounds, surveying the scene for any items to add to my giant To-Do list, I get that same feeling of excitement and joy that I feel every year at this time. I have a pretty good feeling that this is going to be another truly excellent summer.

4 thoughts on “Back at camp”

  1. Gabe:
    Thanks for the blog! I’m getting a little teary thinking that Tals gets to be up there for a month and the rest of us don’t get to enjoy what is sure to be an unbelievable summer! Just wanted you to know that your digital efforts are much appreciated!

  2. This is so much fun to read. I can almost smell the woods and taste the s’mores. I just discovered it this morning and can’t wait to read more posts!

  3. Grandmother of Alexandra Wiesenthal
    I was reading all about what goes on at camp. It almost made me want to be there. I loved the bit about the dogs. You really put a lot of time and effort into this and I wish you and Barbara the best camp seasons. I do check the pictures every day and the girls seem to be having such a ball. You truly are a mench. Thanks for everything Gabe.

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