It’s been a wonderful first week of camp. Our cabin counselors have been incredible at helping the campers get adjusted to camp life. Our activity staff has been helping the campers learn new skills and our trip staff has been leading amazing wilderness trips. We currently have a group of campers hiking on Isle Royale, a group canoeing in the Boundary Waters, a group Sea Kayaking the Apostle Islands of Lake Superior, and two canoeing trips on the Namekegon river.

The most amazing part of the week for me happened at our first campfire of the summer. The Campfires, or Council Fires as we refer to them at Birch Trail, are a quiet time each week where we come together as a camp to talk about what is happening in our community. Each Council Fire has a theme, which is acted out in a funny skit. After the skit the whole camp sings a bunch of camp songs together. We make a very big deal of getting everyone at camp to sing- regardless of how good or bad their singing voice may be. In fact, we celebrate people with less than perfect pitch here at Birch Trail.

Over the 35 years that my family has owned Birch Trail we have come up with a purpose behind pretty much everything that we do at camp. All our programs, activities and methods are very intentional. Singing at our Council Fires carries the very important purpose of uniting us as a group. Our friend Bob Ditter says “When we sing together, we breathe together, and when we breathe together, our heart rates come into synchrony. This heart rate and breathing synchrony is activated by our vagus nerve and strengthens vagal tone. Strong vagal tone is associated with well being, and the stronger our vagal tone, the more we may also experience increased cardiac and overall health benefits.”  For years our campers and staff have always felt great after our campfires and now we have the science behind why this happens.

At the first Council Fire we also talk a lot about the many traditions that make Birch Trail special. One of these traditions is our key log ceremony. During the key log ceremony campers and staff can throw a key log (a piece of wood) in the fire as a way of thanking someone for a kind act or gesture. You can read more about key logs and their meaning to camp by reading on of our previous blogs by clicking on this link  Key logs are meant for things that have a real impact on the campers and staff. There were key logs given for acts of friendship, courage, respect and many for people who helped a new camper or staff member adjust to camp. What amazed me was the amount of key logs that campers gave to their parents. Almost every camper gave a key log to thank her parents for sending her to Birch Trail. Perhaps your daughter thanked you for sending her to camp before she left and perhaps she didn’t; but I want you all to know that your daughters appreciate what a summer at Birch Trail can do; they all appreciate the gift you have given them. It was wonderful for me to hear them verbalize that gratitude at our first Council Fire.

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