These Simple Joys

These Simple Joys

A hearty hello and welcome to all of our camp families! It’s been a busy few weeks here at Camp BT, and we are counting down the days, hours, and minutes until the campers arrive. But before your daughters head up to join us, a ton of really important things take place at camp. Many of you probably wonder what goes on at camp before your children arrive and here’s the answer: a whole lot! There is a great deal of work to be done before the campers arrive, and it all starts pretty early.

Barbara, LBD, Raya and I arrived at camp in early May and set right to work. Well, Raya didn’t so much work as she did drool and giggle, but we appreciate her efforts all the same. Though I love those first, quiet weeks of the pre-camp season when all is calm and hushed here in the gorgeous Northwoods of Wisconsin, I have to admit that I was pretty anxious to get started on what is sure to be our best summer yet.

Staff members slowly trickled in one by one as the weeks wore on, and camp began to take its shape. After the long Wisconsin winter, each cabin and building needed to be cleaned and prepped. The docks and diving board were wheeled in and secured into the lake (the water always seems to be extra cold the day we put the docks in). Then, all the athletic equipment was carefully brought out of storage and set up throughout camp: tennis and volley ball nets were hung, soccer goals were set into place, hand and foot holds were bolted into the climbing wall, and miles upon miles of fishing lines were painstakingly untangled. Each activity area was then cleaned and given a thorough once-over to inspect for safety and maximum fun potential.

I love to see camp coming together, filling up with happy faces, and resonating with the energy of a summer yet to come. A huge part of that is meeting and training our Wilderness Trip Leaders. We have been blessed with an alumni of truly exceptional Trip Leaders in the past, all of whom carry a deeply seeded appreciation and love for nature; this year’s trip staff has already shown us how they plan to carry on that rich Birch Trail tradition of learning in the outdoors.

Each trip leader’s sole job in camp is to guide campers on trips, though they jump right into the camp groove between trips, participating in evening programs, daily projects, and other activities. “Trippers,” as we like to call them, are among the most mature and responsible staff, and start the summer with all the training, knowledge, and good judgment they need to lead fun, safe, and memorable trips throughout the summer.

We’re the only camp that requires our trippers to be over the age of 21 and to have current certifications as both Wilderness First Responders and Lifeguards. The Wilderness First Responder course is a 90-hour wilderness emergency medicine class that provides trip leaders with everything they need to know in order to respond to emergency situations in remote settings. We require our trip staff to all be over the age of 21 so that they come to camp equipped with enough life experience to facilitate good judgment.

During the month-long training program, our trippers learn a wealth of information and skills, culminating in a seven-day canoe trip where they practice all the skills necessary for successful trips, including everything from emergency procedures to singing silly camp songs around the campfire. The trippers spend a ton of time familiarizing themselves with all the camp sites they will spend time at throughout the summer, and—best of all—they practice cooking favorite trip food recipes such as Dutch Oven Pizzas, Colossal Flambeau Falafel, and Feldman Ridge Fried Rice. Of course, we’d be more than happy to email you the recipes if you find your mouth watering while reading this!
With everything from day trips to backpacking trips lasting two weeks, we offer a wide variety of trips here at BT, varying in length and destination according to age, ability, and interest. Our trips program is organized into two categories: cabin trips and optional trips. Cabin trips operate on a progression system that starts with our youngest campers going on van trips to some of the beautiful lakes and parks in Minnesota and Wisconsin. As they get older, campers will go on three-day canoe trips and then work their way up to four-day backpacking trips. This way, by the time a camper leaves camp she will have experienced many different kinds of camping.

Optional trips allow campers to try different things and specialize in the activities that interest them most. These optional trips include rock climbing, sailing, mountain biking, sea kayaking, horseback riding, backpacking, fishing, white water kayaking, as well as white water, lake, and river canoeing.

Though the wilderness trips program is just one aspect of your daughter’s time here at camp, it is an especially important component of the Birch Trail philosophy. Camp provides great opportunity for kids to do things they can’t do at home, and spending time hiking in the Apostle Islands, paddling the St. Croix river, or camping in the Sylvania National Forest gives our campers just that kind of opportunity. In addition to bonding over S’mores and campfires, campers gain a sense of accomplishment, self-worth, and achievement after carrying their own gear and food, pitching their own tents (with a little help from their tripper, of course), and camping in places where they may not see any other people for days at a time.

As they get older, campers will take turns acting as the leader for a day, implementing skills such as orienteering, interactive group skills, river navigation, and leave-no-trace sustainable camping practices. These experiences and skills, like much of what campers learn during their time at BT, will help them succeed as they meet greater challenges as adults. In fact, we still receive emails and letters from former campers who identify the experience and knowledge they gained through camp trips as what gave them the strength to get through challenges in their adult life. What I value most about my own camping days, and what I hope to pass on to each and every camper, is the pleasure of just sitting outside to watch the breeze move through the trees. It is so easy to forget the simple joys of just being outdoors, without the distractions of life and technology. Here at camp, we remember and rediscover those simple joys every single day.

As we move further into Staff Orientation (more on that in the next post), I am thrilled to see our trippers, counselors, and administrative staff all coming together to create the tightly knit community that will thrive and grow throughout the summer, nurturing your daughter every step of the way. As we all sat outside together today after lunch, I looked around this group of talented, caring, and fun-loving people, the sun warmed our backs and I thought to myself, Yep—this is going to be one mighty fine summer.

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