There’s Just Something About Summer Camp


Kate Wolffe, Feature Editor

Last weekend, as I tromped through the aptly named “Manzanita Maze” with the responsibility of six teenagers settling uncomfortably on my shoulders and a hysterical laugh bubbling up in my throat, I thought about why I loved it here so much.

“Here” is of course Foothill Horizons Summer Camp, the only place in the world where I would be tearing through the trees, leading an expedition to save the camp director as well as the imagineer (who incidentally thought up this whole mission) from a purposely ambiguous monster that will, without a doubt, kill them both. That is, if my band of overly-enthusiastic CITs, and the five other groups following behind me in ten minute intervals arrive in time to save their lives.

This is the only place that it is socially acceptable, even encouraged, for me to lose my voice from an evening spent yelling profanities at 14 and 15 year olds and repeatedly, yet enthusiastically, faking nervous breakdowns.

Where I can scream back at kids in what they assume to be abject terror, “If you guys don’t sack the **** up, that monster is going to tear off your face, and you know what? I’m not going to do anything to stop it.”

Don’t get me wrong though, Foothill is no boot camp, on the contrary, this is exactly what the campers attending the scary weeks sign up for. Here, they gain the ability to shed their inhibitions and get lost in the world we create for them, a world composed of butcher paper, heavy-duty tarps, and pre-recorded monster noises, all under the cloak of night. Where they can follow some drama-nerd Junior Counselor whose only weapon in a battle against the pitch-black forest is a single flashlight. During nights like these, they trail behind some upperclassmen who’s more terrified of getting their group lost than of the “zombies” crouched along the paths; counselors dressed up in eclectic outfits composed of Halloween costume rejects that found their way into the Props room alongside any items of black clothing they remembered to bring.

It’s during these two nights that make up “program” that camper’s imaginations run unbridled, and the screams of groups on the other side of the 140-acre campus prompt their damp hands to cling to those of friends they made just that day. Where the sweat pooling on the smalls of their backs comes from a mix of exertion, terror, and pure exhilaration.

And this is only two nights of the five day camp experience. The rest of the time campers play group games (what’s summer camp without a capture-the-flag match?), take themed classes, enjoy down time, and take a trip to Pinecrest Lake.

And for some reason, the tornado that is these five days leave all that get caught up in it brokenhearted when it’s gone. Really, it seems that the best things in life end before we’re ready for them to, and summer camp is no exception.

When Friday afternoon rolls around, many campers attach themselves to JCs and counselors who they bonded with during the week, tears streaming down their faces. Others pack their bags onto the buses and gather with the friends they’ve made, laughing and taking advantage of the feeling that is steeped in the very roots of the camp, one of lightheartedness and love.

And as we head back home, staring at the soft sunlight sliding through the windows, immersed in nostalgia, we can’t wait to come back. Maybe it’s the place itself, nestled in the foothills of Sonora, California. Maybe it’s the sense of belonging, of true joy. Maybe it’s the people, the knowledge that even if you never see each other again, you’ll always have that one incredible week.

There’s just something about it.