4 Things Camp Taught Me

When I was growing up, my parents made an incredibly smart decision to send me to summer camp. I attended many Girl Guide camps, during the summer as well as throughout the year with my local troupe. But when I turned 12, I quickly started to outgrow Girl Guide Camp. So my parents set out to find a different camp, eventually finding the Cairn Family of Camps, a camp based out of Baysville, Ontario. Ever since my first summer being sent to the Glen Mhor site, I became overly obsessed with camp. I would countdown the days to the next summer, stay in constant contact with my camp friends via MSN Messenger and the early form of Facebook. When I turned 16, I attended the 4 week Leader In Training program, then went onto being hired as a counsellor the next year. I continued to work at Glen Mhor for 5 years, moving up in the ranks to a programmer role. Camp was such a huge part of my life, and I learned so many important lessons because of it.

Here are the 4 that stick out to me the most:

  1. Magic makes anything and everything better

At my camp, (as well as many others) we value something we call “Camp Magic” This element is something that grabbed me and pulled me in feet first. Camp Magic makes camp so much more meaningful and exciting. On my third summer as staff, I managed to convince my cabin of 13 year old girls that my friend Matt was Peter Pan and that he was going to teach us how to fly. AND THEY WENT ALONG WITH IT. It didn’t matter that we were literally running and jumping, or that they knew it was one of the other staff members in a costume. Camp Magic makes anyone believe that something is happening. If aliens invade, a dragon shows up in the forest somewhere or if there’s an evil queen trying to steal everyone’s dessert, everyone believes. Its just something that makes camp all that more special.

2. Don’t let your fears hold you back

Although I like to pretend I’m “adventurous”, I’m really not. I’m the kind of person that likes a nice night in, with a book and a bubble bath. So being thrown into an environment where you are challenged to take new risks and seek adventure, was a little tricky to adapt to. I personally do not love heights. I’m fine on roller coasters, semi-okay on planes, but the idea of high ropes…No thank you! My last summer at camp, our camp was lucky enough to have a high ropes course installed. Before all the campers arrived, the staff were invited to play on the ropes course. Although I really did not want to even get on the ladder, I decided to attempt something called “The Cat Walk” In order to be able to participate in this element, I had to scale a pole and then stand on a very big log, very high above the ground. I can remember climbing up and my hands shaking the entire time. But here’s the thing: once I got to the top, I was totally fine. It became something fun because I overcame a fear. I would’ve been so mad if I hadn’t gone up there. This was just one of the ways that camp challenged me to put my fears aside and try new things.


Up on the Cat Walk! I’m on the right side.

3. Getting up for a sunrise is always worth it.

During the spring, my friend Robynne and I had to work on Night Patrol, where we would stay up all night to make sure if campers needed anything, they would have someone to check in with. On our first of the three nights, Robynne and I decided that we would go down to the docks and watch the sunrise. After doing all of our work for the night, preparing the kitchen for breakfast and eating a ridiculous amount of leftovers, we ventured down to the waterfront, only to be greeted by an overcast sky. Totally gutted, we hiked back up the hill and went to sleep for the day. The next evening, we decided to try again, only to be greeted by another overcast sky. Ready to give up, we decided that we would try one last time on our last night of patrol. When 4:30 rolled around, we grabbed the camp camera, put on a couple layers and walked down the hill to Echo Lake. As we reached the canoe docks, all of our failed attempts finally resulted in a win. I will forever see the image of the sun rising over the horizon, the sky turning colours of pink and orange you could only see in a sunrise, the water completely calm.


A picture Robynne snapped of me, watching the unbelievable sunrise.

4. The friends you make at camp, are friends that last a life time.

It sounds corny but its undeniably true. I was lucky enough to meet my best friends at camp. These people are honestly more like family than friends. After living with the same people for 2-4 months, you become incredibly close, and attached. These are also the kinds of friendships that you can go MONTHS without talking to each other and be just as close as ever.


My friend Spencer and I at my last staff banquet

Camp becomes the home that brought us all together and that keeps us all tied together. I am incredibly thankful that I was able to experience camp and that I have all of the memories I’ve collected over the years.

What about you guys? Have any of you ever been to camp or shared a similar experience? Let me know in the comments below!

Facebook: Check out some of the other amazing climbing and high ropes elements we have at camp! Which one would you try? Comment below and let me know! https://www.facebook.com/pg/CairnCamps/videos/?ref=page_internal

Twitter: Have you ever tried rock climbing or high ropes? Check out some of these cool and challenging elements http://bit.ly/2khYCv4

Thanks for reading!

-Katie 🙂


8 thoughts on “4 Things Camp Taught Me

  1. What a great post, Katie. You’re a lovely writer.

    I went to camp, too, but my experience was definitely not as wonderful as yours. I have several friends — who all went to the same camp, a point that’s perhaps not incidental — who are urging us to send our son to camp for the great experience, and reading your post makes me think I should perhaps reconsider. If he had as excellent an experience as you clearly did, I would be delighted.

    Thanks for sharing. You’ve given me something to think about.

  2. Thank you for your great blog! I can see how the time spent at camp can be such a cherished time for children. While I dont remember camp that well for myself, I can tell you the impact it had for my cousins. They both attended a sleep away camp for years, even becoming Councillors in their older years. They still think of their time there fondly and are still in touch with alot of the friends they made there. Some of them even attended her wedding last summer!.

  3. Your writing is very, very beautiful. I wish I had the same experience at camp that you did or cherished it the way you do. Camp was a very nerve wracking nightmare for me, unfortunately bullying is something that happens to everyone eventually at some point, and that one week of camp was unfortunately my introduction to bullying. Sorry for being a Debbie Downer XD

  4. Hey Chema!

    Thank you for putting into words some of the most valuable things I see at camp. Lets be fair, I love summer camp and that is the lens I look through, but I’m also an educator, and I honestly think summer camp has the potential to help young people grow in such a positive and unique way.

    From allowing a space for young folks to find their identity independent from grown up pressure, and a chance to build social skills that happen at a much different rate than any classroom I’ve been in, there is something so very valuable about summer camp.

    Anyways, thanks for the wonderful post, it gave me a welcomed summer warmth that is needed this cold February day.

    Hope to see you this summer 🙂

    – Arae

  5. I smiled the whole time reading this 🙂 You’ve captured the essence of camp beautifully, and that way that those special parts stick with you, even after a couple of years away.

    Come back and visit? We’ll watch the sunrise. ❤

  6. Hey Chema,

    This was a great blog post and I enjoyed reading it the whole time. It brought me right back to canoe and all the fun times with the staff and children! We miss you at Camp, come visit!😊


  7. Wonderful! Cairn and Glen Mhor were the best things ever for our children. They are the leaders that they are today because of what they learned at camp. As our last child becomes a counsellor this year (hopefully) the excitement changes just a bit, but Cairn will always be home!

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