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Memories of Camp

Aug 30, 2013

by Linzee McCray

Etsy.com handmade and vintage goods

Summer camp isn’t for everyone. The letters my youngest daughter would pen during rest hour were rarely enthusiastic. One read: “Dear Mom and Dad: I have 34 mosquito bites. By the time you read this, I will have more.”

But me, I adored camp. For seven years I was a camper and counselor at the now-defunct Camp Northland for Girls in northern Minnesota. Each summer we swam and sailed, shot arrows at targets, put on plays, washed in the lake, sang at meals, used four-hole outhouses, and took canoe trips. Our bunk beds were lumpy, camp food mediocre, and yes, the mosquitoes horrendous. But still, at the end of the seven-week sessions, campers and counselors alike sobbed and held hands through the bus windows as the vehicles pulled away, taking campers back to civilization and ending our summer reverie.

If you, like me, loved summer camp, then you know those experiences left an indelible mark. And while it may not be possible to recreate those carefree weeks in the woods, reminders of summer camp can make the workday world just a little sweeter.

Camp is all about appreciating nature. A hand-painted sign that read “Mrs. Robin Says Please Don’t Peel the Birch Bark From My Trees” alerted Camp Northland girls to the importance of caring for the wilderness. Planting a garden or even nurturing a houseplant can remind you of your lessons in conservation. The eerie calls of loons across a lake may have nurtured your appreciation of feathered friends. Revive that relationship by hanging a bird feeder close to a window: you likely won’t attract loons, but Mrs. Robin and her cohorts will stop by daily.

Fans of arts and crafts can still make lanyards, candles, and clay pinch pots. For me, learning to embroider — we covered our chambray shirts and overalls with chain-stitched butterflies and flowers — became a lifelong skill. Sitting down with a hoop and floss today is as soothing as it was back then.

Speaking of chambray shirts, wear one! Pull out those hiking boots and bandanas and head out for an afternoon’s stroll. Donning my black-and-red lumber jacket and sitting by the fire pit on a cool fall afternoon reminds me of camp’s dressed-down aesthetic and evenings spent singing around the campfire.

It may not be possible to canoe or sail or swim in the lake during the winter, but surrounding yourself with artifacts of those activities can go a long way toward taking you out of your winter doldrums.

On a cold winter night, reread the journals you wrote while hiking the mountains or canoeing the lakes. Flip through scrapbooks that include lyrics of camp songs and recipes for blueberry pancakes. Surround yourself with photos of those special friends you made at camp.

Better yet, haul out the trusty pen and paper and write them. At Camp Northland, we’d spend rest hour penning missives to parents, siblings, and beaus in hopes of getting a coveted note in return. I still love to choose just the right wilderness-themed postcard or stationery to send my camp friends. And they write back! Reading an actual letter from your bunkmate at the end of a long workday will take you right back to the time when you short-sheeted her bed, and you’ll know she’s forgiven you.

If you’re like me, hefting a piece of beaver-chewed driftwood, singing a few bars of “Pruney,” or even hearing the whine of a mosquito reminds you of the sense of calm you felt when Taps wafted through your cabin window at the end of the day. When the snow is coming down and work is enervating, hold tight to those memories; camp made us who we are today.

What are your favorite camp memories?

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Vintage Book of the Camp Fire Girls 1946
Vintage Book of the Camp Fire Girls 1946
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Ohio Flame 30" Patriot Fire Pit (Made in the USA)
Ohio Flame 30" Patriot Fire Pit (Made in the USA)
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3 Featured Comments

  • WingedWorld

    Vickie Moore from WingedWorld said 4 years ago Featured

    Some of my favorite camp activities were swimming in a lake, singing around the campfire and playing epic games of capture-the-flag. Thanks for bringing back memories with this fun post!

  • UsagiRabbit

    UsagiRabbit from UsagiRabbit said 4 years ago Featured

    Great article! I loved hanging around a nice warm fire on a chilly night. Something very special about that crackling sound and the smell of wood and smoke while you're spending time with your friends and roasting marshmallows. Ah, good times :)

  • lkmccray

    Linzee from lkmccray said 4 years ago Featured

    Love all these camp and camping memories! Tin-foil cooking, the sounds of waterfalls, song lyrics, s'mores, rustic cabins, skits, chipmunks, swimming and floating in inner tubes on the lake, ghost stories, sleeping under the stars, capture the flag, Your memories all brought back more of mine (except for toe-weaving...What the heck IS that?). Thanks for sharing them.

99 comments

  • MegansMenagerie

    Megan from MegansMenagerie said 4 years ago

    I loved camp! One of my favorite parts was laying under the stars at night. They were so bright and there were so many shooting stars. It was amazing!!!

  • jmyerscho

    Jacqueline Myers-Cho from TheHappyMonsters said 4 years ago

    I love camping!!!!

  • CamelsAndCustard

    Holly from CamelsAndCustard said 4 years ago

    Great picks :) I really love the first illustration!

  • ParisCabinet

    JD Kohler from ParisCabinet said 4 years ago

    Wow, you have great camping memories! I didn't get a chance to go to a week long camp growing up, just weekend girl scout camping. All is not lost though, now our camping amounts to going to ApCal Winery for Friday night music and sitting near the 100 year old oak tree, sipping local brew or wine and tapping feet to the beat of the music. :)

  • jmyerscho

    Jacqueline Myers-Cho from TheHappyMonsters said 4 years ago

    I spent years camping as a teen. I love it!!!

  • agebo

    Ann Cosgrove from acbcDesign said 4 years ago

    Fun finds! Love those birdhouses!

  • VintageMarketPlace

    VintageMarketPlace from VintageMarketPlace said 4 years ago

    I never got to experience camp. All I know is what I learned from Hailey Mills and the Parent Trap...I would have adored a camp like that ;)

  • EdelweissPost

    Patrick from EdelweissPost said 4 years ago

    I love mailing cards and letters from remote wooded places~ The post offices are so rustic, almost outpost-like. My friends and family love getting mail from these far-off places.

  • WildflowerLiz

    Liz Williams from TheWildflowerCompany said 4 years ago

    Haha I was one of those kids who really disliked week long camps... I still don't know why, I loved being outdoors, I loved campfires and adventures and making friends, but I was never comfortable at camp. However, camping with family... that is the best ever!!!

  • mazedasastoat

    mazedasastoat from mazedasastoat said 4 years ago

    I hope you didn't inflict the camp experience on your poor daughter again! I feel a camp trend coming on & I've had enough of it already...

  • Rewoodtoys

    J and N George from Rewoodtoys said 4 years ago

    Went to camp as a child and can't wait to send my chidlren. We also do camping in the summer together :)

  • Fiume

    Erin O'Rourke from Aruguletta said 4 years ago

    Hm, I have less enthusiastic memories of summer camp. I did NOT appreciate that sort of thing until I got older...thunderstorms, mud, latrines, and swimming time where they left me alone with a paddleboard...not fun.

  • expressyourself

    Natalia Snemis from expressyourself said 4 years ago

    Great fins! I love the vintage jacket!

  • WingedWorld

    Vickie Moore from WingedWorld said 4 years ago Featured

    Some of my favorite camp activities were swimming in a lake, singing around the campfire and playing epic games of capture-the-flag. Thanks for bringing back memories with this fun post!

  • handmadebycecilia

    Cecilia Escobar from HandmadebyCecilia said 4 years ago

    I learned to camp when I moved to the US. I love it! We go as a family and have lost of memories. I hope, someday, my girls will take their girls camping as we have done. Camping creates great memories, and yes, mosquitoes memories as well. I like the letterpress greeting card.

  • LBDK

    LB from LBDK said 4 years ago

    I love your post - so thoughtful and well written. I feel like I was there with you! Thank you, so much, for sharing.

  • mlezcano

    Mary Lezcano from BellaBboutique said 4 years ago

    I never had the experience as a child but now that we have adult camp experiences, I'm so in.

  • ellayeon

    Ella Yeon from UNIQUELYy said 4 years ago

    Fun finds ! Thanks for sharing.

  • Plastidermy

    Chris Evans from Plastidermy said 4 years ago

    I never had a traditional summer camp experience in the woods, my summer breaks were spent seaside. Waking up at sunrise, going for long walks with my grandpa scouting for shells, and learning to bake cakes with grandma. Now, it's the sea that gifts me those little moments of peace that bring balance to life.

  • KaiyasCloset

    Jessica Meyer from KaiyasRoom said 4 years ago

    I went to a christian camp, two years in a row. I remember not really wanting to go, but always having a great time! We never made any arts and crafts, that would've been fun! Ours was more singing, skits, relays(including the zip line). Thanks for sharing your finds :)

  • debvasbinder

    Deb Vasbinder from BabyCuteBaby said 4 years ago

    Love this post - That lake looks divine!

  • MinaMinette

    Jan Penn from MinaMinette said 4 years ago

    I loved reading about your camp memories! Makes me wish I'd gone. I had an opportunity when I was 12, but chickened out at the last minute!

  • 007bondgirl

    Leanne Bond from CloverAndFamily said 4 years ago

    I loved summer camp, some of the best summers of my life! Thank you for this post!

  • TheEnchantedSlipper

    J Breault from TheEnchantedSlipper said 4 years ago

    I have fond memories of camp as well. (Rock Soup and Wicky Wacky Walkaways!) Thank you for posting.

  • michellequarterschap

    Michelle Quarters Chapman from RetroModHome said 4 years ago

    I loved over-night summer camp! First time I went, I was 7 yrs. old. Went every summer till my early teen years and then I worked there as a counselor. I used to love toe-weaving and making ice cream. Thank you for this post!

  • ikabags

    IKA PARIS from ikabags said 4 years ago

    Our family is likes camping,so much fun =) thanks !

  • 1AEON

    1AEON from 1AEON said 4 years ago

    Karate, horseback riding and tennis camps for me, when I was a kid. Thanks for sharing!

  • StitchNoEvil

    Alia Smith from StitchNoEvil said 4 years ago

    I was lucky enough to have gone to sleepaway camp at Camp Susan Curtis in East Stoneham, ME. As a city kid from Maine, it was my first experience with nature and with people from other parts of the country, and indeed, the world. It was also my first experience being awake all night after a campfire ghost story! LOL!

  • highplacesphotos

    S Bass from highplacesphotos said 4 years ago

    Made me smile! I loved camp too! I didn't get to go every summer, but when I did I really enjoyed it! Great job!

  • rivahside

    rivahside said 4 years ago

    Learned how to make a lot of things from gymp!

  • rarebeasts

    Brian McNamara from rarebeasts said 4 years ago

    Awesome goodies, brings back the memory of year 5 camp at Lomg beach.

  • littleshopofphotos

    Michele Iljazi from OneDecember said 4 years ago

    I never went to sleep-away camp, but I always wanted to and now that I am an adult, I really wish I had!! It seems like an amazing place! I love camping and the whole idea appeals to me!! Sounds like a blast - and very rewarding.

  • chakrayourkharma

    Kate Lassila from Rootiebirds said 4 years ago

    I never had the chance to go to summer camp. However, on weekends we spent our time at a little cottage on a spring fed lake. I remember floating along in the bay...bottom thrust into the doughnut hole of a sticky-hot black innertube. Or sitting underneath the so so so tall trees and letting the shadow of the trees dapple my closed eyelids as I floated up up and awayyyyy, over the lush green tops of the oaks. I'll never forget learning about respecting nature...and the lessons each creature has to teach us. Such wonderful preparations for life! Thanks for the article and the trip down memory lane!

  • opendoorstudio

    Martha Layton Smith from opendoorstudio said 4 years ago

    i am just adoring all this talk of camp! I loved being a counselor at a beautiful camp in colorado ( camp St. Malo) NOTHING can compare with my days spent there... memories that last a life time and relationships that bond!. Thanks for all of the " campy " features lately! LOVE them! ... Happy Camping!

  • prettyware

    Barbara Mahan from prettyware said 4 years ago

    I'm going camping with my daughters/granddaughters in 1 month and now I am REALLY ready to go! Thanks!

  • ColorZen

    Tinarosa Tam from colorZen said 4 years ago

    I used to camp under a large hanging umbrella with a Mosquito net cover on it. We sleep and meditation inside. Such a special memory

  • recycledwares

    Nerrissa W from RecycledWares said 4 years ago

    We are making smores this weekend in our fire pit. One of the things I remember most about camp.

  • creationsbyMrsJoJo

    Joanne from SeamsLikePinkPaisley said 4 years ago

    We took our kids camping while they were growing up--we have so many fabulous memories.

  • beachbabyblues

    Susan Wagner from beachbabyblues said 4 years ago

    I loved Summer Camp !! Being away from my crazy home life , it was like being in heaven . Bunk beds in little cabins, campfire songs , big picnic tables with loads of friends ! Hiking and gathering up natures treasures. Making crafts and swimming. Oh my goodness, such GREAT memories !! Thanks so much for the article , it made me smile !

  • ArigigiPixel

    Gina from ArigigiPixel said 4 years ago

    Love camping and sleeping under the open sky !

  • cinderandhoney

    Caitlin Benson from cinderandhoney said 4 years ago

    Aw, summertime.

  • audreytolove

    Kristian Jessie Jessie from KristianJessie said 4 years ago

    Thanks for sharing !

  • xutian1

    ya mo from 2013color said 4 years ago

    I love camping!!!!

  • Pysar

    Yuri Pysar from Pysar said 4 years ago

    wonderful picks and the story! love summer camping. as a kid I was camping every weekend in summer. Thank you for refreshing the great memories! :)

  • shopdomestica

    Domestica - Chrissy Jensen said 4 years ago

    So exciting to see Small Adventure's work highlighted in this awesome Camp blog post! She's got a selection of Moonrise Kingdom-inspired cards and prints, as well - you should go see. We carry her work and she's not only super talented, she's one of the nicest people you'll ever work with. Love you, Etsy!

  • TouchOfSilver

    TouchOfSilver from TouchOfSilver said 4 years ago

    Your wonderful article really touched home with me...nothing but the fondest of memories. I went to overnight camp in NH for 8 wks every summer...for 11 years. Kids came from all over and many came back year after year - true friendships were found. It was a fairly small camp of about 60 campers and we snuggled in rustic cabins in the woods with 4-6 campers and a couple of counselors in each. The activities gave me life long interests... horses, hiking, tennis, creativity (from all those art projects on rainy days), sailing, swimming - I could go on and on. I feel so lucky to have had that smorgasbord of activities which showed me a whole different world!

  • UsagiRabbit

    UsagiRabbit from UsagiRabbit said 4 years ago Featured

    Great article! I loved hanging around a nice warm fire on a chilly night. Something very special about that crackling sound and the smell of wood and smoke while you're spending time with your friends and roasting marshmallows. Ah, good times :)

  • sistersteel

    Sandy Baker from Sistersteel said 4 years ago

    Throw another log on...I've got the marshmallows ;) The chipmunks are in the wood pile playing hide-and-seek.

  • RenataandJonathan

    Renata and Jonathan from RenataandJonathan said 4 years ago

    Charming post !

  • mvmayophotography

    Mary Mayo from MVMayoPhotography said 4 years ago

    Never went to camp as a kid, but have camped many many times with my kids, and still love camping today. HOWEVER I must admit I am a little spoiled and today "camp" in a motor home! ;)

  • artlover2013

    Kay from ArtMeetsLove said 4 years ago

    Thank you for sharing. I love this fire pit!

  • territhrall

    Teresa from BroadRiverExchange said 4 years ago

    Thanks for the memories....let's make s'mores!

  • AnniesGift

    Annie from TheLittlestBigSpoon said 4 years ago

    Thanks for the great article. :) I've been a camper, a CIT, a counselor and a camp nurse. From my first camp out in Girl Scouts I was hooked. Nothing beats those winter blues like singing camp songs and reliving old summer memories. This was a great read.

  • theroyal

    elm the person from elmtheperson said 4 years ago

    i like the painted sticks :)

  • stonebridgeworks

    stonebridgeworks from stonebridgeworks said 4 years ago

    In my book, A Bushel's Worth: An Ecobiography, I write about hiking in the Rockies as a Girl Scout and learning that one foot after the other gets you to the top. I loved camp, except maybe the ticks. Thanks for the story!

  • HerMajestysPug

    Nancy from HerMajestysPug said 4 years ago

    J'adore!!! Congratulations on the feature!!! Puts me in the mood for s'mores....:)

  • milkyandcoffee

    Yin Yin Wu from LoveGemStudio said 4 years ago

    I do love summer camp since I can get away from the urban and be closed to the nature ;)

  • yippeevintage

    yippeevintage from yippeevintage said 4 years ago

    I loved going to camp as a kid and I still love camping. The smell of a campfire, s'mores and a cozy sleeping bag in the chilly night air... heavenly! Great post and I really love the letterpress card :)

  • katesweetpeasoup

    Tupelo Honey from VintageSweetpeasoup said 4 years ago

    I love everything about camp. You described it all perfectly. Great blog!

  • iammieCLAYshop

    iammieCLAYshop from iammieCLAYshop said 4 years ago

    Love this post!

  • charlenesbags

    Charlene Owens from charlenesembroidery said 4 years ago

    Alas, the only "camp" I was allowed to attend was the Girl Scout day camp at out local park. I would have treasured a chance to have the experience you had in Minnesota. Wonderful blog. Thank you.

  • sookchom

    sangduan sookchom from Sangduancrochet said 4 years ago

    I love go to camp, thank you so much for share your story

  • realfaery

    realfaery from realfaery said 4 years ago

    Great writing, it brought back some memories. Actually, I learned felt making there what gives a living now:)))

  • pattymora1

    patty mora from PattyMoraPhoto said 4 years ago

    Fun! Painted sticks! Lets do it.

  • blainedesign

    Karen Brown from blainedesign said 4 years ago

    Do you know the old standard, "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan"? It was in the musical "The Band Wagon," but I understand it was originally written by the young Arthur Schwartz as a CAMP song. The lyrics went like this: I love to lie awake in bed. Right after Taps, I pull the flaps above my head, And let the stars shine on my pillow, Oh, what a light the moonbeams shed! I feel so happy I could die, And tears were born right in the corner of my eye. To be at home with Ma was never like this, I could live forever like this. I love to lie awake a while, And go to sleep with the smile. Thanks, Linzee.

  • cberez

    CB DESIGN'S from CBDesignsPR said 4 years ago

    Lovely finds, I love birdhouses and the ones you found are beautiful. Thanks for sharing

  • aressa

    aressa from OriginalBridalHanger said 4 years ago

    I have fond memories of camp when I was a kid....Not much of a camper as an adult, but love the memories...

  • jamasters

    Jess Masters from RefinedRock said 4 years ago

    FUN!

  • nightbloomingserious

    nancy Beckham said 4 years ago

    I attended Camp Winnataska in central Alabama in the late '50's and '60's as a camper and counselor. My favorite memories are the sound of the water fall as we gathered for vespers at the end of each day and the re-telling of the story of Indian princess Winnataska as we lay on blankets under the stars, then filed silently back to our cabins through the woods. Nothing can replace memories like that.

  • leeannasjewerybox

    Leeanna from LeeannasJewelryBox said 4 years ago

    My favorite outdoor memory is of my mom teaching me how to cook while camping. Not normal cooking, but the the kind of cooking you can do with tin-foil. Popovers, and fish with scrambled eggs inside.

  • evermarker

    leon Marker from evermarker said 4 years ago

    wow, so beautiful pic. thks so much for sharing

  • isewcute

    June from isewcute said 4 years ago

    I loved sleeping out & hearing all the night noises. Also, loved doing the crafts. Good times!

  • mattyhandmadecrafts

    Matejka Max from NattyMatty said 4 years ago

    Love camping!

  • scarvesinfinity

    Le Chelle from ScarvesInfinity said 4 years ago

    What wonderful camp memories. So glad you shared them with us!

  • NirvanaRoad

    Lisa from NirvanaRoad said 4 years ago

    It's funny how things turn out. My two sons loved to camp but now that they are adults they wouldn't think of sleeping in a tent again. I love sleeping under the stars and my husband and I camp out on our deck in the summer. We love it.

  • christinescornershop

    Christine Pacheco from christinescornershop said 4 years ago

    I really enjoyed your post, it brought me back to days long ago camping, boating and just being free in the forests and mountains! Thanks for the post.

  • theindiehandmade

    Ombretta from IndieLab said 4 years ago

    I camped for the first time when I was only ten months old. Camping is one of the way I prefer to enjoy nature. You live and sleep inside it, enjoy all beautyness and beside of this every little problem disappear!

  • retroattack

    retroattack from retroattack said 4 years ago

    Great theme and finds!

  • swaggjewelry

    April McGee-Riess from RawLuxGems said 4 years ago

    Love all the nature inspired goodies. Nice article too ;-)

  • Splendere

    Pearlie from Splendere said 4 years ago

    Camping is fun. But don't forget your insect repellent! It's a must for me.

  • lkmccray

    Linzee from lkmccray said 4 years ago Featured

    Love all these camp and camping memories! Tin-foil cooking, the sounds of waterfalls, song lyrics, s'mores, rustic cabins, skits, chipmunks, swimming and floating in inner tubes on the lake, ghost stories, sleeping under the stars, capture the flag, Your memories all brought back more of mine (except for toe-weaving...What the heck IS that?). Thanks for sharing them.

  • LetterKayDesigns

    LetterKayDesigns from LetterKayDesigns said 4 years ago

    Now I want to go camping! :) So fun!

  • kleponprintables

    Klepon Printables from KleponPrintables said 4 years ago

    Great picks! Thanks for sharing.

  • GeorgieGirlLLC

    D George from GeorgieGirlLLC said 4 years ago

    Love the birdhouses!! Thanks for sharing!!!

  • SewforYou

    Cynthia from SewforYou said 4 years ago

    Looking out at a lake and being ouside brings such peace! My daughter works at a camp year round and she is one of the most joyful people I know.

  • FridayArtBunch

    Friday Art Bunch from FridayArtBunch said 4 years ago

    very nice. Thanks!

  • snowflakesara20

    Sara from UrbanFarmhouseTampa said 4 years ago

    I used to love those tin foil meals and being with nature. Although I cannot go to summer camp, we still have some great campgrounds around here. One is right on the ocean. I think my husband and I need to take a fall trip with our daughter.

  • happilymadeover

    Edie Ann from happilymadeover said 4 years ago

    I want my kids to have these memories when they grow up! :)

  • dessertfirstdesigns

    Miranda from dessertfirstdesigns said 4 years ago

    I have great camp memories, thanks for the reminder!

  • ChristineOC

    Christine Carlson said 4 years ago

    I absolutely cherish my memories of Camp Northland. My four wonderful summers there will stay with me, living in my heart and soul forever.

  • ChristineOC

    Christine Carlson said 4 years ago

    I absolutely cherish my memories of Camp Northland. My four wonderful summers spent there will stay with me forever, living in my heart and soul :)

  • foxegurl266

    foxegurl266 said 4 years ago

    Great article! Brought back lots of happy memories.

  • mikemelillo

    Michael Melillo from AdventurousFunSigns said 4 years ago

    This is pure camp. Reminds me of it every day. https://www.etsy.com/listing/158422994/adventurous-fun-sign-with-arrow-165-x-35

  • Snowalker

    Vic Dinovici from BusyHanger said 4 years ago

    Looking very beautiful.Thanks.

  • dominna

    Katrina Dzerkale from Dominna said 4 years ago

    Ou,summer, stay for some more months !

  • happyaskingsshop

    Rachel Osborne from happyaskingsshop said 4 years ago

    I love the nostalgia of camp!

  • legacylace

    Legacy Stringham from LastingLegacys said 4 years ago

    I went to a Girl Scout summer camp for seven year....and survived learning to sail a sailboat, horrible counselors, and getting heatstroke. Camp is an amazing experience more kids now should have, I meet my best friend at camp. Summer camp is a great way to spend a few weeks in the summer, I almost cried when I couldn't go this last year. You can learn a lot from camping, even if its just learning to be without parents for a long period of time. The only problem I had (besides counselor and over 104 degree days) Was explaining to my mom, why I never wrote home, and when I did it was only a letter to my dog.

  • sarahalsey

    Sarah Alsey from papervalentines said 3 years ago

    camp = cheesy songs and s'mores...::love::

  • korenkwan

    Koren Kwan from GarasuWonderland said 2 years ago

    good story, enjoy reading it!

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