Evening Program is one of the highlights of Mountain Camp. Every night between 7pm and 8:30pm, the whole camp comes together for an activity: Beach Party, Clue Night, Sock Hop, or one of the other classics. Each summer, our Evening Program Coordinators work tirelessly to plan and run these activities, and this year, Jodie and Kito have outdone themselves by inventing a new classic.
CAMPCHELLA ! Mountain Camp’s Music Festival.
Just take a classic music festival and campify it! Campers get a wrist band and rotate through 4 different music stages, listening to different genres and singing and dancing along.
At the main stage, our KISS cover band rock and roll all night, and every day (or, more accurately, between 7pm and 8:30pm). The Job Rockers are a full band, with amplified acoustic instruments, a smoke machine, and requisite face paint.
After being cleared through security, campers enter the main lodge, and grab a glow bracelet, as DJ Major Blazer, spins the latest in electronic music.
Campers then head back out into the forest for the Woodstock station, a decorated hippy encampment filled with love for music and the environment. The Lonely Crescents sing 2 songs and give out flower-child names to anyone who wants one.
Finally, campers head to the grove, where Old Folk, our bluegrass/old time band plays You Are My Sunshine as well as their spin on a more modern tune. Campers are given a bit of history on the music and then invited to sing along.
After rotating around all the stations, campers head back to the main stage for a few final musical performances before singing Tents and Cabins, our closing song.
Check out the 2015 Campchella edit below, produced by our Media Coordinator Ian!
With every Thursday at Mountain Camp comes the opportunity to participate in one of our oldest traditions, the Polar Bear Swim. Those brave enough to wake up early and submerge themselves in Ice House Lake are instructed to place a towel at the end of their bed before falling asleep on Wednesday night. At 6:30am on Thursday morning, staff wake up the campers, assemble at the dining area, and head down to the lake.
Once at the lake, all campers get life jackets before heading out into the water. Surprisingly, the water often feels warm, in contrast to the cool morning air. Campers brave the waters for a minute or two before getting out and drying off.
Once back up at camp, as other campers are just waking up, the Polar Bears recount their adventure over hard-earned cups of hot chocolate. At breakfast announcements, the whole camp recognizes the bravery of the Polar Bears with cheers and applause. What a way to start the day! At the end of each session, 2 or 3 lucky Polar Bears win a stuffed polar bear to take home.
What a glorious day! The Mountain Camp Water Carnival happens during our two-week sessions (Sessions 3, 4, and 5), and occasionally on the Saturday between one-week sessions when we have enough campers. It is a mixture of creativity, competition, and all around silly fun.
We start by dividing the camp into 3 teams, each with a mixture of our 3 age groups, both boys and girls. Each team is assigned a color and then tasked with inventing a few chants to celebrate their hue. Everyone applies generous amounts of sunscreen before using body paint to creatively decorate themselves for the upcoming competition. Campers sign up for at least one of the events and counselors organize and energize their teams before heading down to the lake at 2pm.
What are these wacky events you ask? The Greased Watermelon Relay Race, Highest Aqua Launch, Sink the Canoe Competition, Tug o War, Synchronized Swim Performance, Sand Castle Contest, Best Belly Flop (while wearing a life jacket), The Peace Canoe Race, and Swampball (a combination of water polo and inner tube basketball, played while wearing a life jacket upside down like a diaper!).
When campers are not competing, they are cheering on their teammates or enjoying sliced watermelon. And at the end of day, win or lose, everyone gets a fresh baked chocolate chip cookie. Perfect!
Check out the Water Carnival edit from Session 3, Thanks Ian!
The Overnight is one of the highlights of our two-week program. Every camper in Sessions 3, 4 and 5 has the opportunity to go on an overnight, and we do our best to offer it to campers who combine 2 or more one-week sessions as well. The Overnight is most often divided by gender and age group, so that 2-4 cabins go at a time.
Cabins meet with our Overnights Specialist and 3rd year returning counselor, Rain, during rest time. She does an orientation that includes what to expect, what to pack, and any other important details, as well as an enthusiastic pep talk for anyone who is hesitant about their first time sleeping out under the stars. Cabins finish packing during Rest Time or Hang Time and then bring their backpacks down to the volleyball court before dinner.
Just after finishing dinner they grab their backpacks and head to the waterfront. Campers get a quick orientation in basic kayaking and then head across the lake to the overnight camping spot. They arrive with enough time for a swim before sunset and then spend the evening making S’mortillas (a Mountain Camp original invention!) and playing games before bed.
Sleeping on the beach of Ice House Lake yields nearly a 180 degree view of the night sky, and with the nearest big city about 75 miles away, the stars are far brighter than they appear in the Bay Area. The shooting stars can be so bright that they leave momentary trails of light behind, providing a sense of wonder and awe for campers and counselors alike.
Campers wake early the next morning, pack up and paddle back across the lake in time for a hot breakfast at camp. For many campers, this is the first time they’ve slept out under the stars, and it can be a truly memorable experience.
Below are images from a blazer boy overnight from Session 3!
When campers choose to go fishing at Mountain Camp not only do they catch fish, but they also get to eat them!
After sign-ups campers head down to the lake, throw on some PFDs, and jump on the pontoon boat. Ben Fisher, the fishing guru of Ice House Reservoir, drives the boat of campers and a counselor across the lake to one of the several fishing spots and drops anchor. The fishing rods come out next and soon all the lines are cast. Then campers can only do one thing: wait.
Soon enough a fish will bite and campers reel in their fishing lines in hopes of finding a large rainbow or brown trout on the end. No matter the size, the fish get stored in a cooler that is transported back to camp and thrown in the refrigerator. As soon as dinner rolls around, the fresh trout are served with spices and herbs to the campers who caught them. Some kids even dare each other to eat the eyeballs!
One of the best things about Mountain Camp is our remote location, on Ice House Lake, in the Eldorado National Forest. We’re about 3-4 hours from the Bay Area and many parents delight in coming all the way up the mountain with their campers for check-in and check-out. But there’s another way to get to camp too. The BUS!
About half our campers take the bus to and from camp, and for these kids, the camp experience starts the moment they board. We’ve recently improved our bus systems for drop off and pick up, and have added an extra staff member on each bus to improve the experience for parents and kids. We have 3 locations for pick-up and drop-off in the Bay Area: Lafayette, Palo Alto, and Larkspur. We charter 55 passenger motor coaches, complete with bathrooms and screens for our (almost) famous, yearly bus video. Although we avoid screen time once kids arrive at camp, the Mountain Camp Bus Video gives kids a sneak peek of the adventure they are about to embark upon.
We shoot and edit the video during our staff training week so that it includes all of the staff that the kids are about to meet face to face. Our media coordinator, Ian, has put together a great video this year, and we are excited to share here. Enjoy!
We had a great Session 1 this year. A little rain, a lot of sun and TONS of fun!!!
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What is it?
Camp Moves Me is the American Camp Association’s ambitious goal to unite all of us who understand the value of the camp experience in a nation-wide fundraising campaign to send more children to camp. Many of us on the Mountain Camp Staff are participating by pledging to run, bike, or walk 100 miles in the month of October.
A few of our full-time staff members are involved in the fundraiser, you can support Dave, Kam, or Alex by clicking their names. We think this is a great opportunity to help get kids to camp that otherwise would not have the opportunity. Anyone can get involved on their own by heading to the ACA website.