Olson’s Name is Known Worldwide
Saturday July 29, 2017
What would you say if we told you that Camp Olson YMCA has an influence on kids all around the world?
For those of you who come back year after year, or send your kids to the Big O every summer, this is probably no surprise. However, this may be news to those first-time campers and their families.
This summer, Camp Olson has been host to its most diverse group of campers yet. Parents have sent their children to the Northwoods from all four corners of the United States, and our involvement with other countries has become much more prevalent with each summer season.
This year, our staff had the privilege of meeting kids from all over the United States in addition to France, Spain, Brussels, The Ivory Coast, Hungary, and Korea! We could not be more proud of the fact that our outreach is so large.
As a result of this immersion, both American and foreign campers are benefitting in a variety of ways. For one, our American campers are being introduced to a number of languages, gaining extensive knowledge about their cabin mates’ and counselors’ cultures, and gaining the desire to one day travel and witness other parts of the world for themselves.
Our 2017 Spanish Liaison, Raquel Uriel, spoke to us regarding the rewards she sees her campers gaining through the experience. Uriel highlighted how Camp has encouraged them to face new challenges and allowed them to grow as individuals in ways they could not at home:
“Whenever it is about going to trips, like walking or sailing for 8 days, they are always so nervous that they will not be able to make it, but they do,” says Uriel, “Whenever they come back they are like, ‘Oh god, I did it! It was me and just me.’ They don’t really have these kinds of challenges at home and I think it is a good experience for them. I think they are good as a person whenever they come back to Spain – they grow up.”
In addition to personal growth, foreign campers have the opportunity to enhance their English speaking skills, share their culture with others, and learn about parts of the United States from their cabin mates and counselors. Funny enough, many of these campers are unaware as to Minnesota’s location prior to boarding the plane!
Unfortunately, our time with our French and Spanish campers has come to an end, as they are all beginning their long journey home today. Some of our favorite moments have been enjoying delicious homemade crepes for dessert, sharing laughs over multi-cultural campfires and skits, and creating lasting friendships that, luckily, can be easily maintained through the use of social media. Plus, it’s always comforting to know they’ll return to us again next summer.
Maintenance Men Turned Hollywood Actors?
Friday July 14, 2017
Following session four, our Maintenance Team was awarded the Spirit Stick as a group for their hard work and dedication to keeping camp clean and safe for all campers, staff, and alumni. As staff, we often joke about how, once you receive the Spirit Stick, you must sleep with it beneath your pillow. However, the 2017 Maintenance Men took it a little further and created what might have been the best campfire of the summer.
Each year we like to share with you some of the silliness that happens here at camp, therefore, we will tell you the tale of the Maintenance Mens’ campfire:
On Thursday of Session 5, all of camp settled around the Nature Center fire ring. The sun was fading and casting a pink glow across the clouds. Horses were grazing in the pasture beside us and the campers and staff alike were buzzing with excitement as we had been anticipating this fire all week.
In the beginning, Facilities Manager, Jake Woodworth, sets the tone by explaining to camp that the Spirit Stick holds “all power,” and whoever is in possession of the award has the ability to do whatever they please, according to the “camp bylaws.” As recipients of the Spirit Stick last week, Woodworth states, one of them has chosen to use the award’s power for evil.
Bart Schrom, Assistant Facilities Manager, enters with the Spirit Stick in hand and his minion Rafael (Raffi) Kraljic in tow. Schrom informs his fellow Maintenance Men that he’s had enough and has “gone over to the dark side,” so to say. He threatens to quit maintaining and allow camp to fall apart by neglecting our program areas and offering no help to our campers and staff. Woodworth begs him to use the Spirit Stick’s power for good, but can’t get through. That’s when he turns to Maintenance Assistant, “Baby” John Shields, for help.
Unfortunately for Woodworth, “Baby” John can’t offer his help, because he has more growing up to do. At that moment, they transition into a version of the Baby Shark song detailing Shields’ growing up and quirks on the job.
Finally, “Grown Man John” enters and stands by Woodworth’s side to talk Schrom down from his power trip. Eventually, their words get through and he exits the scene.
But this leaves his minion Rafael. Woodworth and Shields are suspicious of this minion’s intentions, and so they decide to battle. Woodworth and Kraljic enter an intense thumb war while Shields provided excellent sound effects. Before long, Woodworth and the light side win while Kraljic falls, defeated.
Woodworth and Shields begin to celebrate their victory when suddenly, they hear an ominous growl. Just as Woodworth feared would happen, Schrom had awoken the ancient spirit with his mistreatment of the Spirit Stick’s power.
The audience gasps as, from behind the Nature Center, Tractillatrix emerges! Woodworth and Shields spring into action in order to vanquish Schrom and Tractillatrix. Woodworth battles Tractillatrix head-on with his mighty hammer, but falls as it was no match for the monstrous beast. Meanwhile, Shields goes for the heart and is able to bring the beast down.
“I bypassed the compressor!” Shields hollered, “Just like you taught me, Jake!” Then he sees it – Woodworth’s body upon the ground. Shields rushes to his aid, but it’s too late. As his final goodbye, Woodworth simply presents Shields with his grubby, worn-out maintenance hat.
Before Shields is able to grieve the loss of his supervisor, Schrom re-enters the stage armed with his light saber. His work is not done until he is the last Maintenance Man standing. It is not long before the two are yet again locked in combat, fighting for good and evil. But in the end, Shields claims victory and restores good to Camp Olson.
It was an extra special treat to watch such a well-executed campfire, especially one in which the entire maintenance crew took part in. Thank you, Woodworth, Shields, Schrom, and Kraljic, for an exceptionally entertaining evening.
Have you met Joe?
Saturday July 1, 2017
Part of the reason so many people love Camp Olson is because it is a family affair. Many campers and staff initially come to camp because their parents did, or their older sibling, or their cousin, or a variety of other ties, but it’s always refreshing to have a new face among us. Someone who can bring new ideas and a different perspective to our generations-old camp family.
This week, we’d like to introduce one of the newest members to our family: Joseph (Joe) Schwieters. Throughout the 2017 season, Schwieters is working as a counselor for several weeks as well as a nanny to our director’s new baby.
Schwieters graduated from St. John’s Preparatory School with a number of our staff members. Unlike them, he was never a camper, but was convinced to visit his friends during the 2016 season. Following that weekend trip, Schwieters decided to give Camp Olson a try.
“It really kind of sold itself knowing how much the people who work here love it and how much they want to come back every summer,” said Schwieters, “so it really didn’t take too much [convincing].”
When asked what he’s enjoyed most about camp, Schwieters immediately spoke of his coworkers and new experiences.
“The people here are fantastic. I’ve given up describing everyone I meet to my parents because I always start out with ‘they’re awesome’ or ‘they’re amazing.’ But besides that, being able to do all these new things, like learning how to sail, which I did for the first time last week! And I’m very excited to ride a horse. It’s all this stuff I’ve never done that are really cool. Even working in the craft shop learning how to make friendship bracelets. How many times have I seen my sister do that and had no idea how to do it? Just all these little not so practical but super fun skills to have.”
Schwieters mentioned that he had a lot of anxiety going into his first week of counseling, particularly with the amount of responsibility required of being guardian to a full cabin of kids. However, he didn’t hesitate to jump right in.
“My first overnight was what I was most worried about,” Schwieters explained, “We had some problems between the campers, but getting back and getting cleaned up and everyone smiling was very rewarding. Not necessarily having it done, but having the first one under my belt so I know what to expect for the rest of them.
Little did Schwieters know, his hard work during that first week would earn him the Super Sweet Counselor Award.
“I don’t want to say I was expecting to get it, but people had sort of told me they thought t was me,” said Schwieters, “It was awesome to be recognized by these people, and to be accepted by them is one thing, but to be chosen by them as Super Sweet Counselor is a whole other level of welcome.”
We are thrilled to have Joe as a part of our staff and our family, and have been blown away with his leadership and positivity. Thank you, Joe, for joining us in our mission to share the Spirit of the Northwoods!
A Peek Inside the New Camp Kitchen
Saturday Jun. 17, 2017
Here we are at the end of our first camper session of 2017. What a week it has been! We had some rain, we had some sun, and we had lots of fun. Some highlights this week included a rowdy game of the Big O Game Show in the Dining Hall, a six-boat Regatta where all boats finished and only one boat flipped, and our first awards ceremony of the summer where many campers received honors for their involvement at our many program areas. But let’s get to what we know you’re all wondering about: how about that new kitchen?
In order to get the inside scoop on our amazing kitchen renovation, I spoke with our Assistant
Food Director, James Felegy. This is Felegy’s fourth year working in the Camp Olson Kitchen and this year he returns to us after having the opportunity to work as a Baker at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, MN.
When discussing his favorite part about the new renovation, Felegy couldn’t name just one thing, but the coffee machine was first on the list. He explained it gives him a lot more time to focus on the meal now that he doesn’t have to worry about making staff coffee. In addition, he highlighted how added storage has helped keep the kitchen organized on order days and that the Kitchen’s new windows allow a lot of light into both the buffet room and the prep area. “The freezer is nice because you can see everything in it rather than freezer mountain like we had before.” Felegy added.
Speaking of the buffet room, how is that going with two lines? The answer is excellent. We are able to serve meals in record time. This week we had over 200 campers who entered the dining hall, were seated, and received their meal in half the time it took prior to the renovation. You know what that means – longer siesta!
After mealtime, three dishwashers scheduled to assist the kitchen sling tray after tray of dishes through our new CMA machine at speeds that could give you whiplash. With the time they save finishing meal dishes, they are also able to help kitchen staff clean up the buffet lines, prep the salad bar, and make bug juice among other things.
“It’s made mealtime more streamlined,” said Felegy, “The prep for meals is a lot easier so staff don’t get as fatigued.” One could say that this renovation has certainly changed the way that Camp Olson operates.
Finally, I asked Felegy how he felt the renovation could impact Camp in the future, and he left us with one final comment.
“I think camp could utilize the space for a variety of events year-round. You could throw some really nice community dinners to fundraise for camp, for holidays, like mother’s day brunch or a fishing opener dinner.”
Aren’t we all looking for more reasons to visit camp during the off-season?
In Remembrance of the White Palace 1957-2016
Monday Aug. 8, 2016
In anticipation of the 360 campaign construction this fall, we chose to celebrate the presence of one of the oldest and most used buildings at camp: the White Palace. We thought, what better way to honor such a longstanding building than with a proper funeral?
And so, on Friday of session 8, all of our staff and campers gathered in front of the Palace to appropriately mourn the loss of the beloved bathroom.
The ceremony began with an introduction from Program Director, James Scudamore, followed by a “moment in farting.” After that, each of the program area directors was invited to pay their respects with a White Palace themed afternoon announcement.
Next, the Day Campers placed flowers beside a beautiful tombstone and candle memorial they’d made that morning.
Following the Day Campers processional, our very own Facilities Manager, Jake Woodworth, delivered a heartfelt and humorous eulogy. Each of his maintenance assistants stood beside him in their finest bathroom funeral attire – black garbage bags with plungers in hand. Once the eulogy had ended, they christened the building with splashes of water from the plungers they carried.
Finally, staff and campers stood hand in hand around the Palace to sing Amazing Grace. It may have been the most beautiful rendition Camp Olson has ever heard. We are so grateful to have used the building for so long, and to have staff and campers so willing to play along with our goofiness! Now, we look forward to improved facilities that will last for decades to come.
Home For All
Saturday July 30, 2016
The Spirit of the Northwoods reaches far beyond camp property, and the Camp Olson Family is one of the most expansive and inclusive you’ll ever be a part of.
As many of you know, we are lucky to host a large number of Spanish and French campers each summer, and this season may have been our greatest yet!
For the past four weeks, we’ve reunited with old friends and had the privilege to get to know new ones. Our international liaisons, Natalia Salas Garza and Louise Rouillard, introduced Camp Olson to several brand new campers, and it turns out they loved camp as much as camp enjoyed having them! We are always so pleased to embrace international campers in all of our programs, however, attending camp from overseas is not without its challenges.
“The first week is difficult for all because we don’t know the people,” said Salas, “The language is the first [challenge], but I think it’s not the most difficult part. Probably you don’t know people the first week but it’s easy to make friends and get along with people here because you are so open minded and friendly.”
“I think it’s sometimes because the kids in America and France live so differently,” said Albane Saint Martin Tillet, first-year assistant counselor from France. “Some kids think really different from other kids, like, ‘we don’t talk about the same things,’ or ‘we don’t play the same way.’ Sometimes it can be kind of disturbing [for them].”
Luckily, despite these differences, our international campers are able to form close relationships with their cabin mates and enjoy their time at program areas. Both liaisons report that the Boathouse is among their campers’ favorites.
“They love the boathouse because we don’t have lakes in Spain. So sailing for them is good.” said Luis Lazaro, first-year Spanish assistant counselor. Salas also tells us that Riflery is a huge hit due to its limited presence in Spain. Most of our French campers agree, with the exception of Lea Sekalski who spends all of her time honing her riding skills at the corral.
Part of what allows our international programs to thrive is the chance for campers to eventually become staff. Rouillard, Saint Martin Tillet, and Lazaro all completed our CIT program before joining our staff as counselors.
“For me, it’s different being a staff and a camper because having your own kids is fun,” said Lazaro. “As a counselor it’s cool knowing that the children like you. They ask ‘are you coming back next year?’ ‘can you be my counselor next year?’ and you feel proud of yourself.”
For Saint Martin Tillet, the transition from camper to staff member meant giving back:
“I just want to help camp in a way, and being a counselor is helping too. It’s just like, we owe something at camp and sometimes I feel happy because I’m doing what kids want to do to be happy.
“I was happy as a camper and didn’t want to be a counselor,” Rouillard told us, “Finally I did CIT and I had the greatest year of my life and I was a counselor last year and it was a great experience to share what you did as a camper as a counselor. I think we both (Rouillard & Saint Martin Tillet) had our best moments here and we want others to know this place.”
A Worldly Perspective
For these campers, Camp Olson is more than a place to have fun, it’s an exceptional learning environment. Each of our liaisons told us their campers benefit from improving their English speaking and comprehension skills. They also grow as well-rounded individuals by immersing themselves in new experiences and a new way of living. In exchange, our American campers learn just as much from their foreign friends.
Goodnight, But Not Goodbye.
Now here we are at the end of their month-long stay, and many of our international campers and staff are leaving with tears in their eyes, a list full of new friends’ contact information, and stories to share with their families back home.
“It went so fast! I feel like we arrived two days ago,” says Rouillard, “All the kids had such a good time. We had two new frenchies and they loved it and want to come back for sure. The program is doing well this year, and I’m so happy to be leading it.”
We’re already counting down the days until our international family members can return to us.
Camp Olson Storm Report
Saturday July 23, 2016
To our Camp Olson Family – thank you for the tremendous amount of support and well wishes following this week’s severe storm. We are so grateful to have such dedicated and kind members in our community and we appreciate your willingness to help in a time of need.
As we mentioned on our Facebook page, we lost a lot of trees. Luckily, only minor damage occurred to buildings but the trees have left us with quite the mess to clean up! In addition to fallen trees, 8 of our sailboats were flipped over and we were without power for 8 hours. We’re extremely lucky to have our power restored so quickly as neighboring communities are still without it until early next week.
Thursday morning activities were a bit delayed due to cleanup, but campers and staff remained in high spirits and enjoyed their time at our many program areas. Our third session CITs were extremely helpful in assisting our maintenance team with tree cleanup around the offices and the trail leading down to the beach.
We’d like to take this time to give a big shout-out to our Facilities Manager, Jake Woodworth, and his team of Maintenance Assistants: Bart Schrom, John Shields, and Chase Lee. These hard-working individuals have not only continued to complete their usual maintenance missions, but have spent every spare moment clearing trees from main camp as well as our more remote areas. To top it off, they did it all in extremely warm, muggy weather. The VanStraaten Family also volunteered their time on Thursday to help load brush onto trailers and clear the largest trees near the Ranch House.
We’re currently still evaluating the damage and safety of the remaining 1,250 acres of camp property, but we’re estimating there are more than 500 downed trees. The Shurds’ landscape looks vastly different, with many trees down around some of our favorite campsites, however, we hope to have them cleared in time for Family Camp.
As much as we appreciate many of your offers, we are not looking for volunteers at this time. But keep your ears open, we may need to call on you for more intense cleanup this fall. For now, we are ready (and excited) to host our seventh session of campers!
If you have any questions, concerns, or well wishes for us, please do not hesitate to reach out through social media or a phone call. We always look forward to hearing from you!
Apostle Islands Sailing Trip 2016
Saturday July 16, 2016
It’s been many years since Camp Olson sent campers on an off-grounds sailing trip, and a lucky group of five young men got to experience life on the waters of Lake Superior this week.
These campers, led by counselor Sam Robison, sailed a 36-foot Catalina around the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. The boat and it’s Captain, Marlin, were chartered through Dreamcatcher Sailing based out of Bayfield, Wisconsin.
Much larger than any of Camp Olson’s sailboats, the Dreamcatcher Catalina featured a cabin large enough to sleep all of the campers and a small kitchen to prepare meals. (Robison confirmed that the steak dinner came out on top as the favorite meal of the week.)
Learning to skipper such a large boat is no easy task, so all five campers spent the majority of the trip learning to sail it as a team as well as on their own. However, they found plenty of time throughout the week to have a little fun and enjoy the scenery.
In addition to sailing, the Apostle Island Sailors took breaks to explore a shipwreck along the shoreline, swim in and around sea caves, cliff jump off Stockton Island, have a campfire with a Ranger, and do a bit of night sailing.
“It was definitely a new experience for them. I don’t think anyone had sailed on a boat that size. The Captain was saying it was cool because they all had experience from Camp Olson, and they did most of the sailing. I don’t think there were more than two points where Marlin took over.” said Robison, “The biggest thing they were interested in was how to solo a boat like that.”
We’re grateful to Dreamcatcher Sailing and Captain Marlin for giving our campers such an incredible experience and we hope to continue offering more sailing trips in the future. If you’d like to learn more about our sailing program or view additional photos of the Apostle Islands trips, visit our website.
Catch Rapidash at the Camp O Corral!
Monday July 10, 2016
Age: 2 months
Physical Description: Cute, soft little hooves, underbite, mostly brown with a white blaze.
Parentage: Mom is Petunia. Dad is unknown.
Quirks: Neck is still too short to eat without doing “the splits.”
Really cuddly when she’s tired.
Sneaks through all the fences.
Loves to be scratched on her booty, ribs, shoulders, and chest.
We’re sure by now you’ve all heard (or started playing) Pokemon Go! Many of our staff members spent their off time searching for their favorite Pokemon around camp property. But did you know we have our very own Rapidash at the corral?
Rapidash is the newest member of our herd, and she’s getting lots of love and attention from staff, guests, and campers
So why was this little filly named after a Pokemon of all things? Corral Directors, Audrey, Kate, and Aliyyah tell us that a Rapidash is a fire Pokemon, and our little pony is “a fiery little girl” with lots of spirit.
“We also wanted more horses with more gender ambiguous names, like, appealing more to boys.” said Kate.
So far, little Rapidash has fit right in at the corral, and helps campers learn about equine care by demonstrating how nicely she lifts her hooves for picking. Corral staff are also working to halter and lead train her so she can one day tag along on a trail ride. But for now, she trots alongside mom, Petunia, as she gives campers a ring ride.
“She really likes kids a lot.” said Aliyyah, “She behaves better for them than she does for us.” It’s not uncommon to see campers petting and snuggling Rapidash as she naps in the sunshine, and she especially loves a good butt-scratch
Rapidash currently lives with her mom and several other camp horses in a maternity herd. Corral staff have selected a few mares and geldings to keep mom and baby company.
“It’s good for her to get used to hanging out with other horses besides her mom. And it’s good for both of them to be social.”
One final fact about our little Rapidash – she’s a selfie master! Several staff members have secured the perfect selfie with Rapidash peering over their shoulder. Plus, she can’t resist a good hair nibble. Corral staff suggested she have her own hashtag: #RapiSelfie
If you’re in the neighborhood any time soon, make sure you stop by the corral to visit Rapidash! She’s always ready for a good scratch, a snuggle, and a selfie.
Two Trips Down, Seven to Go!
Saturday July 2, 2016
During session two, our first groups of LITs and CITs returned from their time on trail in Voyageurs National Park and the Superior Hiking Trail. Both groups came home with stories to share, stronger relationships, and newfound leadership skills.
The On-Trail Experience
The LITs, or Leaders in Training, spent four days canoeing through Voyageurs National Park. In addition to fine-tuning their leadership skills, the LIT trip is designed to teach campers valuable camping skills such as navigation, campfire cooking, and leaving a low impact on the environment. Most of their trip included sunny days and perfect canoe weather. However, they needed a little assistance from park rangers on the last day due to high winds.
The CITs (Counselors in Training) hiked over 40 miles North from Temperance toward Grand Marais. They were also lucky to have warm, sunny weather to tackle the trail. Halfway through their journey, they took a duff day at Lake Agnes where they swam, lounged in hammocks, and dozed in the sunshine.
“We had great weather besides the first night when it just dumped on us,” said Kendal Giacomini, Session One Female CIT Leader, “Otherwise, morale was high the whole time.”
To someone who’s never experienced an extended camping trip, it may seem a lot like vacation, but our leadership trips encompass a lot of hard work for both leaders and campers. Campers are given daily chores around the campsite, encouraged to support each other throughout the hike, and challenged to learn about themselves along the way.
The leader’s job is bit tougher. They’re expected to guide their campers along the transition from camper to leader.
Ben Hayden, Session One Male CIT Leader told us, “I’ll be honest. It was not at all what I expected. It’s a lot harder. You realize you can’t just tell them to do something and they’ll do it. They have to have it within themselves – the energy to do something.”
“I feel like I coached them more this time, when people were struggling in the back.” said Giacomini of her second CIT experience, “It was just like, ‘this is mental toughness right now. Mind over matter. I feel like I was more involved with them as hikers rather than just campers.”
Part of the magic of leadership trips is witnessing the growth and change within each camper.
Giacomini shared, “They began to appreciate themselves more and what they could accomplish. And that was interesting. I saw so many of them push themselves. They internalized their pains and struggles to keep the group going. They did a really good job encouraging each other even when they were struggling. It was really cool to see.”
Behind the Scenes Prep
Assistant Director, Kristin Jonason, works closely with all of our Leadership Development Programs including Wrangler in Training, Sailor in Training, Leadership in Training, and Counselor in Training. This summer, she’s decided to focus most heavily on LIT and CIT programs and their trips.
“I work with counselors and help them coordinate with other areas they may be needing here at camp like the Kitchen, the Outpost and Trips Director, and anyone else they might need to interact with while they’re here.” said Jonason.
Jonason also works to maintain contact with our leadership groups on trail. She, along with Executive Director, Russ Link, and Camp Director, Lindsey Abrahams, communicate with leaders on trail using an inReach device which sends GPS coordinates in addition to text messages. They also monitor the weather throughout the duration of the trip.
“These first two trips have definitely been a learning experience for me, especially in this new position. I think where my work comes in is all their pre-trip organization and keeping them on a schedule.” said Jonason.
Pre-trip planning, according to Jonason, includes a wide variety of activities including route planning, creating menus, gear orientation, and, of course, packing.
Already Jonason’s assistance to our trips leaders has been a tremendous help, and we’re looking forward to sending more groups of campers on trail where they can enjoy building new relationships, finding their leadership styles, and making memories.
“I think kids really have a good time and like learning about themselves and others.”
Where will they go next?
We have a total of seven more trips scheduled this summer, including two more CIT hiking trips on the Superior Hiking Trail, three canoeing trips (two in the BWCA and one in Voyageurs), a sailing trip in the Apostle Islands, and a hiking trip on Isle Royale.
Please join us in supporting our leadership campers on trail. Follow us on social media for updates on their progress and photos from their trips.
Rainy Days at Camp Olson
Saturday June 18, 2016
“What do you do when it rains?”
We get this question a lot. Most people imagine camp as having perfect 75 degree weather with full sun and a solid blue sky. But we all know this isn’t the reality, especially in the unpredictable state of Minnesota. We understand that for some camper parents, the idea of sending your child to camp early in the season is a bit nerve-racking. However, we guarantee that we can show them a great time at Camp Olson, rain or shine!
So what do we do when it rains?
This week, it rained six out of the seven days our campers were with us, but the only activity it spoiled were the overnights. We had to bring three cabins back from the Shurds due to soggy sleeping bags, but they were back in their bunks within an hour.
The Craft Shop saw a lot of traffic this week. Campers kept busy creating a variety of things including bead buddies, friendship bracelets, tie dye clothing, and costumes for Disney theme day on Thursday!
It was a bit too windy and cold to spend time in the water, but campers found refuge inside the the sauna and played what I hear was a wild game of Beach Volleyball instead.
Most days it wasn’t raining heavily enough to prevent our riding campers from getting in the saddle, but if the horses are too wet all riding comes to a halt. In this case, our corral staff keep campers entertained and educated by teaching them about riding equipment (tack) and equine care. Campers were also welcome to offer their favorite horse a treat.
We also did a little puddle jumping this week. Our Nature Director lead a group of campers on a thorough Camp Olson puddle tour. They traveled from Target Sports all the way down to the Sauna, but found the best jumping puddles in the upper parking lot by the Health Lodge. They slid, jumped, and rolled their way through mud and water until their clothes were soaked. This is my favorite rainy day activity to document. Just look at the smiles on their faces!
Finally, the dining hall drew a crowd with lots fun puzzles, boardgames, and free reign of the costume closet.
If you’re sending your child to camp early in the season, make sure to pack quality raingear including boots, a hooded coat, and extra socks. For more questions regarding packing and weather, give us a call!
Fun, Food, and Fabulous Staff
Saturday June 11, 2016
After months of yearning to return the the Big O, our staff arrived last Sunday for a week of training. And oh what a week it was! Together, we worked to refresh our skills, share advice, and prepare ourselves to give campers their best summer yet.
On day one we hit the ground running with lectures and guided discussions about counseling, risk management, and health and wellness. We spent most of our time in the dining hall due to rain, but the sun came out just in time for our overnight on Tuesday.
That morning, our staff paddled out to their Shurds campsites to bond and practice the overnight procedure counselors will later share with their campers. Everyone enjoyed trail pizzas and brownie batter, which some used to play a game called plop drop.
What is plop drop? We’re glad you asked! It’s a game that’s beginning to become a tradition. The first step includes mixing brownie batter inside of a bag. Next, you cut a hole in the corner of the bag so a little bit of batter can escape. Finally, one player stands on a bench while another lies on the ground and tries to catch a “drop” of batter in their mouth. Unsurprisingly, the batter doesn’t always hit its target and staffers walk away with a bit of chocolate in their hair, nose, or ears.
What can we say? We’re silly people.
For the rest of the week, staff worked through lifeguard and first aid recertification courses. Those who were recertified during the winter worked to hone their skills in one of our many program areas. The weather held out to give our staff ample time to sail, ride, and shoot.
Finally, we ended our week with a photo shoot. This year’s theme was props, and our staff didn’t disappoint! Make sure to visit our Facebook page to view each staff member’s photo and learn about their position here at camp.
5 Items Every Camper Should Have on Their Packing List
Tuesday May 24, 2016
Welcome back to the Birch Blog! The 2016 Summer Camp Season is right around the corner, and to kick it off we’ve decided to share some tips to help your camper prepare for a great summer in the Northwoods!
Creating the perfect camp packing list is a learning process. Just ask our staff! After spending many summers at Camp Olson, they’ve mastered the art of packing for camp and helped us identify five items your camper should include in their suitcase.
1 – Tennis Shoes
Not Chuck Taylor’s, not Keds, not even white Vans. We’re talking real lace-up, comfort-sole tennis shoes. This is an extremely important item for our campers because without them they could miss out on a lot of fun! Every evening we play an active all-camp game that usually includes running. A supportive tennis shoe will keep your camper comfortable and protect their feet so they can play hard. Plus, tennis shoes are a must have on overnights to prevent injury and keep their feet dry.
2 – Disposable Camera
Unfortunately, we no longer sell disposable cameras in our Trading Post, but we highly recommend sending one (or two) along with your camper so they can document their time at camp. There’s a lot to capture, including photos of new friends and activities. Plus, it’s more fun for parents to see what their camper is telling them about when they recount their experience in vivid detail. Some campers like to bring along digital cameras and that’s great! We encourage digital cameras as well, but you should keep in mind that camp is a very sandy environment and can be hard on electronics.
3 – A Book or Activity for Siesta or Bedtime
With youth comes boundless energy! Our counselors find that some campers are so excited for camp activities to come, that they have a hard time sleeping. They’ve also discovered that bringing along a quiet activity to enjoy alone or share with bunkmates is a great way to get everyone in the snoozin’ mood. Some favorites include a silly game of Mad Libs, coloring books, or singing along to a counselor’s guitar playing. We’ve found that these activities increase cabin bonding and become many campers’ favorite parts of the week!
4 – Bed Sheets
Now why would you send bed sheets when a sleeping bag is so much easier to pack? Because bed sheets feel much more like home than a sleeping bag does on top of our vinyl mattresses. They’re also much better at regulating temperature than a stuffy sleeping bag can. We recommend saving sleeping bags for overnights. This way, your camper won’t have to worry about rolling and unrolling it multiple times throughout the week. Our staff are master sleeping bag rollers, and even they’ll admit it’s tricky!
5 – Pre-addressed Envelopes
We learned this trick from our long-time camp parents. Our campers love sending mail as much as they enjoy receiving it! Packing a few pre-addressed envelopes makes it easy for your camper to stay connected. All they have to do is write and decorate their letter in the craft shop, pick up a stamp at the Trading Post during Power-Up, and stick it in our mailbox. Now you won’t have to wait until they come home to hear about their camp adventures.
One thing to note: the key is sending the right kind of envelope. The lick-to-seal style, while convenient, is a bad choice for camp. Humidity often helps them seal themselves before you can use them! Peel-and-seal envelopes are much better suited for the sticky summer heat.
If you have any questions about what to pack for your child’s stay at Camp Olson, view our packing list, or call us at 218-363-2207.
Voyage to Wabedo
Saturday August 1, 2015
Across the lake and through the channel, to Wabedo we go! On Thursday, I had the pleasure of accompanying our advanced sailors as they sailed to an Island on Wabedo Lake. This event occurs only a few times throughout the summer and becomes the favorite part of the week for several campers. As I had never made the trip myself, I could not pass up the opportunity to join in on the fun.
To begin our journey, Boathouse Director Michael Adkins and sailing Counselor Dan Petters packed the crash boat with food, water, and cooking equipment lent to them by our Outpost Director. Next, our sailors rigged their Sunfish, and we were off!
We’ve been blessed with great sailing wind all week, which helped our sailors reach the bridge in near-record speed. For those of you who have never traveled from Little Boy to Wabedo by water, the mouth of the channel lies beside Little Boy Resort. Before entering the channel, the sailors were instructed to put down their sails and take out their masts to avoid hitting the bottom of the bridge.
Once everyone entered the channel, we paddled between the lilies and reeds. The water was so clear we could easily see a variety of native fish species, and due to the lack of rainfall this summer, parts of the channel were so shallow we thought the crash boat might not make it through.
After our slow, scenic trip through the channel we finally arrived on Wabedo Lake where the Island stood in clear view. The sailors re-rigged their boats to take advantage of the high winds while Michael, Dan, and I landed on the Island and started cooking lunch: trail Mac N’ Cheese with bannock and brownie batter. Yum!
Eventually the sailors tied their Sunnies in a neat chain before joining us for lunch and exploring the Island. However, they didn’t make it far in fear of getting poison ivy. As we ate, the wind grew so strong our crash boat started to drift away but Dan Petters was on the lookout and caught it just in time.
The wind speed made the trip home a bit more difficult, but our sailors had the skills and experience to make it back safely and in time for siesta. We could not have asked for a better day to sail, a better trip, or a better group of sailors to spend it with. Thank you to our incredible staff for providing our campers with fun adventures such as this one.
If you would like to learn more about our Sailing or Windsurf Academy programs, please take a look at our brochure, or give us a call!
Take a Walk Through Our Garden
Saturday July 25, 2015
Potatoes, tomatoes, and beans, OH MY! These are just a few of the vegetables you can find in our garden this summer. For seven weeks, staff member Claire Nelson has put her blood, sweat, and tears into growing organic produce to be used in our meals and give campers the opportunity to learn where our food comes from.
Between pulling weeds and mulching, Claire leads afternoon activities for campers to experience the garden such as planting their own seeds, painting a new garden map, and harvesting produce. “The biggest thing for them [campers] is seeing that their work accomplishes something, you know? That sign is going to be seen by everyone for the rest of the summer.” Claire shared with me. “They got to be a part of the community.”
Although the garden does not draw a crowd like other program areas here at camp, it’s attracted a number of interested campers who have earned awards at the end of the week such as the Green Thumb, Golden Wheelbarrow, or Future Floriculturist Awards.
“Any moment with a camper is my favorite in the garden,” says Claire, “Any time there are people out there who are interested, I’m happy.”
All of Claire’s hard work has paid off, especially in the past few weeks. While walking through the garden, you can see the large vines beginning to grow zucchini, full, flowering bushels of potatoes, fist-sized tomatoes on the verge of turning red, and full heads of lettuce which have already been used in our lunch and dinnertime salads.
Claire also has big plans for the garden’s future. “Next year, I’m hoping to put strawberries and blueberries toward the back, and then I’d like to plant an apple tree near the hay bales so kids can pick apples and bring them to the horses.”
Thanks to Claire and the Nature Center’s staff, our campers have enjoyed a relaxing, rewarding, and educational pastime everyone at camp can enjoy. If you get a chance, take a walk through our garden the next time you visit, you’ll be amazed by its transformation!
Saturday July 18, 2015
This week, nature gave us the gift of great wind and our sailors took full advantage. Campers and counselors sailed all of our E-Scows, C-Scows, Sunfish, and Lasers, but another big attraction this week were our windsurfing boards.
According to boathouse staff member, Tine, learning to windsurf is much more challenging than sailing any of the other boats at camp, but our sailors in Lower Cabin decided they were up for the challenge and hit the waves.
They struggled to lift the heavy sails out of the water, keep their balance, and catch the wind to steer. “Most of them couldn’t stay on their board for more than five minutes,” said Tine, but despite falling over and over, the boys got up every time and eventually windsurfed their way from the boathouse to Viking’s Point and back again.
Although we use our windsurfers as a minimalistic version of sailing, people around the world use windsurf boards to perform stunts such as spinning, jumping, or other freestyle moves. The sport has grown highly competitive around the globe, but here at camp our boathouse staff members stick to teaching the fundamentals such as balance and points of sail.
Learning to windsurf takes an enormous amount of strength and we loved watching our sailors succeed this week. If you would like to learn more about our Sailing or Windsurf Academy programs, please refer to our brochure or give us a call!
Session Five in Review
Sunday July 12, 2015
This week we experienced our first full enrollment session, and boy we had a blast! Every program area kept busy with campers, morning and afternoon, and the wait for a treat at the Trading Post took a little bit longer. Here were some of the highlights of our week:
Session five began with bad weather, but thankfully didn’t last long. Most of this week was warm enough to send the majority of campers to the waterfront. Bailey Andrews enjoyed her final week as Beach Director with games such as the Big O Splash Show and Greasy Watermelon. Over the next month, she and her fellow beach staff member Stephen Roe, will lead our fourth and final session of CITs.
Speaking of CITs, we had not one, not two, but three groups here this week. Two sessions arrived last Sunday to begin training. In addition, our session one CITs were placed in their very first cabins as counselors and blew us away with their talent. Their level of professionalism and passion for camp became evident in the way they bonded with campers, and there were many tears shed as the time to say goodbye grew nearer.
The Corral had a small but knowledgeable group of riders this week. Together they practiced good posture, rode in different styles including English, western, and bareback, and even tried some beginning jumping. We also received seven new horses, which have adjusted well and received loads of love from our riders.
The outpost may have been the busiest program area at camp this week. Not only did they send out multiple overnights each day, they also brought back our LITs and sent two CIT groups to the Superior Hiking Trail. At the end of the week, the boys in Hennepin cabin received a bag of S’mores for having the best overnight experience.
On Friday the boathouse had one of the best Regattas yet, with a dozen boats participating and ten completing the race. Several of our big boats flipped in the high winds, but recovered quickly to cross the finish line. Boathouse staff member, Tyler Dillard, took first place on the Bigfoot with campers Nolan Wiggins and Patrick Maine. Director Colton Altobell and camper Ryan Salomonsen finished in second place on the Treachery. Finally, after two weeks of studying, sailor Liam Menkosky was awarded his Skipper by Boathouse Directors Michael Adkins and Kenneth Cherry.
At final campfire, Henry Heins received the Super Sweet Counselor award, and our management team awarded Ben Hayden with the Spirit Stick. These two staff members are more than precious to us. Their commitment to our programs and campers is nothing short of remarkable and we are lucky to have them as part of our team.
Thank you for your support in making this the best summer yet!
Meet The Flock!
Saturday July 4, 2015
With so many spectacular program areas to visit here at camp, our garden is often overlooked, but our Nature Director, Sam Guida, has found a way to boost its popularity: seven fluffy ducklings.
Although they’re in their “awkward teenager-y” stage, our Indian Runner/Swedish Duck crosses attract a lot of attention among campers. But what do ducks have to do with our garden? Sam Guida explains:
“The reason we picked up ducks is I was really hoping to get more children interested in gardening. And last year I realized that I was very specifically tailored to groups of campers that liked to go adventuring or hiking. And I realized there were a lot of kids at camp that this didn’t sound like an exciting thing for them to do. So gardening is a cool way to get kids pulled in [to Nature] that is not super adventurous. They’re still outside, and they’re still doing something crucial and vital. And now they have a reason to go out there. After they do a little gardening work, they get to play with the ducks.”
“The ducks are incentive,” adds our Nature Girl, Payton, and sure enough the plan is working. This summer, campers are frequenting our garden to help our staff pull weeds, water the plants, and have conversations with our Nature directors about where our food sources come from. But that’s not all. Our campers are also learning responsibility by caring for our ducks.
“A lot of campers here can’t really have pets at home,” Payton told us, “They’re what they see as a wild animal, and they get to interact with them one-on-one and that’s a really interesting experience for them. Campers are also so careful and gentle with them because they don’t want to hurt them, and these are kids who have been running around crazy all week and now they have to take a second to calm down and hold this delicate animal.”
Since their arrival at camp, our ducks have been given unique names including Afro, Udom, Goose and Malcolm Reynolds. Each day our Nature directors bring campers to the pen for feedings, lessons, and playtimes.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of sitting in on one of those lessons, and was amazed by our campers’ interest and care for our ducklings. Their enjoyment was evident in their big smiles and their eagerness to learn. Thank you to our Nature Directors, Sam, Payton, and Rachel for bringing us these exciting new editions.
CIT’s Hit the Superior Hiking Trail
Sunday June 21, 2015
On Saturday, our first session of CIT’s began their seven-day, 69-mile expedition on the Superior Hiking Trail. Before their departure, I had the opportunity to speak to their leaders, Joe and Johannah, who are leading them from Split Rock Lighthouse to Caribou Falls.
“I wanted to do a really physically challenging trip,” said Johannah, “because I think it will be really emotionally challenging as well. I think a more rigorous trip makes for more bonding.”
“It’s like a super overnight,” adds Joe, “For seven days they are only going to see each other, which is weird for most people.”
But forming close relationships is not the only benefit of their trip. For many CITs, their time on trail introduces them to new wilderness skills to better prepare them for their roles as future counselors. Joe and Johannah informed me that throughout the trip they will assign each CIT daily tasks such as tent set-up, fire starter, or cook.
“They all have to do overnights at some point, and most people just don’t learn those skills until they’re on staff. This is so helpful to have these because people who haven’t done CITs come on staff and they go on their first overnight and they don’t know how to start a fire or cook anything. So this is a great way for them to learn how to do things.”
Already, the CITs have proven their passion and dedication to Camp Olson. Last week, they spoke with our Executive Director, Russ, about why they want to be counselors. Each CIT was asked to answer this question using a single word. Some of their answers included adventure, learning, family, and home. According to their leaders, the experience became a bit emotional.
“I’m so excited to see these kids bond, and get so stoked over camp that they can’t wait to do what we’re doing and work up to this.” said Johannah, “I’m just excited to see them work with kids and have their moment.”
The rest of us here at Camp Olson are also eager to see what the next few weeks will bring for our newest CITs. Following their return next Saturday, they will begin working at program areas before finally entering cabins as assistant counselors.
Finally, to all our CITs’ parents, Joe and Johannah had one quick note to share: “They’re doing swell, they’re all wonderful, we love them, and we’re very proud of them.”
Photos from their trip will be available for viewing through CampMinder on Sunday, June 28.
Session One in Review
Saturday June 13, 2015
We had an incredible first week here at camp! Despite having a low enrollment week, we kept extremely busy and now, finally, I get to share with you the many great things that happened during our first session. Ready? Let’s go! There was high energy on Sunday when campers arrived. Not even the pouring rain could dampen it. Unfortunately we had to cancel swim checks and orientation rotation, but we had a cozy campfire in the dining hall where we sang some of our favorite songs.
Throughout the entire week, the waterfront became the most popular free-time destination. The beach and Kanaks were constantly busy. Every one of our paddleboards was in the water each day. The water was also a big draw because many of our counselors were training for lifeguard certification under Janet Rich’s instruction. Their campers were very interested in watching them practice using the backboard, and some volunteered to play the victim so they could be involved.
Our riders enjoyed both a dinner and breakfast ride to the Shurds this week. During their ride, they were lucky enough to see a tiny baby fawn on the trail. The riders indulged on cheesy hash browns with peppers while their horses were treated to yummy ferns. Everyone had a great time and were excited to tell us about their trip when they returned.
The weather cooperated well for overnights. Our outpost director, Megan, was able to send every cabin on their overnight without incident. Some of the groups played silly games like plop drop, others caught big bass, and others tried eating bugs (boys, obviously). LeSueur cabin, a.k.a. “Area 21,” won the best overnight award at final campfire for their enthusiasm and sense of adventure. Their prize was a bag of S’mores fixings, which they shared with everyone.
To the boathouse directors’ disappointment, weak wind turned the summer’s first Regatta into a swim-gatta. However, plenty of campers participated and had a great time. Seven boats entered the race and four finished. One of this week’s sailors, Gage Donovan, and his cabin mate, Derek Schroht, paddled their hearts out and took first place. They received an award for their achievement at Friday night’s campfire.
Target Sports saw a lot of action this week and gave out dozens of bulls-eye club awards. Camper Maggie Headlee worked to improve her archery and received her Yoeman for her hard work. At the Craft Shop, our campers made a multitude of beautiful creations including tie-dye shirts, candles, a pair of boats made of popsicle sticks and more. Campers Hunter Althof and Lily Jendro were crowned crafty king and queen at the final campfire.
There were several tough goodbyes this morning and we were sad to see them go, but tears show us that we gave our campers (and our staff) a great experience. We hope to see all of session one’s campers back again next summer. To those of you reading who were here this week, thank you for an amazing start to the 2015 season!
Welcome to the Birch Blog!
We’re always looking to expand and improve in an effort to reach out to our family here at Camp Olson. That’s why we’ve created a more frequent, long-format medium to help you stay updated and involved with the happenings at camp. Here you’ll find photos, stories, and highlights throughout our week as we work to give our campers an experience they’ll never forget. Our hope is to provide you with an online experience to make you feel as though you’ve been with us all along. The Birch Blog will be updated weekly throughout the summer, and monthly during our off-season.
Please be sure to check-in and share our posts on your favorite social media. Thank you for your dedication to Camp Olson. We’re looking forward to bringing you an insider’s view of our best summer yet!
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