I’ve been thinking about my summer camp experiences a lot lately. Maybe it’s because I was recently near Anacortes and got to enjoy a Washington State Ferry again. It’s more likely though that it’s the hot stickiness of summer that is bringing these memories back. Those hot days when you just want to jump into a freezing cold body of water. Day one of camp always involved jumping off the dock for the swim test. The water was so cold that it took your breath away. It sucked, but it was kind of a right of passage too. If you could make it through that, then you could most likely take on anything the rest of the summer had. And there was a lot to take on.
I was fortunate enough to go to an amazing camp on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Four Winds Westward Ho gives campers the most incredible camping experience in a setting that is, well, almost idyllic. Set on 100 acres of waterfront property, the camp accommodates boys and girls aged 7-14 who stay in cabins or raised tents dotted along the coastline. They all have great names. Crows Nest, Spinnaker and Moonraker are a few I remember. They are very rustic and communal toilets and showers are, shall we say, basic? Camp uniforms are mandatory. Girls wear blue bloomers and midis with white trim. Not the most flattering of choices but so comfy and easy to wear. Boys wear blue board short and white t-shirts. It puts everyone on the same level. Choices of activities included all water activities, crafts, tennis, horseback riding, music and gardening.
I spent four summers at Four Winds. Two as a camper and two as a CT, or counselor in training. During my last year as a camper I had three of the best cabin buddies ever. Our counselor, Diana, gave us lots of freedom and we used it. One night Katie, Jennifer, Dorothy and I stayed up late to bake brownies in the counselors kitchen. It got pretty late and we didn’t want to have to wake up early when the bell sounded at 7:00am. What to do, what to do? I know. Let’s climb up the peak of the lodge and take the clapper out of the bell. So we did. Know what? Let’s put the clapper in the middle of a pan of brownies and leave it on the Head Counselors front porch. I don’t remember if we ever got caught or not.
I met so many cool people over the four summers I was there. Lisa from Southern California who found our Pacific Northwest summers not quite hot enough so she wore a turtleneck to play tennis in. Doug from Seattle who was obsessed with banana slugs. He knew everything about them and may have even kept some as pets in his tent. Scrimshaw (pretty sure that wasn’t his real name) and his wife and two kids. He was a counselor and she was the camp nurse. Kris, the CT leader, had the most amazing voice and guitar playing skills. It was through her that I learned to love the music of James Taylor and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. My lovely friend Nancy who I still keep in touch with even though she lives on the other side of the continent.
Gypsy Day came once a summer. Signaled by loud singing starting early in the morning. One cabin starts the process and walks hand in hand from cabin to cabin to tent singing the whole way and forming a long line of camps in their jammies. Once very cabin/tent is picked up and everyone is back to the lodge. Gypsy Day can officially begin. Each cabin picks up their packed lunch (most likely PBJ on pita bread) and head off on their adventure. Hiking Turtle Mountain, sailing to Lopez or canoeing across the sound. The day ends with everybody back at Lodge tired but eager to share the stories from the day. More singing and laughing until everybody is ready for bed.
If you were a sailor, as most at camp were, the ultimate prize of the summer was the Martha Trip. The Martha was a sloop that 6 lucky campers got to spend two weeks on, sailing up Desolation Sound. It was usually senior campers who had proven themselves competent sailors and were looking for adventure. Although I was never fortunate enough to sail on the Martha it was a huge part of camp that everyone wanted to be part of. The tradition was that whoever first saw her come around the point at the end of the trip had to run up to the lodge and rung the bell. There really are too many memories and cool things about Four Winds to put into one blog post. I can only hope that my daughter will one day be privileged enough to enjoy an experience like this.
There are so many benefits to any summer camp but the traditions and uniqueness of Four Winds are somehow magical. I’m actually getting a bit emotional thinking about the time spent there. Looking at the pictures and remembering all the people and the fun is definitely one of The Best Things in Life for me.