Camp Woodland Blog

Ineffable: The Camp Woodland Experience

Ineffable is my new favorite word. I actually came across this word as the name of a boat at a marina in the coastal town where I live. To be honest, I had to look it up because I was not familiar with this word or had any clue about its meaning. Usually words with “in” as a prefix such as inadequate, incapable or inaction have the opposite meaning of the base word (adequate, capable or action). When I consulted with my “friend”, Merriam Webster, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that ineffable means “too great to be expressed or described in words”. Therefore, if something is “effable,” it can be explained.

In my opinion, “ineffable” is actually more powerful than its root. The first thing that came to mind when I thought of what could possibly be “too great to describe,” I immediately thought of camp. Hands down. Without any hesitation. Now that the summer of 2022 is behind us, and I reflect on its many happenings, I came up with quite a list of those things that are so wonderful they are hard to explain or describe even if one has a long history with camp.

  • Being surrounded by nature 24/7
  • A brilliantly colorful sunset that streaks the sky above the pine trees
  • A full moon and its trail across Sand Lake
  • Loons calling to one another
  • Looking at the incredibly bright star-filled sky and Milky Way from the tennis courts
  • An eagle soaring high above the trees
  • Deer darting in and out of the forest
  • The whinnying of horses
  • The geese, chickens and bunnies joining us at Farm Zoo

  • The freedom of being unplugged from the real world for 6 weeks
  • The strong bonds that form between camp friends
  • The love and caring that counselors and staff extend to campers
  • The feeling of belonging to a place and connections with the people
  • The absence of being judged
  • Acceptance for being who you are (It’s Cool to be You!)
  • The refreshing limitations of the “stuff” we brought with us to camp


  • Canoeing across the lake for an overnight with your cabin, cooking over a fire, and sleeping in a tent
  • The pull and release of the bow sending an arrow to the target
  • The feel of the smooth wood as you go round and round on the uneven bars
  • Wearing Crocs with your favorite Jibbitz shoe charms
  • Adding glitter to any art project just because
  • Having the wind in your face as you sail across Sand Lake
  • Feeling the sand between your toes at the waterfront
  • The relaxation that comes from each stroke of the knife against wood when whittling
  • Going to sleep while your counselor reads a bedtime story
  • JoAnne sharing the tale about “warm fuzzies” at campfire


  • Dan’s lasagne or the new Asian bowls on the menu this year
  • Toasting a marshmallow to the perfect level of “oo-ey goo-ey”
  • Cathy’s ice cream (especially chocolate peanut butter)
  • The smell of a campfire burning, hearing its snap, crackle, pop, and seeing the outline of a pinecone in the flames contributed by a Woodland girl making a very special wish at the beginning and end of summer
  • Pieces of birch bark/wood used for cabin contracts, birthday medallions, and banquet wishboats
  • The smell and taste of mint at the water’s edge
  • The greeting and warmth of a fire blazing in the lodge on a chilly morning
  • The sound of laughter as campers transition to the next round of activities
  • Boisterous singing after meals, at campfires, and in activities
  • Reading a book or writing a letter

While there are images and memories that can be conjured up with each of these items on my list, I can honestly say that even though they are so amazing and bring a smile to my face and a warm feeling to my heart, each one of them is too great to find the words to adequately describe or express. The summer of 2022 was INEFFABLE. One for the books. A summer like no other. Only the people who were here would completely understand. We send every good wish to the campers and staff of Camp Woodland for living “It’s Cool to be You” in ’22 in every possible way. We look forward to the 2023…another opportunity for an INEFFABLE experience.

The Woodland Staff

When we look at the staff who were at Camp Woodland this summer, we recognize that not too long ago, a few, some, many, or all of these people were strangers. It is quite possible that they now know each other better than people at home, work, or school.

The Woodland staff…

are teammates, co-workers, friends, and camp family. They are the people who have spent the last several months doing one of the most important jobs on the planet – impacting the lives of the next generation.

The Woodland staff…

Lived in the cabins with campers, taught activities, drove golf carts, vans and boats, made airport runs, ordered food, prepped, cooked and served meals, cleaned and tidied community spaces, cared for the physical, mental, and emotional health of all who lived here, communicated with parents, planned evening programs and Sunday special events, coordinated Olympics, took photos and videos, sorted the mail, made trips to town, stocked the canteen, lifeguarded, comforted homesick campers, played games, cooked over a fire, put up tents, cared for the horses, maintained the property, fixed things when they were in need of repair, sang songs, and SO MUCH MORE.  

The Woodland staff…

Laughed, cried, smiled, worried, loved, cared, faltered, persevered, problem solved, trusted, persisted, overcame, shared, listened, supported, empowered, succeeded. 

The Woodland staff…

Are kind, generous, friendly, understanding, giving, unique, talented, smart, fun, thoughtful, silly, adaptable, brave, open, empathetic, respectful, spirited, curious, enthusiastic, creative, athletic, strong, flexible, courageous, energetic, loyal, confident, resilient, steadfast, influential, bold.  

The Woodland staff…

Have something they can do better than anyone else in the world. Have strengths they don’t even recognize.

The Woodland staff…

Are more than any description. Are more than any explanation.

The Woodland staff…

Are special human beings. We are glad we spent the summer with these AMAZING people who are now going back to school, home, or work. We send them every good wish and hope to see them again next summer!

Adapted from: The Person Next To You

To Our Spectacular Campers

Posted by on August 8, 2022

Today we “raise a glass” to our Campers. You are perhaps on the road with your parents or still making your way home. For some, things have settled down, and you are checking the Blog for the first time. Perhaps you are back in your house and sitting alone in your bedroom missing camp. Perhaps you are on an airplane destined for a relaxing ending to your summer vacation before school starts. Whatever the circumstances, the motivation is the same. You want to read what we wrote about the summer and see the photos that tell the story of the past 6 weeks. You should know that our thoughts are filled with memories of you, and we miss you dearly.

You were spectacular…

This summer was great because of YOU.

Our hearts are full and we want to say thank you…

For Embracing Camp We live in a cynical world that is skeptical of the simple message of camp. A world that might poke fun at our routines, standards, and traditions. School is not like camp, yet you embraced our 5 core values (respect, community, growth, responsibility, and safety) from the minute you arrived and kept practicing them till the day you left. We may have had to make a few reminders to get back on track, yet we know that your intentions were good. When we had some challenges early in the summer, you stayed positive and lived each day to the fullest. When we served a meal you weren’t fond of, you didn’t groan (that much). When we announced an evening activity that might not have been what you wanted, you jumped in without reservation despite your misgivings. We love that you love camp so much!

For bringing your best. The various productions at the end of camp showed remarkable talent and remarkable effort. We know you sacrificed a lot to memorize lines, learn the songs and dances, and do the backstage work. The Art Show was jaw dropping. The Horse Show was amazing. The Water Show was spectacular. Thank you for sharing your skills and accomplishments!

For your smiles. You had the best smiles… keep smiling girls. Those smiles will keep us going in the months ahead as we count down the days until we can be together again.

For your Parents. We are profoundly grateful for their support. They entrust us with the responsibility for your care during the summer… know that we deeply appreciate their confidence. It is an honor and privilege to do this “work”. To say camp is here because of them is a fact.

For You, Wonderful You.  A Woodland girl remains true no matter where she is, who she is with, or what she is doing. We know you will take the Woodland spirit with you wherever you go! It’s Cool to be YOU in ’22.

Thank you for being YOU. See you next summer!

Savoring Every Moment

Posted by on August 5, 2022

Camp is overflowing with emotion today. Wake-up, breakfast, cabin clean-up, morning assembly, activities… every moment is infused with poignancy. Mundane details usually ignored are now special, and we are prone to a few tears. The bell rings, and we pause to listen (it is a beautiful sound… unlike anything we hear elsewhere… there are not many 100+ pound brass train locomotive bells rung these days!). Riding class gathers at the barn and there is a pause as the counselors take their positions to lead one last time… everyone knows that the next 60 minutes will not be replicated for a very long time. All over camp, in every setting, in every hour, these moments are appreciated. Deeply appreciated.

Our Smiles…have you ever seen a place filled with genuinely smiling girls? Not fake, forced smiles but wide, face-to-face, shoulder grabbing, hugging, bright-eyed smiles… well, it is awesome (and hard to explain how wonderful it is). And, yes, it is possible to laugh and cry at the same time!

Everything is exciting. The last cream-of-wheat day, the last activity, the last picnic, last mail call, last rest hour, and, of course, the much anticipated banquet, awards and candlelight ceremony. We are especially excited about Parents Weekend tomorrow. The girls have been working so hard to put routines, performances and projects together for the final shows. Our hearts leap in anticipation of every detail… yet it is bittersweet. We are sad to see the summer of 2022 come to an end.

It is always hard to say goodbye to a good friend, but these partings are especially poignant after 6 weeks of camp. We ate every meal, enjoyed every surprise, and endured every hardship with this amazing group of girls for a month and a half. Such familiarity might breed contempt (or at least get very old) but for some reason, it rarely does. The girls love each other… STILL! We see them walking arm in arm, heads held closely in conversation, and truly happy to be together.

Words are not enough to describe the day nor enough to express our gratitude. We are thankful for every single moment we have had together (and for the precious memories yet to be made over the next 24-48 hours).

We look forward to welcoming you to camp. Forgive the “mess”… the last week is always a messy one… we have prioritized having fun!

It has been such an honor to serve, host, and love your girls this summer. They are a-mazing.

Thank you for trusting and appreciating camp… for making it a priority in your family.

It is an honor to be a part of your summer.

The Closing of Camp and Opening of Home: Advice from Your Campers

Posted by on August 2, 2022

Thanks to a suggestion from a parent who is looking for advice about the upcoming Parents Weekend, I am offering some thoughts your campers shared with me (without mentioning any names) about the transition from camp to home that will be occurring in a few short days. As mentioned earlier this summer for drop-off on Opening Weekend, there are a lot of clashing emotions – some understandable and relatable, others not so much.

Heartstrings will be pulled again as there are mixed feelings about the change that is about to happen. For those of you driving to camp, it will be noticeable when you join us for Parents Weekend. For others of you, it will take place when you pick up your camper/s from the bus at O’Hare or when you greet them at the airport in Mexico or other destinations. As one camper eloquently shared, think of it as the closing of camp and the opening of home.

Please know that as you read this, your daughter/s love you very much! They can’t wait to see you – 6 weeks is a long time to be separated. They are also a little nervous in anticipation of what this coming weekend means. It is hard to understand from your point of view, and it is hard to explain from their perspective. When I interviewed campers of varying ages, I framed it in a way that parents would like “advice” on how to “act” when they see you at Woodland or after the journey home. I am going to try to keep it as candid as possible so that it is genuinely their words and not mine.

For those of you who have campers on the young end of our age range or who are with us for the very first time, these girls don’t really know what to expect. Keeping this in mind, you may find some of their answers to be rather humorous. First of all they want you to know that all of the shows are going to be good. That is actually an understatement – they are going to be GREAT as I’ve been able sneak a few peeks in activities this week as they are rehearsing and practicing for all of the end-of-year shows. They are VERY excited for you to see what they have learned and accomplished in riding, swimming, drama, dance, gymnastics and arts & crafts (don’t worry – you can see other activities, too, on Saturday before the shows). They also suggest that you take lots of photos (for those of you not able to join us at camp, we will be posting these online and via social media). Oh, and if you are bringing the family dog, bring a leash!

They also wanted me to tell you that Woodland is the BEST. CAMP. IN. THE. WORLD. They want you to have fun while you are here. They want you to see the animals, the lake, and all the places they travel to and from during their day. Ask them questions about camp. What are the names of the horses? Which one did you like riding the most? Where do you eat meals? What is the favorite new food you tried? Where did you hang out during Rec Swim? What games did you play? Where did adventures take you in canoeing or sailing? Where was the Mother Lode hidden this year? Where did you find the CIT’s during “Alien Invasion”?

They want to tell you EVERYTHING! Listen to their stories about what they did and who was in their cabin. They also want to catch up on news from home. Did the dogs have fun? Was the extra room added? How is Grandma? There were a few requests like having their bed made, room clean, and favorite food waiting (LOL). And, they are looking forward to a BIG HUG.

The older campers are and the more years they have been with us, the more challenging the transition can be. These girls are looking for “space” to do their thing and be with the people here. They are very much aware of how hard it is going to be to say good-bye to their camp friends and summer “family”. They also don’t want to ignore you or make you feel bad. They understand it is hard for you too. These girls prefer not to talk about school, sports or activities, what’s next, SAT/ACT prep, etc. They want to stay in the moment of the here and now of camp for as long as possible. They need closure on this experience before opening the door of what awaits them at home or in the “real world”.

Veteran campers request that you take their sadness seriously. It is real. It is deep. It is unpredictable. You may see tears at odd times. Or laughing and crying simultaneously. Some campers may not say much on the ride home, others will be talking non-stop. You just never know. They will share when they are ready. Let it come in their own time. Show you are interested and engaged when the words start to flow. All they really need is for you to listen.

For those campers on the bus to Chicago, there will be multiple “good-byes”. They will be sad to leave camp and then once they settle in for the long ride to the airport, they are happy to be traveling with a bus full of people who were part of their summer experience. There will be another “good-bye” once they get off at O’Hare. For those members of our camper family from Mexico, one more farewell will take place once the plane lands in Mexico City. This is the final “adios” on the closing of camp and the opening of home. It is still hard to let go. Emotions are a tricky cast of characters. Your camper/s will appreciate your empathy as they make their re-entry. You may not understand it, and that is OK. Your child/ren will recognize the effort being made.

This weekend and the first few days home, campers just need a little time to process their experience. It will come in large waves at the beginning and wane as the days go by (but never completely go away). They will remember stories and snippets of the summer of 2022 indefinitely.

While some of what the campers said may be hard to take in, please don’t take it personally. Think of the wonderful gift you gave your daughter/s by sending them to camp. Often material gifts are novel for a short period of time and then they go unused or forgotten. You gave your child the VERY. BEST. GIFT. OF. ALL. TIME. You will see the effects of the Woodland experience all year long (and beyond!). We THANK YOU for sharing your most precious gift with us and hope you will consider having her return for 2023 (click HERE to register)!

p.s. The CIT’s are SUPER excited for you to see the Co-Ed Show on Saturday night at 7:30 pm at Towering Pines!

p.s. #2: It’s perfectly OK NOT to introduce technology right away (several campers even told me so)…they have been “unplugged” for 6 weeks and have done just fine without it (this could be a topic for another blog)!