Camp Woodland Blog

Aquarius- The Costume Queens of Summer

October is one of the most popular months of the year. With the crisp autumn air, the beautiful shifting colors, and so many fun fall activities to do, what’s not to love about October? To cap it all off, there’s HALLOWEEN! It’s always such fun to think about how to celebrate and, of course, what costume to WEAR!

We all know that camp is one of the most magical places on Earth where you can truly be yourself, make amazing friends, and learn new skills. It is also a place where you can be goofy and celebrate in costume all summer long. We love coming up with different themes and dressing up for every occasion. It seems like every day is a holiday at Camp Woodland!

Thanks to our super CIT’s who work so hard to plan special events, we get to be transported to different worlds and play the role of so many different characters throughout the summer. They are most definitely the “costume queens” around camp, so we thought it would be fitting to highlight the 2022 achievements of Aquarius, home of the CITs, this month:

What is something new that you learned about yourself at camp in 2022?

“Something new I learned about myself was that I really enjoy teaching! Helping and instructing the younger girls is so much fun! I really enjoy seeing my feedback being taken, used, and becoming helpful.” – Brianna K.

“I learned more about how I am and what I want to be and how I want to live my life from now on.” – Isabella S.

“Reading is an activity that calms me and makes me happy. I need to make more time for it at home.” – Maya S.

In what ways did you GROW this summer?

“I went to ropes course even though I’m really afraid of heights. Even though I had a rough time with riflery, I put my attention towards helping the younger girls.” – Maya S.

“I tried new things that I was afraid of at first. I also made new friends even though I’m usually a shy person.” – Natalia G.

“I skied every day even when the water was cold and I didn’t feel like it until I got way better. I also learned how important mindset is when trying things like riding or getting my advanced in tennis.” – Tess W.

“I joined Sail Race and improved in tennis. I offered ideas whenever I felt I could. I got better at being able to let things go and working through negative emotions.” – Isabella S.

In what ways did you feel part of your cabin and the camp COMMUNITY?

“When I felt a sense of community was when we had shows and everyone was cheering for one another! There was so much love and support. There was also so much joy from the entertainment, it’s hard to contain our support for one another.” – Brianna K.

“Whenever we had an evening activity because I would have some people in my cabin, but also girls from other cabins. I was able to branch out and talk to them as well.” – Lindsey R.

“I felt included with all of the inside jokes and all of the deep conversations we have.” – Cuau D.

In what ways did you see RESPECT this summer?

“I think everyone in my cabin was very respectful of each other because we all have different interests and levels of skill in different areas, but we were always kind and willing to learn from each other.” – Tess W.

“During olympics, specifically when one team was not doing the best, the other team would cheer them on. We always cheer for each other’s teams, bringing each other up rather than tearing each other down.” – Lindsey R.

“When all of the girls helped each other in different ways and didn’t laugh if something bad happened.” – Cuau D.

 

Happy National Croc Day from Sunrise!

In honor of National Croc Day (October 23rd) we would like to show some love for our favorite camp footwear. Who would have thought that colored plastic laced with holes would be part of the camp ‘uniform’ at Woodland?! By looking at the shoes left on every cabin porch and on feet of all sizes and shapes, it is obvious the Woodland campers love their Crocs! While Crocs are not officially on the packing list, it is definitely something we tell new campers about so they can be part of the Camp Croc Craze.

Crocs are comfy (check out the cushion), practical (they make great shower or lake shoes), stylish (sort of – they do come in a variety of fun colors even though they tend to exaggerate a person’s normal shoe size), warm (if you add socks), and are virtually indestructible (I have been wearing the same blue crocs since 8th grade, and I am happy to report that they have survived about 15 summers at camp!).

You may also notice in the above photo that Crocs can be personalized with fun Jibbitz shapes and characters that can be inserted into the holes. Maybe they are more waterproof this way for when we have a little Woodland Dew?!

The girls of Sunrise are strong supporters of the croc trend, so I thought it fitting to share a little more insight into their 2022 camp experience:

What is something new that you learned about yourself at camp in 2022?

“I learned to try new foods because I might end up liking it.” – Eleanor S.

“I learned how to do a belly flop!” – Maria A.

In what ways did you GROW this summer?

“I kept trying to pass my level in swim lessons.” – JoJo T.

“I tried again in olympics” – Alegra C.

“I ate the broccoli even when I didn’t want to.” – Olivia K.

 

In what ways did you feel part of your cabin and the camp COMMUNITY?

“I felt a part of my cabin because all of my cabinmates respect me and my background.” – JoJo T.

“I was included in games with my cabinmates” – Alegra C.

In what ways did you see RESPECT this summer?

“My cabinmates and I always apologize to each other and ehlp each other out.” – Olivia K.

“My cabinmates respected me by teaching me spanish because I don’t know it and wanted to learn and be included.” – Eleanor S.

A tribute to Dan Montgomery, Camp Woodland Chef Extraordinaire

If you have ever spent a summer at Woodland, you know that the food is beyond good, it is exceptional. First timers tell us that they had no idea how wonderful the meals would be. For a total of 22 years since 1990, the person we can attribute this amazing dining experience to is none other than our very own, Dan Montgomery. 

Dan was working for a sorority at the University of Illinois in Champagne, IL, when he responded to an ad placed in the school paper for a cook at a camp in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. Both Anne and Jeff Jordan met Dan on campus for an interview as Jeff was a student there at the time. It didn’t take too much convincing that spending the summer in Wisconsin was a good idea. So, Dan along with his 3 kids, who were twelve and under, made their way north to what would be the first of many summers at Woodland and Towering Pines. 

Dan has worked in a variety of food service roles and started at a very young age. His parents ran a Burger Chef when he was growing up in Florida, and he could be found polishing the pipes under the sink, emptying trash, or doing a number of odd jobs when he was 7-8 yrs old. 

Dan studied culinary under a German chef at a hotel restaurant and banquet facility. When things slowed down and times were tough, Dan took over running the place because he had a knack for turning businesses around. He had a keen eye for seeing what could be better and simplifying processes. Dan was good at utilizing the strengths of people for the betterment of the team. It is not surprising that Dan’s next move was to run four major restaurants and a banquet hall with a seating capacity for up to 6000 people at a Holiday Inn Convention Center. 

It became evident that after working 20 hour days; however, Dan was ready for something with a more “reasonable” schedule. Thus, he came to manage the Hendrick House that had 400 rooms in its twin towers and 33 fraternity and sorority houses at the University of Illinois. He also mentored interns at Eastern Illinois University and taught them various recipes and techniques. Dan shared that the “key to being a good chef is knowing how to use seasonings. Bringing everything together is a feeling that you gain from observation and experience. Over time the ability to check for acidity or salt becomes natural.” I’m struggling to see how this new adventure was “more reasonable” as it appears to be way more hours than before!

Dan loved the challenge of coming up with new dishes under a budget. He has a “million” ways to prepare chicken and does this by changing up toppings and sauces. Another trick for this “kitchen magician” is that Dan can make a side out of just about anything. He is also known for his attention to detail and cleanliness and has been known to hide $100 bills under equipment to see if his workers were doing the same.

If it is possible to imagine, Dan shared with me that at some point in time he became “bored”. This is when he started to dabble in baking. Imagine the smell of artisan breads and fresh homemade cookies coming from the open oven door. We most definitely enjoy Dan’s homemade cookies throughout the summer. Dan also makes the annual birthday cake from scratch to celebrate another trip around the sun for Camp Woodland. I always look forward to the homemade frosting that is at least a mile high! 

At another time, Dan dove full force into the gingerbread house business. One of his most elaborate displays included 9 different houses to make up part of a town. He created a church with stained glass windows and a tower, then added a barbershop, bank, and post office to complete his make believe (and edible!) village. There was a river through town that glistened from blue corn syrup and included a covered bridge. Gumdrops could be found on chimneys with cotton candy smoke, roads made of licorice, and Andes mints used as shingles. This masterpiece was showcased on Thanksgiving morning and then was “opened” on Christmas morning to discover candy completely filling the inside much to the surprise of the recipients. 

Another adventure took Dan to manage a seafood restaurant/department within a grocery store (Schnuck’s) in St. Louis. While there, Dan showed customers how to make recipes with seafood. He was then recruited to Niemann Foods where he was the chef for the seafood department where he had a budget and equipment unlike he had ever seen before. With virtually no limits, Dan could really put his creativity to work to come up with some extraordinary dishes!

When I asked Dan what his favorite meal of all time is to cook, he responded with, “shrimp, sausage, and chicken gumbo.” Per Dan’s usual, the first time a new recipe is tried, he makes it as the recipe is intended. After that, any future iterations are nothing like the initial dish. Dan “makes it his own” with seasonings and other twists. Dan’s favorite camp meal to make is actually the favorite meal the campers and staff enjoy too. He loves putting together his infamous lasagne and knows the importance of getting it right each and every time! 

Another pearl of wisdom Dan shared is to “never push something out of the window that you wouldn’t serve to your grandmother.” I would have to agree with that statement 110%. While kids are not grandmothers, they can be pretty tough customers. When a 9 year old camper orders fettuccine alfredo at a restaurant following a summer at Woodland, you know the food has to pass the taste test (check!) AND be kid friendly enough to encourage exploration of “fancy” dishes (double check!). 

Thank you, Dan and team, for giving us another summer of fuel for busy camp days, sustenance to keep us healthy, and a dining experience that brings our community together for three meals a day throughout the entire camp season.

We look forward to year #23 in 2023!

p.s. If you need anyone to be a guinea pig the next time you are “bored,” you know where to find me.

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