It is our pleasure to write this first weekly letter home from Moosilauke during summer 2016, our 112th season, June 23 – June 25, 2016. As is our tradition, we post on our web site and send an electronic letter home each week to make sure parents know about all the activities, special events, and trips that make up the Moose Experience. You can view pictures from the summer (and even buy prints) by clicking on http://campmoosilaukephotos.shutterfly.com/ or by going to the “Photos” link in the “In the Media” section of the moosilauke.wpengine.com website. We do our best to post pictures everyday (internet connection willing). Also, make sure you “like” us on Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/CampMoosilauke/, and Instagram, @camp_moosilauke, since we will be posting videos and pictures every few days.
The weather on opening day was perfect: warm with a nice breeze off the lake. 130 campers and C.I.T.s descended on Upper Baker Pond from 15 states and 6 countries (including Spain, China, Latvia, Greece, and Canada). Our formal orientation began before dinner with Moose “big brothers” meeting their Moose little brothers and guiding them to their table in the dining hall where they sat together for dinner. Post our traditional first night “Moose” burger fest, it was down to the fields for fun orientation games by age group. As is tradition, the Senior A1s (fifteen-year-olds) spent the early part of the evening at Bill and Sabina’s house across the lake where they were treated to dessert and a discussion regarding trips and their leadership role at Camp. Bill then led the campers in a game of “Bill Says” and Head Counselor, Jake, shared a fun joke with the group. Then it was time for wacky counselor introductions by activity area. After all these festivities it was then up the hill for bunk meetings during which each cabin developed their “rules to live by” which were ceremonially signed and posted in the cabin.
Friday breakfast was scrambled eggs, home fries, bacon, oatmeal, cold cereal, fruit, yogurt, and delicious hot chocolate. After the meal, we had an announcement about how to be safe when there is lightning and/or a fire at Camp. There was also an update on the Brexit vote, the NBA draft, and the previous day’s baseball scores. Then it was time for our initial cabin cleanup. By 10:00, everyone was down from the hills and firmly ensconced in their three morning activity classes. Noon free time saw about 30 campers and staff go on a one or two mile run while others played ping pong, shot hoops, or relaxed on the beach. Lunch was “Sloppy Joe” sandwiches along with a full salad bar and chicken vegetable soup. We celebrated our first two camper birthdays of the session – two of the boys turned 16 – with a serenading of “Happy Birthday” in the dining hall and cake for the honorees. After lunch on Friday, Bill met with all of the new campers and their Moose big brothers. Following the meeting the Moose big brothers led a tour of Camp. Dinner was our first Friday night field barbecue that included grilled chicken, sausage, corn bread, corn, and pasta salad. After dinner the most popular activities were fishing and tubing.
Saturday was our inaugural Moose Bears session that entailed about 35 campers and staff voluntarily going in the lake before breakfast to splash, sing, and maybe even swim. Highlights included a loud rendition of the Moose Bears song followed by a mad dash into the lake. The big event for the day was the annual climb up Mt. Cube for all new campers and many hardy returning boys. Todd and the Backcountry Leadership Staff led a group of about 40+ up the 2,911 feet of Cube. During the hike the boys learned many fun facts about Mt. Cube, including: the original trail was created in 1900 by the Dartmouth Outing Club (the oldest college outing club in the country); it is part of the Appalachian Trail; and, most interestingly, the visionary behind the Appalachian Trail was a man named Benton McKay who was a counselor at Camp Moosilauke in 1904. (Next time you are at Camp go to the dining hall and find the framed diary from Moosilauke’s 1904 session. In it you will find reference to Mr. McKay and his famous hiking group called the Tattered Ten.) At the summit the boys had a well deserved lunch–and they also communicated with camp via walkie-talkie. They loved it when Marin flashed a mirror from the office porch and the campers could see it from the top. In an impressive act of grit, about 40% of the Mt. Cube hikers opted to head back to Camp down the North trail which is 1.5 miles longer than the southern trail. (Keep your eyes peeled for a video of the hike.)
Other trips on Saturday included an Inter A (twelve-year-old) 10-mile round trip mountain biking adventure to the Wentworth Water Hole and a white water kayaking trip to the Hartland Rapids for some of our veteran and more experienced kayakers. The boys began the adventure by practicing wet exits, whitewater float position, rolls, and edging in flat water. They then took turns ferrying in and out of eddies at the bottom of a small waterfall. Next they scouted the rapids before making their initial run. Finally, they each took turns bombing in and out a big play wave at the end of the rapids. (A film of the adventure will be posted next week.)
Everyone not on a trip spent the day going to morning and afternoon classes. After a lunch in camp of chicken fingers, smiley fries, salad bar, and a sausage-veggie soup, the boys had rest hour. The afternoon was humming with sign-up activities, including waterskiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, canoeing, tennis, sailing, basketball, and baseball. It was a hot day, so some of our land sport areas elected to run their classes in the water. And our fabulous Saturday ended with a pizza dinner and then movie night complete with homemade popcorn courtesy of the counselors in training (C.I.T.s) and Todd.
In closing, a few paragraphs about who works at Moose. It takes plenty of heart, smarts, resources, and dedication to run a great overnight summer camp. It also takes a lot of people. Moosilauke, which is a camp of 130 campers first session, has approximately 70 full time individuals on staff—a 2 to 1 ratio of employees to campers. The 70 folks are comprised as follows: 45 activity/cabin counselors; 5 junior counselors; 7 kitchen staff; 2 nurses; 2 maintenance staff pers; 3 head counselors; 2 office staff (including 1 who takes stills and video full time); 1 office/business manager; 2 associate directors; and 2 directors.
Here are some fun facts about the talented and diverse staff at Moose:
- 100% of the top administrators have worked at the camp before.
- 50% of all staff that work directly with the campers (as counselors and administrators) are returning and/or have gone to the camp.
- Our staff come from 9 countries outside the US: England, Australia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Croatia, New Zealand, Mexico, The Netherlands, Hungary.
- 50% of our counselors are Lifeguard certified.
- 7 of our staff have their Wilderness First Aid or Responder qualification.
- Nearly 50% of our staff are over 21.
More important than the high return rate and qualifications is the quality of the people working at and running the camp. Here are brief bios on some of the people at Moose.
As referenced previously, many of our staff have been at Moose for multiple years and attend some of the nation’s great colleges. Here are a few examples: Emily Shelden, who directs the Backcountry Leadership Program (BLP), is in her third year as a counselor and currently doing graduate work at American University following two years in the Peace Corps; Griffin McMahon, waterskiing/wakeboarding counselor, has been at Moose for 12 years as a camper or counselor and is currently attending Colgate University; Kieran Smith, director of windsurfing, has been at Moose for 10 years and is currently attending St. Joseph’s University where he is on their Division I rowing team; Marco Vonderheide, baseball and tennis counselor, has been at Moose for 9 years, and is currently attending Duke University; Charlie Hoffman, who directs the basketball program, has been at Moose for 9 years, and is currently attending Tulane University; Jake Horstmeyer, who directs the lacrosse program, has been at Moose for 4 years, and attends Lafayette College; Timmy Walton, who directs our Archery program and Moose Bears, is in his 17th year as a counselor at Moose; and Sean Eckert, who directs the soccer program, has been a counselor at Moose for 5 years. Additionally, our newer counselors are attending Colorado College, Florida State University, University of Vermont, James Madison University, Colgate University, University of Rochester, and the University of Maine.
Counselors in the Backcountry Leadership Program (BLP)
Every year, along with our great returning staff we hire talented people to join our BLP ranks. Here are a few who will be helping to run BLP during summer 2016: Emily, as mentioned above, graduated from William Smith, spent 2 years in the Peace Corps in West Africa, and is pursuing her Master’s in International Development at American University this fall; three of the BLP staff, Laura Seeman, Brad Brainard, and Kyler Star, have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Kyler has done it twice; Brad is planning on hiking the Pacific Coast Trail next year; Kyler Star and Laura Seeman both participated in NOLS programs, Laura’s was in India; David Lamis is a sophomore at Colorado College and participates on their club baseball team. Laura and Kyler are engaged to be married.
As most of you are well aware, the administrative team at Moosilauke is a seasoned group. It is also a very close knit group—especially since many are family! Here are the key players:
Sabina and I have been directing Moosilauke for over 25 years. When we are not at Moosilauke, we live and work at The Thacher School in Ojai, CA. I am the Director of Enrollment and Planning, and Sabina is the Dean of Students. We both attended Colgate University and received graduate degrees from Columbia. (I earned an M.B.A. and Sabina her Masters in Education.)
Ken Miller, Sabina’s brother, is our Associate Director and second in command. Ken attended Colgate, where he played 2 varsity sports, and he also has his Masters in Teaching. In the off-season Ken lives, teaches high school history and economics, and coaches baseball in Colorado.
We are thrilled to have Todd Gelfand back to help be our all around administrative troubleshooter. Todd was a camper for eight years and then a counselor at the camp in the 1970s. For the past seven years, he has spent much of the summer helping us run Moose. Two of his kids have attended and worked at camp. When not at Moosilauke, he is the Managing Partner of a C.P.A. firm with offices in Los Angeles and Connecticut.
Sabina and Ken’s sister Ingrid Hale serves as the Business Manager, along with managing the office and all our social media postings (pictures, videos, etc.). She has 15+ years of experience working in higher education administration, including admissions, student life, and community outreach both at Colgate and the University of Richmond.
We have three head counselors this year – Preston Miller, Jake Miller, and Quinn McMahon. All three have worked at Moose for at least 8 years! Preston, Kenny’s oldest, graduated with a Master’s from Colorado State University and teaches history and coaches at the HIghland School in Virginia. Jake, Kenny’s youngest son, attended Colorado State and teaches science and coaches cross-country, track, and swimming at the St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School in Tennessee. Quinn, Sabina and Bill’s oldest, graduated from Colgate and is an admissions officer and varsity lacrosse coach at Hampton Roads Academy in Virginia. Both Quinn and Jake are ACA certified canoe instructors and help lead our white water trips. Given that many camps have staff made up of only college kids, we feel blessed to have so many adults working at Moose who are experienced in the ways of boys.
And of course the guiding spirits of the whole operation are our owners Port and Heide Miller, the parents of Sabina, Ken, and Ingrid.
That’s all for now. Please don’t hesitate to be in touch with questions.
Bill, Sabina, Ken, Ingrid, Port, and Heide