When you hear the words “summer camp,” you probably think of three things right away: campfires, friendship — and nature.
Without any of these essential elements, camp just wouldn’t be the same. Spending much-needed “digital detox” time in the woods is what brings many of us back year after year, so it’s no surprise that hiking in the natural areas around Camp Weequahic is one of the most popular activities each summer!
There’s nothing like fresh mountain air to remind us of the things that matter in life.
The healing power of nature
Hiking is a serious workout, but it isn’t just about “building character.” Life on the trail has many proven emotional and health benefits that make it a wonderful way for campers and counselors alike to pass the afternoon.
For example: did you know the average person only walks half as much as doctors recommend for a healthy lifestyle?
This is particularly unfortunate for kids, many of whom aren’t spending nearly enough time outside. Aside from missing out on the emotional benefits of sunshine and endorphins, it’s no mystery to parents that time spent in front of iPads and Playstations is rarely time well-spent.
Needless to say, everyone gets in plenty of exercise out of an afternoon in the woods!
Connecting with the natural world
But it isn’t the health benefits of hiking that get campers excited about getting out on the trail. Quite the opposite: in the high-energy world of camp sports and games, hiking is a perfect slow-down time.
New friends can use the time to talk and get to know one another, and others can use the time to “zen out” with the forest and enjoy the experience of being out in the wild.
With so many campers coming from urban and suburban areas, time spent hiking around Camp Weequahic may be a first-time experience with the peace and quiet of the woodlands!
The journey is the destination
Like all the activities at summer camp, hiking contains many lessons that strike to the core of what the camp experience is all about.
Most importantly, campers are reminded that the journey is as important as the destination. The summit may be spectacular, but the best part of hiking come from the camaraderie and togetherness of tackling the trail — and the pure value of experiencing the great outdoors.
Life is like a trail, and every journey begins with a single step. Whatever your dream may be, it’s waiting for you at the top of the mountain. The journey may be long… but there’s no reason to make it alone! Stick with your camp friends and you’ll be there before you know it!
If you’re considering going to camp for the first time, you probably have some ideas and expectations about what it’ll be like. Fire circles and archery! Ghost stories and sailing on the lake!
However, there are a few misconceptions about camp that many campers arrive with, mostly passed down through movies and books.
Want to know what it’s actually like at camp? Keep reading to find out four common camp myths that are just totally not true!
Myth: Making friends is hard.
Fact: Camp is the perfect place to make new friends!
From the moment you arrive, your camp counselors will introduce you to the other campers by leading fun “get to know you” activities. Emphasis is always on having fun and learning about each other. Classic camp games like “two truths and a lie” give everyone a chance to share something they’re passionate about — whether it’s Minecraft, ice cream, or just being at camp finally!
Unlike school, camp is filled with games and sport activities, giving you plenty of time to talk with other campers and work together as a team. Teamwork at camp builds trust and memories, a perfect foundation for lasting friendship.
Myth: I’m too old for summer camp.
Fact: Summer camp is fun for all ages.
Younger campers enjoy experiencing a variety of activities at camp. Everything is new and interesting and so you sample everything camp has to offer.
Older campers enjoy more in-depth, focused programs. For example, as a young camper you might create a simple clay project during arts and crafts. As an older camper you may have the opportunity to spend more time working on the pottery wheel. While the activities are similar, older campers have the opportunity to go more in-depth to the “craft” of an activity — it’s never just the same thing year after year!
Leadership programs are also available for older campers, with activities like overnight camping and high ropes coursework that younger campers don’t get to do… yet! These give older campers leadership experience, a bit more freedom at camp, and look great on college applications.
Myth: I won’t like any of the food, and I’ll go hungry.
Fact: There are many food choices and your counselors will make sure you get a balanced diet that suits your preferences!
Camp offers a huge variety of food at every meal. (Honestly, lunch is one of the highlights of the day! It’s that good.)
Besides special meals for campers with dietary restrictions, you are always able to choose from a selection of main dishes and a salad bar. Fruit is also available during meals and as a snack. Your counselors may encourage you to try new things, but no one is “forced” to eat anything — counselors work tirelessly to make sure campers get all the nutrition they need for a long day of running around camp!
Myth: I’ll feel “out of the loop” if I’ve never been to camp before.
Fact: Camp is a fun and lighthearted place — perfect for newcomers!
There’s no such thing as trying new things without feeling a little “out of the loop” sometimes. Luckily, camp is among the easiest places to break the ice and start getting into the swing of things. The whole structure of camp, from the activities to the group meals, is specifically designed to make it easy for campers to get to know one another and feel like “part of the team.”
Camp may seem like a mysterious place before you go, but there’s no mystery about how to have fun once you’re here!
Sometimes, the only way to find out for yourself is to take the plunge and come out to summer camp. It’s an unforgettable experience that will keep you coming back again and again.
Baseball. The crowd going wild while a player steals home. The smell of popcorn and hot dogs in the bleachers. Afternoons playing catch with the family at the park. Generations of American tradition, all wrapped up in one game.
Much like summer camp, baseball is something that many of us take for granted as a part of our childhood. Few activities come close to being so… well, American. Baseball and summer camp are as close to our hearts as flag, family, and country.
…So it should come as no surprise that baseball is one of camp’s most intensely anticipated activities, with campers going wild year after year, debating over particularly clever plays well past the last activity and into the evening.
So what is it that makes baseball so special?
“The thinking person’s sport”
Everyone has their theories around here at camp, but here’s one that seems particularly insightful: baseball, like camp, is a thinking sport. The strategy is different from games like football or basketball — where the adrenaline comes from chaos, and each player is constantly making split-second decisions.
Baseball, on the other hand, requires more planning for the future. Half the game is spent between plays, with players huddled in circles determining their best bets. Like many things in life, the game is all about anticipation. Baseball teaches campers to think ahead, and to enjoy waiting for the fun parts of life. As it turns out, anticipation is often just as fun as the event itself.
Taking time to reflect
Interestingly, many of the campers most excited about baseball at camp aren’t actually players at school. Baseball is their top pick at camp, and meanwhile they play soccer or lacrosse for their teams back at home.
It’s hard to say why this is, but it may be that the leisurely pace of the game is better suited to camp, where campers have a chance to think ahead and reflect in ways that the hectic school year schedule often doesn’t allow. Baseball requires concentration and focus, both of which come easier in a supportive environment like camp where everyone has plenty of time to look inwards — and of course, no homework to keep them distracted!
Room to breath
Everyone needs a little room to breath when they think towards the future. Room to breath is something that camp and baseball have in common. They show us that you don’t have to be doing something every single second of the day in order to have a great time. Sometimes, it’s someone else’s turn — and that’s a good thing. After all, you’ll be using that time to get ready.
Have you been keeping up on Parks & Rec lately? Yeah, so have we. (You have to do something when summer ends, right?)
Here at camp pretty much everything reminds us of camp activities, but apparently we’re not the only ones: and Nick Offermans’ goofy woodworking-obsessed character has gotten us particularly excited to dive into some traditional American crafting in the shop at Camp Weequahic!
“It’s difficult to name a favorite wood. They are all so noble, each with its own special characteristics.”
– Nick Offerman, Parks & Rec
Okay, maybe you don’t have to be as serious about woodworking as they are on Parks & Rec, but getting crafty in the shop is definitely a ton of fun.
Traditional skills are hip and practical
Woodworking is one of those traditional skills that is slowly being lost in much of the country. Trying it out at camp is as much about getting in touch with the history of craftsmanship as it is about learning practical skills that will serve you well next time you need to use a little elbow grease on a home-improvement project.
It’s like the school shop with extra imagination
The best part about woodworking at Camp Weequahic is that it isn’t “just any” woodworking class. If you think building a chair in the shop at school sounds boring, how about building a rustic necklace, or something you can use in your room — like a laptop tray? Campers have built some pretty crazy stuff in summers past, including:
…and the list goes on.
If you can imagine it, you can build it. Staff specialists work with you to help you learn the tools, and then your creativity gets to run wild making something cool along with the group… or going rogue and making something else entirely.
Woodworking projects are great gifts for family (hint, hint)
If you’re racking your brains trying to think of a good Father’s Day, Mother’s Day or Holiday gift, keep it in mind when you hit the shop next summer. Everyone loves homemade gifts, so a handmade gift from the camp woodworking shop is sure to fit the bill. It’s certainly less boring than socks!
Whatever you bring home from the camp woodworking shop, it’s guaranteed to surprise your folks. Camp isn’t just fun — it can also be practical.
We can’t wait to build more awesome stuff next summer! See you in the shop!
I wish you could have seen my face the first day of summer camp; my excitement was so contagious I was worried the nurse would put me in quarantine. That being said, my excitement had nothing to do with sports. So far as I was concerned, sports were just another stressful school activity, and to be honest I was initially disappointed when I first saw “basketball” on my daily schedule.
Fast forward a week later, and I was signing up for golf and baseball of my own free will, and even organizing pickup games during rest hour. While I’d dreaded sports at school, they quickly become one of my favorite activities at camp!
So what happened? Well, it might sound a little cheesy, but it didn’t take much camp spirit to change my attitude. Let me explain…
Camp is “different.” In a good way.
Although many of the team sports at camp are familiar from the team sports at school, the experience of participating in sports at camp can be a completely different experience. In a good way, of course.
For campers who thrive on organized sports at school, camp offers a unique opportunity: a chance to hone skills in a more focused environment, and access to incredible coaches who are completely invested in helping their campers have a blast and build their skills. “You mean I get to spend all day long outside playing games?” For sporty campers, the athletics program at camp is paradise.
For campers who might be less inclined towards sports at school, on the other hand, camp offers a different kind of advantage: a chance to try a wide variety of sports in a stress-free environment, without the pressures that come along with the high-stakes atmosphere of organized team competitions at school.
Learning to challenge yourself
I know I wasn’t the only convert; many other campers who would never describe themselves as sporty outside of camp found themselves discovering the more positive, pro-personal-growth side of athletics during their time at camp. If the school environment sucks the fun out of volleyball for you, just try it at camp! It’s a totally different game. Trust me.
When competitive sports let me down at school, I thought it was everyone else’s fault. But getting a chance to chill out and try new things at camp taught me that actually, it wasn’t anybody’s fault; I just needed to relax and learn to be okay with winning some days and losing on others. You know, just like life.
Camp is a great environment to try new things
Regardless of a camper’s feelings towards sports at school, the number one difference that camp has to offer is this: variety.
At camp, it’s not a question of fitting a sport or two around academics; it’s a question of fitting as many sports as you can imagine into a single day! Roller hockey, golf, flag football, lacrosse, cheerleading, baseball, tennis, soccer… and those are just the tip of the iceberg.
The chances for finding a sport that suits you are endless, and if you don’t care for a particular game you aren’t stuck with it; after all, a new one will be starting up next period.
Keep an open mind
So here’s my advice to a new camper who might be anxious about team activities at camp: relax, give it a try, and keep an open mind. The best part of camp is that the scenery is always changing. Even if you decide that an activity isn’t up your alley, you can always sign up for something new next time.
…And once you do discover your favorite sport, it’s just a question of signing up as much as possible!
I’m still amazed by the fun and unique skills I acquired as a camper for 8 years of my life. Camp brought me to the mountains each summer, out of the smog and into the fresh air, where sometimes I felt like I could breathe for the first time; literally and figuratively.
I was obsessed about those weeks at camp during the summer all year long. What new campers would I meet? Who would be my counselor? But mostly it was about the activities that I looked forward to participating in. Each day at camp was action-packed with things to do, and many of the skills I learned proved beneficial in the future – although some proved to be just for fun. Here are the best skills that summer camp taught me:
How to be a Crafting Goddess: To this day I’m an avid crafter and Do-it-yourselfer. For one thing, there was the beading. We’d make friendship bracelets and necklaces – something I still do today – and there was also painting and drawing, which remained important throughout my youth. The silk screening was perhaps my favorite.
How to be Brave in the Face of Ropes and Obstacle Courses: If you’re not familiar with something called ‘high ropes’, then you should know that it’s a serious courage/team building experience. The aerial obstacle course – with the use of harnesses and ropes – was seriously one of the most terrifying things I ever did as a kid, and the most exhilarating. It inspired a rock-climbing passion in my later life.
How to Canoe: Not only was canoeing a big part of camp, but also sailing and swimming. Any reservations I had about getting in the water when I was little were put to rest at camp.
Target Shooting: Ok, this might not sound like a good idea, but archery was a big deal at camp, and sharpened my precision and focus. It also just made me feel like I was super cool.
Sing with Courage: The first time I sang in front of a crowd was at a campfire, and it took courage. I wasn’t the best singer, but it did impress a few of my friends. No shame in that.
How to be Comfortable with Nature: Camp was the first time in my life that I slept under the stars. I was scared at first of the bugs, the ground, animals; you name it. But I learned that it’s pretty spectacular, and today I’m still not afraid of the big bad wolf.
Social Skills: In hind sight, I realize that this might have been the greatest thing that camp taught me. When you’re sleeping in a cabin with 13 other girls, or boys, your age, you learn how to interact and get along with people who are different than you. You learn about the commonalities that you share with those of various backgrounds, ethnicities, and interests. This is a skill that benefits every aspect of your life as an adult, and I’m grateful that camp taught me how to get along with people.
In the end, it’s clear that I took a great deal away from my camping experience as a kid. I wouldn’t give-up those memories for all the world, but it’s really the things I learned to do and the skills I still have today that made the whole camping experience totally worthwhile.
If you like a good, gooey brownie, this may be for you. While our campers enjoy cooking all types of meals in Top Chef, these brownies have certainly become a camper (and camp director) favorite. Give them a try at your home but be careful – they are addictive!
Triple Threat Brownies
Ingredients for the Chocolate Chip Layer
1 cup of butter
1 cup of white sugar
1 cup of brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups of flower
1 tsp of baking soda
2 tsp of hot water
½ tsp of kosher salt
2 cups of semisweet chocolate chips
Ingredients for the Marshmellow or Oreo Layer
10 marshmellows or 10 oreos
Ingredients for the Brownie layer:
½ cup of butter
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp of Vanilla extract
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
½ cup flour
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp baking powder
Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Cream together the butter, white sugar and brown sugar until smooth. Add the
eggs one by one and stir in the vanilla.
Dissolve the baking soda in hot water and add to the batter with salt. Finally
add the flour and chocolate chips.
Spread the batter on an 8”x8” brownie pan or pyrex dish*
Marshmallow or Oreo Layer:
￼￼￼Cut the marshmallows or Oreos in half and push over the cookie batter.
Cream the butter with the sugar and add the egg.
Mix all the dry ingredients together and add to the batter.
Spread on top of the cookie marshmallow.
Bake all together at 350 F degrees for 40-45 minutes.
*This recipe can also be made in muffin tins. You’ll need to cut down the cooking time, though!
Camp Weequahic was founded in 1953 on an old farm in Lakewood, PA. Art Lustig, who at the time was a teacher and coach at Weequahic High School in Newark, NJ, decided to turn his popular day camp into a residential camp.
With the help of his wife, Mollie, and his three children and their spouses, Mr. Lustig took what used to be an old farm in Lakewood, PA, and turned it into a remarkable summer home for campers and staff alike. Deciding to use what he knew to be a great name, Camp Weequahic was born.
We recently viewed several pictures of CW from its founding. Our Lodge, which serves as the camp office, was shown very clearly with absolutely no trees around it. It’s funny to think about that as the Lodge now enjoys near constant shade from our 100’+ spruce pines.
The Lustig family ran Camp Weequahic continuously from 1953 until 2008. Starting in 2009, the Kelly family took up the torch and has since done nothing else but help welcome campers and staff to Mr. Lustig’s camp.
We are honored to be a part of Camp Weequahic’s history and look forward to many, many more summers by Sly Lake.
Tomorrow is Wee-Excel Day; a special event day focusing on a camper’s program of choice. There are a wide range of activities for campers to choose from including Sports, the Arts, Adventure and “Olympic Prep.”
Some of our intensive sports camps include basketball, golf and roller hockey. Those campers wanting to play golf go to a local club where they get to play 9 holes on a challenging course. Our golfers love this opportunity because they really get to push themselves and see how much they have improved over the summer.
We also offer day long hikes for all age groups and our campers absolutely love the experience. Hikes are broken up by division and trails usually run for about 4 miles. The views are spectacular and campers get to cool down in falls that they pass along their route. After a long hike campers are treated to Jericho’s ice cream and feel refreshed upon their return to camp!
In preparation for our performance of Shrek, campers involved in the play have the entire day to practice their lines and songs, set designers can put their finishing touches on set pieces and the stage crew can work on lighting and cues. We also have a creative option for campers interested in activities such as scrapbooking, ceramics, photography, and painting. This gives campers a chance to paint any items they have made in ceramics or woodworking or make a book full of all the wonderful memories they have made here at camp.
In anticipation of Olympics, all our campers have been trying to guess when the breakout will happen. Olympics is a very exciting multi-day event that all our campers and counselors look forward to, so we have something called “Olympic Prep” for our older campers. These campers practice for certain events such as the hatchet hunt, grape tossing and counting to a minute (with a blindfold on). This gets all our campers super pumped up for Olympics breakout and is also a prime opportunity for our older campers to utilize their leadership skills on their respective team and help younger campers in their events when the time comes.
Wee-Excel Day is a wonderful opportunity for all our campers to dive into an activity they truly enjoy. Campers get to see the amount of improvement they’ve made over the course of the summer. It is also a time for them to use all the skills they have learned from counselors and fellow campers.
Campers donning big, silly hats and oversized costumes can be found dancing and singing their hearts on stage at Camp Weequahic. You can see campers giggling in groups until they cry, and others transforming into super heroes and villains as their imaginations run wild. Even staff members get in on the action, letting their inner child emerge by singing, dancing and playing with the campers. Campers and counselors feel safe here, safe to be silly, to use their imaginations and to just “let go.” They learn right away that camp is a judgment free space, where they can be themselves and act like a kid. In a world where kids are exposed to adult themes in their TV shows, music and social media, it can be easy for them to lose the silly, magical, goofy part of themselves, in fear of looking “uncool” to their peers.
Camp Weequahic encourages campers to be silly in a variety of ways. Free time allows campers to explore the grounds and socialize with their friends in a way that is supervised, but not highly structured. This gives campers time to use their imaginations. Some campers like to put on skits or host a bunk or cabin comedy club. They are encouraged to do and say the silly, kid-like things that come so naturally to them.
During structured activities, kids are supported when they speak their minds, share their opinions and engage in discussions. They are taught to listen to and respect each other, which gives kids the green light to do and say silly things without fear of embarrassment or ridicule. By exploring this side of themselves, kids develop a sense of humor which helps them navigate other areas of their lives. A good sense of humor helps kids to be spontaneous, to see different sides of a situation, enjoy the playful parts of life, and not take themselves too seriously. These character traits are extremely helpful for kids who have a lot of stress and responsibility in school, sports and home life back in the real world. A good sense of humor also increases their self-esteem, which is always a bonus!
Counselors are counselors because they like kids, and they enjoy seeing the world through the eyes of children. They are fun and relatable, and are great at being silly. They know they are role models for the campers, so they make it a point to set a good example. When counselors can sing, dance, goof off and act silly, campers catch on quickly and begin to feel safe to do the same. They are also a good example of knowing a “time and place” to be silly. They model how to calm themselves down when it is time to be serious, and teach campers how to differentiate between a place where it’s okay to be silly (free time) and a time when being calm and focused is more productive (quiet time in the cabins.)
Kids are expected to be focused and serious for a large portion of their day in the “real world”, so it is important to foster their childlike wonder and silliness whenever possible. At Camp Weequahic, kids can feel safe to show off their silly side.