Summer Camp Vacations for Kids and Adults
Each year, the Audubon Society, The Sierra Club, The YMCA and other such organizations sponsor inexpensive "sleepaway" camps-and they're not always for kids!
You approached it through a forest, on a dirt road, beneath a canopy of leafy boughs. You slept there in a rustic cabin or a lean-to made of logs. You ate in a wooden mess hall, at long, communal tables; swam in a lake; sat around an open fire at night.
And paid very little.
Sleepaway camp. Was there ever a better vacation? A more treasured time of childhood? And can those joyful, vibrant, inexpensive holidays be re-experienced at a later time, as an adult?
The answer is a limited yes. Provided you apply soon enough--say, by early spring, before the rolls are filled and closed--you can stay at one of nearly 50 widely scattered camps that operate for people of all ages, 18 to 80, in a setting almost identical to those cherished memories of youth.
Audubon ecology camps
In the undeveloped, wilderness settings of all four camps, you quickly forget all urban concerns, but enjoy a reasonable standard of comfort at the same time: dormitory rooms with air-conditioning and private bath in Minnesota, wood-frame dormitories and a restored 19th-century farmhouse on Hog Island in Maine, slightly more modern facilities and private rooms in Connecticut, and a long, wood-frame dormitory in Wisconsin. Hearty meals are served buffet style, three times a day.
For the summer of 2004, Minnesota's North Woods camp offers five weeklong programs with an option of earning graduate credits. Some of the programs are "Lake Superior: From Duluth to Thunder Bay," "The Mammals of Badland," and "Boundary Water Canoe Area Field Studies." The all-inclusive price for the week is $750.
The camp on Hog Island in Maine is open from June to August, and each week has a different focus: "Bird Studies for Teens," "Natural History of Maine Coast," "Naturalizing by Kayak," and "Field Ornithology" are examples. Prices a week's program, including room and board, range from $660 to $1125. The Wisconsin camp dedicates most of the summer to youth programs, but one week in July is adults-only. The six-day session "Wade into Ecology" is $695. There is also a family week at the end of June which is $475 for adults and $450 for children ages five to 15.
There's not another cent to pay (except your transportation to the camp), nowhere at all to spend additional money, and no supplement for single persons traveling alone.
Who attends the Audubon camps? Adults of all ages and backgrounds: an accountant from Atlanta alongside a professional educator from San Francisco, college students, firemen, and retired senior citizens. Their common tie: the urge for a vacation "with more substance to it than sitting on a beach," in the words of Philip Schaefer, Audubon's former director of camps and summer programs. Returning to nature, he adds, is an "emotional as well as a learning experience," and at the final campfire, "there isn't a dry eye."
For extensive, colorful literature and application forms relating to these camps, call or e-mail the Audubon offices individually or go toaudubon.org. For Maine: 888/325-5261 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Wisconsin: 877/777-8383 or email@example.com; Minnesota: 888/404-7743 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org/.
Sierra Club "base camps"
Most of the base camps are in California, Utah and Arizona, or the Sierra Mountains of California/Nevada; a few are in the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Florida, Virginia, Washington, New Jersey, Idaho, New York, and the Great Smoky Mountain Park of Tennessee/North Carolina. With a minor exception or two, charges are remarkably low, even though all inclusive: as little as $455 for some one-week stays, an average of about $1100, and some topping $3,000. That's because all campers pitch in to perform camp tasks, including cooking, supervised by the camp staff.
Sample base camp stays planned for 2004: Acadia National Park and Mt. Desert Island in Maine, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska, and Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada. Though the accent throughout is on fun--the sheer pleasure of removing oneself for a week or two to an untouched, untrammeled wilderness--participants (of all ages, and including families) have the added opportunity to "network" with other kindred sorts, the dedicated environmentalists of our nation.
The full list of base camps appears in a larger directory of club outings bound each year into the January/February edition of Sierra, the club's magazine. For a copy, or for other specific information or longer leaflets on individual base camps, contact the Sierra Club Outing Department, 85 Second St., Second Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105 (phone 415/977-5630, fax 415/977-5795, e-mail email@example.com). Since base camps are open only to Sierra members or "applicants for membership," you'll later need to include your membership application and fee ($25 introductory price, $39 regularly) with your reservation request. A full listing of Sierra Club outings can also be found online at sierraclub.org/outings.
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