Author Archives: Andrew Moeschberger

Ep. 11 – Tootles and Batman

Episode 11.

On this episode of the Gold Arrow Camp Pog-cast, Soy talks camp and family with Tootles and Batman, long time campers, current staff members, and llife-long sisters. They discuss why camp feels so much like family, what it’s like to work with your sister, and how hard it is to remember each other’s camp names. 

Here are Tootles and Batman (and the rest of their family) back in 2008. Can you pick out Batman and Tootles?

How Camp Teaches 21st Century Skills

By Alison “Bean” Moeschberger

“A profound gap exists between the knowledge and skills most students learn in school and the knowledge and skills they need for success in their communities and workplaces.”
-Partnership for 21st Century Skills

IMG-9205“Having started at Gold Arrow as a little seven year old, I have grown up here. Camp has become my home away from home, and I can honestly say it has shaped who I am today. It has given me confidence and taught me skills far beyond learning how to wakeboard or horseback ride. I am comfortable with myself, I am patient, and I have learned how to become a leader.”

-Katie “Rascal” Baral, 10 year Camper

Parents, educators, and youth development professionals are well-versed in the phrase “21st Century Skills.”  The phrase encompasses our current understanding of the urgent need for our children to be learning more than how to read, write, and do math.  There are many other skills needed to grow into productive, successful adults. As I look at the list of 21st Century Skills, I am struck by how many of the skills are intentionally modeled and taught at camp.  Following are five specific 21st Century skills that children learn at camp:

1. Working Creatively with Others

Campers learn to work cbig-swing-8339reatively with others through working towards goals with their cabin group.  Even something as simple as collaborating on a skit, song, or dance requires being open and responsive to different perspectives and incorporating group input.  An important aspect of creativity 
and innovation is being able to “view failure as an opportunity to learn.”  At camp, with every new and challenging activity, campers are encouraged to challenge themselves and persevere past failure.  They learn that “creativity and innovation is a long-term, cyclical process of small successes and frequent mistakes.”

2. Communication

From the moment they arrive at camp, campers have the opportunity to practice and hone their communication skills.  Gathered around the campfire on the first evening, campersc06-1853 talk about themselves in front of their small cabin group.  They also listen to others share about themselves.  At
meals, campfires, and while walking around camp and participating in activities, counselors guide discussions about deeper issues and make sure all campers participate, even those who are less outgoing.  Listening skills are addressed and enhanced through practice.  Without th
e distractions and escape of technology, campers practice articulating thoughts and ideas and listening to the ideas of others throughout their time at camp.

3. Collaboration

high-ropes-0979When working together at Team Building, during cabin clean up, or while preparing fora performance, campers learn important collaboration skills.  They learn that they need to be flexible. They often learn another important collaboration skills, which is that it is often necessary to make compromises to accomplish a goal.  Counselors encourage campers to share responsibility for tasks and work together.  Campers are also encouraged to value and acknowledge each individual contribution made by team members.

4. Social and Cross-Cultural Skills 

Learning to interact effectively with others is an important social skill that doesn’t come naturally to all people.  At camp, counselors guide campers to learn when it is appropriate to listen and when it is appropriate to speak.  Counselors also require that campers respectfully listen to others’ opinions and treat others with respect.cabin-shot-female-7224

For many campers, their time at camp is their first opportunity to meet and live with people from other cultures. Camp offers the opportunity for kids to form friendships with staff and campers from other countries.  Camp provides the opportunity for campers to gain a respect for and work effectively with people from a range of cultural backgrounds.  On International Day each session, we celebrate and learn about our international campers and staff.

5. Leadership and Responsibility 

Guiding and leading others is an important 21st Century skill.  In campers’ early years at camp, they learn basic responsibility for themselves and those around them.  Even our youngest campers have the opportunity to lead others in a song or game.  As they get older, campers gain more of an understanding of how their words and actions influence others, and they learn how to positively use their leadership skills.


While academics are important, children need other skills to be successful.  Camp offers an ideal setting for campers to learn and enhance many of the non-academic 21st Century Skills.  One line of our camp song says, “I sure did learn much more here than I ever did at school.”   And, when learning is viewed as more global than the subjects listed on the report card, that is an incredibly profound and true statement.

Read about all of the 21st Century Skills at 

Our favorite thoughts from I Heart Camp Day

Every year on February 1st, we celebrate one of our favorite holidays, I Heart Camp Day. Campers and staff join us in this online celebration of camp by taking pictures and tagging us and #IHeartCampDay. These are some of our favorite submissions from 2017. For a full gallery, you can check out the photo gallery in the news section of our website.

Camper Poetry For I Heart Camp Day

Former camper Erin P. sent us this poem that she composed at school when she was asked to compose a poem about something she missed and loved. 

Slept Away

Erin P.

Gold Arrow Camp;
The Home where everyone’s a champ.
The place I miss dearly,
because I used to go yearly.

Smiles, friendship, and memories,
are all objects of treasury.
My cabin mates lead me towards that way,
so I could experience more everyday.

On my last night,
I felt as if I was a knight.
But instead of going to battle,
I received my paddle.

Tears rolled down my face,
but I knew this wasn’t any type of place.
I’d be back,
and I know it’s a definite fact.

I’ll become a JC in 2018,
and make everyone feel like kings and queens,
I’ll then become a counselor in 2020,
and share my love of camp with many.

Long Distance Shout Out

Long time staff member Orange is currently in Bolivia, and sent us this picture, which features local transportation and a homemade sign!

An amazing picture of an amazing place

JC “Sneezy”  sent this shot from the JC backpacking trip. 


A heartfelt caption on I Heart Camp Day

Longtime camper and staff member Caroline “Gaga” Zigrang had these amazing things to say about why she loves camp. 

A Picture That Says More Than a 1000 words about camp

Camper Remi F. sent us this shot, which shows what so many people love about camp, the friendships!

We feel the same way! Thanks again for your many contributions to I Heart Camp Day. We can’t wait to make new memories this summer for you to share next February 1st. 

Ep. 10 – Manners

Episode 10 – Manners

On this episode of the not-yet-critically acclaimed GAC Pog-cast, Soy is joined by Manners. Manners has some great insights into why camp is so good at developing independence. He also shares how camp helps him get through the school year. 

Bringing Healthy Camp Habits Home!

By Dr. Jim “Bones” Sears

For two weeks each summer I work as the camp doctor at Gold Arrow Camp. 2017 will be my 13th summer at GAC and I look forward to it every year. My kids attend as campers, and they have a blast!

boys-cabin-1289I’m always amazed at how good I feel after two weeks up in the mountains! For one thing, I’m always moving. Each morning, I get up a bit early and go for a 30-minute hike. this really gets the heart pumping and is a great way to start the day! The rest of the day, I’m walking all over camp with all the campers going from activity to activity. Sometimes I take an extra trip from the lake up to the nurses’s building to take care of a bump or a bruise, but the whole day everyone is moving. When I get back home it doesn’t have to mean a return to the typical sedentary American lifestyle. There’s no reason why we can’t all wake up 30 minutes early and go for a walk or a jog before starting the day. We can walk or bike to school or work (I actually do ride my bike to work). We can walk to lunch – that’s actually one of the more refreshing things I do. I walk about 5 blocks to one of my favorite Asian restaurants. Taking a walk after dinner is also a great way to keep moving and it usually leads to some good family conversations. I bet you can think of a dozen more ways to keep moving!

olc-0300Aside from constantly moving, another reason we feel so good is how we eat, or more specifically, what we DON’T eat. We don’t snack on junk! We have three healthy meals complete with lots of fruits and veggies, but the absence of junk snacks in-between meals is saving us several hundred calories a day. And it’s not just the calories that matter, it’s the fact that most of the snacks at home are empty junk calories like chips, cookies, or sweets! At camp, the kids are snacking on apples, oranges, or raisins. Take the junk away (even at home) and I guarantee that you will start to feel better. What?!? No snacks?!? It’s funny, but my kids and I don’t even miss it. We’re usually too busy having fun to notice that we’re even a little hungry. It’s interesting that it seems the moment I stop moving and start lounging, that’s when I get the cravings to snack!

bears-adverture-2633One of the other things that I absolutely LOVE about being up at camp is the “no electronics” rule. For 2 weeks, all the campers have no cell phones, no texting, no Wii, no Playstation, no Xbox, no facebook, not even TV! Nothing but nature, and each other. Imagine trying that at home. How much would your kids complain if you told them no TV or video games for the next two weeks? You would have a mutiny on your hands! But up at camp , no one complains, and they have fun…TONS of fun without all that. Apart from all the camp activities (canoeing, biking, sailing etc), even in their leisure time they play games, sing songs, run around and have a blast, without any electronics. The benefits of relating to each other instead of a screen are amazing! It gives some very overused parts of your brain a little time off…and awakens some of the neglected parts. Of course, you don’t have to be at camp to unplug your kids. Every few months, usually on a weekend, I’ll just let the kids know that we’re going unplugged for a day. WHAT?!?! was their response the first time I tried this, but they quickly found other ways to have fun. They invited friends over and rode bikes, played capture the flag, went on a “treasure hunt”, and constructed a fort. When was the last time your family sat around the kitchen table and played cards, told stories, looked at old photos…or did anything that didn’t involve TV or video games?

Try it! You’ll be amazed at how much your imagination can develop and how much fun you can have as a family using each other as entertainment!

sup-0861For my kids (and myself for that matter), the time at camp is the best two weeks of the year. It is the perfect time to give our bodies and brains a much needed vacation from all the stress, technology, lack of movement, and processed foods that are normally a big part of the typical American life. It’s a time to recharge, relax, and remember what it feels like to be in optimum health. It gives me a great goal as to how I should feel all year round. 



Dr. Jim “Bones” Sears is a pediatrician in southern California when he isn’t sailing and mountain biking at GAC.

2017 Theme: Hop on the Energy Bus

We’re thrilled to announce that we’re partnering with The Energy Bus Leadership Journey for Schools to bring The Energy Bus to GAC 2017! As the pilot camp to join the program, we’ll be working closely with the staff of the Jon Gordon companies to develop fun ways to present The Energy Bus ideas to our campers. We believe that many schools and camps would benefit from getting both their staff and campers to live out the positive ideals of The Energy Bus, and we’re excited to be on this bus!


Bambino with The Energy Bus

Our journey with The Energy Bus began during the summer of 2016 when counselor Tyler “Bambino” Munoz shared Jon Gordon’s best-selling book The Energy Bus  with the young men of cabin 28 by reading it aloud over each session. At the conclusion of each session, he invited his campers to join him on The Energy Bus by giving them a printed bus ticket. 

To read Bambino’s whole story and learn about the positive impact he had on his campers, read Hop on Bambino’s Energy Bus,

We were so inspired by the impact The Energy Bus  had on that small group of campers that we decided to make “Hop on the Energy Bus” our theme for all of camp in 2017.

The Energy Bus book is an allegory for our lives, and shows how making some small, positive changes in how we view the world can make a world of difference. This message of ownership over our lives is a powerful one for children of all ages. In a world that too often sends the message that they will be important “when they’re older”, The Energy Bus shows kids what a big impact they can have on themselves and others right now. By making positive changes in how they see and react to the world, they can and will change it for the better. One of our core values at GAC is “Bringing Positive Changes to the World.” We’re certain that by introducing our campers to the concepts of The Energy Bus, they will be catalysts for positive changes at home, in school, and throughout their lives.

Jon Gordon, author of The Energy Bus, has this to say about why his company started the Energy Bus trainings for schools: “In a world where negativity pervades our education system and schools, we have created a proven model based on The Energy Bus where positive administrators work together with inspired educators to develop positive student leaders who together create an a dynamic and contagious school culture.”

Gold Arrow Camp has been recognized as the first ever Energy Bus Certified Camp, and we have been working closely with Energy Bus Schools director Niki Spears to tailor the program for the camp setting. Sunshine and Bean will be attending a training in March, and Niki will be training our counselors in June to prepare us to lead our campers into a summer full of positive energy!

Energy Bus Schools
To learn more about The Energy Bus, visit Jon Gordon’s website, where you can see many resources related to the program, including the 10 Rules for the Ride of Your Life
Animated Video Preview of The Energy Bus Training Program
Energy Bus Posters


Ep. 9 – Honey

Episode 9

On Episode 9 of the Pog-Cast, Soy is joined by Honey to talk about making a positive change in the world. They also discuss her engagement to Blondie, which took place at camp. There are two camper submitted haikus, a Ross Jameson Joke of the Cast and Sunshine reading a special GACspiration for UCLA fans.


She said yes!

The Blessing of the Least Favorite Activity

by Audrey “Sunshine” Monke

Wendy Mogel’s best selling book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, resonated with m
e. I can relate much of her message to camp and to my own family. I heard Dr. Mogel speak at a horses-4458camp conference several years ago, and she continues to be active in the camp community. Many of our camp parents have heard her speak at school parenting events or have read her book. If you haven’t had a chance to read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, I highly recommend it. In addition to sharing about the importance of letting our kids take healthy risks, and not always rescuing them from failure, Mogel gives many other valuable insights. She has recognized the value of camp experiences in the development of emotionally healthy kids, as you can read in the article “Camp Blessings” on her website.
A question I often get asked, especially by kids who haven’t yet been to GAC, is “What if I don’t want to do an activity?” Sometimes it starts with a statement, “I don’t like horses. Do I have to do that activity?”

My short answer is, “You won’t be forced to do any activities, but you will still go with your group, and you will be encouraged to try.”sailing-7459

I think there are three main reasons kids don’t want to do a particular activity, and they are the same reasons why adults often choose to forgo some recreational options:

(1)  A previous negative experience with the activity, usually not at camp and not with experienced instructors.

Falling off a horse, being dragged behind a ski boat and not getting up, or getting lost on a hike are all examples of negative experiences that make a person naturally inclined not to want to try again.

(2)  Fear!

Fear of being humiliated. Fear of failure. Fear of heights.  Fear of deep lake water.  Fear of rocks.  Fear of going to the bathroom in the woods. Fear of getting hurt. The list goes on and on.

(3)  Based on their perception of themselves or their past successes/failures, they think they won’t like it.

It’s not in their normal repertoire of things they like and/or are good at.

I’m sure there are other reasons for kids to not want to do an activity, but these are three that readily Growcome to mind from what campers have told me over the years. Interestingly, the reasons kids don’t want to do an activity are the very reason trying the activity may be the best thing that happens at camp for that camper.

If a child doesn’t want to do an activity because of a previous negative activity, trying it at camp could lead to either a changed mind (and a new activity they like), or, at the very least, a not-as-negative experience to remember.

If a camper doesn’t want to do an activity because of fear, then trying the activity could be the most life-changing event that occurs for that camper during their camp stay. Overcoming fears and challenging oneself to aBlogQuote_010915ttempt something that seems impossible can lead to great feelings of accomplishment and improved confidence. With the support and encouragement from cabin mates and counselors, campers feel on top of the world after successfully trying something they feared.  For the camper with a fear of heights, climbing half-way up the ladder on the high ropes course will be celebrated as a huge accomplishment, and one that can make him/her proud. This is an example of something hard that leads to something good, a theme that Dr. Mogel stresses. The camp environment offers a supportive place for kids to learn how to overcome fears and accomplish things they didn’t think were possible.

If a camper doesn’t want to do an activity because they don’t think they’ll like it based on their preferences or perception of themselves, trying something different offers an opportunity for expanded confidence. A camper who sees himself as non-athletic and more adept at target sports may shy away from the more physical activities, yet trying and accomplishing them could change his perception of himself in a positive way. A camper who likes shopping and clothes and sees herself as not an “outdoorsy” kind of person may dread going on a backpacking trip. Yet, the experience of cooking and sleeping outdoors could lead to an expanded view of her
self and an appreciation for the many different facets of a personality. Sometimes, the activity a camper thought would be their least favorite becomes a favorite!

So, when a camper tells us all the reasons why they “don’t want to” or “can’t” do an activity this summer, we will continue to encourage them to “give it a try,” because we know the hidden blessings in the least favorite activity.

Ep. 8 – The Happiness Hurricane With Cheerio

Episode 8 of the Pog-Cast.

Today we’re joined by another Coach’s Award winner, the Awesomeness Coordinator: Cheerio. Cheerio called into the Pog-Cast to talk about WOWs, being happy, and changing the world. She also weighs in on the important speed round questions. We have WOWs, camper submitted PoCo haikus and an oceanic Joke of the Cast.

Book Excerpt: Sierra Summers

New Years is a time when most people make resolutions looking forward into the future. However, I’ve always found the new year to be a good time to look back at where I’ve come from. Gold Arrow Camp has been, for the last several years, compiling a book about where we’ve come from, titled Sierra Summers. You can read more about the book and its release here. Until it’s available, we’d like to share this excerpt from the book, written by 25 year staff member Chuck “Woody” Radke. In the excerpt, Chuck takes a look back at some of camp’s activities from the era of Manny Vezie. Enjoy!

“I believe […] that every boy should develop some sort of hobby […] a pleasant pastime that you choose when the day’s work is done; a love of doing something for the thing itself.”
– Manny Vezie, Founder of Gold Arrow Camp


Manny loaded up canoes and took boys on river-running trips down the mountain. Photo: Ben Wetzel archive, 1939.

Most of the activities Gold Arrow campers participate in today are in fact the same ones Manny’s first charges enjoyed over eighty years ago, including Manny’s favorite: canoeing.

Krieg reported that Manny had “wonderful canoes” and that since his time at Red Arrow, they were always “one of his great loves.” Campers learned to properly paddle and mastered all the different strokes, and though it wasn’t that popular, Manny always made it a primary activity at camp. One of the ways he made it more thrilling was to take the boys out of camp on “river running” trips, said Krieg: “In the thirties boys ran the San Joaquin and King’s River by canoes […]. Few were experienced in river running and a canoe was totaled each trip.” It got expensive to lose a canoe each time out and, of course, it was a bit risky, but no one ever got hurt. Manny also took a few canoe trips in Yosemite “just to see the waterfalls and the deer,” Krieg said.


Sailing Skippers: Campers earned merit awards for sailing prowess on Huntington Lake. Photo: Robert Frampton

There was also a sailing program with “two classes of boats,” said Krieg: 12-foot-long Snowbirds and “Snipes that had a main sail and a jib.” The first two years, Manny didn’t have a huge fleet, but by 1940, Krieg reported the program featured “quite a few sailboats.” Campers were given instruction on the rules of the lake and rights of way before they launched, and there was a series of tests boys could take and skills they could demonstrate to earn the designation of “Skipper.” Once boys piloted their sailboats skillfully, they were awarded a white officer’s cap that had the Gold Arrow Camp symbol on the front. “I think I wore that cap for years, all through school,” said Krieg. People would ask him what it was, and he announced proudly “I’m a sailing skipper. I have passed the solo test to sail in some heavy winds.” It was this kind of pride in individual accomplishment that Manny wanted all of his Gold Arrow campers to experience and take home with them.


Camper exploring the lake in a platter boat.


Young Ricky Frampton on aquaplane. Photo: Robert Frampton

Among other water activities, there was swimming, motor boating, paddle boarding, log rolling, kayaking, and something Krieg called “platter” boating: “These were small boats […] about three feet long, and the boys would kneel in the boat and move it with their hands.” On Sunday afternoons, these water activities were frequently on display at camp “water festivals.” Campers battled it out in the “two way inlet platterboat race” or the “one lap plunge swim,” with winners earning points toward all-tent trips to Lakeshore for sodas; no matter where they finished, all participants earned a hearty “two hips and a hooray” from the counselors for giving it their best shot. Finally, later in the forties, Manny introduced “aqua planing” to camp, a milder version of waterskiing. Krieg said that Manny was actually “very scared of water-skiing because he felt if a person fell, the water-ski would come back and hit him in the head.” With aqua-planing, campers just fell off into the water, and the injury risk was minimal.


Helmet diving was an underwater adventure (1945). Photo: Robert Frampton. In the August 15, 1945 issue of Smoke Signals, counselor John Caddy wrote a farewell poem in which he described the activity as “diving down to the lake bottom’s goo.”

When they weren’t playing around on top of the water, they were skulking around under it. The activity was called “helmet diving,” where Krieg said campers “put a heavy steel helmet on [their] heads and went underwater and walked around the bottom of the lake.” Camper Thomas Wyatt (1945) spoke of his experience with the activity:

At the close of our session, when there were few campers in camp, I was at the swimming area and was offered a chance to try the diving helmet. It was a shoulder-mounted affair, with a face plate. I was given a rope to tug on to signal for more air or less air from the person manning the air pump. Well, I started out and became submerged, and the forgot the codes for more air! So, I swam out from under the helmet! So much for my first underwater adventure!

Camper Chas Luckman in the August 3rd edition of Smoke Signals described it as an activity that required “trusty assistants at the air pump” as campers “descended into the darkness of the lake’s blue waters.” Those same assistants then waited for “a tug and then a tug tug at the rope” before pulling the camper up. Luckman’s account also tells of the courageous Bill Brown, the junior counselor who descended “some distance down” to rescue a megaphone a waterfront lifeguard had dropped. He resurfaced to a hero’s welcome, megaphone in hand. Wrote Luckman, “As the frozen diver was being relieved of his helmet he shakingly commented, ‘I am never going down in such deep water again.’” Suffice to say that helmet diving is not among the offerings for current Gold Arrow campers.


Campers in the 1930s–1940s made their own arrows in wood shop. Photo: Robert Frampton.

Back on land, archery was one of the “primary sports in the early days” of camp, said Krieg. Manny had set up a number of archery ranges with targets at various distances as well as pop-up targets of small animals and a deer that would dart across the stream on a pulley. “You never knew when that deer was going to cross,” said Krieg, “but when it did you had a chance to see if you could hit this moving target.” Campers were always thrilled to hit the deer and to earn merit pins on the range from the National Camp Archery Association. To liven things up a bit, Manny even considered a “flu flu” range, said Krieg, where campers could “shoot an arrow straight up in the sky and land it on a target below.” The counselors badgered Manny to do it, according to Krieg, but at least in this case, he felt it was too dangerous.


Camp’s riflery program in the thirties and forties was a favorite among the boys. Back then, the rifle range was on the other side of Big Creek.

There was also riflery, of course, and campers shot .22-long rifles at targets set at a distance of fifty feet to earn medals from the National Rifle Association. All boys had to “take a special test” to use the rifles, and could qualify for awards under the NRA’s “Junior Marksman” program. Campers were given a rule book that described benchmarks like “Sharpshooter” and “Expert Rifleman” and bound them to a sportsmen’s code by which they promised, among other things, to “never allow the muzzle of [the] gun to point at anything which [they] do not intend to shoot.” Many a camper returned home with his prized riflery rule book and his scored targets to share with Mom and Dad.

When the boys weren’t shooting targets, they were likely riding horses, one of the two largest programs at Gold Arrow Camp. Smoke Signals editor Bob Shelton wrote that without horses, “half of Gold Arrow’s charm and color would fade into the afterglow.” It was a program that Manny insisted be a Gold Arrow focal point as he knew the appeal horsemanship and the romantic myth of the frontier had for the modern American boy. By 1945, Manny had twenty-nine horses in camp with “a dozen or so more […] scattered among the mountains,” wrote Shelton.


Giddyup: Campers showed their skills at the annual Greengold Rodeo. Photo: Robert Frampton.

With so many horses available to campers every summer, it was likely that a few would get loose from time to time, said Krieg. To keep track of them all, the horses were branded, an event campers were invited to attend when camp opened in mid-July. “The kids,” said Krieg, “loved to smell that horse flesh.” The men in charge of the horses and the rebranding event were “Kit” Carson Shade and Jim Gordon, with “Doc McClure in charge of heating the iron,” wrote Smoke Signals staffer Mike Millikan. Carson “actually did the dirty work” but “only one or two horses seemed to mind it very much.” As a result, wrote Millikan, “the boys began shouting for their money back.”  In the end, nine horses were branded in July 1945, indelibly registered with the capital letters “VZ,” which Millikan reminds us “stands for Mr. Vezie.”

Manny loved the horse program and frequently led campers on trail rides to the “Indian Swimming Hole” and Lakeshore, among other places. While on the trail, he shared a story with campers about two miners who were scared they’d be robbed of their gold, so they hid their stash in the mountains as it began to snow.

Upon their return, the miners couldn’t find their treasure: “I believe the gold is somewhere near Gold Arrow Camp, boys,” Manny would say. “Let’s see if we can find it.” It was a slow, methodical story, said Krieg, one that typically culminated in an open meadow, where one lucky boy would always spot a big canvas bag of gold-foil candy bars. “I found it,” the boy would yell, and Manny, in his slow, easy voice, would tell the boys that gold was not very good to eat, but candy bars sure were. “He handed the candy bars out to the kids,” said Krieg. “He told these stories all the time as part of camp.”


Manny leads a trip over Selden Pass. Photo: Robert Frampton.

Additionally, horses were the centerpiece of the pack trips Manny took every year, beginning in 1935. One Smoke Signals artifact from August 15, 1945 (“A Hundred Miles of Rugged Beauty”) describes how Manny ran short overnights and two- to three-day trips during the regular camp season, followed every August by a two-week post-season trip for “campers who [had] proven […] able to acquit themselves with credit in outdoor activities.” These postcamp trips were big productions, with anywhere from twenty to thirty adults and campers taking to the Sierra high country. It can be argued, based on the verbiage devoted to them in Smoke Signals, that Manny’s pack trips were, in fact, the highlight of every boy’s summer. There, we read of the “mighty” Rangers’ trip to Coyote Lake, “where the natives use mosquitoes for can openers” and the lake glistened “in the westing sun”; of tent five’s first pack trip to Red Lake, arriving after a “tiresome ride” to a “meal of sandwiches and soup” followed by “snow fights” and a thunderstorm; and of tent four’s “short mile horseback ride” to the Indian Swimming Hole, where they set up camp and had a dinner of “brown potatoes, gravy, emerald string beans, and a whole watermelon,” before a “pinecone fight […] without a casualty” and a campfire with “ginger snaps and stories.” Indeed, the pages of the camp newspaper are full of descriptions that seem to come straight from the pages of cowboy adventure novels.

But before any boy could participate in one of these memorable experiences, they had to pass what Krieg called “test camp,” an area set up below the road, overlooking the lake in what is now called “The Ridge” (Cabins 23, 24 and 25). Boys had to go to test camp for one night to “make sure [they] kept a clean camp,” said Krieg. Boys did all the things they would do at a normal campsite, then counselors came the next day to check them out. If they passed, they were eligible to go on a pack trip. According to Krieg, there was no camper who ever failed test camp, but there was some sport in casting a shadow of doubt when the counselors did their final checks. “You left a paper over here,” they might say, or “You didn’t do the right thing over there.”  It was all in good fun, said Krieg, and in the end, they all learned to be good campers.


Manny cooks flapjacks on a pack trip. Photo: Robert Frampton.

Arguably, the post-season pack trips were Manny’s finest hours and perhaps the excursions from which he derived the greatest satisfaction. He planned the itineraries himself, changing them each year while keeping them under wraps until departure as a way to build anticipation in the boys. Invariably, he led the rugged company to places “in God’s Great Grandeur […] where the gold trout are seldom bothered by man.” All trips began with a truck ride from Huntington Lake to Mono Hot Springs where explorers found their horses and supplies waiting. Imagine the thrill the boys must have felt to have their own horses for two weeks. In one abridged travel log, captured in Smoke Signals, Manny led the group to Bear Creek before heading over Selden Pass, 11,500 feet “up to Heaven where the view stretches out a hundred miles over Marie Lakes on one side and Heart Lake on the other.” They camped and fished for three days at Sally Keys Lake before dropping for two days into Blaney Meadows, “where the fishing is fine and hot springs gush forth.” The final leg of the journey took them to Florence Lake, where the truck to take them back to camp awaited: “In all, we have been twelve days on a trail we will cherish forever”:

Mix this up with outdoor cooking,
And miles and miles of joyful riding.
And the smells of pine and fir trees,
And the chores of trail and camplife.
Flavor with friendship and brand new tales,
Told over the campfire nights on the trail;
And you’ll find you’ve done something
You’ll talk of for years!
– Smoke Signals, August 15, 1945

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a boy who—presented with glorious, untrammeled views, gushing hot springs, and his own horse on which he beheld it all—wouldn’t talk of the cherished experience for years. Manny wanted his boys, through the pack trip experience, to leave feeling like confident trailblazers and frontiersmen: “In all the pack trips,” wrote Shelton, Manny “never yet found a disappointed camper!”


Sierra Summers will be published in the fall of 2017.  It is written by Chuck “Woody” Radke. You can read more about the project here.