“Do you have a one week session?” is one of the questions we often get asked by parents who are new to our program. The question is usually preceded or followed by the comment, “Two weeks is too long for my child.”
I thought it would be helpful to outline for new parents why Gold Arrow Camp has a two-week session length as our primary camp offering. Although we also offer one-week specialty camp options at the beginning and end of the summer, Gold Arrow Camp’s core program is a two-week session, and that is the length of time the majority of our campers attend camp. We also have campers who are “Monthers,” who attend four weeks of camp by combining two, two-week sessions.
There are many benefits to camp, regardless of length of stay, as per the American Camp Association study. So, I urge you to find a camp that fits your family’s needs and schedule, even if Gold Arrow is not the best fit for you.
Our program, up until the 1970s, was a month-long program. Many traditional, East Coast camps still offer only one seven or eight-week session. To people in the West, this sounds crazy, as most programs on our side of the country are one-week in length. However, families who have been part of Gold Arrow and other traditional camp programs understand the benefits of a longer camp stay.
Many traditional camps in California have started offering one-week programs, because that’s what many parents think they want for their child. Fortunately, our camp families have kept our two-week sessions consistently full, so we will continue to offer what we consider the best length for our program.
Why does Gold Arrow Camp have two-week sessions?
Here are four reasons:
Community and Friendship Building
Breadth and Depth of Activities
Social Skill Development
Independence and Confidence Building
1. Community and Friendship Building
“Eli had the greatest summer camp experience. He knew no one going to camp and come home with a host of new friends. He had a huge smile on his face when we greeted him and it lasted for a long time. He was pushed to achieve and he was proud of himself for achieving his goals.” – 2014 GAC Parents
While a lot of fun happens during even just one day of camp, spending more time connecting and building bonds with counselors, cabin mates, and other campers is one of the benefits of a two-week stay.
The first week of the session, there is an adjustment period for the first few days, when campers are getting settled and getting to know one another, the schedule, and the activities. By the middle of the first week, campers feel settled and comfortable at camp, and relationships have the opportunity to start getting deeper. Friendships, while they can definitely be formed in one week, have a better chance to grow stronger and deeper with more connection time.
“My children lead busy lives during the school year with various teams and enrichment programs. Going to Gold Arrow Camp allows them to unwind and gain a new perspective on friendship, goals and life. From my perspective, GAC is summer the way it is supposed to be for kids. Thank you!!” – 2014 GAC Parents
Because all of the campers in the cabin group are at camp for the same length of time (two weeks), there are no departures and arrivals in the middle of the session to disrupt the group’s cohesiveness and the bonds that have developed. Everyone arrives together and departs together, with the exception of our Monther campers, who stay on for another session after their first two-weeks end.
2. Breadth and Depth of Activities
“Gold Arrow Camp is a great summer camp experience. Our son has gone to GAC for 4 years now and every year he sees old friends, makes new ones, tries new things, compares his skills at the activities from the current year to past summers, can be independent and responsible for himself and his belongings, and gets to enjoy the beautiful camp setting away from the heat in Phoenix. He is already looking forward to next summer when he will receive his 5-year blanket.” – 2014 GAC Parents
We take advantage of our location on Huntington Lake, in the heart of the Sierra National Forest, by teaching campers a large variety of water and land-based recreational activities. Many of our activities require extensive time and instruction. Sailing, as an example, is an activity that begins with a 2 ½ hour group lesson, and can be followed up by many additional lessons as campers opt for more sailing during Free Time. Without adequate time, it would be impossible for campers to even get to all of the activities we offer, let alone build skills in them. We want our campers to get exposure to all of what is offered at camp, and have the opportunity to pursue activities they are passionate about.
During their two weeks at Gold Arrow, campers have the opportunity to learn to sail, ride a horse, shoot a rifle, get up on water skiis, and participate in a myriad of other activities. Many of these sports require time and practice to master. For first-time campers, two weeks is just enough time to expose them to all of the different activities and start practicing and improving skills. Returning campers continue to build upon and develop new skills, even after five or six years at our program. The depth of instruction offered, the opportunity to improve recreational skills, and the ability to earn different patches and certifications all distinguish Gold Arrow Camp’s program.
We have two outpost programs, away from our main camp, that take up a portion of the two-week session. We have a water sports outpost camp on an island on Shaver Lake where campers enjoy one or two nights camping on the beach. At Shaver Island, campers spend their days on the lake improving their skills in waterskiing, wakeboarding, and kneeboarding. While these sports are also done at our main camp on Huntington Lake, their stay at Shaver allows our two-week campers time to really improve their skills with a lot of “behind the boat” time. Our other outpost program is backpacking. All campers go on a one-night overnight backpacking trip and get to experience outdoor cooking, sleeping under the stars, and living in nature.
There are some activities that we wait to do until the second week of camp, when campers are feeling connected and more comfortable taking risks. At the end of the second week of camp, we have our dance, and several all-day, sign up trips. Campers can opt to spend the day sailing across Huntington Lake, going on a long horse trail ride, climbing challenging terrain on a rock climbing trip, and more.
Honestly, even two weeks seems short to us. We barely get campers to all of our activities, and it’s time for them to go home!
3. Social Skills Development
“Gold Arrow Camp added a new dimension to our daughter’s summer. She was able participate in sports and activities she had not done before; further develop her social skills by meeting new people and being involved with her cabin mates a large part of each day; and enjoy free time in a beautiful setting free of electronics.” – 2014 GAC Parents
Kids benefit from experiences living and working in groups regardless of the length of time. However, I believe that allowing a group to really bond and connect also allows kids to grow their communication, teamwork, and conflict resolution skills more than when they are in a shorter-term program.
4. Independence and Confidence Building
“Both girls came home SO happy! Melissa came home today, Jesse last week. Melissa had gone to camp knowing no one, and upon her return, she had to finish BIG hugs good-bye with friends before she’d get in the car to go home. On our drive home, she went a mile a minute with stories about her 2 weeks at GAC, and when she got home, she burst into tears, saying she missed camp, her friends, and that she wished she could live at camp all year round! At that point we told her she could go back next year for 4 weeks, and she became overjoyed with excitement, and wanted us to sign her up for 2012 right then and there. Jessica ‘Jess’, also had an amazing experience. She came home last Saturday, after 1 week, as she was a Nugget. She, too wants to go back next year, this time for ‘either 2… maybe 4 weeks.’ Considering she’s only 7, we are amazed. Both girls look like they grew 2 inches each while away, but it’s really an extra gained confidence where they’re walking taller and prouder with themselves. We are SO thrilled that we found Gold Arrow Camp, a camp their second cousin went to almost 20 years ago. As the famous vanilla tree has been rooted at GAC for years and years, we look forward to our girls being rooted there for years and years to come, too. Thanks for such a positive, growing, and out of this world experience!” – 2014 GAC Parent
“As a multi-generational Gold Arrow Family, nothing beats your child immersed high-up in the Sierra Nevada for total fun and adventure. Every day brings a sublime surprise. They return with confident Sierra Nevada Mountain swagger that is part-and-parcel with a positive can-do attitude.”- 2014 GAC Parent
GAC gave our daughter the freedom to make choices, and the support to make good ones.
“Our daughter went from not being able to sleep overnight at friends houses to spending three weeks at GAC. GAC provided our daughter with the confidence of knowing that she can accomplish anything that she sets her mind to complete.” – 2014 GAC Parents
For many kids, their stay at camp is the first time that they have ever been away from their parents at all. Some have attended sleep-overs, weekend scout camps, or week-long school programs, but for many campers, their first stay at Gold Arrow is the longest they’ve been away from their parents. We know this, and our counselors are trained to help first-time campers get adjusted to being away and learn to cope with feelings of missing their parents.
Campers feel a great sense of pride in themselves after “being on their own,” and having fun, without mom or dad nearby. While two weeks seem slow to parents, especially during their first camp experience, the days fly by at Camp.
“Two weeks was not enough for our son….now he’s a MONTHER!” – 2014 GAC Parent
Five-year camper, Molly, wrote an article featured in the March 2015 Summer Camp Issue of Fast Forward, a publication written by kids, for kids, about coming to Gold Arrow Camp for the first time!
Molly writes about her feelings leading up to camp and when she arrived at GAC for the first time. We love watching campers return from year to year! This will be Molly’s fifth summer at GAC (blanket year!), and it’s fun watching her develop into an independent, outgoing, fun, and dynamic leader in her cabin group.
Calling all creative campers! If you have a story, poem, essay, photograph, video or anything you’d like to share with us, please mail it to email@example.com or use #goldarrowcamp and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!
When I first heard the word “sleep away camp” I got chills down my spine. Weeks of packing and every second I was scared. Gone from home for two weeks? I didn’t think I could do that. I was excited, then scared, then excited again. I didn’t know how to feel.
When our car pulled into camp all the butterflies in my stomach flew away. The wood sign with the words “Welcome to Gold Arrow Camp” was all I needed. All the negative feelings left as I hopped out of the hot, smelly car, into the lovely, pine-smelling wilderness.
As I walked down the path leading to camp I thought how much fun I was going to have. Holding my pillow in one hand and my backpack on my back, I walked into a cheering Gold Arrow Camp. Counselors and campers were cheering and smiling and clapping. I looked for the kids holding up a “Cabin 13” sign, the cabin I had been assigned to. A short, smiling brown-haired counselor came up to me and said, “Hi! Are you Molly? I’m Sconnie! I’m going to be your counselor this session! Welcome!” I felt so happy. Sconnie introduced me to a tall, red-haired counselor named Irie, and Beeper, a tall brown-haired counselor.
Gold Arrow Camp was everything you could imagine but 100 times better. It had everything from amazing food to mini-motorboating and ziplining. Every time I was homesick, which was rarely because I was having so much fun, my counselors would comfort me until I was smiling again. Two weeks didn’t feel like enough time at camp. Time flies by when you’re having fun, they always say.
When the day came where I was packing up all my stuff, all I wanted to do was sit down and cry. I wanted to cry because I didn’t want to leave camp. Gold Arrow Camp had become my second home.
Every year we ask our five year campers to answer questions about their time at GAC. Here is a glimpse of what some of our campers had to say this year in answer to questions on our Five-Year Camper Survey:
How has your time at Gold Arrow Camp Influenced you?
“I am no longer afraid to be without my parents. I have also been more grateful and thoughtful towards my peers at school.” – Lucy Mahlmeister
“Gold Arrow has really helped me become more confident with who I am and has helped me try new things. Without camp, I would be too shy to go up to someone and introduce myself or start dancing to Footloose whenever the song came on. Camp has had a giant impact on my personality, and without it I would be a completely different person.” – Stephanie Musso
“Camp has taught me to be more social and leave all your worries and troubles back home because at GAC, you can be crazy and wild and no one will care. In fact, everyone will join in with you.” – Matthew Ferreira
“It has taught me so many great things. I’ve met amazing people, counselors and cabin mates, and I’m still in contact with them. Campers at GAC learn to do some activities other kids dream of doing. If you have the opportunity to go, it is amazing, because GAC is a one time chance.” – Brooke Levy
“I have made the friends that I will love forever.” – Grace DeMartini
What is your favorite thing about GAC?
“My favorite thing about camp is waking up every day surrounded by my favorite people in my favorite place.” – Annabella Hillyer
“My favorite thing about Gold Arrow is not having access to electronics. Too many times on a day to day basis I use my phone to avoid socializing with others. At camp not having electronics helps me come out of my shell allowing me to come close with my cabin mates and make life long friends.” – Jesse Zolinsky
“My favorite thing is the relationships that I form at GAC; I have met some of the best people at GAC. The community is so welcoming, and I feel comfortable to be myself and discover myself in that environment.” – Beth Scott
“I love the encouragement that I got, both from counselors and campers, to try new things all the time. I love that the camp encourages you to do that. The camp atmosphere made me stand out and be unique, in ways that I would have been too embarrassed to try at home.” – Claire Pare
“My favorite thing about GAC is the people. All the activities are great, but if it weren’t for all the amazing people camp would’t be the same.” – Anthony Lizdas
“Gold Arrow campers and counselors don’t care how smart or athletic you are, they still want to be your best friend and make you smile.” – Margaret Jelsma
How do you describe GAC to your friends?
“I am constantly telling my friends how fun GAC is. Whenever I start a sentence “So at camp…” they always know I’m talking about Gold Arrow Camp.” – Jesse Zolinsky
“It is my family!” – Melanie Zimmerman
“GAC isn’t just a camp, it is a way to grow as a person and have fun.” – Stephen Wilmott
“I tell my friends that there’s no place on Earth as amazing as Gold Arrow. Everyone there is so sweet and friendly. People always ask me if it’s scary going to camp not knowing anyone, but I know that I’m going to meet amazing people and have a great time making memories with them and getting to know them.” – Stephanie Musso
What is your fondest camp memory?
“My fondest camp memory is probably getting my blanket this year and realizing how many friends I had made throughout the years. It was just really cool to look back on.” – Maia Mindlin
“I loved the time where I was trying out a wakeboard for the first time, and I kept falling over. Both the counselor and campers on the boat encouraged me and told me what to do. I finally got up on the wakeboard and now it is my favorite out of knee/ski/wake.” – Claire Pare
“My fondest camp memory was probably my first day ever, when I was so nervous. I had no reason to be! When I walked to the shouting lines of cabins and happy faces, it was the perfect start to the session. My first year I fell completely in LOVE with GAC. I could never spend a summer without it!!!” – Brooke Levy
“When it was my first year, and I was very scared and once I stepped out of the bus I could feel all of this excitement, and for me to meet my new friends, even today I am still best friends with them.” – Kylie Kim
If you are a five-year camper and would like to complete the survey, please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GAC5years.
Ruth, a five-year GAC camper, was asked to write an ode directed towards something or someone she loved. Ruth chose to write about GAC. Here’s what she said..
G-A-C is the camp to beat
Really great people you will meet
Smelling the vanilla tree on the way to meals
Putting on chap stick so your lips don’t peel
Green and Gold, we represent
Spending two to four weeks in a big green tent
Without this camp my summers would be a bore
Missing out on sleeping with my cabin mates and listening to our counselors snore
Three years a banner, five years a blanket, ten years a jacket
I know I’m going to make it
Have fun, make friends, and grow is our motto
All the counselors have really cool names, like Ninja, Toyota and Pesto
I come back every year to see my friends that I wish I were always near
Sailing in sunfishes
And sleeping under the stars making wishes
Just being at camp is a wish come true
There are always people to talk with and something to do
Everyone there is such a champ
I love and thank you, Gold Arrow Camp
(Wadda, Wadda, Wadda!)
What does camp mean to YOU?
Friends. Friendship. Confidence. Independence. Love of the outdoors. Outgoing. Social. Those are the words and phrases that show up over and over again in answer to the question, “How has your time at camp influenced you as a person?” on our Five-Year Camper survey.
Conducted over the past two years, we’ve had almost 200 current and past campers respond to this and other questions about their time at GAC. Here are some of the many ways camp has influenced their lives:
“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 Baral
“It has helped me to extend myself and make new friends. At GAC I have made life long friends.” – Maddy Benfield
“Gold Arrow camp has always been my happy place, during the rest of the year, I would always look forward to camp!” – Haley Gross
“It has encouraged me to try new things.” – Eva Shuster-Arechiga
“It has made me just enjoy life better because I know that wherever one goes, as long as you are yourself you can influence others to enjoy life. Camp taught me to just enjoy life as it is and not worry about things.” – Hosanna Kessler
“I feel that it has transformed me into a better person because I have learned the true meaning of friendship. It has pushed me to try new things and push my comfort levels.” – Alicia DeMartini
“GAC has helped shape the person that I am today. I take the core values of camp and bring them into my every day life. One thing that has really stuck with me after my time at camp has been the use of electronics in my life. When around others I do my best to never use my cell phone. The biggest way that I practice this as well as try to get my friends to take part in what I do is when I go out to meals with friends. I always make everyone stack their phones and we are not allowed to touch them until the bill has been payed. The other part of GAC that has influenced me the most is the simple idea of trying to always smile. It not only makes my day better but when giving a random person on the street a smile people tend to first seemed shocked and then return a genuine smile.” – Eric Bader
“Being at Gold Arrow gives me this sense of belonging that I’ve never felt anywhere else. I know that I can be myself and that my cabin mates will love me for who I am, and I’ve brought that to my life outside of camp. thank you for helping me become the person I am today.” – Hannah Leigh
“It has influenced me to try new things even if they seem difficult.” – Robert Leigh
“It has made me see the glass half full in everything I do.” – Scout Brown
“GAC has completely and totally made me the person that I am today. Being in an environment with the most positive people in the world helped me understand that it is ok to be silly, crazy, and absolutely ridiculous, and most importantly that it is okay being yourself. It also made me into a leader, having the best role models as my counselors to look up to.” – Reilly Barry
“Gold Arrow Camp has taught me to live in the moment and truly enjoy everything good in life. It influences me to truly be myself, and embrace who I am. Gold Arrow Camp is the time of year where I can truly have fun, and it has changed my life in an extremely good way.” – Megan McGlothlin
“Gold Arrow Camp ignited my love for the outdoors. If I hadn’t been a camper here, I would not be where I am today.” – Allison Muench
“It has influenced me to better a better version of myself and to be who I am on the inside.” – Henry Yeary
“Camp has made more outgoing and appreciative of all the opportunities that I have.” – Haley Davis
“It has influenced me by learning knew things and making new friends. I really enjoy how close you get with your cabin and counselors, it makes you have a whole new look on life, especially being away from social networking.” – Cassandra Cohen
“It has taught me to be a great friend.” – Garrett Reilly
“Gold Arrow has taught me friendship skills with people of all ages and how even a small amount of time with wonderful people can create amazing memories.” – Reid Bryan
“At GAC I have learned to be a better version of myself. I learned how to work with others through difficult situations, support someone else when they are having a hard time, encourage others to be the best that they can be, be more positive, and, most importantly, pack well.” – Elizabeth Zigrang
“Gold Arrow made me realize that there is so much more to life then just electronics. It is a lot more fun to socialize with the people who are around you.” – Maddy Knight
“It has made me make new friends and learn to work better together in groups.” – Erin McCarthy
“I’m more open to trying new things. I never would have had the opportunity to try many of the activities at camp if I didn’t go and now some of my favorite actitivities are rocks and ropes, sailing, and waterskiing.” – Elizabeth Kroger
“GAC has shaped my life in so many ways… the people and the immaculate environment are what have drawn me back year after year. GAC has taught me tolerance, patience and has provided me with an ability to be more accepting of everyone, young and old, no matter their walk of life.” – Cam Russell
“Overall GAC has made me become a better and more warm-hearted person. Normally I am very shy around people but at GAC I know I can act crazy because I feel less insecure since everyone else acts wildly and it has made me a more fun person to be around.” – Aaron Crasnick
“It has been like a dream I never want to wake up from.” – Paige Warmington
“It has taught me how to make new friends, and how to have a good time without electronics.” – Garrett Caddes
“My experiences at GAC have made me into the person I am today. Camp taught me to be responsible and mature, yet at the same time taught me to be optimistic, positive, fun and confident. GAC and the community of people in it, have been so influential in raising me from childhood to adulthood.” – Stevie Goodrich
If you are a five-year camper and would like to complete the survey, please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GAC5years