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Kids and Nature: 3 California Eco-Friendly Summer Camps

Posted Apr 27 2010 12:00am
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Camp Trinity (Bar 717)

This summer, my eight-year-old daughter will be attending summer camp for the first time. One whole week away from mom and dad (and brother) immersed in nature, kids, and experiences we can only imagine!  As the American Camp Association explains:

At camp, when children make new friends, explore the world around them, and learn that “I can” is much more powerful than “I can’t”, magic happens. In an environment created just for them, children learn real life skills, develop self-esteem, and gain a sense of independence and community. Whether children are playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, or becoming part of a camp family, they are creating memories that will last a lifetime.

In selecting a camp for our daughter, we considered several aspects of green living. From being off-the-grid to locally-grown, organic food, there are many eco-friendly summer camp options in northern California.  Even if you don’t live in California, these camps make long distance travel arrangements easy.  Here are three camps we considered:

Camp Trinity on the Bar 717 Ranch is a non-competitive, co-educational camp located on 450 acres in the midst of the pristine wilderness of Trinity County.

For 78 years Camp Trinity has offered children the opportunity to experience nature, develop friendships, learn new skills, and enhance their self esteem. The ranch setting provides children with many challenging and exciting opportunities to interact positively with their environment and with each other.

Children are encouraged to participate in ranch activities which are of benefit to the entire camp community. These activities include animal care, gardening, building projects, cooking and others. Each child, working within the structure of the community, and with the support of experienced staff, develops a sense of competence, maturity, and responsibility towards others and towards their environment.

Ultimately, this is the camp we chose for our daughter.  They serve organically-grown food from the camp gardens (as well as meat); they offer vegetarian meals too.  My daughter is very excited about the program choices offered, horseback riding, and overnight camping trips!  This camp also has a ropes course.  Furthermore, Camp Trinity is in the process of developing a micro-hydro alternative energy system to supplement grid power.

  • We work to create a living environment of love, safety and harmony.
  • Camp life teaches reponsibility for one’s own behavior, and develops confidence, inner security, and appropriate self expression.
  • We encourage respect for oneself, other beings, and the environment.
  • We value the uniqueness of each individual, within the diversity of racial, cultural, economic, and religious backgrounds that comprise our camp community.
  • Camp Winnarainbow provides a training ground to nurture leaders for a peaceful, harmonious and sustainable culture.

Camp Winnarainbow is a circus and performing arts camp hosted by the famous clown hippie Wavy Gravy on his Hog Farm (Black Oak Ranch) in Laytonville, CA.  The Black Oak Ranch is also home to music festivals, like Kate Wolf and Earthdance.   This camp serves vegetarian meal options, as well as organically-grown produce from the gardens.  There is a lake with a waterslide and several creeks on the grounds.  Campers live in teepees.

The camp structure creates a supportive community where friendships and cooperation flourish. Camp activities are designed for children to learn new skills, build self-confidence and foster self-sufficiency.

The Unalayee program is designed to give the campers the opportunity to explore and appreciate the beautiful wilderness setting. Each session is divided between “In Camp” time and “On the Trail” time.

While “In Camp” campers live in small groups called tribes. Each tribe has two counselors. Tribes live as a small family. They share communal tasks like building cook fires, cooking and clean-up. Each tribe goes on a three day back-packing trip together.

The “On the Trail” part of the camp program consists of two packing trips one for three days (Tribe Hike), and another for four days (Choice Hike).

Camp Unalayee is located within the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area. Actually, it is little strange this bit of private land exists where it does, but its high elevation and proximity means children have easier access to the wilderness lakes.  I’ve encountered these campers before on backpacking trips and was impressed by the diversity represented.  This camp is completely off-the-grid.  When my daughter is old enough, she will definitely be attending Camp Unalayee.

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