I believe there are two groups of people: those who loved summer camp and those who did not.
I fall into the former category, and, in fact, I still love summer camp even though it’s been decades since my summers spent at Michigan’s Camp Daggett. As a kid, my parents sent me to many different kinds of camps once school let out. I went to “kid’s college” at the local community college in Michigan thinking that I was the smartest third-grader in the world. I loved attending dance and acting camps, although I wasn’t very talented at either so was assigned very minor roles. Yet no summer was complete unless I spent a week at Camp Daggett, an outdoor camp near my home on the shores of Walloon Lake. I would attend Camp Daggett each summer until I was too old to attend.
The camp boasted a ton of activities, like canoeing, sailing and swimming, and I thrived during my many summers there. I made many friends and we’d become pen pals after camp was over. I even wrote letters to my college-aged counselors who would indulge my letters throughout the year. As a young teen, I had a major crush on a boy from Baltimore and spent the entire week pining after him, trying to impress him with my knowledge of music. I would cite bands like Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix while he boasted about Phish, which I had no clue about. I sent him dozens of letters and never got a response.
The highlight of camp was the final campout adventure, which, as you got older, became more exciting and took us further away from the camp grounds. The final two years of camp the brother and sister cabins got to paddle across Walloon Lake to a campsite where we would spend the night under the stars. The counselors would haul our gear and supplies in a pontoon boat. Those nights were thrilling for many reasons, including the all-day paddle across a sizable lake and getting in close quarters to the boys’ cabin, and yes, Brian. There was always the one counselor who had command of terrifying ghost stories that would keep all of us up all night, terrified, lying under the stars as bats swooped by. None of us dared to confess that we were frightened, yet we’d all jump and squirm in our sleeping bags if we heard any noises echoing from the woods.
There’s a magic to summer camp, and I’m already planning to send my son to Camp Daggett when he’s old enough. For many kids, camp is the first time away from home, and the bonds made between campers often last a lifetime. In my case that’s true. During college I met a girl from Michigan and we quickly realized that we had both been to camp during the same time many years prior. She now also lives in Montana, which could also be considered one of the largest summer camps in the world, and is a dear friend. And if you get us started on Camp Daggett, you can’t stop our conversation, and we’re still quick to recite the motto in unison: “The other fellow first.”
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.