Category Archives: News Reports

Did someone say camp food???

Monday, April 26th, 2021

JUNK FOOD DAY!!!

Helloooo HVC folks, Hummingbird here! The weather is warming up in the Valley. Snow is melting to quench the thirst of our beautiful grasses and trees; flowers are slowly poking their heads out of their winter hiding places, looking toward the sun for nourishment; and Hamilton the pig is oinking around camp, on the hunt for bites of food he missed before the first snow. It’s Springtime and everyone seems to be hungry!! With summer around the corner I’m recalling all the delicious meals of the camp season…

Like Junk Food Day breakfasts of cereal and doughnuts with friends, lunches of hot dogs, and dinners of ravioli!!! My goodness does it make my heart flutter just to think of it!!

And Lobster Banquet, with spanakopita and lobster and chicken parmesan and mussels and potatoes!!! AND delectable salad!!! If I squint my eyes I can almost see the bags of all you can eat ice cream flying toward me, delivered by Meg in a cow costume!!!

Oooh! Ooh! Ooh!!! And the Wheel of Misfortune, when we get to eat out of diapers without our hands and get chocolate pudding and whipped cream all over our faces!!!! (Or stay clean if we want to!)

And good old weekly Lazy Day pizza dinner with all the toppings you could possibly want; there are meaty pizzas and cheesy pizzas and veggie-mania pizzas and gluten- and dairy-free pizzas!! There are even pineapple pizzas for those brave enough to try a slice!! Even my friends who don’t eat meat or gluten or dairy or nuts have DELICIOUS options for meals– why, they have a whole separate section devoted just to them every mealtime!

I know every day can’t be Junk Food Day or Lobster Banquet or a Lazy Day– golly I wish!! But even on a regular old camp day the food here in the Valley is something to write home about! Take for example everyone’s favorite dinner, Brie Pasta: scrumptious chunks of melty brie, slices of juicy tomato, and slivers of basil mixed delicately into a pan of tender pasta. The flavor lingers in my mouth for days after eating it, I find myself smacking my beak just trying to get another taste! Even now in April I’m dreaming of the next time I get to humbly fill my plate with that edible treasure!!

Oh gee, I’ve really worked myself into a tizzy thinking about all this delicious food I have to look forward to this summer. I think I’d better go find myself a snack.

Forever licking my plate,
Hummingbird

While we’re all walking, what do the camp vehicles do??

Wednesday, March 24th, 2021

Greetings campy people, it’s Hummingbird! Around here in the Valley we do a whole lot of walking: we walk to our classes, to the llama pen to see what’s going on with Pippin and the gang, to the dining hall for three delicious feasts a day, to our cabins to rest and load up on some last minute sunscreen. Which makes me wonder… what do all the HVC cars and vehicles do all day??

Camp is home to a surprising number of vehicles ranging from the Green Pig– the oldschool green truck that sits in the front yard– to the PD buggies, whose colorful faces were painted on over the years by artistic staff members. What do they do all day while campers are walking around on those ever-trusty feet? And how’d they find their way onto camp anyway? I decided to find out.

First, I flapped over to the Green Pig to ask my questions. Here’s what I learned…

The Green Pig was used back in the old days of camp as a luggage hauler! It drove to Connecticut and back to bring campers’ luggage up to the Valley. Far from its glory days, it spent a while just sitting idly by in a scrap heap and watching camp happen all around it, until Peter and Meg decided to put it back to work. Now it hauls campers around on Peter’s forbidden hidden tour on Electives nights!

Across from the Green Pig sits the Firetruck, which no longer works as a driving vehicle. It told me that sometimes it gets a little jealous of the Green Pig’s fame around the Valley, but it has a pretty impressive history itself! For years it was used on the Danbury Country Fairgrounds in Connecticut. When it was auctioned off years ago, the then-owners of the camp called first dibs and brought it on up to HVC! Though it can’t drive anymore, the old Firetruck is an iconic staple, sitting stoically just in front of the llama pen. It makes a charming backdrop for wedding photos and llama photos alike!

The Snacktor, a real-life tractor, used to do all the lawn mowing around camp! Here’s the thing…. it’s very slow. So, like the Green Pig, it ditched its dayjob and now spends most of its time carrying campers around to distribute snack or go for a fun ride on Dance nights! Don’t worry, we have a faster lawnmower now. Our groundskeeper, Al, can sometimes be seen mowing the rolling fields around camp.

Finally, the PD buggies! These repurposed golf carts get their fair share of work zipping around with Peter, Meg, and the rest of the PDs as they check out fun activities happening all around camp! One buggy is reserved for our unstoppable housekeeping staff, who work tirelessly to keep our camp looking and feeling clean every day. The buggies may look small, but HVC is no golf course. They handle every hill, tree root, and painted puddle like the smooth coasters they are! Each cart was hand painted by our artistic staff to resemble a lady bug, a butterfly, a bumble bee, and a dragonfly, respectively!

So I guess while we’re walking around all day, our vehicles are doing the stuff that keeps camp running as smoothly as it does! Whether they’re living out their glory days or their golden years at camp, each vehicle has a history– and a present place– at HVC!

Ooh! I think I hear the Snacktor coming now…. I hope it’s teddy grahams today!

Hummingbird 🙂

 

 

What do the animals do in the winter??

Wednesday, February 17th, 2021

Hello hello, dear ones!! Hummingbird here! It’s February in the Valley, which means we are in the heart of a Maine winter– more like Feb-brrrrrrr-ary, am I right??? In the summer, when the grass is green and the sun can be spotted after campers have gone to sleep, many campers ask, “What do the animals do in the winter???” Well, curious campers, let’s fly around camp together and see what our animal friends are up to….

First stop is the llama pen! Llamas and alpacas are naturally suited to cold weather, so they love snowy days up here in Maine. In the winter their wool grows out long and thick, giving them a beautiful, fluffy, built-in coat! Bet you wish you could grow your own jacket too! They spend their day doing pretty much what they always do– eating, sleeping, wandering, and more eating! And of course, making silly faces at the camera! Just the other day Pippin the alpaca was telling me how much he misses the campers, “What do you think THEY do in the winter??” he wondered. Let’s pop over to the animal pen to see what mini-horse Seven is up to… 

Seven, pictured below in his snow kingdom, spends his winter patrolling the animal pen with Otis the guard llama. In fact, just the other day the three of us built a snow-llama together! It was tough on my wings, but between Seven and Otis’s hooves and my direction, we got the job done. As many campers know, the animal pen features a cozy indoor area that Seven can find snowless solace in as needed, but for the most part he’s right out there in the snow with the rest of us!

What about our human animals who spend the winter on camp? Our year-round staff have been enjoying all the very best that a Maine winter has to offer. The lake is totally frozen over, so ice skating has been a must! Cross country skiing along camp’s many trails is a favorite winter pastime of Peter and Meg’s. Pretty hard to believe that during the summer these same trails are used for hiking and getting around the different areas of camp. They’re transformed by the snow, making them perfect for skiing throughout the winter season! They’ve built some epic snow-structures, too– check out Tui’s igloo!

Winter makes camp look a little different than the summertime oasis we’re used to, but all our animals– human and otherwise– are keeping up the summer camp spirit of creativity, community, and of course some llama shenanigans! It’s a fun way to wait for our favorite season…. summer!! In just four short months, the days will be long again, the sun will have us all remembering the snow fondly, and CAMPERS WILL BE ARRIVING!!!!!!!!!!

We can’t wait to see you all SO soon! Until then, let us know what YOU do in the winter on our Instagram page @hidden_valley_camp_maine !

I’m off to build another snow-llama!
Hummingbird 🙂

 

 

 

Where do counselors come from? (Featuring an interview with counselors near and far!)

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

The wacky macarena at our annual staff training talent show!

Greetings, friends! Hummingbird here! With our official countdown to summer started on the HVC Instagram page (under the “NYE” highlight), we’re thinking a lot about all the awesome people who will come fill up the camp with their laughter and silliness! Some of those people will be our fantastic counseling staff who live in the cabins with campers, teach classes, run evening programs, and remind all of us to brush our teeth and drink water! Every summer we have an amazing group of counselors and I’ve been wondering…. where do they all come from?? And how do they create such a close and supportive community each and every year?? I reached out to staff members Aileen, Leon, Georgia, and Haley to try and figure out how on Earth we get the most amazing counselors summer after summer after summer!! Here’s what I found out…


First up I talked to Aileen, a long time counselor, former waterfront director, and current year-round program director. Here she is pictured with her dog Moose and husband David on the FROZEN LAKE!!!

Hummingbird: You recently became a US citizen, congratulations! Where are you from originally? Do you have any fun facts about your hometown? 
Aileen: I am originally from Glasgow, Scotland and lived there my whole life before coming to camp and eventually moving to the US. Fun facts about Glasgow….it’s the largest city in Scotland and is home to the only underground railway (subway) system, which is the 3rd oldest in the world. Glasgow is known for its artistic culture and has some amazing architect. And my favourite fun fact about Scotland is that our national animal is the Unicorn… don’t believe me, google it!!!

How long was the trip from your hometown to Montville? What all did it involve to get to camp that first year? 
The trip involved a flight from Glasgow to JFK, with a 4 hour stop over in Iceland, where I had the opportunity to take part in a free trip to the blue lagoon. Once arriving in NYC, I stayed in a hostel for the night before waking up really early to catch a greyhound bus to Maine. It was a long 2 days of travel but once I arrived at HVC I immediately had a feeling of true happiness and excitement for the summer ahead.

When did you first come to camp? How did you find HVC? 
I first came to camp in 2005, I was at university and found out about the student exchange program through a friend. I applied to the summer camp counselor program through BUNAC (the UK camp sponsor) and a few months later received a letter in the mail to say that I had been hired to work at Hidden Valley Camp. I continued to return to camp every year for 4 summers and HVC is where I met my husband, David A.K.A Brillo, who some of you probably know from the ropes staff.

Now that you’re a year-round PD, what surprises you most about the non-summer seasons at camp? What’s your favorite part?
I’m always most surprised by how busy the other seasons are. There’s a misconception that summer camp directors only really work in the summer but we work ALL year long to plan for each summer. I work with Peter and Meg to communicate with staff and camp families, we do camp reunions in NYC, in non COVID times I get to travel to Scotland, England and Ireland to hire international staff in person. I also work on planning staff training, continually assessing how to grow from year to year and better support the counselors. I get to meet and interact with many amazing leaders and directors from other camps and from the American Camp Association. My favourite part is building relationships with our wonderful staff and continuing to keep in touch with them over the years.

How does camp prepare counselors for the summer? What qualities does staff training cultivate in counselors to create a successful camp environment? 
Staff training is very detailed and involved for the counselors, it’s also really fun and feels like a mini session of camp for the staff. Staff training prepares the staff to be quality counselors to their campers. It prepares them for teaching classes, how to be a leader and a role model, how to handle challenging counseling situations, and possible emergencies that could arise during the summer. Our goal throughout staff training is to create a team that works well together, respects one another and will work hard to give campers the best summer possible!

As waterfront director you spent a lot of time around the various bodies of water on and around camp… what’s your favorite swim to do in the area?  
I love swimming across the lake at camp, and try to do it as much as possible throughout the summer. This past summer I swam for 180 consecutive days, I started on April 10th, the day after a huge snow storm and swam all the way until the end of September. I have to say my favourite body of water in the area is Lake St George, I love how fresh the water is there and there’s no better feeling than jumping into the lake on a really hot summers day!


Next up, let’s hear from Leon! Leon came to camp for the first time in 2018 and was perhaps best known for handing out fourth period snack to campers and counselors! Here’s what he’s got to say about camp…

Hummingbird: Where are you from originally? Do you have any fun facts about your hometown?
Leon: I’m from a small town called Braintree in England which I’ve heard gets its name from the fact it is built around a river previously called ‘The Brain’ as well as all the walnut trees around.

How long is the trip from your home to Montville? What does it involve to get to camp?
In order to get to camp on time (which was still 2 days after everybody else), I had to leave immediately after finishing my final exam at university. I travelled to London and stayed in my mates flat in order to get the earliest flight the next morning. I landed in Boston and proceeded with the countless hours of bus travel to Maine. By this time I had been awake for a full 24 hours. 

How did you find camp? and how did you know HVC was the right place for you to spend your summer?
The year before I had worked at a camp in the UK and had heard of American camps through people there. I looked into it alot and was so heavily drawn to the idea of camp out there but left it right to the last minute. At the time I was looking for a ‘proper’ a.k.a BORING job when I decided to just wing it and try and live the dream in the US. HVC was actually the first interview I had and I knew immediately from talking to George that it was the place for me. Everything was so laid back but with a focus on fun and education which I thought was perfect.

What’s the silliest thing you did at camp? Did anything surprise you about the summer?
This list could go on forever. From countless silly snack announcements and plenty of Forbidden Planet antics to splitting my trousers in the middle of morning meeting… I honestly couldn’t pick just one moment! What surprised me was how supportive and willing to get stuck in everyone was. My previous camp experience was on a much smaller scale and I couldn’t imagine bringing so many more people together as effortlessly as we did that summer. Also, the heat. We don’t get sun like that in the UK. Man it was hot!

What parts of staff training best prepared you for living and working with campers for the summer?
Staff training is a great opportunity to mix with all members of staff. It really helps you familiarise yourself with camp life before the campers arrive as we have very much the same routine as you all do. It really helped open my eyes to the idea that there is always some support available should you need it. Especially coming in from the outside, it can seem very daunting but practising classes, organising activities and talking through any particular problems that may arise really does settle you. Plus, it leaves the easy bit for when the campers arrive… enjoying summer!

You are famous on camp for being The Leon King, monarch of snack! What is fourth period snack like? And tell us, what is your favorite snack?
Snack is famously the most important part of the day and it is important it is done right. Usually I’d start by talking to the unbelievable kitchen staff about today’s snack whilst also getting the inside scoop on the day’s dinner. I’d grab armfuls of snacks and drink and load them into a little wagon which I used to transport them to the snack shack. Then, I’d organise it all on the bench and ensure all the drinks are ice cold before taking a moment with Peter to enjoy the blissfulness of camp before the crazed snack mania ensues. Honestly, snack is the highlight of the day as you get to interact with everyone, both campers and staff. And to answer the big question… teddy grahams are a Snack King’s personal favourite. I’ll leave the blue sky versus seltzer debate to you guys! 


Here’s Georgia, a former camper, counselor, and PD! Among Georgia’s many contributions to our community are her amazing deep breathing techniques that she led us in at camp meetings!

Hummingbird: Where are you from originally? Do you have any fun facts about your hometown
Georgia: I’m form a little tiny town on the beach on the east coast of Australia called Point Lonsdale- we’re pretty small so we don’t have too many fun facts. But we are home to the largest Norfolk Pine in the Southern Hemisphere that is lit with giant fairy lights for the holidays every year.

How long is the trip from your Aussie home to Montville? What all does it involve to get to camp?
It normally takes about 36 hours to get from where I live to Camp. (Although it did once take 72 hours!!!)  First I have to get to the airport from my house which is about 2 hours then fly from Melbourne to the US (normally LA or San Francisco) which is a 15 or so hour flight. Then its a hop skip and a jump (or two / three flights) from the west coast up to Maine and we are done! 

What brought you to camp for the first time? Did you experience any culture shock?
I first came to camp as a camper when I was 11. We don’t have Summer camps at all Australia so it was a big change for me. Australia and America are both English speaking countries but we say things very differently so I had a lot of new words to learn when I arrived. Food is different in the states too so that was a learning experience as well. And of course I had never seen a Llama before so that was pretty wild too! There were a lot of differences to learn and understand when I first came to camp but I also got to meet some of my best friends and made connections that have lasted my whole life with my favourite place in the world HVC. The camp culture made such an impact on me that I kept coming back as a camper, AWAC, counsellor and a PD. 

Summer in the US is winter in Australia… you must really love HVC to make that work for so long! What did you have to do to get to camp summer after summer? 
When I was first coming to HVC as a camper my brothers and I were actually missing school to be at camp so I had to do school work before and after camp to make sure I was keeping up with my classes at home!  Then when I was a counsellor I would sit my university exams in the morning and fly out to the states later that day to make it in time for life guard and staff training. Like you said summer at camp is winter in Australia so I was skipping winter break at University, that break is not as long as summer vacation in the US so some summers I was doing my college work after lights out and really early in the mornings during staff training to make the time difference work. 

After being a PD for the first time I actually moved to America so was away from my family for huge chunks of time and had to get lots of different visas to be allowed to keep coming back to work at camp.  I was lucky enough to actually live at camp for the winter in 2019 and 2020 so my really really long commute to camp from Australia got pretty short when I was just walking from the Health Lodge (OUCH!) to the office. 
HVC was the first place that I saw snow, but it wasn’t in the winter time. I remember going on Peter’s secret tour as a camper and Peter and Meg had buried snow from the winter in a hole in the front yard and they uncovered it in the summer to show us all. 

What does Vegemite taste like? Do you like it? Do Americans like it when you’ve brought it to camp?
It’s very very salty. But it’s delicious. The most important thing about Vegemite is that you only use a little tiny bit and sort of scrap it across toast with lots of butter on it. Its not Nutella you only want a little bit! Most of the Americans who try it at camp don’t love it straight away, people say it tastes like battery fluid. Its all about the butter to Vegemite ratio! 

What was your favorite thing about being a cabin counselor? 
Working all day at the lake! I also loved lazy day long rest periods with my campers, it was such a great time to do fun things like go to the pool, llama fashion shows, paint pet rocks, human bowling on tipi hill etc. 


Next let’s hear from Haley, another camper-turned-counselor, who is known on camp for encouraging us all to stay hydrated (just like her shirt says!)

Hummingbird: Where are you from originally? Do you have any fun facts about your hometown?
Haley: I’m originally from just outside Philadelphia, but now I live in Boston. Philadelphia is deemed the Mural Capital of the World! Beginning in the mid-80’s there have been incentives around the city to bring beautiful works of large-scale art to public places. The result is a colorful, creative energy no matter where you go!

How long is the trip from your home to Montville? What all does it involve to get to camp?
As a camper I used to take a 9 hour bus from New Jersey to Maine. It was always such a fun environment to be on the bus with other excited campers, getting to know new friends and reuniting with familiar faces. As a counselor, though, I came up from Boston, which is just a four hour drive. 

What parts of staff training best prepared you for living and working with campers for the summer?
Staff training goes through every aspect of camp, from where to get allergy-friendly foods in the dining hall to helping campers work through conflicts or homesickness. Returning staff give their perspectives on challenges they’ve faced, and PD’s prepare staff from all backgrounds to not only teach classes in fun areas, but also how to take care of ourselves so we can in turn take care of our campers. But I think most importantly, staff training gives counselors from all over the world (and all levels of experience with HVC) to feel at home on camp, so we can be our full, silly, wacky, empathetic, supportive selves by the time campers arrive! 

You are perhaps best known for encouraging campers to drink water at all hours of the day. What’s your favorite way to keep campers (and yourself) hydrated?
I think my favorite hydration strategy on camp was right before camp meetings in the mornings and evenings. I would have my whole cabin take sips from their water bottles, and so many other cabins would join in, too! I would say it really loud and do wacky dances while I took a sip from my water bottle so everyone could see that staying hydrated can be fun! It became a fun game to drink water in silly ways as a community. It kept us all healthy and happy under that hot summer sun, without feeling like a chore. 


Well there you have it! Whether they come from aaaaaaall the way in Australia, or right down the road from camp, our staff work hard to create the most welcoming, fun, and supportive environment for campers and for one another. We CAN’T WAIT to build an amazing camp community this summer! In the meantime, keep checking in on those countdowns to camp, we’ve got a first session AND a second session countdown going, and lots of other fun stuff happening on the HVC Instagram! And check out some pictures of staff training and other counselor shenanigans below!

I’m off to ask Aileen if I can be a counselor even though I’m a bird… wish me luck on my interview!
Hummingbird 🙂

 

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