A Day (And A Half) In The Life Of A Camp Quest NorthWest Cabin Counselor


Counselors Chase and Kevin prepare to for the arrival of their campers.

So, you’ve volunteered for Camp Quest NorthWest for the first time, or maybe you’re still thinking about it, and you probably have a lot of questions. What should I expect? What will my responsibilities be? Will there be enough coffee? For new counselors, this uncertainty can sometimes make those few hours before campers arrive the most stressful part of the week. Here’s what a typical first day or so might look like for the CQNW Cabin Counselor.

Sunday, Noon – Sitting down to lunch with the rest of the staff for our last meal before the campers arrive. Most of us got to camp yesterday afternoon and since then we’ve set up camp, completed training and orientation, and ran through most of the morning programs. I’ve taken a few minutes to review the camper printouts that the registrar has provided about the special needs of some of my campers. I generally feel fairly well prepared, but I’m still a bit nervous.

12:59 PM – We’re all set up for registration and the Camp Director has given the word to open up the front gates. About a dozen cars are already lined up and waiting to drop off eager campers. I’m a Cabin Counselor, so my co-counselor and I are waiting near the registration table for our first campers. Once our first two campers arrive, one of us will take them to the cabin. After that, the two of us will trade off shuttling campers from registration to the cabin which will be our home for the next week, ensuring that the rule of three is always satisfied.


Camp Director Chuck welcomes new and returning campers and their families during registration.

3:02 PM – Registration has officially ended, although we’re still awaiting one of the campers assigned to our cabin. The registration team will bring them to us once they arrive. Meanwhile, the rest of us are in the cabin, getting settled in, reviewing the Rational Rules for Living at Camp Quest, and coming up with our cabin cheer.

3:57 PM – Our final camper has arrived, and we’re heading to the Camp Intro event to meet up with the rest of the campers and counselors. The Camp Director will review the rules and some of the other things to expect at camp this week. All of the other counselors and I introduce ourselves. Each cabin does their cabin cheer, although ours doesn’t quite go off as planned. We’ll have to rehearse it a bit more before tomorrow morning. We wrap up with a couple of all camp icebreakers and then get ready for dinner.

5:29 PM – Apparently this camp is serious about handwashing, because even after every single camper had washed their hands for dinner, two LT “Sani Sergeants” were dispensing hand sanitizer for everyone on our way into the BFP (“Big Food Place”). We sit down at the tables and the kitchen staff explain the dietary options available as well as the procedure for clearing the tables after the meal.

6:17 PM – My table has finished eating and we’ve started clearing off the dirty dishes and uneaten food. The Camp Director now has a few … “declarations of an informative nature” for us (remind me not to use the “announcements” word) and he’s asked us to pause our dinner clean up temporarily so that the tables in the back of the room can hear. The Program Director gets up to read the first of many “Selection Game” scenarios which the campers play using the animal and attributes on their name badge. After we are dismissed from dinner we briefly return to our cabins to grab sweatshirts and jackets because it’s starting to cool off a bit. Some of us also put on bug spray because the mosquitos are at their worst during the evening.

6:30 PM – The bell rings and we reassemble for our first All Camp Event, a Pod Intro activity. The campers are divided into pods using the symbol on their badge. In addition to being a Cabin Counselor, I’m also a Pod Leader, so I find the campers in my pod group and assist in guiding them through this evening’s activity.


Counselor Libbie tells a spooky story during the evening campfire.

8:32 PM – After the all camp activity, we all meet back up at the evening campfire. As we settle in, the LT “Flag Bears” lower the camp flag and store it for the night. Tonight the Assistant Director will be leading campfire, and I’ve volunteered to get up and lead the group in one of my favorite camp songs with the assistance of a couple of the LTs. A few of the counselors also treat us to a series of skits to illustrate some of the camp rules that we had gone over earlier during the Camp Intro.

9:33 PM – Just as dusk is settling in we are dismissed from the campfire back to our cabins. Tonight I’m assigned to “Evening Shower Monitor” duty, which means I’ll be stationed near the main showers until lights out at 10:00 PM to ensure that there is no goofing around in the bathrooms. After that I’ll go back to my cabin to wait for the campers to settle down to sleep. Once they do, I’ll head to the staff campfire to hang out with the other counselors before I head back to bed myself.

Monday, 3:27 AM – I am awoken by a camper who needs to use the restroom. This is the only time where I’m allowed to make an exception to the rule of three and allow them to use the restroom on their own, but since I’m already awake I put on my sandals and accompany them, waiting for them just outside of the restroom before returning to the cabin.

7:30 AM – The Camp Director kindly wakes up my campers by playing reveille on his trumpet just outside of our cabin. Fortunately I got up a bit early to catch a shower before the wakeup call because I know this is going to be a busy day. This morning my cabin has KP Duty, so we’re heading to the lodge a bit early to set up for breakfast.


Counselors Kayla, Mary and Sean prepare their morning cabin cheer.

7:50 AM – The bell is rung and the rest of the cabins start assembling near the flagpole. The LT Flag Bears have already raised the camp flag. Many of the other counselors and campers are still in their pajamas. The youngest cabins straggle in after the rest of the cabins have already done their cabin cheers. (Those counselors now have a better idea of how long their campers take to get ready in the morning.) After cheers we do some light morning calisthenics lead by one of the other counselors who was kind enough to volunteer.

8:49 AM – Breakfast is wrapping up and campers are heading back to their cabins. My cabin and I wrap up KP Duty clean up and then head back ourselves. My cabin co-counselor has morning stayback duty, so during the staff meeting from 9:15 to 9:45 they’ll be hanging out in the cabin area. I take notes during the staff meeting so that I can fill in my co-counselor on all of the important reminders and schedule updates.

10:00 AM – The bell rings indicating that the campers’ morning prep time has ended, and the pods begin assembling near the flagpole. As a pod leader, I gather up the campers in my pod and take roll call to ensure that they are all present. Once the pod is intact, we head to our first morning block activity, which starts at 10:10. It’s a bit drizzly this morning, so one of the activities has been moved to the alternate indoor location. Fortunately our Program Director mentioned this during breakfast so I’m well prepared to lead the pod to the correct place.

11:39 AM – My pod group has KP Duty today, so we wrap up the second morning block a little early so that we can set up for lunch. We make sure to wash and sanitize our hands first though, of course. After the tables are all set, the two LT campers in our pod serve as Sani Sergeants for the other campers and staff.

12:48 PM – We are dismissed from lunch back to our cabins. The sun is starting to come out, so I remind the campers to put on sunscreen and bring their hats. I change into my shorts as it’s starting to warm up a bit too. At 1:00 PM the bell rings and we meet back up at the main area near the Big Food Place. I’m assigned to go on break during C Block at 1:00 PM, so I take a few moments to myself and wander along the beach before I head to the staff lounge area and hang out there for the rest of the hour.

1:56 PM – My break has ended, so I head to my assigned location and take over that activity so that another counselor can go on her break during D Block. The campers and I keep playing the game that they were in the middle of and for the most part the campers are oblivious that the staff has rotated around them.


Counselor Darren and his campers listen to instructions before the evening all camp activity.

2:45 PM – Afternoon snack is served. After washing and sanitizing their hands and eating snack, the campers return to their cabins for “Back On Bunk” time at 3:00. I’ve asked the cabin to read silently on their own bunk for the first 15 minutes so that the most tired campers can have a chance to drift off to sleep. After that, talking quietly and quiet card games are allowed.

3:50 PM – The bell rings signaling the end of Back On Bunk time. Since I’m on top of things, I’ve already given my campers time to get prepared for their late afternoon activities. This afternoon the campers will get to choose from Swimming, Team sports, Archery, Climbing and Kayaking (so that’s why it’s called “STACK Time” on the schedule), so the swimmers have their bathing suits on, the climbers have good shoes on, etc. Today I’m assigned to assist with Swimming, so we pull the campers out of the water at 4:50 so that they have enough time to shower and get dressed before dinner.

6:13 PM – Dinner time has ended, and we’re heading back to our cabins for Skit Practice. The Program Director handed out skit prompts after dinner, so we have a few ideas of what to include in our skit and some required props. A couple of the older LT campers join us to assist with ideas and direction for the skit. We didn’t get very far in planning our skit, but we did come up with some good ideas that we’ll expand on throughout the week.

7:20 PM – The bell rings signaling that skit practice time has ended. I rally my cabin and head to the flag pole for the all camp activity. The whole camp assembles in a large group and awaits instructions from the activity leader.

8:44 PM – The all camp activity ends a little bit early so we head to our cabins. I grab my flannel shirt because it’s starting to cool off again and a few of the other campers grab their jackets. At 9:00 the bell rings and we head to campfire.

9:31 PM – Campfire has ended, so my co-counselor and I round up our campers and head back to the cabin area to get ready for bed. I’m assigned to Evening Stayback duty tonight, so I go around to the other cabins in the area to introduce myself and let them know where I’ll be if they need me. I’m required to stay back in the cabin area until midnight, and since it’s been such a busy first day of camp I decide that I’m just going to go straight to sleep after lights out.

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June & July 2015 Volunteer Update


Archery instruction introduced some new campers to the sport and provided an opportunity for others to hone their skills.

Camp Quest NorthWest – Oregon Recap

June was a busy month for Camp Quest NorthWest.  We successfully held our first session at Oregon 4-H Center with 18 counselors and 33 campers. Our staff was full of veterans, with every staff member having attended at least one prior camp session. Some notable milestones include:

  • Counselor Kiah holds a place of distinction as the first CQNW camper to “graduate” and join us on staff.
  • Counselor Val attended her 14th camp session and her first as a counselor. She has attended sessions at seven different Camps Quest.
  • Counselor Mary attended something like her 25th or 26th Camp Quest session. I’m not even sure she can keep track of them all at this point.

The Adventure Swing was a popular new activity unique to CQNW-OR.

With temperatures reaching the high 90’s, both campers and counselors enjoyed time in the pool, with swimming being one of our most popular activities. We also enjoyed canoeing in Pagoda Pond, the “Adventure Swing”, and nature walks. To stave off heat exhaustion, campers and counselors observed regular Water Appreciation Moments throughout the day, which were about as close to ritual as you’re likely to observe at Camp Quest NorthWest.


Campers explored the pond but saw no signs of the creature some call “Newton.”

Campers were introduced to Newton, the fabled giant migratory newt that attracted scholars and experts from around the world in anticipation of a rare sighting at CQNW – Oregon.  Many campers were skeptical after being presented with some flimsy evidence and conflicting accounts of sightings, history, and even the creature’s appearance. (Some of the more bewildering accounts suggest that it may have two heads!) Nonetheless, the guest experts remained steadfast and many of the counselors seemed to be convinced.

Washington Volunteers

Washington volunteers, we hope you’re getting excited for camp! CQNW-WA is just over one month away. An email was sent earlier today with a list of suggested camp supplies and to confirm your availability. Also, keep on the lookout for additional communications from me regarding training, programming, and other important details about camp.

Next Board Meetings

We’re now hard at work making final preparations for our Washington session in August. We’ll be holding not one but TWO board meetings in July, the first of which is just two days from now on Wednesday July 8th at 6:30 PM. The following meeting will be Wednesday July 29th. Both meetings will be at 6:30 PM at the Round Table Pizza in Burien. All new and returning volunteers are encouraged to attend.

If you’d like to to receive these updates via email, please send an email to volunteers+subscribe@campquestnorthwest.org.

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May 2015 Volunteer Update


Counselor Sean leads the LT campfire during Camp Quest NorthWest 2014.

CQNW Oregon is Right Around the Corner!

Our first session at the Oregon 4-H Center is just three weeks away! Our volunteers are finishing up last minute preparation and programming schedules. Oregon staff volunteers should expect to see an email within the next week offering camp details and expectations. Meanwhile, please work on your online training!

Camper Registration Update

Camper registration for both the Washington and Oregon sessions are officially full. CQNW Washington is at maximum capacity of 70 campers. CQNW Oregon registration has reached our target of 32 campers, although we still accepting registrations on the Oregon wait list and are anticipating that we will allow them to attend.

Volunteer Training Update

Thank you to everyone who responded to the poll about scheduling a day in June for volunteer training before camp. The board of directors has determined that it would be cost-prohibitive to purchase the materials required to offer CPR/First Aid training ourselves so we will not be hosting a training event before camp. Camp specific training will occur as usual on the Saturday prior to camper arrival with some new and exciting things being planned!

Next Board Meeting

Our next board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 9th at 6:30 PM at the Round Table Pizza in Burien. This will be our final board meeting before the Oregon camp and we’ll be doing a lot of final preparation and planning. All volunteers are welcome to attend, but we especially encourage Oregon staff to be there!

If you would like to receive these updates via email, please send an email to volunteers+subscribe@campquestnorthwest.org.

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April 2015 Volunteer Update


Camp Quest NorthWest volunteers explore the Oregon 4-H Center during the 2015 Planning Retreat.

Hello! Yes, it’s April First, also known as “April Fools Don’t-Believe-Anything-You-Read-On-The-Internet Day.” No, this isn’t an April Fools joke. Please continue reading this update with full confidence that you aren’t being had. All kidding aside, we’re excited to bring you updates about camp planning and more information about how to get involved.

Program Planning

Twenty-three Camp Quest NorthWest volunteers met last month at the Oregon 4-H Center to plan this summer’s camp sessions in Oregon and Washington. Program ideas centered around the theme of Drawing on the Past with programs incorporating the elements of art and history. Program development is ongoing, so please contact programming@campquestnorthwest.org to get involved. All CQNW volunteers are welcome to join!

Camp Leadership

We are excited to announce that we have filled a few of the key leadership roles at both camps. Brennon C. will be the Camp Director in Oregon with Mike W. as the Assistant Director and Kayla R. as the Program Director. In Washington, Chuck W. will continue as the Camp Director, with Becky F. stepping into the role of Assistant Director and Mike W. as the Program Director.


Situated in the Eola Hills about eight miles outside of Salem, the Oregon 4-H Center provides an idyllic camp location with dense forest canopy, open spaces, fresh water ponds and comfortable facilities.

Staffing Update

We are looking for a certified archery instructor at both camp sessions. If you are registered to volunteer at either camp and you are interested in becoming a certified instructor, or if you know someone who is certified who would be a good fit for camp, please contact me at staffing@campquestnorthwest.org to let us know. Archery is a quintessential camp activity and we hope to be able to continue to offer it this year.

At this time our Oregon camp session is fully staffed based on currently anticipated registration levels. Oregon staff volunteers have been contacted to confirm their acceptance at camp. We’re still on the lookout for one or two counselors to be on standby in case camper registration increases so we continue to welcome applications.

We are still accepting applications for both male and female counselors at our Washington session, with a particular need for a couple more female cabin counselors. Visit our registration page to apply if you haven’t already!

Volunteer Training

Work is underway to coordinate an all staff training day before camp. Exact details have yet to be determined, but we are looking at the possibility of a full or partial day of event in either late May or early June that would be open to volunteers of both camps. We’re hoping to be able to offer Red Cross First Aid and CPR training in addition to camp specific training. Stay tuned for more details.

We’ll also be rolling out Expert Online Training within the next week for registered volunteers. This will be the same format as the online training that was offered last year. Specific information and requirements will be sent out to registered volunteers soon.

Next Meeting

The next CQNW board meeting will be Saturday, April 11th at 11:00 AM at the Round Table Pizza in Burien, WA. All volunteers are welcome to attend. We hope to see you there!

If you would like to receive these updates via email, please send an email to volunteers+subscribe@campquestnorthwest.org.

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March 2015 Volunteer Update

Hello! Happy Daylight Savings Time! I hope you are all enjoying the extra evening sunshine that we’ve been having at the expense of somewhat darker and more dreary mornings.

The Camp Quest NorthWest Board of Directors has been hard at work planning and organizing both camp sessions this year. Activity has begun to ramp up with the Oregon session just three months away! The Programming Committee has chosen a theme for this year’s camp and has been busy preparing for the planning retreat. The staffing committee has been conducting interviews, welcoming returning volunteers, and has begun the process of allocating staff to both camps. Four of our dedicated volunteers attended the national Camp Quest Leadership Summit in Dallas last month and brought back lots of ideas and enthusiasm for this year’s sessions. It’s time to start getting excited for camp, you guys!

Planning Retreat

Camp Quest NorthWest staff and volunteers will be gathering at the Oregon 4-H Center next weekend for the 2015 CQNW Planning Retreat. Planned activities begin with dinner at 7:00 PM Friday March 20th, but you are welcome to arrive any time in the afternoon. Planning sessions for both camps will be held all day on Saturday with a board meeting scheduled on Sunday to handle any necessary official business. If you’re interested in attending but haven’t registered yet, there is still time. Register now! We can’t wait to see you there!

Drawing on the Past

The theme for both camp sessions as recommended by the programming committee is “Drawing on the Past.” We expect to expand and develop this theme at the retreat, but the general idea is that key camp activities and programming will focus on art and history. This is a broad topic that could include sketching items found in nature, a study of anthropology, or other science and engineering activities from a historical perspective. We have specific ideas for programming related to this theme to be developed at the retreat but we hope that everyone will bring their exciting and original ideas as well!

Staffing Update

Our at camp volunteer staff looks strong this year but we are in specific need of staff to fill a couple of particular camp positions. We are currently in need of female cabin counselors at the Washington session and a nurse at both the Oregon and Washington sessions. We are still accepting applications for all positions at both camps, but at this time it looks like the Oregon session will be very well staffed and the Washington staff is filling up quickly. If you are a new or returning volunteer interested in attending camp then we encourage you to complete your application as soon as possible! Staffing assignments will be announced within the next couple of weeks and we don’t want anyone to be left out!

Registration Update

Camper registration for the Washington camp session is officially full, with new registrations being added to the waitlist. If you missed your chance to register your camper for the Washington session, we encourage you to consider joining us in Oregon. At this time we also have opened up registration for campers registered for the Washington session who would also like to join us in Oregon. Camperships are available, and we encourage families applying for camp scholarships to register for camp and apply for the campership simultaneously.

Leadership Summit

Volunteers Chuck Wolber, Gordon Schryer, Michael Warbington and Paul Mopps traveled to the Camp Quest Leadership Summit in Dallas, TX in February. They attended a variety of talks, roundtable discussions and networking activities that will serve to inform and improve our camp planning in all sorts of ways. CQNW representatives presented the Natural Selection Game activity at the Annual Programs Fair and won the People’s Choice award for an outstanding program! Congratulations!

Next Board Meetings

The next official board meeting will be held at the planning retreat on Sunday March 22nd. The following meeting will be on Saturday April 11th at the Burien Round Table Pizza at 11:00 AM. All volunteers who are interested in helping to plan for camp are welcome!

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