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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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