A-Camp May 2013 Recamp #1: Over The Mountain and Into The Woods We Go

Thursday, May 23rd: Camp Day One

On Day One, three team representatives return to LAX to coordinate camper shuttles, while the rest of us stayed onsite to finish set-up, register campers as they arrive, and run drop-in activities. Then campers are subjected to a top-secret Cabin Initiation Process and escorted to the Opening Campfire to be delighted by our singing skills. On Friday morning, camp proper will begin. 

morning debrief

morning debrief

I. Hello Morning

Somer Bingham, The Talent: After crossing the country from LGA to LAX via O’Hare, missing a flight while sitting at the gate, discovering my driver’s license was invalid, being stuck on the tarmac for two hours, and driving up winding mountain roads at midnight WITHOUT GUARD RAILS (!), I woke up on the beautiful mountain where 300 A-Campers were about to arrive. Pretty awesome. And that morning started with a glorious hike. I think it’s a strong memory of A-Camp because it was the beginning, when everything was so new to all my senses and time felt refreshingly slowed down.

photo by robin roemer

Ali, Vanessa, Jill, Cara, Megan, Somer (photo by robin roemer)

Sophia: Carmen and I were running off such excited and nervous energy all morning, making shirts and decorating the cabin, throwing streamers at each other’s faces and yelling things like ‘if they don’t love us at least we love each other!’ despite that we’d been in email contact for a couple weeks and everybody seemed like lovely reasonable folks.

II. Call Of Airport Duty

Stef: Once you get to the campsite, the rest of the world seems far away and inconsequential. It seems impossible that you could just jump into a car and jump right back into normal society, but that’s exactly what Daniela, Meredydd and I did – bright and early Thursday morning.

Daniela, Intern & Starjammers Counselor: People make me anxious, and new people make me even more than a little bit anxious. It took me like 20 minutes to leave my cabin and get in the car that Stef would drive to the airport, I kept changing clothes because “it’s the first impression that counts.” I kept changing my A-Camp hoodies, too. Three hours later we arrived to the airport to spend the rest of the day receiving campers that could not care less about what we looked like as long as we showed them the way to A-Camp.

photo by stef

campers excited to be on the way to a-camp

Meredydd: The last time I loved being there when campers first start trickling in, welcoming them and seeing the site fill up with smiling, anxious, excited faces. This time I got to see all those faces at once at the airport.

Stef: None of us had ever been in charge of transportation before, and we weren’t quite sure how this would work, but we quickly transformed into an efficient check-in machine. We gathered teams of bright-eyed, bowtied queer ladies by the baggage carousel, trying to introduce them to their cabinmates when we could. My favourite moment was Jill Stromberg (I see you, Bombshells) sitting on the floor, reading tarot cards for her fellow campers while waiting for the last shuttle – “Ah, three of knights. That means you’re going to have a threesome at camp!”

photo by stef

Jill reading tarot cards (photo by stef)

Daniela: It is intoxicating to be in such a little terminal with so much giddy for a thing you’re a part of. Being at the airport set the mood for the blast that was the rest of camp. Also, if I hadn’t been part of the airport team I wouldn’t have gotten Jill to read me my tarot, so it was like a win/win/win situation.

Meredydd: Running the shuttles to camp was one of the hardest things I have done. I wish I could have spent more time talking to campers but remembering and keeping track of 150 names and flight times was all my brain could handle. Daniela and Stef were the best team airport I could have asked for.

Stef: Once we’d amassed enough queers to fill a shuttle, I’d lead them pied piper style across LAX to the bus stop. Turns out loading 49 babes onto a bus and waving bon voyage as they take off for the promised land has always been a fantasy of mine, and I fulfilled it three times that day.

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boarding the bus (photo by stef)

 

III. Hello, Campers!

As afternoon descended, the campers started showing up.

A-Camp May 2013 Photos2

the campers are coming the campers are coming the campers are coming

Riese: After we spray-painted tank tops for the Runaways and finished up the cabin decoration business, Laneia and I manned the registration table which’s always a TREAT because we get to see everybody’s faces and hug their bodies the moment they arrive. I sorta feel like a stalker when I first meet our new Runaways because I’ve been taking notes on their personalities and printing out photos of them and pasting them on index cards so I could be sure to be prepared for their faces and personalities, forgetting that the moment you meet someone all that shit you memorized is replaced with like — their energy. And other intangible things.

Carly, Contributor & Toros Counselor:  For the new campers it was really exciting to see what they were experiencing as they arrived, and for the returning campers it was shrieks and laughter and hugs all around.

Riese: I surprised myself with the degree to which I freaked out every time one of my campers from last time showed up. I can’t wait ’til next time when I’ll have TWO sets of former Runaways to freak out about.

Mary: Meeting all of the new Little Rascals and seeing the returning campers that were in our cabin last camp is always really special to us. They grow up so fast!

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back together and it feels so good

Gabby, Writer & Foxfire Counselor: I volunteered for what is now one of my favorite things in the world: greeting campers when they make it to the top of mount feelings! Holy crap, me, Vanessa, DeAnne Smith, Marni and Jill at one point were all huddled together up there just waiting. I felt so goofy and happy. The thought of being the first face ya’ll saw up there filled me with super amounts of geeky joy and excitement. I even made a video that we posted to tumblr starring Marni, DeAnne and Vanessa. Literally that’s how excited we were even after like ten utility trucks and construction vans passed by and we waved to the men driving them even though we all wished they were you but it’s cool.

welcoming committee

welcoming committee

Gabby: So so so, then y’all started arriving in your cars, some of you with your parents and that’s when I really started to geek out. You rolled down your windows for us and gave hugs through passenger side windows and I felt that you were just as excited to see me/us as we were to see you. It was so sweet to see some of the returning campers in cars with newbies and ya’ll were blasting Tegan and Sara, Robyn, Frank Ocean and it just felt like all our queermo playlists were riding up the mountain with you. And then, and then the first bus of campers came up and I think my heart exploded. A gaggle of you rolled out of that bus like motherfucking champions ready for todos los feelings with your boxes of beer, guitar cases, floppy kitten hats, wicked side shaves w/ designs and big ass beautiful smiles. Ahh! Best job ever.

Lizz: Greeting campers on the first day was such a rush. Intern Grace and I hid out in the woods waiting for the bus. I had on these really cute white seersucker shorts and literally three minutes before the bus arrived I sat in tree sap! And then Intern Grace told me it looked like I had pooped my pants!! So when the bus arrived I told all the girls the only rules of camp were the rules in the binder and no making fun of my ass! The grrls got of the bus and practically ran to check in. It was quite a sight!

Kristen, Contributing Editor & Scissor Sisters Counselor: I wasn’t excited or lively enough to be nominated as an Official Bus Greeter, so I just got to sit around Wolf for a few hours while everyone else Did Things. Intern Somer, Hansen, Julia, Ali, Whitney and I sat on slightly jagged rocks, eagerly awaiting all of your attractive faces and greeted campers with a fervor normally reserved for Justin Bieber, Tegan and Sara or some other lesbian icons. We were Second String Greeters so of course we had something to prove. You guys made me swoon by how stylish and QUEER everyone looked, even after a hair-raising three hour commute. So many rainbows! And bowties! And clever homosexual pun shirts! I was equally impressed by how much luggage and booze people could carry over rocky, downhill terrain. Even in heels! I had never seen so many handles of vodka before! You guys arrived like rockstars!

A-Camp May 2013 Photos1

Carrie, Community Managerette & Tiger Beat Counselor: Our campers arrived in tiger-themed gear on the first day! Thankfully tween magazines have about one hundred posters in so many pages so the walls of Cabin 5 were quickly filled with One Direction, Bieber and Selena Gomez (for better or worse). Sidenote: Did you know that Intern Grace has a subscription to Tigerbeat? Real fact.

Jill, Wild Things Counselor: Haviland and I’s Wild Things were so friggin’ cute. I mean, cuter than the Little Rascals cute (who were pretty cute, but just not quite Wild Things cute).

Marni: On the first day everybody is arriving at different times and registering and getting oriented, and it’s a sort of magical in-between time when there are queers in little pockets all over the place, jamming and talking and getting haircuts and playing on the swings.

katrina doing haircuts

katrina doing haircuts

Cara, Contributing Editor & Bombshells Counselor:  As the shuttles poured in, Whitney, Somer and I led a rotating group of very talented campers through renditions of popular favorites from the “You Know How I Know You’re Gay” XM Station.There were shoutalongs, melodicas, harmonies, and cardboard tube percussion.It was a great way to transition to A-Camp Life, where you can be as quiet or as loud as you want and everyone sits in the same circle.

Crystal: I walked outside of Wolf Lodge, where campers were registering, to see Somer, Whitney, Cara and some of the more musically inclined campers having a huge jam session. At one point Whitney lead a rendition of Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere” which was spectacular even though no one knew the words to the verses.

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Stef: When we’d assured ourselves that Operation No Homo Left Behind had been a thrilling success, we jumped back into our trusty rental car and booked it back up the mountain with just enough time to greet our cabins before heading to the opening campfire.

Marni: The first time we’re actually all together, though, is the first dinner. It’s always a little bit strange at first, since everybody’s excited and on edge, and some people haven’t been to camp before and some have. That moment is always really special for me, because I know that while lodge names and meal hoppers and trails are still this foreign concept, in a day’s time we’re all going to be this big crazy family and it’s all going to make sense. It’s an exciting feeling, that knowing anticipation. Robin and I got on the announcement microphone at the start of the meal and I just said “Check one” into the mic, and the room erupted. Across the room I saw DeAnne Smith looking at me like “This is the craziest, most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed, what even is this.” It blew me away.

photo by katie o'donnell

bowtie prep (photo by katie o’donnell)

 Next: Night-time activities!


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Riese is the 36-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2568 articles for us.

123 Comments

    • Been doing the same thing all day! Thank you!

      I would’ve gladly stood in for Katrina in a pinch. I was mistaken for her five separate times after getting my awesome Phresh Cut.

      Also, thank you baby Runaway for keeping up the Purple First! tradition. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-Purple Team!

  1. I’M SORRY WE MISSED THE PHOTO INFERNOS YOU ALL ARE SO BEAUTIFUL YOU DESERVE TO BE STAMPED IN TIME AT A CAMP.

    Also the bear why did people keep going outside to look at it? It made a lot of scary noises and was huuuge! I thought it wasn’t a cub-I thought the bear Carmen saw at 2.0 was a cub? If that was a cub a grown bear must be giant!

  2. For the record, Crystal just moved to the top of my “people I aspire to be” list.
    “Crystal: I’m not crazy about the word “hero” but I think we can all agree that I saved lives that night.”

  3. “Vanessa followed Kate around for most of the afternoon making headlines out of their every move”
    this has been my favorite private game for the last month
    also i had a dream that I brought Kate to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving?

    i miss everyone

  4. I was actually quite nervous coming back to camp. My thoughts went along the lines of: what if the staffers that I really love from last camp don’t remember me? Maybe all the magical memories from last camp were only amazing for me? What if they see me and are like, oh god not that girl again.But then I was like that’s not possible and besides, I had canned champagne and orange bandana bowties. So. . .yeah, acamp was just as fabulous my second time around. Probably more fabulous because Klub Deer happened every night and at one point I flashed a pic of my cat to gain entry. I like places that use cat pics as currency.

  5. En plus, I would like to say that Gabby sounded so sick yet so authoritative during the Tug of War. I was quite afraid that she would completely lose her voice over the course of Camp, but she was a total CHAMPION and appeared to be a fearless leader throughout.

  6. “Welcome to our cultish ’90s-themed grrrlzine faux-slumber-party, we command you to have some fucking fun.”

    This needs to be on a T-Shirt.

    ALSO I LOVE YOU RIESE AND LANEIA AND ALL THE RUNAWAYS AND ALL THE BLACKHEARTS AND EVERYBODY REALLY.

  7. Yeah so I opted to use my lunch break to read this, which led to me cry-laughing in the lunchroom LIKE A BOSS

    Like as soon as I saw that first picture of the Tiger Beats (Tiger WHAT?) I choked up and started flapping my hands like someone had set them on fire.

    I LOVE YOU ALL.

  8. The triumphant Wild Thing Balloon Stomp win (especially the harrowing final bout with four Wild Things versus one wily Team Black member) is one of my favorite camp memories.

  9. Anna’s duckface definitely made me laugh for one straight minute. Correction: one queermo minute. I was so into this post that I almost overbooked my pasta. Also I wish cat pics on phones really was a form of currency cause my student loans would def be paid off already. I miss A-Camp so so much.

  10. I was wandering by at the time of the bear episode. I saw Marni and a group and they pointed my way and and said, “there’s (so and so).” Marni called the name about 4-6 times and I dumbly kept thinking she was calling to somebody exactly 1ft past me. She finally had to scream “Camper!” before it sunk into my thick skull they were talking to me. I looked over and saw that bear in the garbage 10-15 ft away. It was huge, but it had an extraordinary brown-black coat. I don’t know if I’m too urban but it was kind of mesmerizing.

  11. I am randomly and inexplicably Facebook friends with somebody who went to this, so there have been a bunch of A-Camp photos coming across my feed over the last couple of days. So thank you, o random cute Blackheart whom I don’t recall ever having met before, for allowing me to vicariously experience some of the magic of A-Camp via unintentional Facebook stalking.

  12. Wish I wasn’t on the wrong side of the planet for this. There is some sort of lesbian camp situation in Ireland but its all very tents and no showering and I don’t even want to talk about what I’ve heard about the toilet situation. Basically, not the place that I see myself rocking up to,cocktail shaker in one hand,pulling my pink wheelie suitcase along with the other.

  13. i just….i can’t. i can’t even human right now. getting to camp is one of my favorite parts because i am just SO EXCITED and once i finally get there i feel like i might die. i was definitely one of the people that launched myself half out of a car window to hug gabby when i saw her. also we got there early and sat in the lodge and drank beers while watching everyone roll into camp and that was kind of amazing. also stef is the funniest person ever, jesus christ. also also i look kind of really good with a mustache.

  14. 1. Hellcats! I was really worried what my face looked like in that picture because I was so tired that I’d lost the ability to control my facial expressions. I’m glad “I’m so excited! I’m so scared!” won.

    2.Kaylah and I were at the airport for a very long time (over 10 hours and we crashed there after an adventure to weho for the pre-party). We saw Michael Jackson’s dad!He flys Southwest, and also the feeling of all the girls showing up was magic and better than sleep.K was in the bathroom charging her phone and applying makeup when I spotted Rachel (Vanessa’s Ray) talking on the phone and I just knew it was going to be a great weekend.

    3. Timbits! and that poor older Asian woman who just needed a seat and ended up next to the lezzie pile was hilarious.

    4.Shuttle 1 bus driver and the boobies comment. I just can’t.

  15. My favorite memory of the first day of camp is trying to cross the wilds of California with my giant polka dotted suitcase in high heels, until a handsome young butch came to my rescue.

    Also seeing Aimee even before I knew her and giving the high femme nod.

  16. By the end of day 2 I wondered if Stef and Cara knew what they were getting into with the Bombshells aka Autostraddle’s Official Twerk Team.
    Did we make it to the photobooth? I don’t know.
    Did we win any rainbow wars points? I don’t know.
    Did we get to twerk? Yes. That’s all that matters.

  17. “Across the room I saw DeAnne Smith looking at me like ‘This is the craziest, most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed, what even is this.'”

    That definitely happened. The whole time, I was so blown away by the amazing space that all the Autostraddle staff and campers created. IS THAT SUPER SINCERE AND SENTIMENTAL? Yes, it is.

    …And also Katie was hot. BAM. (Phew, back on smart-ass track…)

  18. Reading this is the closest I will get to being magically transported back to Mt. Feelings 3.0 to do it all over again, bar getting ahold of time travel via TARDIS or DeLorean, etc., so I will re-read forever and patiently await the next installment. That is to say that these recamps are the best thing ever and I love everyone.

    I am so happy that camp is a thing that Riese came up with at 3am and that it is a place we can all go and feel safe and have feelings.

    Also the cabin photos are everything. B<3s forever.

  19. A memory just occurred to me while looking through this recamp:
    We were just driving onto the campgrounds when we saw a flash of orange. Suddenly we realized, that flash of oragne was Marni! And Gabby’s there, too! Then in that memory there’s a snippet of my own high-pitched noises of happiness. I was home.

  20. This first recamp is making extra sad I got there so late on the frist day. But thank goodness I still got to have really giddy reunions involving squeeling and so much hugging and I made it time for cabin photos (Rascals, we’re so cute!!!) and the campfire.

    I got reeeeeally really excited about the part of your world staff intro song, a-camp and the little mermaid are two of my most favorite things, and the two merging together was something I never knew I needed in my life until that very moment, and it was perfect and magical.

  21. i’m sorry i was out of town when this went up and now i have to share my feels here!! capitalized and everything. fucking love you.

    There’s a place between the staff cabins and Wolf lodge, when you don’t have to look down at your feet anymore to make sure you don’t trip on a root, so you look up, and there’s the tree stump where Stef once sat cross-legged and played guitar, and where another time Meredith and Katie helped me sort the embroidery floss for friendship bracelets. And there’s the porch where Katrina gave 72 haircuts (give or take) and where the pigeonholes will somehow, by the grace of whatever’s holy, be affixed to the wall (only to fall down again but hey, they’ll fix it). And there just in front of the door, where it’s clear and you can see up that hill, that’s where 500 campers have been welcomed home.

    That fucking moment, when you first look up from the tree roots and see everything that’s happened there before — that’s my favorite.

    And cabin initiation will always be one of the best times at camp, because you know that by the end of this ridiculous weekend that hasn’t even started yet, these strangers will have carved self-shaped spaces into each other’s hearts.

    And I’m sad I missed the opening night dinner announcement/welcome thing, but I could hear the cheering from Wolf and started crying on the inside.

    AND I JUST MISS YOU ALL AND WANT YOU BACK.

    there.

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