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

III. Before Night Falls

Cabin Initiation, followed by Rainbow War Games

runaways & blackhearts (photo by vanessa)

runaways & blackhearts writing a song together (photo by vanessa)

Sophia:Our campers arrived in threes and fours and sometimes stragglers came later but we sat in a circle in our cabin and dove into each other’s personalities and bonded over consent and our favourite article of clothing. The Infernos won my heart and now there is a fire there that pulses with y’alls names.

Crystal: For cabin initiation Carly and I we asked our campers, the Toros, to send us a song that meant something special to them. We sat around for an hour after dinner playing everyone’s selections. It was so amazing to hear campers yell, “whoever chose this song, I love you!” only moments after meeting each other. I feel like only music can create such a rapid love fest.

Rachel: Mey and I were running around all over the place and didn’t catch all of my beautiful/perfect as they came in, but our cabin initiation made up for that. We played a version of “Celebrity,” which Liz informs me is a game that actually already exists and that I did not invent for camp, although I thought I had. Our cabin had so many Xenas, all of whom were hilarious. The Slayer cabin’s love for strong, independent and ass-kicking women is undying. We also made Buffy-themed feelings notebooks for camp. Mine was full of feelings almost immediately.

Riese: Our initiation ceremony involved The Runaways and The Blackhearts, the latter of which contained many Runaways September 2012 Alums. The details are secretive, but the message is: BE RIGHT HERE. Leave everything else at the bottom of the mountain and be here. Welcome to our cultish ’90s-themed grrrlzine faux-slumber-party, we command you to have some fucking fun.

Gabby: The Foxfire Cabin initiation was redubbed “The Familiation” because we wanted to build family and not like claim any part of weirdo fratty pressure type things (obvs that’s not what initiation at A-camp is ever about. Also, Katrina and I like being fancy). We wanted our campers to feel like they were already part of a family and that we were doing something to solidify that bond. AnyMcwayz, instead of Katrina and I coming to Foxfire with every slogan and chant planned out, we came to the familiation with some unfinished marching/protest chants and asked our Foxes to fill in the blanks and/or create something new. We gave them five minutes and when we came back, they had some good good stuff. Elizabeth “Make it Rains” Rains read the new chants outloud and together we found our cabin voice. Also, we talked about how important it was to treat each other with the utmost respect and love and all that good shit. The Familiation was a complete success.

Ali: As I met each Outlaw individually, I knew I was going to like my cabin. But nothing could have prepared me for the cohesive camp machine I was about to co-counsel. During the Color Wars station games, the Outlaws won Balloon Tag and Tug O’ War. By the time we walked into the photo booth with Robin, my cabin had its very own tagline: “How can we win this?” So they set about trying to win photos. They built a human pyramid. I actually have no idea how that photo turned out, but darn it if my cabin didn’t try to win photos. Over the next few days, they went on to win several unannounced games, such as “Making Ali Cry On the First Night” by giving me a birthday card (the first day of camp was my birthday), supporting the fuck out of their cabin mates, impromptu spray painting and “Making Ali Cry on the Last Night.” Outlaws, you may not have gotten color war points for any of those things, but you win in my heart.

balloon tag by rachel walker

balloon tag by rachel walker

Jill: On the first night of camp when we were doing the inter-cabin competitions, I could tell that the Wild Things were going to fall on the “Team Polite” side of scale when it came to competitiveness. They were full of apprehension when I told them the last competition of the evening consisted of a trial of “speed and dexterity.” When they reached Eagle lodge and saw that they had to do a balloon stomp, their faces filled with horror. And it wasn’t just Team A vs. Team B balloon stomping – no it was a four rainbow war color teams free-for-all. As they nervously tied on their little green balloons I advised them on war strategies so they would not be balloon popped right out of the gate. But to my surprise in that moment a great change came over the Wild Things. They became fierce balloon hunters and won the balloon stomp free for all!!!!! Never have I known a prouder moment.

Gabby: Tug of war. Tug of war. Holy shit, Robin thank you for making me the boss of something. Sick as a dog and losing my voice, I jumped on that tug of war as if my weirdo little life depended on it. I have to give a huge shout out to every cabin for being such good sports every time I shouted “don’t touch my rope!”. The Golden Girls killed it even though they only had like 5.5 people on their team. Also, mad love to my Foxfire babes for winning the tug of war and shouting “Foxfire, Don’t stop!” like a million times afterwards and forever.

Riese: We were so good at “being right here” that we missed all the Color Wars games? But I wasn’t about to miss the motherfucking photo booth action.

the golden girls

the golden girls // Cee & Meredydd // Blue Team


Hellcats // Brittani & Alex // Red Team


foxfire // gabby & katrina

foxfire // gabby & katrina // Black Team


scissor sisters

scissor sisters // kristen + hansen // Yellow Team

vipers // taylor & geneva

vipers // taylor & geneva // pink team

the toros // crystal & carly

the toros // crystal & carly // orange team

the little rascals // grace & mary

the little rascals // grace & mary // green team

the blackhearts // vanessa & julia

the blackhearts // vanessa & julia // purple team

wild things // jill & haviland

wild things // jill & haviland // green team

The Outlaws // Ali & Whitney

The Outlaws // Ali & Whitney // pink team

Tiger Beat // Kate & Carrie

Tiger Beat // Kate & Carrie // yellow team

Starjammers // Lizz & Daniella

Starjammers // Lizz & Daniella // black team

The Runaways // Riese & Laneia

The Runaways // Riese & Laneia // Purple Team




IV. Those Girls Are ON FIAR

photo by rachel walker

photo by rachel walker

Marni: At the first two camps we took time during the first night campfire to introduce all the staff one-by-one, and it dragged on forever and we knew that we had to find a way to do it that was less static and more fun for everyone. We had this crazy idea to change around all the lyrics to “Part of Your World” from the Little Mermaid and make it about the staff, and Riese pounded out the lyrics in one night at home. Carly, because she is magical, had downloaded a karaoke version of the song and spent part of pre-camp painstakingly splicing it to match our much-longer version, which we then scrapped in favour of doing it a cappella (thanks Carly!). All the staff were troopers about it and it was a really fun way to kick off camp.

Riese: Katrina Dangermouse Casino was like ten minutes late and we couldn’t start the song without her so I tried really hard to convince them to use Mel, a camper in The Blackhearts, as a stand-in ’cause she’d just gotten a Katrina haircut from Katrina and so maybe she could just cover her face, Riese-style, while crossing the stage, and nobody would know the difference! But then Katrina showed up and anyhow nobody thought it would be funny to swap in Mel besides me.

mer breaking the "no glass bottles" rule

mer breaking the “no glass bottles” rule

Robin: There aren’t many moments in one’s adult life when you can stand up in front of a crowd of other adults and sing a ridiculous version of a Disney song and receive a standing ovation. I am so grateful for the staff so being able to introduce them with Marni was an honor.

Riese: Not gonna lie, our song was fucking awesome. Highlight includes “Up where we walk / up where we run / up where we fuck Liz with a strap-on / You’re gluten-free / now you will be / part of A-Camp.”

Robin: I loved looking out on all the smiling faces of the campers who remain my top reason for coming back to work on camp every session and feeling their support and love.

Brandy Howard, The Talent: The opening campfire is always a huge highlight for me. The air was freezing, but the atmosphere was hot, hot, hot. I guess that’s what happens when hundreds of gorgeous girls gather around a huge burning fire pit. Plus, It’s always white hot when Julie always sings her camp anthem, Gay Baby Army (Now Available on iTunes!). This year there was no mic stand so I held the microphone for her, and my right shoulder got so hot I thought all the cartilage was going to melt into my collarbone. See how I did that?

(photo by rachel walker)

(photo by rachel walker)

Riese:I’ve started taking “Gay Baby Army” really seriously. Like I hope you’re all on board with having a Gay Baby Army for real, because when we all sing “Gay Baby Army” together with Julie Goldman I kinda feel like we could win a war of some kind.

Crystal:The Toros and the Bombshells (the other Orange cabin) had to perform a song on the opening night and within literally ten minutes of meeting they had formed a cheer troupe called the Toro-Bombs and wrote a cheer inspired by Bring It On. It was so damn impressive, Stef, Cara and I were so proud.

Riese: I think this was the camp where I realized once and for all that what makes camp special isn’t 50% us and 50% you, it’s definitely 15% us and 85% you. Like how do you guys manage to write a cute song/cheer with 30 other people in about ten minutes and then perform said cheer/song for 300 other weirdos on your first night atop a mountain? Because you BURN BURN BURN LIKE FABULOUS YELLOW ROMAN CANDLES EXPLODING LIKE SPIDERS ACROSS THE STARS. That’s why.

yellow team dance it out

the yellow team dances it out


unrelated picture of bear via shutterstock

unrelated picture of bear via shutterstock

Crystal: I’d been checking out the nitelyfe in Klub Deer with camper Katie Millar when we heard a loud clashing sounds coming from near the swing-set. I assumed it was an intoxicated camper stumbling around in the dark, running into trash cans, and moved closer to help out. It was not a drunk camper. It was a 70 foot devil bear. I’m an Australian, I don’t do bears. So I did what I believe most people would do in a life-threatening situation: I called Marni to come and save us.

Hansen: Kristen and I were leaving Wolf around 3am through the side doors, and Crystal and a camper were standing there. Crystal was on the phone, and when she saw us, she very calmly held her hand over the receiver and said, “Oh, there’s a bear down by the swings.” So calm. I panicked. I clutched people. I hyperventilated.

Stef: So I was having a drink in Wolf Lodge when Marni walked in looking very fucking serious. “There’s a bear down by the swings,” she gravely announced, “but I can’t tell everybody in Klub Deer because they’re all going to want to run out and Instagram the bear.” Obviously that was all the encouragement I needed to run outside to try to catch a glimpse of that which we would later dub Lilith Bear.

Crystal: While waiting I got to work securing the scene, by which I mean I advised Hansen and Kristen to watch out for the bear.

Hansen: Marni showed up, talking about cap guns or bear blasters or whatever Canadians have, and we all watched this black bear steal trash near the swings with our flashlights. I was honestly way too terrified to do anything but whimper.

Stef: Lo and behold, there was indeed a huge black bear rooting through the vegan marshmallow leftovers in the trash, though I’m told it was just a cub. I’d never seen a bear in the wild before, and when Marni shone a flashlight on it, the cub looked at us like a guilty dog caught drinking out of the toilet and shuffled off back to the woods. Carmen, in case you were wondering, THIS is what ambling looks like.

drawing by stef schwartz

drawing by stef schwartz

Hansen: Then the bear tried to attack us and Crystal wrestled it to the ground. No, that’s the truth.

Crystal: I’m not crazy about the word “hero” but I think we can all agree that I saved lives that night.

Hansen: The next night, two of my campers and I walked past the swings and thought we saw a bear but it was just two people hooking up. Way less terrifying.

 In our Next Recamp, we experience our first day of Camp and we just might be quoting YOU!

A-Camp 4.0 will take place October 9th-13th and registration will open soon! 

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Riese is the 38-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish 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 2823 articles for us.



    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. “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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. “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.


  6. 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.


  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. “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…)

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.



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