A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #1: Let It Snow!

Once upon a time (October 9th-13th, to be specific) in a land far far atop a mountain two hours outside of sunny Los Angeles, approximately 275 queer humans gathered for four days and four nights of revelry, carnivalia, intellectual stimulation, dance parties and deep sea bonding. They called it A-Camp 4.0, and it was beautiful! This is the first of four fantastic recaps which serve to ease our collective separation anxiety, give you a behind-the-scenes look at how your A-Camp soysage is made, enable us to wax nostalgic over times gone by and provide prospective campers with a brilliant glimpse into the A-Camp Experience.

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A-Camp was the genesis of an idea Riese had at 3AM in July 2010: the concept was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions by renting a summer camp in the off-season and jam-packing a long weekend with panels, workshops, discussions, crafts, sports, entertainment, parties and so much more! We gave the idea a spin with an abbreviated, smaller edition of A-Camp in April 2012, followed by full-size full-length camps in September 2012 and May 2013, all hosted by everybody’s favorite dynamic duo, Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard. Which brings us to October 2013, the Little Camp That Could!

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This fall’s camp was unforgettable and fucking awesome. Our amazing team was complemented by talented Special Guests including comedienne DeAnne Smith, new media superstar Hannah Hart, Me & My Bois collaborators Lex Kennedy and Emotions the P.O.E.T., rock star Somer Bingham and songstress and actress Haviland Stillwell. Our camp staff included Autostraddle.com team members, A-Camp Tumblr Inventress Emily Gigler and Autostraddle Calendar Girls Miss October 2014 Kai, Miss February 2014 Chloe and Miss June 2013 Dani.

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ARE YOU READY FOR SOME RECAMPPPP???


A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #1: Pre-Camp & Day One

Every year, camp starts a day early for the A-Camp team, as we muggle our way up the mountain two nights early to get prepared for your shiny faces.

 

Sunday, October 6th: Pre-Pre-Pre Camp

Riese, Runaways Counselor & CEO/Editor-in-Chief: Marni and I spent the whole drive down to camp on Sunday writing the first night song to the tune of Be Our Guest. You guys, it was so hard! Seriously, Part of Your Camp (our opening number for A-Camp 3.0) took me twenty minutes by myself followed by an hour of team song-building at pre-camp. Marni and I usually feel like a pretty fucking funny pair of people (although we are usually alone so there’s really nobody to confirm this, we could be lying, potentially we spend all our time together crying (impossible: Marni only cries out of one eye), but seriously this song wasn’t happening for us. Here’s probably the best part of the unpublished, unperformed, unfinished Be Our Camp:

You’re far from home
and you’re scared
but Carly’s come prepared
no one’s emo or complaining
when the puppet’s entertaining
Cut your hair! Watch for bears!
if they eat you, be aware
that you’ll miss the greatest carnival of all!
Come on and make a pass
Learn how to flog an ass
if you’re bent, give consent
Ali’s in her element
Be our camp! Be our camp! Be our camp!

By nightfall, we’d decided the problem was that we’d picked an already-comic song, thus meaning it lacked the earnest song/preposterous lyrics of Part of Your Camp, and decided to go with A Whole New World instead. Then there was a giant cockroach on the wall above Rachel’s bed and shit got real for a minute.

Monday, October 7th: Pre-Pre-Camp

Riese: The next morning we had to leave Rachel to shuttle with her feline friends because the monster truck we rented (they were out of full-size cars, what’s a girl to do) was jam-packed with camp supplies, including a puppet theater Marni had spent two weeks building. Plus we still had to stop at Alex’s to jam-pack it with bottles of JOIA ALL-NATURAL SODAS, THE BEST SODAS IN THE WORLD!

THE BEST

THE BEST

Riese: By the time we reached the top of the mountain on Monday afternoon, we were in a total rut with that A Whole New World, too! Still I was furiously re-writing lyrics while we unloaded the van upon arrival. I was really excited about wearing a hoodie. Here’s a sample of the unpublished, unperformed, unfinished A Whole New Camp:

We can show you the world
stumbling, shivering, splendid,
tell me campers, now when did you last let your heart decide?
Dani got you a ride
sent you shuttle by shuttle
over, sideways and under
on a hellish mountain ride!
A whole new camp!
A new craft Hansen’s made for you
no one to tell us no, or no homo
or “that’s too many feelings!”

Hansen, Heartthrobs Counselor and DIY/Food Editor: I was one of the first staff members to arrive and I met Grace, Lizz and Stef in Terminal 6. We had about five hours to kill until our last staff member showed up, so I stole Stef’s captain’s hat and we all sat around while Lizz talked about how amazing her girlfriend Chrissy is (she lived up to the hype, for the record).

Ali, Wildcats Counselor and Geekery Editor: I speak to the Autostraddle staff more than I speak to most members of my family. Seriously. I get upwards of 100 emails from these weirdos per day. And that’s not counting the times I text them to ask them questions, or the weekly Skype meeting between the content editors. I LOVE these humans with my entire heart, soul, body and being. When I see their faces in person, it is everything I can do not to melt into a puddle of feelings. Walking into Terminal 6 at LAX and seeing all these familiar alternative lifestyle hair cuts that have morphed and changed since the last time (and we’ve been kept abreast by the Tumblr http://straddlecuts.tumblr.com/ but it’s not the same). AND! I finally got to meet Kai, my co-counselor and Ms. October. She’s a wonderful, wonderful person with SO MANY TALENTS.

Ali always looks fly when she flies (photo by stef)

Ali always looks fly when she flies (photo by stef)

Carolyn, Amazons Counselor and NSFW Editor: Going up the mountain always feels really surreal, even without the gorgeous landscape and stomach-churning hairpin turns — but even getting off the airplane and getting to see other staff in real life for the first time in months (or for the first time ever) feels surreal. There’s always a moment of, “All these people exist in real life?!” which is maybe weird but also a result of talking to people on the Internet all day every day. Seeing Stef in her captain’s hat in the airport feels more like being home than being in my actual home does, and that’s only the beginning.

Stef, The Gossip Counselor and Music Editor: Because I am a neurotic weirdo control freak, I really enjoy gathering and rallying the staff at the airport. I kept a detailed account of everyone’s arrival times and delays, and did headcounts constantly like a nervous kindergarten teacher chaperoning a field trip. When everyone had been assembled, I called the shuttle and we took off on our epic adventure, managing to only accidentally leave one staffer stranded at the airport (I love you Sophia)!

Meticulously planned (via Stef)

Meticulously planned (via Stef)

Hansen: We stopped at Trader Joe’s and I bought ALL the beer while wearing nautical stripes and a captain’s hat and I’ve never felt more validated in my life’s decisions.

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All the beer! (via Hansen)

whiskey and meat

all the whiskey and meat!

Stef: The bus had a raised seating area for passengers, so we couldn’t see out the front window or readily observe where the driver was going. It wasn’t until we had already overshot Angelus Oaks by a wide margin that Cee and I noticed that we had gone the wrong way and were nowhere near Alpine Meadows. The driver told us the bus couldn’t make it up the mountain via the normal route, which we absolutely knew to be false, but at that point we were so far out that we had no choice but to take a scenic tour of Big Bear and its surrounding fauna. We’d all been traveling for a full day by this point, and we were a bit out of it.

Ali: I always sit in the back because I have panic attacks going up and down the mountain (and I don’t ever get panic attacks ever), but Hansen and Crystal gave me a mantra to repeat this time: “Everything is lovely and fine.” And I didn’t have a panic attack this time! Instead, Lizz and I discovered that we had made *ahem* very similar choices for the staff reading and began to plan any/all jokes we could make therein. Even though our bus got lost for an hour, I didn’t care because I was talking with my Autostraddle staff family.

Rachel, Girltrash Counselor and Senior Editor: I had never gotten to take a shuttle up the mountain with a large group of other people before — due to a variety of circumstances, I’ve ended up in cars, going up in the dead of night, driving a shuttle myself; really, everything but a sled pulled by dogs. It was so good to get to see everyone, and to get a head start on getting all of my feelings out. It made me feel like I had a leg up on the mountain and its witchy effect on my emotions. I’VE ALREADY STARTED PROCESSING, MOUNTAIN. WAY AHEAD OF YOU.

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(via Stef)

Crystal, Heartthrobs Counselor and Human Resources Director & Writer: Hansen and I sat in the back of the shuttle and used flashcards to quiz each other ‘Who Am I?’ Jeopardy-style on the campers in our cabin. We fell asleep, and I woke up super confused as to how we’d been on the road for so long and still so far away from camp.

Sophia, Holograms Counselor: Monday I managed the beautiful task of arriving at LAX perfectly on time to miss the shuttle up to Alpine Oaks for the second camp in a row. If Brittani and Liz hadn’t been driving up a couple hours later with DeAnne I would’ve been out of luck chilling in LAX until I was totally soulless. I also would’ve missed our jolly classic to camp mired in discomfort car ride where Brittani had contact problems, my friend Naomi was stung by a bee and suitcases took precedence over humans.

Laneia, Runaways Counselor and Executive Editor: We weren’t the last ones up the mountain this time! We made it, before midnight, and without crying. Nothing stresses me out/scares the everloving shit out of me like driving up a mountain, but for real, I didn’t even cry this time.

Liz Castle, Firestars Counselor and Autostraddle Contributor: Being late is not usually desirable, but by the time Brittani and I had packed the car (only 3 hours later than planned) I had received several frantic calls from Steph and Marni letting us know that a mere 3 people had accidently been left at the airport. This was great news because we had 1.5 seats left so everyone (else) turned out to be pretty stoked we were running late. 1mondayNight Liz: In figuring out how to fit everyone in the car, DeAnne suggested that Sophia open her legs and then mimed me backing up into her lap. Turns out she meant we should spoon instead of sit hip-to-hip but was feeling too awkward about the word ‘spooning’ to frame it that way. While it was definitely not less awkward, it was effective and we were all so excited about our first camp adventure we were mostly able to ignore the fact that it felt like Miss Trunchbull’s Chokey back there.

Stef: By the time we arrived at camp, we were all exhausted but in excellent spirits. When Brittani and Liz C. finally arrived with their car stuffed to the brim with tiny travelers, I felt a lot better.

Sophia: Bren and I also became bunkmates this night and I so appreciate how wonderful she is and patient considering every night I dropped stuff on her bed and also on Saturday night I fell asleep on her bed in all of my clothes and got lipstick all over her pillow.

Tuesday, October 8th: Pre-Camp

At Pre-Camp, we stuff your bags and decorate your walls and plan what we’re gonna do to you when you get here.

(via Robin Roemer)

(via Robin Roemer)

Robin, A-Camp Co-Director and Photographer: I love pre-camp. This is the first time it has felt like fall in Angelus Oaks. Some of the trees had turned a beautiful yellow and the air was chilly and crisp. I always get butterflies during Pre-Camp walking around the empty camp, anticipating another amazing session. Everything felt easy and relaxed mostly because our incredible staff members were mega-prepared for their workshops, panels and for their campers!

Emily Gigler, Rockford Peaches Counselor: Precamp was predictably cold but sunny, and the leaves were all those incredible autumn colors, and everything was magical.

Somer, Nighthawks Counselor/The Talent:  My wife Donna & I have been together for seven glorious years. Just having her at A-Camp this time around was a highlight for me. I mean, look how cute she is!

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Donna (via Somer)

Rachel: My favorite part about pre-camp was that Marni had already made the pigeonholes, because I swear to God I’ve ended up spending like six hours putting them together with a staple gun every other time. Just kidding! My favorite part about pre-camp was getting super excited to see all the campers and planning out the details of all my panels and realizing how amazing they could be. Also the pigeonhole thing though.

(via Robin Roemer)

Pigeonholes! (via Robin Roemer)

Hansen: Crystal and I specifically requested our cabin be named Heartthrobs because we didn’t write a very nice review of the Tegan and Sara album when it came out, so this was our penance for our folly of that mean review of an album we genuinely love now. We decorated the cabin with a million pictures of Tegan and Sara, a Taylor Swift shrine (which was amazing) and a lot of rainbow streamers. Also, a One Direction poster that ended up in someone’s bed, I think?

Crystal: The Taylor Swift shrine was definitely our greatest accomplishment as cabin leaders. I’m not in this for the glory, but I secretly hoped that our campers would appreciate the physical and emotional challenges that we had to overcome to tape a giant crepe paper heart on the roof.

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Taylor Swift Shrine (via Hansen)

Carly, Camp Special Programming Director & Contributor:  Everyone should always call Marni “hot cups;” that is her nickname. Also never forget the #bin! I also want to take a moment to thank Grace for being the awesome other half of the A-Camp A/V Club. Hanging out with Grace all the time is one of my favorite things about A-Camp.

Robin: We decorated cabins, put together the best gift bags we’ve had yet (thanks to our awesome sponsors) and chatted about the importance of making this experience special, creating a supportive and inclusive atmosphere for everyone and setting the tone for camp.

amazing gift bag items from sponsors! 3-pack of field notes, curve magazine (robin shot the tig notaro cover!), mini-flashlights from wolfe video and temp tattoos from tattly

amazing gift bag items from sponsors! 3-pack of field notes, curve magazine (robin shot the tig notaro cover!), mini-flashlights from wolfe video and temp tattoos from tattly

Liz C.: Tuesday morning Brittani and I spent approximately 17 million hours making flaming duck tape bowties for the Firestarters so we could take a group picture. BUT THEN WE FORGOT TO TAKE A BOWTIE PICTURE. I’m definitely not bitter about this at all.

Riese: As per ushe, we decorated The Runaways cabin to look like a ‘zine come to life, which will be one of many attractions in our first amusement park.

(photo by crystal)

(photo by crystal)

Cara, Nighthawks Counselor & Contributing Editor: I’m not at all a crafty person in regular life (stuff gets in my hair), but many of my favorite memories from camp involved crouching on the ground and trying to make paper look pretty. This was the first camp for which I was in charge of my cabin decorations and I kind of blacked out at Party City. On Tuesday, Somer and I realized I had purchased a sign that said “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” in cutout letters (it was also construction-themed). I managed to convince her that we could make it say “NIGHTHAWKS” instead and, with great imaginative prowess and some deft scissorwork, we totally did (though we were laughing really hard and I’m surprised we didn’t glue ourselves together). Take that, Gothip.

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A work of creative genius (via Vanessa)

Chloe, Calendar Girl & Blue Crush Counselor: Decorating the Blue Crush cabin with Grace on day two of pre-camp was definitely a highlight of camp for me. Grace made really adorable posters from a surfing magazine that I spent way too long meticulously placing around the cabin. I also spent time counting every ring on our paper chains to make sure each bunk got the same amount. Cabin decorating was basically three hours of Grace validating my neuroticism and telling me that I was doing a good job and I will cherish it forever. Also, we set up all of the campers gift bags between the cubbies and they looked just like presents on Christmas morning, it made me really happy and was perfect for when A-Camp turned into Snow-Camp the next day.

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It’s like Christmas! (via Chloe)

Lizz, Flashdance Counselor and Fashion/Style Editor: In the morning before campers arrived Donna, Somer, Cee and I went for a hike. In all my A-Camps I’d never actually gotten a chance to go on a hike. It was amazing! It was beautiful and breathtaking. Literally breathtaking, I think, for Somer and I. I don’t usually “do the outdoors.” It was so relaxing though, I think it really set the stage for me to have the most relaxing and fun camp yet! If you ever go to A-Camp and you’ve never actually walked through the mountains you absolutely must! For the record though, if Cee tells you she’s going to take you on a 30 minute hike and she totally knows the way, she’s lying. It’s a two-hour hike and she has no clue where she’s going.

Riese: I have been to all the A-Camps and I have never actually walked through the mountains. But maybe one day I will, who knows, anything could happen, Lizz looks like Heidi!

Lizz doing wilderness

Lizz doing wilderness

Yvonne, Stormtroopers Counselor & Associate Editor: After decorating our cabins for our campers, Lane and I decided to venture off into the wilderness for the first time since getting to Alpine Meadows. We started walking past the swing sets and before we knew it, bam! There was nature in all its glory —trees, acorns, twigs, leaves, dirt and rocks. We walked a little further and found a beautiful view of the mountains. I stood there admiring the view for the longest time because shit, I definitely don’t get to see this everyday. After a while, Lane and I sat on a log and talked about relationships and what it means to be single and queer in your twenties. The real adventure was getting back to camp because we had apparently gone downhill without realizing it. By the time we basically climbed up the side of a hill and defied death, we were out of breath and happy we made it back.

Sophia: As Carmen was still in DC, I was shoving things in bags, carrying linens and trying to work double speed. Geneva and I roamed the camp afterhours and marveled at how everyone was in by eleven. We watched Adventure Time in the Smoker’s Circle and talked about how we both wanted it to snow but didn’t want it to snow (and should we do a happy snow dance just in case? for the adventure of it?)

Laneia: It always takes Riese and me like 40 hours to finish decorating our cabin. This time I made a really amazing garland out of artificial flowers and old toys — like Power Rangers and Simba and Bambi — and it was by far the most amazing thing I’ve ever made. But I didn’t get a picture of it, so you’ll just have to trust me.

Riese: We kept trying to assemble a group of funny people to help finish the song but eventually decided that we’d make the opening night work without a song. So the night before camp began, my heart was fluttering with terror that 50% of the things I’d started working on for camp were still only 75% finished and therefore for all practical purposes; unfinished. BUT The Runaways cabin looked fucking awesome, SO.

Cee, Bangles Counselor and Tech Director: I feel that my time in both Bin and later Bunk were both really fulfilling and formative experiences for me. I think I grew as a person and that Bin/Bunk will always be in my heart. #binfam #bunkisthenewbin

the bin (via Carly)

the bin (via Carly)

Brittani, Firestars Counselor & Contributing Editor: I think something a lot of people don’t quite understand about camp is that this is the only time we, the staff, see most of the people that we work with every day. Everyone is on the go from pre-camp to the moment we get into a vehicle to leave the mountain. There’s no time to really sit down and get to know the details of people’s lives the way you think there would be when you’re technically spending five days with them. I might not know Ali’s birthday but I know what she looks like when she happy cries. Taylor might be my arch nemesis but she’s also one of the most enjoyable people to be around (don’t ever tell her I said that). Sure, Carmen will lose her voice by the second day of camp but before then she’ll have made me feel like I’m doing something right in my life enough to keep me going for months on end. You only get the essence of people and in some ways, that’s better. Everyone is so in the moment and present that the truest form of their actual personality comes through–thank goodness the Autostraddle team is pretty much the best collection of people in the world.

important pre-camp prep (photo by cee)

important pre-camp prep (photo by cee)

Next: Campers arrive, and A-Camp Day One turned to Snow Camp!

Wednesday, October 9th: Camp Day One

On Day One, most of the team does last-minute prep while three team members head to the airport to facilitate getting campers onto shuttles. Campers start arriving at 2PM, and camp officially begins at 6:30 with dinner, cabin initiations and opening ceremonies! This time was extra-special because, well, you’ll see.

 

 

I. ARE THEY HERE YET?

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Dani RDS, Stormtroopers Counselor & Contributing Editor: I’d never been to LAX before the first camp, so Terminal 6 only has the best, most exciting associations for me. Sitting there and waiting for little queer faces to show up and get this party started is the best anticipation/excitement feeling ever. Is this how kindergarten teachers feel?

Carmen, Holograms Counselor & Contributing Editor: I arrived in LAX on Wednesday, making me the last member of staff to get up the mountain and improving upon all of my prior records of being “fashionably late.” I loved meeting everyone at Terminal Six because y’all were so cute and excited!

Sophia: The Day the Campers Arrive is my favourite day, for sure, it’s such a high of emotion and -omg, what’s ahead, all of camp! I’m so glad to meet you- And then you sleep so, so well. It’s great.

Robin: The first day of camp is always super exciting and overwhelming!

somer is ready! (photo by donna)

somer is ready! (photo by donna)

Marni: We were anticipating rain, but learned on arrival that we were above the snow line and that the rain would HAHAHA actually be snow.

Cee: I assured Robin that there was no way we’d be getting snow this early and that the (100% chance of snow) forecast must be totally off.

Riese: For most of the morning, my conviction that it absolutely would not snow seemed accurate.

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good morning sunshine

Riese: But then things took a turn, like that part in RENT when the music is twinkling and then someone goes “and it’s beginning to snowwww….”

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here comes the snow!

Riese: By this point I was safe inside with Laneia, ready to greet the fuck out of these campers.

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Liz C.: Brittani and I were finishing up decorating our cabin when she heard a strangled cry from outside — like someone was being mugged — and ran out. It turned out there was no Alpine Meadows Mugger, it was just Megan making excited noises.

Megan, Program Support Coordinator: I secretly believed/hoped it would definitely snow, and finally it was confirmed that I wasn’t spitting on my face — it was snow! I’m from Southern California and live in Phoenix! Do you know how often it snows there??  NEVER IT NEVER SNOWS THERE.

Sophia: I was in Wolf standing guard at the ‘Sponsors -take a soda- Table’ when Megan popped through the door and suddenly said ‘Hey guys it’s snowing! There’s real flurries coming down!’

Liz C: Neither of us had been in real-life-falling-snow before so we were REALLY pumped even though it was still sunny out.

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(via Liz C)

Liz C.: B on the other hand was not impressed with either the snow or our obnoxious excitement.

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(via Liz C)

Chloe:  I was slightly sick, extremely over-caffeinated, and filled with crazy amounts of nervous and excited energy, but I was sitting by the entrance to Wolf with Hansen and Mey, the snow was beautiful, and everything felt perfect.

Rachel: We had decided that it pretty much definitely wouldn’t snow, but if it did it would only be for like 5 minutes, and if it was for longer than 5 minutes it didn’t matter because it definitely wouldn’t stick. Obviously it ended up snowing for like 6 hours and accumulating about 4 inches just as our intrepid campers had to drag their suitcases through the snowy woods while exhausted and jetlagged!

(photo by robin roemer)

(photo by robin roemer)

Bren, The Bangles Counselor & Editorial Assistant: I have never been at Camp when the campers arrived. During the only other Camp I attended I was driving a shuttle and it was the very last shuttle that didn’t get up the mountain until well into the night. To see those lovely faces with their hopes and dreams and abundance of Trader Joe’s bags was heart warming and life affirming.

Lizz: Snow fell everywhere on the ground! At first it was really just cute! Then it got sort of seriously snowy. And then it was snow-pocalypse.

Emily: Actual snow sticking to the ground and our faces! It was Narnia.

(via vanessa)

(via vanessa)

Carly: A-Camp 4.0 began like any other until it forgot to stop snowing and was henceforth known as #SNOWCAMP.

Lizz: I tried really hard to rebrand A-Camp: “Snow-Camp.”

Sophia: From then on it felt like some sort of nutty holiday, folks went from suspicious to delighted to afraid to drinking. But we had each other, and Christmas music. And Katie who brought endless hot apple cider and warmed our bellies.

(via Robin Roemer)

(via Robin Roemer)

Crystal: I live in Australia and so when snow started to fall it was a very special and beautiful moment. Less beautiful were the industrial garbage bags that lined my shoes for the next two days.

Yvonne: Before this, I had seen snow only once in my life. It snowed on Christmas Eve/Day in 2004 in my hometown, where triple-digit temperatures are the norm and the last time snow fell was in 1895. So seeing snow (for the second time ever in my life) on the mountain when all the campers were arriving was equally magical to me for some reason. It was just surreal.

Mey, Flashdance Counselor & Contributing Editor: I could tell that it was going to be an experience totally unlike any other I had ever had.

Hansen: I didn’t have a specific role for camper arrival and I sure as hell wasn’t going to venture into the snow, so I made up a role by taking the Welcome Friends cat flag podium and putting it beside the door. Then Yvonne, Mey, and sometimes Calendar Girl Dani scared/surprised/welcomed campers as they came in and made them stand in confusing lines. I feel like we were a success, personally, or at least the Welcome Friends flag was a success.

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somer really needs to get it together in this photo

Mey: We formed what was pretty much the greatest welcoming committee of all-time. Hansen looked very knowledgeable from behind the podium and I was there to provide backup as we guided all the incoming campers to the registration table.

Carly: I love when everyone starts arriving, it’s always one of my favorite camp moments. This time, Alpine looked so magical.

lovers in the snow

lovers in the snow

Lizz: Vanessa and I greeted buses which was doubly fun in the snow! Everyone was sort of mesmerized by the winter wonderland around us!

Stef: I offered to help greet the buses as they arrived with Vanessa, which was really exciting! In past camps, I’d never been able to stay on-site and greet the campers as they arrived, so this was tremendously thrilling – except for the fact that it was snowing, and none of us had brought clothes fit for anything more extreme than a slightly chilly fall night. I was wearing a pleather jacket, fingerless gloves and worn-out boots with holes in the soles. We almost froze to death, but… is it too cheesy to say our hearts were warmed when the first bus pulled up loaded with bright-eyed campers? Cos they were.

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stef wearing layers

Megan: After they check in, I help show take the campers to their new homes. The little game of “Lets get lost finding your cabin together” took on a new form — one of dire survival — and became “Let’s get lost finding your cabin together in the snow while also trying not to fall.” I always fall.

Chloe: I will never forget when the second shuttle arrived, it felt like a scene right out of a movie. Watching all of the adorable smiling campers walk down the path in the snow was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Robin: Riese and Laneia greeted campers by name, signed them in and had them choose a pronoun sticker, a new custom we implemented at A-Camp to help prevent misgendering.

Riese: I thought it’d be cute to have little color-coded pronoun stickers so that even from a distance, you would know. Some people were really confused about the pronoun stickers, I think a few people took “ze” thinking it was just a fun word to have on your nametag.

(via Robin Roemer)

pronoun stickers in cups

Ali: Guys. I hate the snow. I hate hate hate hate it with a passion that burns with the fire of a thousand suns. But when it started snowing on the day the shuttles full of rosy-cheeked campers were due to arrive, I didn’t get my storm-cloud look. Somehow, experiencing the snow with Campers made it okay? Like, here was this different thing we were all going to do and have together.

Robin: DeAnne Smith handed out hot cups of apple cider off of a tray while my co-director, incidentally nicknamed “hot cups,” and I walked around greeting campers and taking them to their cabins!

Laneia: You think you’ve lived a whole, fulfilling life, but if you haven’t been served hot cider from a gleaming, silver tray by DeAnne Smith on a mountain with snow falling outside and the soundtrack to The Nightmare Before Christmas playing while the fireplace warms up the room WELL THEN YOU HAVEN’T LIVED.

"Do I look inviting?" (photo by Ariel R)

“Do I look inviting?” (via Ariel R)

Stef: Our hearts were warmed by the cider, but also by the jar of moonshine I had snuck up the mountain. A bunch of the Gossip were on the first bus, and it was love at first sight.

Emily: For some campers, it was their first time being in falling snow EVER.

Mey: Soon Christmas lights had been hung up, Christmas music was playing and DeAnne Smith was bringing hot apple cider to everyone who came in from the cold. Outside there were people building snowmen, having snowball fights and putting on layers of clothes. It was magical.

Yvonne: It was very pretty to watch and to top it off I kept drinking gallons of cider by the fireplace in Wolf Lodge.

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Crystal: I missed the arrival of many campers because I was running a craft and board game situation in Deer Lodge. Alice Motes started a game of Cards Against Humanity which was eventually abandoned for a snowball fight.

Marni: In true A-Camp fashion, everybody rolled with it and we had a relaxing, fun first afternoon with fires going, indoor games, hot cider and snowball fights.

Robin: Danielle built some adorable snow people outside of Wolf Lodge! Some campers built an amazing snow cat.

A-Camp 44

Carmen:  Ultimately, it was a fateful day where Daniela, Geneva, and I talked mad shit about life in a long car ride up a snowy mountain. And it was in this moment that I was both infinite and increasingly concerned about my lack of winter wear.

Ali: As my campers (WILDCATS!) started to arrive, it was clear that the snow was going to be wonderful with them. After Camp 3.0’s Outlaws made the Nope Cat their unofficial mascot, I nearly died with delight when Reva and Cameron made a Nope-Grumpy-Cat-Snow-Creature. Basically my cabin is always wonderful. Always. Every time.

A-Camp 45

Donna, The Gossip Counselor: My first peek at The Gossip cabin campers was of them huddled together in the snow with all their bags and luggage. Instead of being somewhat grumpy about the weather and/or tired from the trip, I found them bubbling over with excitement and joy. This is when I knew they were going to be a fun group and instant friends.

rebecca-and-olivia-by-ariel

Cee: I spent the time between the start of flurries until the last campers finally arrived worried about everyone on the road.

Carly: Everyone was so excited and things seemed to be going fine despite the weather… until a bus got stranded on the side of the mountain.

Riese: It was just like April camp! Except that instead of one van popping a tire on the highway and one SUV breaking down on the side of the mountain, it was one shuttle bus with smashed-in windows from um, falling ice rocks from hell or something.

Carly: I see you, #strugglebus.

Riese: We were delaying dinner in hopes the last bus would arrive, and then we were delaying cabin initiation in hopes that the last bus would arrive, but the Rescue Mission took more time than anticipated.

cee-broken bus

the broken bus

Marni: It was not the *most* fun thing we’ve had to deal with at camp so far? But the campers on board were somehow still in good spirits when I arrived to start ferrying them back to the site, despite being trapped on a bus in a blizzard on the side of a mountain in the dark, and I think that really speaks to the devotion that A-Campers have to having a good time.

Carmen: I was Geneva’s navigator during her first trip to the bus, and in the car with some of the humans from said #StruggleBus, I tried to keep everyone calm by getting them excited for our cozy accomodations at Alpine Meadows and talking about what they could expect when we got to the campsite. We agreed we could all use a drink, but we also agreed after Geneva inquired that it was in fact too soon for a mudslide joke.

Lizz: I was slightly worried, particularly because my adorable perfect girlfriend Chrissie was on that bus! Once everyone was happily back at camp drinking hot cocoa everything seemed okay. I was so impressed with how everyone on the bus just persevered and stayed upbeat. What a group of girls!

Carmen: Stef was one of the first people I ran into after the #StruggleBus chronicles had ended, and she imparted upon me the invaluable gift of a headlamp.

Dani RDS: Apple cider has the sweetest taste on the side of the mountain, in the middle of a slight blizzard, when you are sharing it with twenty three of your favorite faces.

Robin: Even though Marni had to take trips to rescue the campers who were on struggle-bus, it still felt like the perfect evening.

(photo by ariel)

(photo by ariel)

Carmen: I ran around in the snow showing people around and then landed at Hologram initiation, which was a very special and 3D-glasses-filled moment in our lives. I loved all of my campers for being hilarious, amazing, and, in some cases, extremely talented illustrators. And with Sophia at my side, I knew they’d be in good hands for a great A-Camp experience – no matter which season it had rapidly become.

Sophia: Two of our campers and Carmen were on The Bus, but they arrived safe and fantastically sound at just the right moment when I was starting to feel that The Holograms believed I was 100% nuts (and the least intimidating person they’d ever met) and was maybe going to sleep on their floor after repeating the same sentence about glass outside three more times. But I love you guys. Hi Holograms you’re the best.

carmen_initiation

Crystal: As the Heartthrobs cabin, Hansen and I thought it only appropriate to initiate our campers by talking about, and looking at photos of, hot babes.

Donna: There was a love fest in our cabin. Everyone connected effortlessly and magically. Stef and I had a whole get-to-know-you initiation planned, but it almost seemed superfluous, because the campers bonded so fast and furiously! Instead we focused on the cheer. Somehow, a “bearnicorn” was born in the process and bearnicorn became the both the symbol for The Gossip and a central character near and dear to our hearts. Bearnicorn, as you may have gathered, is a mythical queer being that invokes the power of the bear (because we all know there are like, actual, real bears at ACamp) and the kick-assness of a unicorn. Katie S. embraced the bearnicorn and walked around adorned as such throughout our days and nights on the mountain. Bearnicorn will always be within us, and lurking in the shadows.

Stef: A lot of my cabin had met up in LA the day before camp, so they had an easy rapport already and didn’t need much introduction. Donna and I adored them immediately; the Gossip were some of the most hilarious, fun-loving lunatics I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Our campers immediately set about building a ridiculous bearnicorn atop Katie Spielberger’s head out of spare cabin decorations and crafting supplies, baptized each other with a blessed bottle of Jameson, and won my heart with their precious enthusiasm.

i1BiIajdPuhwvmyN0WJP5zSMgjhJQ6vRwv7S4OIOEI0

Bearicon (via Stef)

Laneia: Our elaborate cabin initiation/virgin sacrifice (jk) (or am I) had to be delayed, but the Runaways were totally cool about it and hung out with their big sister cabin, the Blackhearts, and Vanessa, our sister-mother-daughter! Then we had a really fantastic initiation and everything was beautiful.

Riese: Then we all piled into Eagle Lodge for the opening night campfire, sans campfire.

Stef: We’d never had inclement weather before (the sun has always shone brightly up on our fair queermo gathering), but this time we got to experience an indoor campfire (read: yule log on a projector).

Robin: Because Marni was running late driving car loads of campers up the long driveway to camp, and Riese was still bonding with her cabin, I was left wondering how to stall the already antsy crowd gathered for the opening night festivities.

Stef: Through sheer frostbitten delirium, DeAnne, Lizz, Robin and I had a stroke of genius. We announced our idea to the AV club and climbed on stage with very little idea of what we were about to do, but the “A Camp Blues” just poured out of us. It was a very soulful moment for everyone.

taylor-staff-firstnight

Robin: Love the spontaneous things that happen at camp, sometimes out of necessity.

Brittani: I knew the cabin Liz C. and I were charged with was a group of winners when I wanted to change the name of the cabin from Firestars to Firestarters and everyone was immediately on board. This was solidified when they echoed the same amount of jadedness and overall shade for camp cheers by refusing to actually come up with one and instead opted for possibly setting everything/everyone on fire by standing on stage with a bunch of lit lighters.

taylor-campers-firstnight-2

(photo by taylor)

Brittani: They went on to prove themselves way cooler than any group of humans should ever be every day and specifically, every dinner when they would have Liz and I read the notes they left in the very earnest Comments/Questions/Concerns box we’d put in the cabin the first day of camp. I’d like to think that my need for rules and order and Liz’s need to make sure everyone is happy makes us good co-counselors but we probably just lucked out with this group of campers.

Hansen: Heartthrobs cabin was clearly the best so it’s only natural that our cheer was the best. We won camp cheers. It went like this: H is for the H in Heartthrobs, E is for the E in Heartthrobs, A is for the A in Heartthrobs, R is for the R in Heartthrobs, T is for the T in Heartthrobs, T is for the other T in Heartthrobs, H is for the H in Heartthrobs, R is for the R in Heartthrobs, O is for Orange. And then my campers just ended it right there because they’re amazing and everyone was laughing too hard to hear them finish anyway.

Crystal: Jessica’s cabin cheer won our hearts and also A-Camp.

(photo by taylor)

(photo by taylor)

Robin: By the time we were done singing the blues and cabins shared their cheers, we were able to introduce the entire staff and hear DeAnne’s adorable “Nerdy Love Song”.

taylor-deanne-firstnight-2

Carly: We pulled it off and everyone had a great time and everything was okay in the world.

Bottle Service (via Carmen)

Bottle Service (via Carmen)

Carmen: The first night, Alice Motes and I popped a bottle in her honor – but I wanted her to get the primo treatment, so we did bottle service. It was my strongest start to this thing yet.

Marni: That first day really set the tone for the rest of camp – all week the vibe was really positive and everyone seemed to just make the best of everything and have a good time. It was definitely the most relaxed camp we’ve had, at least from a directorial perspective.

Bren:. Riese and Robin and Marni Bear and all the staff have really created something special on top of that mountain.

Cee: In the end, everything turned out ok and we had a super beautiful morning to wake up to. There’s nothing like fresh snow in the morning and it’s something I really loved about this camp.


Tune in tomorrow for the next installment in this thrilling series!

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, 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. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3198 articles for us.

129 Comments

  1. favourite things:

    – that picture of sophia and monika arriving to camp dressed for entirely different weather situations
    – the gossip, forever always amen
    – that fucking picture of alice in the snow which may or may not be my phone’s background is that creepy
    – recalling my confused feelings as i believe marni and cee to be 100% right about everything all the time, and how all through precamp marni kept telling us that the weather forecast was 100% chance of snow and that cee kept telling us there was no fucking way it was going to snow and that i didn’t know who to trust anymore, but then bunk happened and i learned to love again.
    – somer and donna, just somer and donna
    – the fucking bloody detached arm from party town that party town brought to camp and lost?!?! did we ever find it?!?!? do you think that lady from the kitchen found the bloody arm way after camp and just shook her head? i like to imagine she did.

  2. And this was only the beginning… of the greatest week of our lives!

    For me, A-Camp gave me the strength to realize that I was not being treated well by my job, and despite really wanting it to work out, no, I’m too awesome for that shit. And so between then and now, I’ve found a new job and am moving from the DC Suburbs to Chicago! And thus, somewhat closer to the next A-Camp.

    And I know I’m not the only one who found themselves staring their life in the face compared to the wonder of A-Camp and said, “Fuck this shit!” And then made it better. Because that’s what A-Campers do. We reject shit and then make it better.

  3. I hadn’t ever been to LAX until camp, so when I landed in Terminal 1, I knew which ~direction terminal 6 was in. Cleverbot that I am, I walked out the front, crossed a street, climbed a parking garage so I could read the signs on the terminals, then crossed more streets and looked at everyone like they were speaking latin when they talked about “asking for directions” or those tunnels that I guess are there. XD

  4. I just cried and then collected myself and then had to come back and started crying again. Damn it!!! I love you all so much. I love camp so much. Going to 3.0 was the best decision I have ever made. And then returning for 4.0 was the best decision part 2.

    • and this is only the recamp of the first day! I mean, the first day was pretty good. That super long game of Cards Against Humanity that Stacy and I dominated, and then everyone tried to build a snow wolf but it ended up looking like either a pig or Snowhenge, and we had a snowball fight, and I knew my beautiful cabin mates were definitely all cool after they agreed to play floor beer pong even though Abby and I were the only ones excited about it, and then we had a kind-of-spooky candle-holding circle with Lizz… but all this was just the first day, the one with all the nerves! I can’t wait to read the other recamps and relive it all moment by moment.

  5. I’m at Starbucks smiling lovingly at my computer screen and I’m convinced nothing else on the internet could make me do this in the same way.

    Guise it was a hard trip up the mountain for so many of you! I don’t feel worthy of using the term ‘strugglebus’ for travel problems (though I really want to now and I probably will). I’m glad I made it up there like 15 minutes before the snowfall.. Despite the fact that I forgot my purse at a gas station restroom and had to double back 15 miles for it and I was so grateful it was still there. I like to think it was a positive sign that despite all my nervousness of going to camp for the first time, the world was smiling upon me (haha) & everything would be ok.
    And then everything was magical and kitten posters and DiAnneCider and softly falling snow and meeting cabinmates…

  6. -Oh I forgot how much I loved the Heartthrobs cheer.

    -I Love that all of the Colorado people were totally unimpressed with the snow. We were all like, yeah sure it’s pretty but I am on vacation and was trying to get away from snow in sunny California.

    -I had told myself before Acamp 4.0 (my third camp) that I was going to take the next spring camp off and maybe travel someplace else. But the moment I got onto the mountain I knew that I had been lying to myself so hard. OF COURSE I AM GOING TO COME BACK TO SPRING ACAMP!

    It is home and all of my favorite people are there.

  7. I noticed the Gossip cabin didn’t get mention of their decorations but I loved those freaking rainbow bands EVERY.WHERE. Donna and Stef made an amazing job of making us feel welcomed and our cabin chemistry was amazing! Seriously, WOW!

    • so true! the gossip cabin was like a gay christmas tree on the inside when we arrived!! stef and donna were even thoughtful enough to make sure all of our “one direction” needs are covered. I LOVE YOU NIALL, i promise to never wash that neck tattoo off

  8. The best I can do right now is scroll through the photos. I’m not ready for a serious cry yet from reading the actual words (already had one at the shrink’s today talking about how wonderful A-Camp/my time in CA was). Snow Day was absolutely the perfect beginning, since I rarely get any where I live.

  9. I am reading this while waiting at the airport to return home from visiting friends I met at A-Camp one month ago. If you are curious about camp, or you think it might be fun, JUST GO. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. A-Campers are the most beautiful, validating, fun, smart people in the world.

    Camp is more magical than you can even imagine.

  10. Riese holding our sign is the f*ing cutest thing ever and the decorations in our cabin were perfect! (Tig in the bathroom every morning, come on!)

    Laneia, your garland was amazing and someone in the cabin must have thought I needed company during my nap because I woke up with it covering me and loved it!

    “…and made them stand in confusing lines” –this was true.

  11. Ugh. I love this so much! I have so many things to say, so many feelings, but all I can get out is AAAHHHHHHH!

    This was my first camp, and it was everything and more than I expected. Autostraddle readers and A-Campers really are the most amazing beings on this lil planet. I actually just spent a weekend in New York with a couple lovely ladies I met at camp, and it was one of the best weekends I’ve had in a long time. I often feel pretty alone in this world, but you guys, you just make everything so much better. I’m so grateful for Camp and everything I learned, the people I met, and all of the most amazing therapeutic laughter. And especially for Klub Hawk!

    PS. I can’t deal with Alice and Lindseys cuteness! It’s too much!

  12. I just love all of this so much. Camp was amazing and so much more than I thought it would be. Thank you Riese for making camp a real thing and for giving me a place to find my family.

    Runagayhearts <3

  13. So I don’t care what anyone says, Cylons had the best initiation. I feel like we maybe terrified our counselors, but it was awesome. Put a bunch of (mostly) introverted, (mostly) supernerds in a small snow-bound place, and strange things happen.

    Also, do you realize that this recamp is happening on the day that is exactly one month since prom, also known as when I first kissed/was kissed by my cute girlfriend? Feelings. Having them.

    Thanks, Autostraddle!

  14. I appreciate that you shared the lyrics from the opening night songs even though they weren’t finished or performed. Very enjoyable.

    Also agreeing with brittani- firestarters was the coolest cabin. I miss you guys!

  15. It snowed for the first time where I live and it made me have camp feels all over again so I bought a box of red wine to get through this week and the Re-Camps. I’m also really glad to learn that I’m not the only human who cries out of one eye.

  16. The first day of camp was amazing. The bus stop at Trader Joe’s was like a Portlandia scene and this adorable queer girl in front of me in line was all “who are all these people?”. She knew about A-Camp/Autostraddle, but apparently didn’t realize it happened so close to where she buys her reasonably priced organic snacks. I feel as if I, like Cee didn’t see the snow as a real situation and I packed zero warm things, but had a solid reason to invest in the new hoodie. The Stormtrooper cabin was warm and I think the snow gave us excellent bonding time. I ruined my boots, but would highly recommend SNOW CAMP FOREVER!!!

  17. I love every single thing about a-camp and recamps and I laughed so much reading this and I am so jazzed about may camp and a-camp friends in 3d throughout the year and so much love and gratitude for such a positive, beautiful, magical experience!

  18. Oh mah gaaaah, I’ve been waiting all day to read this because I was at work and it’s really hard to explain why you’re grinning yourself to tears at an army construction site. But guuuuyyys, this is only the first day of recamps and I’m having too many feelings!!! ALL THE FEELINGS

    I miss the mountain. I miss my queer friends. I miss honest living. (teehee, Rent)

  19. Reading this has brought all the feels forward and made me reminisce on how magical A-Camp truly is. I held strong and didn’t cry through the article but going through the comments, seeing how much we all miss camp and wish we were back on the mountain, that got me good.

    Thanks Carolyn and Dani for making me feel welcome and wanted.

    Life off the mountain can sometimes make it feel like camp was so long ago. Thank you Autostraddle Team for bringing it all back and showing me it wasn’t all just a wonderful dream I wish I never woke up from.

  20. I feel SO SAD that I am not at camp anymore. And SO HAPPY that I went. This is like being on Mt. Feelings all over again, except that there’s no crowd of Gossipers standing in the bathroom door.

  21. Recaaaamps! The things that, without fail, make me want to go to A-camp most! Fingers crossed I can make it to the next one, because dang if you guys can manage to make driving up a hill sound exciting (and after many hours of flying no less), then I want in on that.

  22. OMG THAT LITTLE SONG BLURB. There are so many other feelings I feel that I had to just concentrate on one thing to comment about. BRB, making all of my co-workers read this thing.

Comments are closed.