A-Camp Recap #1: Movin’ On Up (The Mountain)

Welcome to the first of four fantastic recaps of our entire experience at the First-Ever A-Camp, which took place two hours outside of Los Angeles at Alpine Meadows in Angelus Oaks, California, from April 26th-29th.

photos by (L to R, clockwise, starting at the top) - Robin Roemer, Rachel Walker, Gabby Rivera and Gabby Rivera

The idea was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions while simultaneously creating an affordable option for queer ladies for whom other lesbian events (such as Dinah Shore) aren’t a good fit. So, we rented out a summer camp in its off-season and enjoyed a transformative weekend of fun, friendship, panels, workshops, classes, sports, entertainment, events and so forth.

These epically long monster-posts will do their best to explain and extrapolate upon the camp experience, from shitstorms to emotional revelations to glory/triumph.

photos by robin roemer

Today we are going to be re-capping all of history as well as Thursday, April 26th, which was mostly a shitstorm.

The idea here is that you’ll be on the edge of your seat wondering how everybody ended up being so happy by the end of the weekend!

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AND A DREAM WAS BORN

click for more a-camp

Riese, CEO/Executive Editor: I may’ve mentioned this already — but back on some fateful night in July 2010, I woke up at 3am and wrote “CAMP – THIS WILL BE OUR THING” on a notepad I keep by my bed for nocturnal moments of genius. The next day I pitched the idea to Alex, and she agreed (re: its genius) and we’ve been talking about it ever since, both to each other and to other team members.

Marni, Camp Co-Director: Riese had been talking about camp for months (/years) and we’d had lots of excited conversations about it, and at some point I turned to her and said, “You know I used to run a summer camp, right? I can do this.” And she said “Okay. So do it.”

Riese: I was in New York in October 2011 for a panel and that’s when I pitched the idea to Robin, Carly, Jess & Stef. Everybody agreed it was the Best Idea Ever, especially Robin, because Robin loves camp. Although they’d never met, I knew right away that Robin and Marni would make an amazing team to lead this kind of thing.

Marni: And we were off.

Riese: We’d been waiting until we had the resources and following to put together a week-long camp event, but it became increasingly clear going into the fall of 2011 that we’d never have those resources, so in December I emailed everybody and said “let’s just try it for a weekend in California,” and everybody said YES LET’S DO IT.

 

The Lead-Up

Riese: I made a spreadsheet and Marni called a shit-ton of campsites and ultimately we picked Alpine Meadows ’cause it wasn’t affiliated with any religions that hate gay people, didn’t utilize life-scarring communal showers, was Vegan/Vegetarian-friendly, was reasonably priced and had VIP cabins for people like Julie Goldman who is “a Jew first, butch second.”

Further fascinating developments included: booking plane tickets for our entire staff, freaking out about the possibility of nobody wanting to come. But then we built it, and announced it, and everybody wanted to come. We filled all the spots in two days and had an enormous waiting list. It was one of the best feelings EVER.

Marni: I’ve never organized a camp via email before — in the past I’ve been on-site, with staff, planning things and training all together. This was a group of 35 women all over the world, with school and jobs and schedules to work around. Robin and I would have weekly phone calls where we’d plan out emails and spreadsheets and deadlines. There were lots and lots of emails.

At one point I was sitting in front of my little laptop struggling with this spreadsheet, trying to juggle workshops and make the schedule more balanced, and I just said fuck it, I need to touch this with my hands. So Riese and I biked to Walgreen’s and I bought colored cue cards and painter’s tape and I converted my entire bedroom wall into a giant schedule. I haven’t taken it down yet.

marni's wall

Riese: I was handling all of the financial, registration-related and logistical elements of getting staff and campers to camp, including constructing cabin groups by a highly specific socially-engineered process that involved asking everybody to rank their affinity for AS and to certain personality adjectives like “socially anxious” and “outgoing.” I used Marni’s leftover cards and my entire floor to make this happen — the final cabins were named Forever 21, The Golden Girls, The Troubletones (original name: “Trouble”), Cherry Bomb, Rubyfruit, Little Rascals, The Sharks, The Beats, Littlefoot, Wolfpack and Hotel California. I can’t tell you how I organized them, it’s top secret.

Robin, Camp Co-Director/Photographer: January to April is my slowest season as a photographer, so I just kept reaching out to them and offering to help with whatever needed to be done. I worked mainly on the schedule and keeping in touch with instructors and counselors and Hannah.

I’m much more comfortable having things organized and structured really far in advance, so it was hard for me to allow certain parts of A-Camp organizing to come about in an organic way, but Marni is a really wonderfully calming presence.

Marni: We were so nervous as the date approached. I started waking up at 5am every morning with unfocused anxiety, like “how are we going to organize the icebreakers???” I didn’t realize at first but Riese was doing the exact same thing. The sun wouldn’t even be up yet and we’d both be lying there staring at the ceiling. It was nervousness but at the root of it was excitement.

Riese: Per ushe, I underestimated the amount of work involved — at some point there was a situation which required buying out the campsite for the weekend to avoid sharing it with 50 Pastors who apparently wanted to “retreat” that very same weekend. Also I had a mental breakdown, but that’s to be expected.

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Getting Our Shit Together

Marni: I got the idea for the pigeonholes based on a smaller-scale version we’d had for just staff at my old camp, but wasn’t sure how I was going to realize it. I went to this place in Oakland called the “East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse” and for 10 dollars I got 200 toilet paper rolls and a dozen or so cardboard things that I thought could maybe work and I spent the next two days sitting on the floor of Riese’s bedroom painstakingly tracing the tubes and cutting circles out of each piece of cardboard, and scraping off the bits of toilet paper left on the rolls. Riese was totally grossed out and I think was a bit unconvinced that this was the most worthwhile use of my time. (It definitely was.)

pigeonholes on riese's floor

pigeonholes at camp

Robin: Our original document for camp was named after our first working title “Camp Fear,” which was named because of an email thread in which we discussed scary nighttime camp games. The document is still named “Camp Fear” and it makes me smile whenever I open Google docs. I would still like to plan a Stratego/Capture the Flag game for the next session, loosely based on the Hunger Games. Very loosely based.

Laneia, Executive Editor: I was put in charge of gathering workshop supplies, probably because I would be driving in from Phoenix and would have room for everything, but I like to think that Robin also knew how much I love making lists and buying sharpies. I cleared out my Trapper Keeper and set to work printing out spreadsheets and organizing shopping lists. I was sending emails asking “Can you clarify ‘assorted beads’ please?” and “What are your feelings on craft lace?” What I’m saying is, a childhood spent organizing office supplies swiped from my mom, cataloging doll accessories and coordinating elaborate sleepover clubs had finally, finally paid off.

all the things

Riese: I created a labyrinth driving schedule for airport transport that involved renting six 15-passenger vans from Executive Van Rental and having various counselors drive them 2.5 hours to the site. However, this plan quickly escalated into a Situation, and here’s why:

“Merging is something that I’m generally very scared of.” – Katrina

“I lost my driver’s license and debit card three weeks ago.” – Taylor

“I’m a New Yorker who doesn’t drive so… I am NOT useful behind the wheel of a car.” – Jamie

“I feel like now is a relevant time to tell you that I can’t drive.” – Grace

“I do not know how to drive.” -Carolyn

“Also did I mention that I have no driver’s license?” – Carmen

“I’d better not drive. I’d probably end up driving on the wrong side of the road.” -Crystal

“Even on a good day I probably wouldn’t have the attention span to safely drive a 15 passenger van to a place I’ve never been.” – Lizz

Therefore, I also had to book some Roadrunner Shuttles (they come with drivers!) to compensate. Soo, I’d given up on enticing any New Yorkers to drive when, much to my surprise, Gabby and Stef volunteered — with great enthusiasm! — to drive. Basically, I had a fantasy that I could make airport transportation both totally affordable and totally reliable. That turns out to be impossible. I forgot about this:

Gabby, Cherry Bomb Counselor/Writer: Working tv/film production I’ve driven a hot mess menagerie of vehicles: 15 pass vans, cube trucks, sprinter vans, sprinter-hybrid-cargo vans, Escalades, Smart Cars, golf carts etc. If it has wheels, I can pretty much handle that and I’ve got stamina for days (rim shot, please). I can drive forever on highways, side roads and sometimes even sidewalks. So at first I was super surprised that Riese didn’t have me on the camper pick-up schedule. I really wanted to drive and contribute and get right in there and meet some of you. Thankfully, Lizz asked if someone could switch with her. Enter: Gabby is driving a van now, yay!

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Tuesday, April 24th 

Riese: I jam-packed our tiny rental car to the absolute brim and drove down from San Francisco alone, where I spent the entire trip talking to myself, imagining that I was talking to campers on the first night. Then I listed to “We are Young” (the Glee cast version) on repeat for an hour and started crying about my dream coming true and how much I loved everybody and was so excited, and then I talked to myself some more about that.

Robin: Marni, Riese, Taylor, Carly and I stayed in a hotel room together on Tuesday night. We were all anxious and nervous, but extremely excited for the new experience. At one point, I looked around the room to see Riese and Carly on their laptops, Marni organizing her folders of notes, maps, and schedules and Taylor taking photographs, and it reminded me of what it felt like to be present at those very early Autostraddle meetings many years ago.

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Wednesday, April 25th

I. Nobody Said It Was Easy / No One Ever Said It Would Be So Hard

wednesday morning in the hotel (photo by taylor)

Riese: Alright, SO. It’s about 1 PM on Wednesday and we’re waiting for Rachel/Emily/Stef/Crystal/Carolyn to arrive from being in the air.

We were moments away from departure — and the girls are arriving — when we got  a super-unexpected call from the good (read: terrible) people at Roadrunner Shuttles, who were thrilled (read: totally unphased) to inform us that there was “a computer glitch” and our shuttles (3 for Thursday, 1 for Sunday — although I’d planned on booking three for Sunday, I just hadn’t decided the times yet) would cost $140 more, EACH. They already cost between $250-$350 dollars each, so this was a serious issue.

Me: So what you’re saying is your business made a mistake, and now my business has to pay for your mistake?
“Karen”: Or I could cancel the reservations, ma’am.
Me: But I have no choice! I’m literally hours away from losing internet access and I have 116 women I’ve gotta move from the airport to a campsite 2.5 hours away in 24 hours! What I want is to have shuttles at the price I reserved them for, that’s what I want.
“Karen”: We can’t do that, ma’am.
Me: ARGHHH!!!

Robin called to yell at them some more and Karen made up three different stories to avoid putting her on the line with a supervisor who did/didn’t exist and was/wasn’t in a meeting. We ended up canceling half the shuttles we’d booked, and reserving more vans for Autostraddle drivers to compensate.

Then I frantically attempted to devise a new plan for Thursday during the time I’d set aside to organize Sunday (this quickly became evident on Sunday.) Amid this stress I LEFT TINKERBELL IN THE HOTEL ROOM!

Then we made the drive to camp. It was a really beautiful day.

driving to camp (photo by taylor)

Laneia: By the time we left for California, I was 85% certain that I’d thought of everything we’d all ever need forever — even the stuff that wasn’t on the lists! I was wrong, of course, but the back of Megan’s SUV definitely looked like I’d succeeded. We stopped at the Cabazon Dinosaurs and I hyperventilated a lot.

from phoenix to angelus oaks

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II. Preparing For You

Riese: The drive up the mountain to camp is alternately like a nature movie and a horror movie. Within a few minutes of our arrival, Laneia & Megan showed up, as did Alex.

Alex, Autostraddle Co-Founder/Design Director: We spent Wednesday night putting together the gift bags and finishing the pigeon hole mail boxes. This night was awesome because I got to reunite with my fellow staff members/writers, many I haven’t seen in more than a year and many I hadn’t even met yet. The night was exhausting but the anticipation was high… finally Camp was happening.

stef with the gift bags

Riese: I was so excited and nervous about everything, like my gut was tied up in star-shaped knots.

Stef, Wolfpack Counselor: Meeting up with everyone from Auto staff was surreal and beautiful; some were friends I’d known and adored for years, while others were people who had previously existed (to me, at least) only as avatars. I was familiar with everyone in one sense or another and it was really exciting for us to all be in the same room.

Laneia: Riese, Rachel and I wrote little notes for each camper while everyone else did the hard work. We talked about how it felt like a tv reunion special, with people from the original cast and the new kids. I kept looking up at the other girls and getting super overwhelmed with everything. At one point Robin said, “Can you believe this?! It’s like, who signed off on this idea? Who gave us permission to do this?”

marni & carly test walkie-talkies

Emily, Sharks Counselor: I had been awake for about 20 hours after two hours of sleep and two plane rides. We had our first staff meeting at around midnight and the excitement was still palpable, even though we were all exhausted. I was really tired and my eyeballs fell out.

Laneia: Riese had us quiz her with the campers’ names because she’d accidentally memorized them all, which is impressive but not necessarily surprising, if you know Riese.

first meeting (photo by taylor)

Riese: Most importantly, Marni got in touch with somebody at the hotel who said they had Tinkerbell and we could get her tomorrow!

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NEXT: We actually talk about camp actually happening, almost!

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Thursday April 26th: Let the Games Begin

flying to camp (photo by Kate Hinchey)

Carmen, Sharks Counselor/Contributing Editor: Waking up at 4:30 AM meant Katrina and I were extremely excited to get our hands on two things: food and beverage. But upon finding out that the in-terminal restaurant didn’t serve booze before 8 AM (exactly 15 minutes after our flight left), we decided to take our massive breakfasts to go and eat them on the plane in an attempt to fall into a food coma. This worked.

Annika, The Beats Counselor/Writer: Marni had called me on Wednesday night with an urgent request: “Annika, I forgot something really important and you’re the only one still left in San Francisco! Can you stop by my office to pick it up for me?” So Thursday morning I drove to the Canadian Consulate to collect these brightly-colored plastic buzzers for lesbian jeopardy. I kinda felt like a queer secret agent or something! With the mission accomplished, I then drove nine hours to camp.

Sara Medd prepares to drive

Lizz, Rubyfruit Counselor/Fashion Editor: My game plan was to leave Boston at 5:55am and arrive at LAX at 9:15am PST to greet campers. At 10am my plane was still sitting on the tarmac at LAX. There was some sort of medical emergency on the airplane so we waited while the paramedics did their thing. I was supposed to meet campers at 9:30am and the first three vans were scheduled to leave at 10. I finally deplaned, checked in with the van drivers and somehow negotiated myself from Terminal 7 across the world to Terminal 3. Luckily, it was easy to spot the A-Campers, based on the fact that they were the only giant group of lesbians. There were approximately a million of us.

Laneia: Riese and I were scheduled to drive two cars down the mountain, drop off snacks for everyone still at LAX, and bring back a 15-passenger van full of happy homos. I had two panic attacks before I could even leave the campsite, so I just took the xanax and cried to myself while we drove down the mountain that I’d eventually develop a solid love/hate relationship with.

Riese: The weather ended up being gorgeous all weekend — but Thursday was way rainy and foggy and dark.

the view from the road (photo by kate hinchey)

Lizz: We all had to get to camp on vans that fit 10-13 people, and by 10:30 our meticulously laid plan was already starting to crack. At some point in the next twenty minutes, between packing luggage on the vans and meeting Brittani for the first time, I turned into a raging dictator stomping around with my clipboard like I’d just been assigned 4th grade Line Leader.

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Camper Quotes:

“Sara Medd is the best shuttle driver ever. That fearless mother fucker. Through fog and cliffs. I BELIEVE IN SARA MEDD.” 

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“When Brittani stopped at In-n-Out Burger, all the villagers rejoiced.”

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“I drove with Sarah Croce and I believe I was drooling the entire time. We get in and she says ‘I have some Ani CD’s in here somewhere’ I DIE.”

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Gabby: Lizz and her ‘you can’t touch this’ clipboard loaded me up with 11 campers, bags a-plenty and one solid California chica as a navigator (Hey, Katie, Heyyy). Then it was peace out LAX, hello open highway and omg we’re going to A-Camp feelings! The road stretched out before us like it was made of yellow bricks. 80s music played from the radio including Rick Astley’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ and Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.’ It was THAT kind of trip and all my girls were chillen. Somehow the topic of coming out came up and I shared my story with Katie and whoever was close enough to hear me.

Riese: Laneia and I got to LAX with snacks and when I saw all these lesbians standing there for the first time, I felt like:

a) Do you believe in magic?

b) I want to sit & listen to them talk for the rest of my life

c) I have no idea how to talk to all of them at once

d) Do they even know who I am? Probably not.

e) LAURA!!!!!

On the way over I’d imagined myself being, I guess, a totally different person, that I would walk in and be like HI EVERYBODY I’M RIESE WELCOME TO CAMP, but when I got there I realized that I’ve never done that before in my life — addressed an unstructured group with ambiguously defined intentions — not ever, and didn’t know how. Is this real? Is this really happening?

homos at the airport (photo by Fitzi)

Carmen: Being the snack captain while trillions of lesbos boarded shuttles to a faraway haven known as “A-Camp” translated into a lot of rejection on my part. The thing is, I just couldn’t eat the Cheez-Its alone, so I started doing lame jokes loudly in order to entice people into taking them from me. This did not work. I talked about meeting Brittani a lot at the airport since as time continued passing I became convinced I would never make it to the actual campsite.

Riese: And then Gabby called to say her tire was busted and they were stranded on the side of the highway!

gabby's van stranded on the side of the highway (photo by gabby)

Gabby: The vibes were good and strong until the steering wheel of the 15 passenger van started to shake uncontrollably. I know these types of vans and they don’t do that. We were in the middle lane of East 10 and the van shuddered super hard making it almost impossible to control the wheel. Inside I panicked, outside I took deep breaths looked to my left and saw a mom in a minivan pointing at my tire. Fuck, we immediately started to smell smoke and I had to get us somewhere safe. Where is somewhere safe on a freeway? Without freaking, I slid over into the fire lane in between hard jolts, thunder-clap loud rumbles and stopped the car. I didn’t feel at all comfortable driving the van to the next exit, not with the smoke and not with the tire looking like shredded wheat.

the tire (photo by gabby)

Gabby: Questions popped up immediately from my girls. Co-pilot Katie jumped right on her phone and started making calls to AAA, highway assistance and anyone else she could think of. I also got on the horn with AS head homos and let them know that I was stuck on the side of the LA freeway with a busted tire, 11 beautiful babygirls and life was ok but we needed it to get better.

Riese: Clearly I wasn’t leaving the airport ’til we’d assured Gabby & her campers were okay and we’d made a new plan, which involved again spilling all of my folders onto the floor of the airport like a crazy person and ordering people to call people with cars, etc.

Laura, Little Rascals Counselor/Associate Editor: Organizing airport transportation on Thursday was the most fun I’ve had since that time I shut my hand in the trunk of my friend’s car. Mostly I just let Lizz handle it (because she is in charge), but I did have the distinct pleasure of speaking to Mister Van Rental when Gabby’s tire blew out. When I asked him what he thought we should do, he said they should just wait until “some strong man” stopped to help them, which is when I hung up on him.

ideally, it would've gone a little bit more like this

Gabby: Everyone was on it. Alex Vega was coming to try and rescue me. Lizz was trying to get triple AAA and Riese filled my ear with adorable we loves yous/ I’m so sorrys. At one point, one of my girls started to question my judgment. ‘Well, why can’t we make it to the next exit?’ and ‘I’m sure the tire isn’t that bad. Can you just not change a tire? I can.’ My gut reaction was to say, “Hush your young ass mouth, Gabby’s in charge” but I didn’t. I thoroughly considered her suggestions, double checked the state of the tire and trusted my gut. I wasn’t gonna lay or have any of them lay on the side of on-coming traffic to fix a fucking tire. (It was the left rear tire btw). Also, I refused to risk damaging the 15 passenger by trying to reach an exit or put my girls in any more danger.

So my ladies did what they came here to do. They opened the doors and made friends with each other. They played getting to know you games and chilled on a small green patch of highway Narnia trusting me to do my job. And being the protector type and not wanting anyone to think I was afraid, I still checked out the tire and made attempts to change with the help of my actually quite handy naysayer. We realized quickly that this wasn’t something we could do. Tractor-trailers were whizzing by our head and the rental company was being dicks about helping us find what we needed to change the tire anyway.

So we sat, and sat and sat watching the games being played until C.H.I.PS showed up son! Officer Sean, looking like a Caucasian version of The Rock, showed up and even he was like, “This is too dangerous for me to try and change giving the location of the tire and the severity of the shredding. So we’re going to wait for freeway assistance.”

“Our tire exploded but Gabby handled it like a champ!”

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He waited with us and we waited and waited… and still my girls played their question games and remained very calm. I thanked them over and over for not crying or getting cranky. From their reaction, I knew camp was going to be just perfect because these were the type of young women that know how to adapt to all of the things.

By the time freeway assistance arrived at 3:45pm, we’d been waiting almost three hours. This dude was a machine. He changed that tire in less than five minutes while Officer Sean shut down the right lane with lights and his cop car which I hoped Eric Estrada would be in but he wasn’t. I made sure Freeway dude checked all of our tires and gave us an ok before we headed out. Thank goodness because our other tire was super low on air pressure. By this point, I saw that the high-energy smiles from my A-Campers were turning into bleary delirium face. Executive decision: put air in tire, get gas, make bathroom stop, and FEED MY GIRLS. So we did those things and made it up the mountaintop anyway but goddamn, did it really have to be so extra?? We missed like an entire day of camp and that’s like missing one day of rapture.

Riese: Once I was confident Gabby and her girls were not about to be run over by a monster truck or — worse — be unhappy –Laneia and I loaded up our van with an adorable assortment of fantastic human beings whose last names I’d already memorized – PJ & Mareika, Sugar & Fitzi, Allison, Alissa, Britley, Emma and Keisha. The only problem is that there was no time to get Tinkerbell, but Alex said she’d get it on her way out when she came to LAX later.

Crystal, Troubletones Counselor: My role for the afternoon was part-welcome wagon, part-bell hop. I spent hours standing in the carpark or at the lodge window like a puppy, waiting for cars or vans to pull up so that I could race outside and greet campers. The moment when Gabby pulled into the drive way and hollered at me through the window, when a dozen of cute happy smiling queers piled out of her van – that was the moment when the reality of what we were about to do really hit my somewhat jet-lagged brain, like I suddenly realised just how amazing and magical the next three days were going be. One of the major highlights was hearing a few other Australian accents around the camp site – I was completely in awe of those five or six campers who flew half way around the world just to be at A-Camp.

these girls came all the way from somewhere else to jump around like fools

Stef: I spent most of this day stuck in traffic while Rachel Walker sat behind me talking about a million better ways to transport campers to the camp “WHAT ABOUT PRIVATE HELICOPTERS?!?!?!” and, while the van hissed and sputtered up the mountain, “HAVE YOU SEEN THAT SHOW ABOUT AMERICA’S MOST DANGEROUS ROADS!??!?!”

Riese: I’d actually been excited to drive a van ’cause I wanted to get some QT with at least nine human beings before planting myself on a folding chair on stage for the rest of the weekend, thus we had a delightful time asking everybody in our car invasive questions about their sexual awakenings.

“Well, it took forever to get to camp, but I got to be in Riese and Laneia’s van, so.”

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Laneia: One of my fondest memories of driving back up the mountain was when we pulled over to place a liquor store order with Alex, who was still in LA. It took four phones — thanks to dead/dying batteries and who had/didn’t have service — but we did eventually get the shopping list sent, which was just the first of many examples of how down and cooperative everyone was. We would’ve had to pull over anyway, though, so we could figure out how to turn on the headlights.

Riese: It’s possible our passengers were dying a slow death inside from transportation fatigue but I was enjoying all the lesbo-bonding-experience. Everyone was so cool and fun and smart!

Laneia: I was torn between wanting to talk to our campers forever and feeling like they probably didn’t want to talk to me because of my lameness and general anxiety, which was stupid, in retrospect. Everyone practically fell into tears when we unloaded in the parking lot of Alpine Meadows. I wanted to kiss the trees.

photo by heidi brett

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Next: What’s happening at camp?!

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Meanwhile, at camp…

Emily: Thursday morning Deer Lodge was empty save for one Taylor Hatmaker, who couldn’t figure out how to use the TV.

Taylor, Golden Girls Counselor/Tech Writer: Thursday was GO TIME. I was woefully (not woefully) stranded at Camp all day, since I lost my driver’s license at a Cults show in Portland three weeks ago. I was admittedly nervous as I drifted around the site, occasionally donning Robin’s captain’s hat for confidence, but as soon as the first van rolled up in the early afternoon Shit Was On.

Emily: By the afternoon, Deer Lodge was full of blooming queer ladies making messes, lanyards, friends, and paper airplanes. I watched people play Scrabble and hopefully made a few funny jokes but I can’t really remember. There were so many faces to look at! Everyone looked so good even though they probably just traveled across the country and drove up the side of Killer Mountain on a spare tire.

Taylor: As soon as the first bushy tailed little darlings rolled out of what looked like a kidnapper’s van, it was clear that everything would be basically absolutely perfect from there on out. I whisked campers from the loving arms of registration to DEER LODGE ALL CAPS starting in the early afternoon and the delights continued to pour in thereafter.

playing Scrabble in Deer Lodge

Stef: Camp didn’t become real until the first round of vans started pulling up and dropping off dozens of girls with nervous smiles and cute haircuts… I think everybody became a little overwhelmed with emotion as we realized this was actually happening, that people had actually shown up, that this was in fact a thing. What if they hated us and everything?!?!? What if we were all awkward internet weirdos who were afraid to talk to each other in real life!?!?!

Taylor: I set up a spread of crafts and nervously DJed on my iPad as the queers rolled in, crafts in their eyes. There were friendship bracelets, paper airplane deathmatches, and good vibes had by all. I hovered around like a nervous denmother of sorts until I realized that everyone was having a really grand, gay ol’ time all on their own. Then I think I had a beer.

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Back to LAX…

Lizz: I thought as long as I never stopped checking people in, making van groups, counting heads or filing people into vans I wouldn’t realize how hungry or tired I was and we’d all finally get to go to camp. Dictator-Lizz lasted until Alex fed me Chipotle with Laura, Carmen and Grace at 9pm.

Carmen: Laura Wooley and Grace and I became actual best friends as I stared out Sarah Croce’s car window with my mouth wide open and repeated the phrase, “Oh my gosh even CVS is beautiful here.”

driving croce's car back to camp

Meanwhile, Closer to the Mountain…

Riese: So, then it’d been like two hours since we’d gotten back and Whitney, who’d left the airport at the same time we did, was nowhere to be found.

Laneia: Riese and I were so panicked about Whitney and her group, especially because they were in my girlfriend’s SUV and I felt 100% responsible for every second of their trip. This was my fifth panic-stricken situation of the day since 7am, so you’d think I would’ve been all out of adrenaline and fear, but no, you’d be wrong. We tried calling Whitney’s phone to no avail, then we used our detective skills to track down Britley — a girl who was friends with a girl who was in Whitney’s group, Stacey (are you still with me?) — and eventually got in touch with The Lost Girls. They were stranded on the side of the mountain about 14 miles from camp. (Marni: “Oh they were so close!”)

Whitney, Rubyfruit Counselor/Contributing Editor: Driving up a twisty mountain in the dark in the fog is pretty scary, but driving up said twisty mountain only to find that your car’s (Laneia’s car’s!) steering wheel stopped working is even scarier. What happened? The power steering line snapped, as in the steering wheel wouldn’t turn to make it around those snake-y mountain curves. On the right, there’s this craggy mountain face with a sign that reads “WARNING BOULDERS” (and shit, it looked precarious) and on the left was a several thousand-foot drop off a cliff into the darkness.

When I realized the steering wheel wouldn’t turn, I stopped the car to try and find cell phone reception. No luck. So I continue driving between the WARNING BOULDERS and the cliff, pulling the steering wheel as hard as I can to get the wheels to turn around the bends. It came to a point where I couldn’t pull the steering wheel enough to get the car to turn (scary moment — we almost flew off the road) and I stop the car next to a call box. Here, we finally got cell phone reception. One of the campers in the car, Alicia, had a gold AAA membership, thanks to a yearly gift from her father which, I’m sure, she hadn’t found entirely useful until that moment. This card — and in turn, Alicia’s dad — pretty much saved our lives.

Riese: So, along with Laneia and a very lovely camper named Erika who had a large bottle of vodka (that she hadn’t even started drinking yet!) and an SUV, we caravaned down the dark foggy mountain of death and despair in search of five homos stranded on the side of the road. I’ve henceforth dubbed Alicia “AAA Conley,” because duh. I drove Stacey and Whitney back to camp and we all talked about Michigan and I kept trying to give Stacey the verbal equivalent of a hug without being weird.

Laneia: I stayed behind with Alicia to wait for the tow truck, fighting the urge to hug her until her eardrums burst. Incredibly, from what Alicia told me, even this group of campers had managed to keep their spirits up through hunger, frustration and near-death. It’s impossible to overstate how grateful I was to each of the campers who’d stood super hero-style in the face of their respective fucked up situations and said HELL NO, I DID NOT COME ALL THE WAY OUT HERE TO LET THIS GET ME DOWN. Just, I mean, who does that? Who brings that kind of determination to have a good time no matter what? A-Campers, that’s who.

“It doesn’t matter how long it took. It got me to A-camp and A-camp changed my life!”

+

Moral of the story: GET HIRED TRANSPORT. IT IS WORTH THE EXTRA MONEY YOU GUYS. (Yes, there will be hired transport at the next A-Camp, but wasn’t this fun!)


Riese: Jess S. was coming to camp straight from work on Thursday night, so we’d given her the assignment of picking up the two mega-late-comers on her way in.

Jess S., Forever 21 Counselor: As I was pulling up to the terminal to pick up two campers at LAX, someone waved at me and smiled. I didn’t know what the campers looked like but I had described my car to them, so I let this person into my car thinking her name was Angela and she was really excited about camp. As I pulled away, we proceeded to have two different conversations–I was trying to get her to talk about A Camp, but she ignored that and just wanted to talk about someone named “Erica.” After about 30 seconds, we realized our mistake. WRONG PERSON. I made a joke about trying to kidnap her and she hurriedly exited my car while I found the real Angela.

Julie and Brandy, “The Talent”: We were late getting out of LA. Unbeknownst to us, half of camp had already been stranded on the same mountain that we were now trying to navigate in the dark. Pitch dark. With clouds. And not the kind of clouds that keep you company on a picnic… The kind of clouds that cling to a freezing mountain top. The kind of clouds that you usually only see from the window seat of a plane. The kind of clouds that are so white and thick, they reflect your headlights back into your eyes, rather than illuminate the way. It took us thirty minutes to go four miles, but we finally made it up the windy road.

Alex: Mission: Get the 160 campers to the top of a mountain using three vans and maybe a car or two. We tried. We really really tried, especially Riese, to make this transportation situation work. Though I was happy to finally and officially have everyone at Camp by 11pm Thursday night (mission accomplished), it would’ve been better if I didn’t miss the whole first day/camp fire.

“It must’ve been painful being part of the coordination of the shuttles and watching the confusion happen on the way to camp. It was crazy and all, but it also gave us a few funny stories to tell when we got back so that’s fun.”

+

II. Campfire and Ice: 

Riese: Marni, sensing my state of complete distress, told me, “Julie and Brandy are here, why don’t you go see them,” because she knew they would make me happy and I’d be happy to see them. And it worked!

Thus, after a long afternoon/evening of worrying about campers and counselors getting run over, I was ready to drink more than anybody should ever drink when they’ve had four hours of sleep, haven’t had a moment to eat in two days, left their precious lifetime companion Tinkerbell in a hotel room, and are on the top of a mountain.

Brandy: Before the campfire, Marni and Riese came to our room to discuss how Julie could sing “Gay Baby Army” at the campfire with no microphone. It had been a while since we’d all hung out together, and we were giddy with the feeling of, “Holy fuck, this camp is really happening!” Marni stood by the door, talking into her yellow walkie-talkie, and Riese sat on the bed, drinking Bulleit whiskey straight out of the (almost empty) bottle. They told us that only water was permitted outside the cabins, so I poured vodka into Arrowhead bottles while Julie tuned her guitar. (It’s important to note that Riese ended up leaving her bottle of whiskey in our room, because it will resurface later).

Carmen: As I began to put names to emails and vodka in my cup I realized I was going to like this. This persisted after I got lost and fell in a puddle walking from Cabin 7 to Cabin 18.

campers settle in to their cabins

Lizz: I hadn’t seen Rachel in at least six months and our meeting at the airport had been brief to say the least. When I got to camp I had exactly on thing on my mind: find Rachel. It was pitch black across the camp but I’d heard rumors of a campfire. So I started walking towards the noise and jokingly called out her name in desperation (mostly to make Carmen laugh) and to my surprise Rachel called my name back! We reunited and I felt like camp was finally beginning.

Brandy: The whole opening campfire experience was so overwhelming and profound, that I had to spend the next 2 days of camp drunk & high just to deal with my feelings. (Oh- and I’m pretty sure that I got low-grade frostbite on my kneecaps since I refused to change out of the tiny skirt I arrived in). Julie said that singing without a microphone was a challenge, but nothing compared to trying not to be burned alive by the humongous campfire.

Julie begins singing "Gay Baby Army" (photo by Rachel Walker)

Marni: After she’d rallied everybody around the fire with her song “Gay Baby Army,” (itself a really special moment), Julie brought Riese out onto the little mini-stage thing and everybody around the fire stood up and started cheering. It was an incredible, overwhelming moment. I immediately started crying. I turned to my right and Laneia was losing it, too. I don’t think there were any words to describe seeing all the love and gratitude pouring out from the sea of smiling, glowing faces. There was a lot of love in that moment.

Laneia: I don’t really have a lot of experience when it comes to seeing the physical results of someone’s dream coming to fruition, so I wasn’t prepared for this campfire situation. We usually exist behind what feels like a sprawling, infinite computer screen — and then there we were. I could’ve held all of the faces and looked into all of the eyes! But instead I cried about how much I loved everyone for loving her and us enough that they would stomp to the top of a mountain and cheer around a campfire.

Riese: The campfire was a blur. It was surreal — Julie Goldman played a song about the Gay Baby Army, and she introduced me, and everyone was cheering for me, and I couldn’t believe it. All of their hands and the night and the big fire and everything. Whenever I have to speak in front of a large group, I can never remember what I said afterwards, but I’m guessing it wasn’t anything like what I’d practiced in the car. It was so profound to see all these bodies there, instead of gravatars.

right before they nailed me to the cross

Riese: After all the things happened, we had our first all-staff meeting. At some point I learned that Jess S had tried to get Tinkerbell for me but they said they didn’t have it and we’d have to come back in the morning, which meant I’d have to wait all weekend for our reunion!

first all-staff meeting

Crystal: Half of the campers from my cabin, the Troubletones, showed up fashionably late, but when they did we had a cabin huddle; I put on my responsible adult voice and gave them a talk about drinking at high altitudes which I feel confident in saying that they (respectfully) ignored. These girls turned out to be some of the most amazing, hilarious, talented and adorable Autostraddle readers. Making room in my heart for eighteen new crushes hurt a little.

campers remain in good spirits (photo by Rachel Walker)

Riese: It had been such a heavy chaotic day, but nobody’s spirits were remotely dampened. From this point forward, things got exponentially more awesome.

 

P.S. FYI, Roadrunner went ahead and charged us for the shuttles we cancelled. They claimed a week ago that they’d refund us for those immediately. They still haven’t refunded us that money, despite multiple inquiries. Whatever you do in your life, don’t ever use that company, not ever!

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256 Comments

  1. Wonderful recap. I miss it all so much, still. A-Camp, you are forever in my mind/dreams.

    I will totally own up to writing that quote about Sarah Croce driving, too.

  2. Ever since I heard about a-camp I’ve wanted to go… Every post makes me want that more and more because where I live the only time there’s a group of us is the 12 hrs that our pride fest goes on and let’s be honest what’s more awesome than being around a group of smart happy women who like women

    • What if what if what if A-Camp 2 was in Canada? Would yall show up? I know an awesome place. Looking into prices/availability. Just an idea!

      • people keep asking questions like thissssss so i keep answering them!

        in order to do A-Camp out of the country, we’d have to charge campers about $2,000 for a weekend session, because our budget would explode with us flying all of our staffers to canada or another country. so that’s impossible for us at this juncture, unfortunately!

  3. I AM REALLY WORRIED ABOUT TINKERBELL IS SHE OKAY?!

    (also, this recap is perfect, I can’t wait to experience the rest of the weekend through you guys’ BEAUTIFUL EYES)

      • So before camp I had a couple of ideas for pranks, one of which was to kidnap tinkerbell and leave a mysterious ransom note. But i decided against it because i love you Riese and didn’t want you to hate me

        • oh god, i would be lying if i told you that i didn’t actually cry excessively about not having tinkerbell there, like a total lunatic

          • On the bright side, Tinkerbell can be the leader for all the first time campers in the fall!

          • tinkerbell is going to be a counselor, her cabin will probably also be called ‘littlefoot,’ let’s be real

    • Lol For real, through this whole recap, in the back of my head I was thinking ‘OMG, but did Riese get Tinkerbell back?”.

      • But thank you, thank you, thank you for rescuing my duffel from Virgin America! And also, OMG you are so effing adorable!

        • your conversation with the virgin america person in the van made me know instantly that camp would be wonderful. “no you are wonderful! don’t you go being modest, you are amazing!” and then we stopped at in-n-out, so, you know, perfection.

          • I told her she was a “goddess” and she tried to argue with me but I wouldn’t let her. In the end she accepted the title and said I’d made her day! That was a fun group to ride to camp with! And yes..Camp was wonderful!

      • You guys seriously rocked it out at the airport. A couple hours spent playing intense games of bananagrams, talking about pools filled with cream cheese and jello and and being aggressively offered snacks by Carmen were a memorable start to the weekend. Thank you for being so fun and upbeat!

  4. The drive up the mountain to camp is alternately like a nature movie and a horror movie.

    So true.

  5. YOU GUYS. I’m on Autostraddle like 34 times a day, ERRDAY. And for once I was NOT on Autostraddle for TWO WHOLE WEEKS because I was away, and that’s when talk about camp and registration happened.

    My heart. It breaks.

    Now I check AS about 87 times a day in anticipation for A-Camp 2.0. It looked so magical!

  6. I’m only halfway through but I had to stop and comment just to say that “So Thursday morning I drove to the Canadian Consulate to collect these brightly-colored plastic buzzers for lesbian jeopardy” is the best sentence I have ever read. Also, I am totally coming to A-Camp next time.

    • ahem they were for music jeopardy and we could not have done it without them. THANK YOU ANNIKA <3

    • As Annika’s riding buddy, I got the pleasure of receiving this in text form as I prepared for camp. Best text I have ever received. It was clearly a good omen – I knew at that moment that this would be a beautiful weekend and Annika and I would be great road trip buddies! (and it ended up being only one of many trip delays, but the only one not caused by my horrible sense of direction!)

  7. “I would still like to plan a Stratego/Capture the Flag game for the next session, loosely based on the Hunger Games. Very loosely based.”

    YES YES DO THIS YES YESSSS

    • P.S. I was about 60% committed to coming to A-Camp even if it conflicted with the viva for my Masters degree, but after this I am at about 93%.

  8. Zomg I love this so much, and I’m in a picture!!!!

    Also the drive was awesome because I became best friends with Bren on the way up. booyah!

    • I think the friendships formed at and strengthened by A-Camp is something that I can never fully thank Riese for.

          • I’ll always remember and hold dear that moment we shared…Right before you grabbed your bags and moved out of our cabin with a “Yeah, well..later ya’ll” and nary a look back..You damned ginger girls..

  9. I wasn’t sure I wanted to read all about Camp, just because it’d make me more sad that I wasn’t there, but it turns out that I do want to read all about it after all. Thanks for posting this! It sounds like it was amazing, and you haven’t even finished the weekend yet.
    Next time…

    • Same! I was like awwww this post is just going to make me sad, I’m probably not going to read past the first few sentences.. And then there were all those pictures.. and that intrigue.. and I was totally hooked.

      I definitely NEED to go next time.

  10. I have all the feelings right now. I’m going to read these recaps every single day until A-Camp 2.0. The worst moment of A-Camp was better than the best moment of everything else.

    • “The worst moment of A-Camp was better than the best moment of everything else.” – this quote is a keeper

      • It’s the truest of true. I will never be able to adequately thank you. Take the most love you’ve ever received, double it, then add a zero to the end and you still won’t be close to the love I have for you (and the rest of the team).

        • Oh no, Shannon, no. Tearing up too now. Wasteunit I totally agree with you. Caaamp!

    • another key moment of me knowing a-camp would be amazing: you, to ranger: “OKAY, I HAVE A BONE TO PICK WITH YOU, BECAUSE I AM ACTUALLY A RANGER.” …dead silence in our shuttle…

      you guys our shuttle was kind of amazing. even though we didn’t have a crazy danger life-or-death situation story…i still love all of you.

      • That was the very first feeling I processed that weekend!

        Our shuttle was totally the bomb dot com.

        • You made Ranger pale for the briefest moment. Quite the accomplishment. But in the end..She came to adore you!

          • This is not true. I did not pale. I knew there was someone who was an actual ranger, in fact, I knew it was watseunit ahead of time. It just caught be by surprise momentarily. There was no pale-ing, Digger. However, you are right in saying that I do adore wasteunit.

        • Thank you very much. I am very proud that we had an expedient and enjoyable trip and I wish I had a mic in which to talk on because I couldn’t talk to anyone but Katie without screaming and everything I’ve ever said to Katie she eventually makes fun of me for but it’s ok because I love her.

  11. You are the most beautiful fucking people in the whole world, EVER! EVER..EVER..EVER!

  12. I was planning a trip to New York this summer (and was gonna ask if any local Straddlers could show me round) but I might just save the money and try for A Camp 2.0 instead. It sounds like it would totally be worth the jetlag. (also I’ve always been curious about summer camps. We don’t really have them in england)

  13. I wasn’t there, But everything about A-Camp and this post just makes my heart feel happy, you know?

  14. If
    We are all made of kittens
    Then
    Thursday is best described by the classic children’s board game “Kitty Chaos”

  15. Reading this was like reliving the first day of camp all over again. I can’t wait for the recaps from the rest of the weekend!!

  16. I just can’t believe some/all of you got to hug Hannah Hart in person. I usually end up hugging my computer screen.

  17. I enjoyed reading this a lot. Makes me so jealous of you all getting to go to (g)A(y)Camp. Looking forward to more!

  18. I’m thinking back to when I was a little closeted gaybie nervously watching “If These Walls Could Talk 2” and “But I’m a Cheerleader.” My hand tightly clasping the remote, ready to change the channel at the slightest movement or noise. Wondering if I could ever talk to anyone about being gay or ever have gay friends. I never would have dreamt that something like this would ever exist and is now something I could potentially go to…that is incredibly overwhelming.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but A-Camp: East Coast Edition would be epic.

    • “My hand tightly clasping the remote, ready to change the channel at the slightest movement or noise.”

      omg my life

        • +2

          Getting up at 5am on a Sunday to watch the Cruel Intentions you stealth-recorded the previous night before you have to go to church, & listening the whole time for footsteps on the stairs.

          • My dad had a knack for wandering into the room during the really gay parts of Degrassi.

            Although to be fair that was like at least 66% of the show.

    • and mine. i’m so glad i don’t have to obsessively clear my internet search history any more.

      • Most definitely. I used to watch the L Word alone at like 2am in my living room when I was 16. Then I came out to my parents when I was about 17. Watched an episode of the the L Word with my mom not long after. Soon enough we began watching it together.

        My mom is awesome.

        • used to rent the L word, one disc at a time from blockbuster, and i’d switch them out to and from blockbuster in a black plastic bag so nobody could see what i was watching. true story. it was horrendous.

          also i made my mom watch “but i’m a cheerleader” WAY before i even knew and she asked if i was trying to tell her something. oh well.

  19. I…I really want to go to 2.0.
    I wish I had money. And a single day when I didn’t have to be making money.

  20. Dina looks like she’s REALLY excited about the Scrabble word she’s about to lay down, but possibly she was just in the middle of saying something.

  21. Our drive up with Rachel was pretty great. I was sitting in a van full of extremely attractive ladies, and we had the experience of going through Croce’s CDs together. The “Farm Mix” was.. interesting, to say the least. Also, the Lion King and of course, Ani.

  22. if i wasn’t at work right now i’m pretty sure i would be crying, hyperventilating, and flailing my arms all at once because i am overwhelmed by SO MANY FEELINGS.

    first of all, SCARY NIGHTTIME GAMES MUST HAPPEN next time!

    secondly, the debilitating heartache that i’ve been living with since april 29 had finally started to dull a little bit until this happened and now it hurts just as bad again because I MISS YOU FUCKERS SO DAMN MUCH. september cannot come quickly enough!

    also not only does riese know my name she knows that piper (the name i go by) is actually my middle name and she knows what my real first name is which is a privilege usually reserved for my family, best friends, and people like college professors, so i hope you know how special you are riese. also i am waiting impatiently to hear about tinkerbell.

    i think it’s hilarious that you almost named our cabin trouble because it’s kind of accurate. and crystal i appreciated your warning talk and definitely took it into consideration when i thought about how much whiskey to put in my first drink. :)

    also i just remembered this, when the announcement about camp first happened in february i flipped a shit and immediately reserved my spot before doing anything like looking at a calendar, my bank account, or plane ticket prices. i knew from the start that camp was going to be something really really special that i could not miss if it was at all possible. even when my logical side was thinking that maybe this isn’t the best idea and my friends were like “how are you going to afford this?” the idea of not going never really crossed my mind. it was like my intuition knew how important and amazing camp was going to be and it just shut the logic up long enough for me to solidify my plans. i can’t really remember what point i was trying to make with this besides a-camp is unique and life changing and really special and important and i am still so, so thankful to the staff for making it happen.

    wow i wrote a lot i just love you guys so much ok i’m going back to work now

    • I too appreciated crystal’s ‘drinking at high altitudes’ speech. When I began to feel especially giddy after our pre-campfire drinking session, it all made perfect sense.

    • Piper my heartache had started to go away and then I read this and it came back. BOO.

          • I DON’T KNOW i have been wondering this for a week and a half there was so much love but not nearly enough snuggling. another thing to add to my “how to do a-camp 2.0 even better” list

          • All of the snuggles/conversations/macking I was nervous about initiating in hindsight are TOTALLY LOLZ cause you guys are clearly the best people ever and there was zero judging going down anywhere at camp.

            A-Camp September = CUDDLE PUDDLE 2012

    • Haha yeah I totally took Crystal’s warning into consideration for my first drink. The drinks after that…not so much.

      • I’m realizing know why you all kept referencing “rules” and “altitude” and “be careful”. I missed all these memos I am sorry!

      • The altitude just made how much of a lightweight I am even more embarrassing. 1 1/2 drinks and I was trying to do the Call Your Girlfriend dance.

    • I think it says something that everytime you post, I immediately squeal “PIPER BABY” and then nearly cry because you write everything so poignantly. I MISS YOU!!

      And yes, dying at the fact that we were originally named “Trouble”. (And I do not apologize for showing up fashionably late BECAUSE THAT’S HOW PAPI IS.)

      • I MISS YOU TOOOOO i looked at a map yesterday and you’re like, super far away from me. :(

    • i knew from the start that camp was going to be something really really special that i could not miss if it was at all possible. even when my logical side was thinking that maybe this isn’t the best idea and my friends were like “how are you going to afford this?” the idea of not going never really crossed my mind. it was like my intuition knew how important and amazing camp was going to be and it just shut the logic up long enough for me to solidify my plans.

      This is exactly how I felt too, Piper. I couldn’t imagine NOT going, and I’m so glad I listened to that instinct. I figured I could always give up my spot if it didn’t work out, but I wouldn’t be able to sign up late because I knew it would fill up fast.

      • yes! i had the same thought process. :) you’re the alicia that i talked to for a hot second on the hike on friday morning, right?

        • Yes! You told me you liked how I was wearing my sunglasses over my regular glasses. I’m really glad we had that conversation, because now I know who you are when I see you here in the comments.

  23. I have never wanted to play scrabble with queer ladies until I read this, but now it’s on my bucket list.

  24. Oh…and funny story about that pink construction paper note from Riese. It’s in a frame, on my bookshelf, next to a bust of Caesar.

  25. I can honestly say Im really happly for everyone else. At first I thought reading this would be like watching a stranger open a present but it wasn’t, I wasn’t jealous or anything. It was like watching the Oscars when someone actually cool wins, like Charlie Chalplins lifetime achievement award…you should watch this, you will cry. I’m super excited that there in an entire camp of fun rad people. Congrats to everyone involved. You are awesome.

  26. to the readers who didn’t go the last camp,

    reading your comments makes me so so excited for the next one! we learned so much that weekend — about ourselves and these people and real life masquerading as dreams and how to get to meals on time — and then we learned another round of lessons after the fact and WE JUST CAN’T WAIT to put all the things into practice.

    i was worried that publishing this recap would make some people think that camp sounded like a huge letdown, like they were glad they didn’t go. it’s like telling everyone about your rad slumber party where you watched ‘dirty dancing’ and all the doritos and prank called your cousin and the people you tell are like LAME, LANEIA. THAT’S LAME.

    so anyway i’m glad to see that some of you still want to come to the next camp even though you know i’ll probably be doing a lot of silent affirmations/chanting re: overcoming severe anxiety so i can say hi to you!

    and i will say hi to you. i’m totally gonna be all up in your shit next time.

    • I was planning to bear hug you approximately on sight, so if you aren’t into that now’s a good time to say. I can wave from an appropriate distance instead.

    • Laneia, during Sewing Circle: Does anyone need anything? Anything at all?
      Ranger: I could totally use a back rub.
      Laneia: (pause, looking slightly horrified)
      Ranger: Just kidding….(but only kinda)
      Everyone else: Laughter

      Laneia is totally cool you guys. She laughs at your jokes and puts up with everyone mispronouncing her name, constantly. Basically, the whole staff is so fucking lovely and funny and warm, there is nothing to fear.

      • sarah croce is who you want giving you a massage. what if we have sarah croce walk around with a massage table in september. what then.

    • This totally makes me want to go to the next camp, and offer to drive one of the buses (I’m great with mountain roads).

    • I was so nervous to come up and say hi to you! You were super friendly and awesome though. Next time I’m at camp I’m totally gonna stick around and have an actual proper conversation with you.

      • omg <3 u alicia. also that picture of you and megan at LAX is one of my favorites ever. we had so much fun taking you to the airport!!

    • i kind of feel the same way but about talking to you guys, so…maybe we should all keep in mind that everyone already loves everyone else and we can bake a cake made out of rainbows and smiles and we could all eat it and be happy!

    • Life (and camp) is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make of it. I wasn’t there this time but it sounds super amazing, even being stranded on the side of a mountain with a flat tire. Because I feel like you guys (meaning AS staff) are just regular little people like all of us readers, but you made this amazing thing happen and even though it wasn’t perfect there was so much love put into it that it seemed perfect. Like when your kid draws you a picture and to a stranger it might just look like a blob but you see the beautiful flowers and the sunshine because you love the person who made it for you. I feel like that’s probably what camp was like.

    • yes yes, me too! laneia and i have done a lot of processing about how we forgot in the midst of worrying about everybody else’s social awkwardness that we were also socially awkward and therefore perhaps not as suited for the job of managing everybody else’s social awkwardness as we’d initially hoped.

      anyhow, we both wished so much we’d had more time to talk to people’s faces and hug their bodies and we have really high hopes, like high-elevation hopes, for an even more spectacular A-Camp September!

    • Laneia
      I am sorry I was too shy to introduce myself to you.
      Next camp I will. You’re my favorite.

  27. AH IM AT WORK AND I FEEL LIKE CRYING

    good thing i work for a theater company and we’re all extremely emotive/gay/gaymotive

    thoughts:
    1) when i introduced myself to Riese at the airport she said “shilpa…joshi, right?” and i was so blown away i just mumbled something and walked away. ALSO BECAUSE SHE PRONOUNCED IT RIGHT. holy shit no one in my life that has just read my name can pronounce it right the first time, unless they’re indian i suppose.
    2) IS TINKERBELL OKAY
    3) those pigeonholes were fucking GREAT
    4) one of the Alpine staffers drove an SUV of the canadian sharks + me to santa monica and that woman BEASTED down those mountains roads like…..holy shit, we were careening around hairpin bends and all about to hyperventilate when she was like, you know i drive up and down this mountain twice a day, right? then we all calmed down and enjoyed the coolest view of Big Bear ever

    campcampcampcampcampcampcamp :D

    • oh i love your name, your name is one of my favorite names of all the names! there are like ten of you with really fantastic names.

  28. just you wait ’til the part of the recap where we actually start doing things besides driving!!! THEN YOU’LL ALL WANT TO COME

  29. This was so amazing. You guys put so much work in, and now you’re putting more work in re-capping how amazing it was so that we can all squeal in delight from our computers across the fucking country- nay, across the globe?! I LOVE YOU GUYS

    And for my part I wanna say that the altitude totally didn’t affect my drinking. Troubletones for life.

    • yeah i was expecting to get drunk really quickly especially because i’ve barely drank for the past 6 months but that didn’t happen which i was kind of disappointed about tbh because i finished my bottle of whiskey too soon.

      but then ranger appeared out of nowhere and gave me more! which was AWESOME.

  30. I have been looking forward to hearing about A camp very much, and one of the things I have been most looking forward to: how to pronounce your name Laneia. Is now the time? Can the mystery finally be revealed?

  31. Looking at everyone smiling in the campfire photo made me cry. I can’t even express how much hope this website has given me over the past year. Thank you for the recap — I was really hoping you guys would write something for everyone who wasn’t able to attend. I’m going to make an A-Camp savings piggy bank for the next one in the fall. I’m nervous about it already! <3

  32. This recap is so great, it made me laugh like a fool and almost cry in public. I love you guys SO FUCKING MUCH. I’m really gonna try and hug you all next time, or at lest say words to your faces. I can’t wait for September!!!!!!!!!

  33. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this.

    At first I thought there wouldn’t be a recap and camp would be an elusive place that only people who experienced it could understand. How silly of me to doubt Autostraddle.

    This all sounds like fun so far, I can’t wait to get the the parts where everything goes right and people start…having fun.

    Also curious about the personal messages…what a cute idea!

  34. Omg this recap made me so happy! I’ve been re-living camp in my head pretty much every day since it happened, and this just makes it better.

    A month ago I never would have thought that I’d give SO MUCH consideration to skipping a week of grad school to go to A-Camp 2.0. (But seriously I might do it.)

  35. i found the description of the journey hysterically funny. it was like a monty python sketch. the carpet at a-camp is nauseating

  36. So grateful you are sharing/recapping ACamp. Vicarious thrills/sympathy abound!
    POOR TINKERBELL!!
    Riese this is your greatest recap yet, and that is really saying something.

  37. Do ya’ll remember when Lizz did a victory lap around the Terminal 3 baggage claim because one of the campers was wearing boots that she had recommended in a post? That was a special moment.

  38. there can not be too much information about what sounds like the greatest weedend of all time!love this

    • I KNOW RIGHT? did you see the one where they had to delay their wedding by two hours because of RR, or the one where the 85-year-old grandmother twisted her ankle ’cause the driver wouldn’t pull up closer to the curb? that was amazing.

  39. Stef’s description of Rachel’s quotes sound exactly like her–always knows exactly what to say <3.

    This makes me really wish I could have gone to camp, and also makes me Chistraddler-sick (it's like homesick, but for gays). Is that weird?

  40. I didn’t go to camp, but this article was the best thing ever to read while arguing with a bigot on my facebook status about whether or not gays are strong people.

  41. I want this. As a die hard camp fan with tons o’ camping experience, I must experience this. Please bring to the East Coast (Boston, ahem) this fall! I’ll volunteer to drive Boston straddlers if it’s any help!

    • Plus there would be a huge contingent of straddlers from Smith. Seriously there’s so many of us, and it’s growing with the incoming class this fall.

  42. I just want to say that this sounds pretty much like the best thing that has ever happened. I recently have come out and autostraddle has been a huge part in that. I’m happy that now I don’t have to hide or close down the links anymore when someone walks by. You guys are an amazing group of women who have made life significantly better for a number of people who you will never meet but will be forever grateful. I just want to say that if 2.0 happens I will be there with bells on to meet the people who have changed my life and made me feel more comfortable in my own skin.

  43. Driving up that mountain in the fog was scary, and I was in a Civic. ALL THE RESPECT for the A-Camp staffers who drove those big ol’ vans.

  44. Even though I didn’t go, I feel like the world is a better place just because Camp happened.

  45. this is beautiful and amazing and i can’t wait to read the rest

    there were lots of hilarious moments but for some reason jess’s paragraph about picking up the wrong human at the airport sent me over the edge

    like, i am lying on my bed giggling like a maniac
    i just can’t get over the image
    i’m laughing by myself at my computer screen

    also jess and i had a really nice brief conversation in the cheder ochel (obsessed with the hebrew writing all over camp) about being feminine and having our parents doubt our queerness because we liked to paint our nails and we have long hair so maybe i just really love jess

    but for serious guys i’m still laughing

    in conclusion a camp was the best, i am seriously doubtful about having time off/money to go to camp in september but in my heart i know i have to make it happen because it was too important and too special to not happen again

    like the thought of camp happening and me not being at it physically hurts my heart

    you know?

    • Yes, that’s exactly how I’m feeling right now. A-Camp 1.0 was not exactly a financially responsible decision for me, but I can’t imagine not going to the next one.

      Also, this:

      Everyone looked so good even though they probably just traveled across the country and drove up the side of Killer Mountain on a spare tire.

      and this:

      As soon as the first bushy tailed little darlings rolled out of what looked like a kidnapper’s van, it was clear that everything would be basically absolutely perfect from there on out.

      right in a row had me cracking up for about five minutes straight. Driving up Killer Mountain on a spare tire in a kidnapper’s van is an exactly perfect description of the crazy transportation situation on Thursday.

  46. This recap is giving me so many feelings I can’t even write them logically. So I’ll just say that despite the crazy traffic/exhaustion/social anxiety compounded by my vanmates being so witty and talkative and funny on the ride up the mountain, it was totally worth it because A-Camp was a life-changing experience!
    I can’t wait to relive the rest of it with everyone.
    And go to the next one, even if I have to sell a kidney to do it.

  47. You guys went through so much to make this dream of Riese’s into reality. Camp was worth it. Totally worth it. (Please keep doing it. Forever.)

  48. I was one of the fashionably late arrivals, so reading this entire post made me feel like I missed out on A LOT of stuff. As Gabby put it, I missed one day of rapture.

    Crystal, drinking at high altitude = more bang for your buck! I feel like I didn’t overdo it, hell, we even played soccer on Saturday morning!

    Katrina, you’re not alone. Apparently “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles.”

    • when she told me that she was afraid to merge, the first thing i thought of was Less Than Zero

    • that BEE quote also came to mind when i read this recap.

      also everyone i was mostly kidding, re: the drinking. let the record show that i did not see any extreme intoxication in the troubletones cabin.

      • I feel like it is worth noting that your reason for warning us was because YOU AND ALL THE A-CAMP STAFF GOT SMASHED THE NIGHT BEFORE.

  49. These recaps prove yet again how absolutely fucking amazing everyone involved with A-Camp is (AS staff and campers alike).

    I am having trouble finding the words to express just how awesome A-Camp was. And this recap is making me miss it so much. I want A-Camp to be real life 24/7/365.25.

    Also, I am saving for a bunch of stuff right now and am not sure if going to A-Camp 2.0 is the best decision financially. But not going just isn’t an option for my heart, ya know?

  50. I feel like everyone here knows each other but I don’t know who any of you are. WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE.

    brb I need to go look at the Cherry Bomb cabin group picture to confirm that I was there

    • Ikr, it seems like some lovely pillowy dream…I go to look at the A-camp shirt at intervals to confirm that I was actually there. Even reading this re-cap & rememembering some of these things I still can’t believe it.

    • Oh Brianna. You were there. I remember and also feel like it is a miracle I never trampled/fell on you in the night climbing into/out of the bunk.

      • My bunkmate! Hi Elise. Thanks for confirming that I was at camp.
        p.s. you never talked in your sleep as far as I can recall, just fyi.

    • YOU WERE THERE we hung out we were cool. I feel the same way/like I am not doing too good a job of matching usernames to real people, that might be it.

      Looking at the photos makes me a little heartachey, they’re so awesome though.

  51. That’s it. One way or another, I will be at the next A-Camp. You all look/sound so cute and smiley and fun and fantastic!

  52. This is so fun to read and relive!! I’m so excited about the next camp, its going to be perfect! Also, I can’t wait to actually go around and talk to people this time. I only was able to visit half of the cabins!! Really really looking forward to seeing all of you in September!!

  53. Why didn’t I go to this!?!? Ahhhh, I should’ve gone! All the ladies! All the camping! Fuck!
    Next time… I’m so in.

  54. I just noticed the picture of the basketball game. Was it anything like the basketball game in The L Word? Because that’s how I’m imagining it.

  55. Reading this makes me desperately wanna go. I’m not sure I can afford it, and I’ve never been out of my country before, and so I’ve never flown, but hnnng, I really REALLY want to go – so will have to look into it anyways. XD

    • You were an awesome co-pilot. I was at the back of the van so I don’t know what co-piloting actually entailed BUT WE WERE IN AWE OF YOUR NAVIGATIONAL SKILLS – it would’ve been very bad if we’d gone up the wrong mountain after everything.

      (P.S. Am very pleased with myself for finding the right Kate, when you told me your username on the last day I was convinced I’d never be able to remember it/find you again.)

    • girl, you were the best. so fucking cool the whole time. we gotta catch up. i wanna know the things!

  56. The first reactions and reviews about A-camp were so jubilant that it really surprises me that there were so many transportation- and startup-issues. This only makes the exciting reviews more awesome: despite some struggles at the beginning, everybody still feels this was the best camp of their lives. That’s a real accomplisment!

  57. That schedule pic is making me so jealous.
    Also I think Autostraddle is the only website where I like the user comments as much as the articles. So much love!

  58. I think next camp I need to make a point to take more pictures and appear in more pictures. And maybe not spend so much time in an oversized crew-neck sweatshirt.

    • I was on one of the first shuttles you launched. You called my name and I said something about how I could wait for another if need be.You cut me off, white knuckle gripping your clip-board and said sternly “You are on THIS shuttle.” I think I pee’d a little and nodded. But as I quickly walked towards the door I mumbled something about how “if I had my rifle..mumble mumble.” But damn I had a new respect for you!

  59. For a second this felt like being back at camp. I didn’t know that staff persons cried at the opening campfire, but this information breaks my heart into tiny, beating love pieces.

    Also, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that RIESE BERNARD, CEO OF AMAZING and BRILLIANT IDEAS/VISIONS, knows who I am….!

  60. Reading this made me feel SO MANY FEELINGS because I wasn’t there/about not being there. But ChicagoStraddle represent! I actually haven’t completely forgiven Amy/Rachel/Laurie for the Harto pics and texts. I will be at the next A Camp if I have to sell my belongings, cats, and future unborn children. I WILL. Can I be in Tinkerbell’s cabin?

  61. This recap (and the prospect of THREE MORE) is my happy place. It’s so flipping good and Beth hasn’t even been mentioned yet!

  62. Yay! I will never get sick of talking about camp ever.

    Can “I Wanna Gay Baby” be our official campfire song? We can send out the lyrics ahead of time and boom sing-a-long.

    Also if you want, some of us ‘straddlers are profresh event planners. Maybe we can get like some sponsored booze and shiz? I’ll have to get my thoughts together and e-mail about this. Basically I’m pretty sure Jenner and I can make free things happen.

  63. You guys! Riese mentioned my name in this and half my leg and an arm are in one of the pictures! My life is now complete. Not to toot my own horn but damn I’m practically famous.

  64. Those pidgeonholes are the cutest and most amazing thing ever. I suggested a ‘have some way to leave each other notes’ type of thing in the comments on the original A Camp announcement post but I’m glad and really not surprised that you guys were onto it already.. and look at how adorable they are!

    I hope that everyone got some compliments, encouragement, quotes and numbers etc. ;)

  65. Reading this while my father sleeps in the bed next to me in a shitty hotel room and trying not to laugh too loudly but it’s not working. You guys are the best! I wish Riese, Robin, Marnie, and everyone else were in charge of making my whole life just as funny and wonderful and at times disorganized as camp. Love you guys.

  66. I didn’t even go to A-Camp but reading this recap and reading you guys’ comments made me properly sob into my keyboard ;__;

    A CAMP TEARS FOREVER!

  67. OMG! Emily is that a venezuelan flag in your picture?? *.*
    A-Camp sounds really, really, really amazing… I think I’d have to go to the 3rd one… There’ll a 3rd one, right?? :-O

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