A-Camp September 2012 Recamp #1: We Absolutely Started The Fire

Welcome to the first of four fantastic recaps of our entire experience at A-Camp 2.0, which took place 2.5 hours outside of Los Angeles at Alpine Meadows Camp atop a mountain in Angelus Oaks, California, from September 12th-16th, 2012.

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 and create an affordable option for queers for whom other lesbian vacations aren’t always a perfect fit. In April 2012, we did it for the first time — along with 160 campers and 35 staff members, 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. It was probably the most awesome experience of our life and we knew from there it would only get bigger and better.

So in September, 220 campers and 40 staff descended upon The Mountain for four days of much-better-organized fun, friendship, panels, workshops, classes, sports, entertainment, events and secret initiation rites.

These epically long monster-posts will do their best to explain and extrapolate upon the camp experience, from avoided-shitstorms to emotional revelations to glory/triumph. But we can’t tell you everything. We must leave some things up to the imagination.

The next Camp Autostraddle will take place May 23rd-27th, 2012 in Angelus Oaks, California, Mark your Calendars!



Monday, September 10th 

On Monday, most of the A-Camp Staff arrived in Los Angeles via air, vehicle, or “already living in Los Angeles” and shipped out to Angelus Oaks for relaxing restful evening before Pre-Camp began on September 11th.

Carolyn flying from Ottawa to California (photo by Carolyn)

I. Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It’s Off to Camp We Go

Riese Bernard, Runaways Counselor/Editor-in-Chief: In April, about ten of us arrived at Alpine Meadows — our first time seeing the actual site — approximately 12 hours before campers began arriving. The rest of our staff arrived on the same day the campers showed up. This was a recipe for crazymaking so this time we scheduled for everybody to fly in/shuttle out or drive out on the 10th, attend pre-camp the 11th, and be ready eager beavers on the 12th.

Carly Usdin, Thundercats Counselor/Contributor/OG Autostraddler: At April’s incarnation of A-Camp, Lauren and I spent the whole time shooting the documentary, so I wasn’t able to fully engage in the activities and I didn’t get to form bonds with very many campers. I was determined to change that this time. I couldn’t wait to get on the plane with Robin; then I spent the entirety of the flight working on the Faggity Feud intro video and was so engrossed in that that I forgot to eat lunch.

Rachel Kincaid, Jetpack Counselor/Senior Editor: On my flight from Chicago I sat next to two girls of Scandinavian descent (Swedish? Dutch? I don’t know) who appeared to be some sort of Olympic-level athletes and also obsessed with eating Slim Jims. It was a harrowing trip. I do have to commend the in-terminal dining options at the Phoenix airport, though. Hats off.

Morgan McCormick, Battlestars Counselor/Calendar Girl: In the Atlanta airport, recovering poorly from the red eye that carried me there from DC, I noticed a cute short haircut, with a girl attached to it! I looked at her, she looked back and I looked away. Then she looked at me, I snapped my gaze back, and she stared intensely at her book. This went on. Then I pulled up bookface on my phone with a pic of A-Camp staff, walked over to her and said “Are you with Autostraddle?” “Oh my God yes!” Daniela and I intro’d each other, talked about our background in sexual health, boarded and, as we separated to our respective plane corners, we promised to meet again… AT A-CAMP.

Laneia Jones, Runaways Counselor/Executive Editor: Megan’s mom let us borrow her super fuel-efficient hybrid, which had satellite radio, so I didn’t even have to make mix CDs! How did we fit everything in it? The world may never know. We only had to go back to our house four times before we could finally leave the great city of Phoenix, so all in all, not a bad start.

Riese: Marni & I drove to Los Angeles on Sunday and then from there to Angelus Oaks on Monday. Economy Rental Car + Shit-tons-of-supplies = Riese spending hours with her legs on the dashboard because the legspace was full of supplies. It was pretty sexy!

marni & riese driving up to camp!

Rachel: Because of my primo travel scheduling skills, I ended up with literally eight hours to kill in LAX. This was fine, as I had a ton of work to do and LAX has free wireless, shoutout LAX. I engaged in some really intense eye contact and aggressive body posturing to get access to the outlets in the baggage claim, and spent hours scheduling posts and working on grad school stuff.

Carrie, Forever 21 Counselor/Community Managerette: My flight got into LAX at about 10am Monday morning. I was giddy but also sleep-deprived and hungry so I stumbled to the international terminal to get food and coffee. About an hour later I met up with Daniela and then we ran into Katrina, Carmen and Gabby outside the duty free shop. (I credit the queer forces of the universe for bringing us together.)

Carmen Rios, Misfits Counselor/Contributing Editor: Then I went to Grace’s terminal to meet her in the action which sparked “It Takes A Village,” a week-long communal process led by Gabby to turn me into a proper butch woman. She made me chug a beer and meet Grace as opposed to having Grace meet us. I love to hug Grace, you know?

Crystal, Thundercats Counselor/Music Editor: Carly and Robin were the first people I found at LAX and seeing their excited faces reminded me that the 14-hour flight and subsequent jet lag is absolutely worth it.

Carly at the airport (photo by Crystal)

Carrie: After Carmen left to meet Grace “Casablanca-style” at her terminal Rachel tweeted at us to get over to terminal 6 and catch the bus with the rest of the staff. The funniest thing about this is that twitter probably was the most efficient way to get our attention.

Crystal: I saw someone walk past who looked like Daniela Sea from behind and later discovered that it was our VIP camper, Jill!

Rachel: Jill is a superb human being and has excellent boots.

Riese: I think “HOW’S JILL” is the first question I asked Robin when she called. Jill was our A-Camp VIP — during our fundraising campaign, she picked the Megamillions “A-Camp VIP” Perk which meant she came to camp as a team member and got her own room and gifts and love and stuff. Robin said that Jill was both awesome and happy, which made me feel both awesome and happy.

Laneia: Was anyone prepared for how much we would love Jill? I thought I was ready, but I was not.

the team boards the shuttle (photo by carmen)

Rachel: There were some close calls — would the group that had gone to get Starbucks from terminal 4 make it back in time for the shuttle at 2:30?? — but in the end, all was well.

Riese: I spent a solid portion of the ride making sure I had everybody’s name memorized in case somebody asked and studying important facts about The Runaways I had helpfully recorded on index cards. I won’t tell you the memory games we had to play for Marni.

Alex, Avengers Counselor/Design Director: The night before pre-camp, I brought ALL the things in my car including Morgan and Mary.

Morgan: She buried me alive while Mary said soothing things.

mary, morgan and alex en route

Carmen: We stopped at the liquor store / grocery store / veterinary hospital for a quick trip to Vodkaland, in which I bought the cheapest glass handle of vodka that didn’t call itself “Seagrams.” It was Smirnoff. It was meant to last me the entire week.

Carrie: Jill entertained us with insane stories about cattle and tornados in Oklahoma. Daniela was nice enough to buy me a bottle of rum when I stupidly left my wallet locked in the bus during our pit stop.

Carly: I continued editing the video on the bus (when I wasn’t asleep), and Robin shared an email from Marni in which Beth (who was the Director at Alpine Meadows in April) (!!!) asked if she could come visit one day at lunch, and we all cheered.

Rachel: There was a brief, heady moment where we thought we might be able to get Carly to play her League of their Own DVD on the shuttle, but it wasn’t in the cards.

Carrie: I don’t know if they knew what they were getting into when they agreed to take a bunch of queermos up that mountain, but they did a really good job because no one on our bus cried or threw up or anything. Our driver even managed to do a three point turn on the edge of a cliff on the way up.

Katrina Casino, Snatch-22 Counselor/Writer: Bus driver man, wherever you are: thank you. Great job. I don’t know how the fuck you made that bus U-turn in the middle of that tiny, curvy road, but man. Go you.

Rachel: At last we arrived, and even though I had been awake for almost 24 hours at this point, it was so exciting to see everyone I love in one place that I kept just sort of covering my mouth with my hands and squealing quietly.

Whitney, Neverland Counselor/Writer: You guys, they are the best people, and the best kind of people — amazing and warm and open and lovely and so intelligent. I have all of the gushiness reserved for them. I felt so blessed to be in the mountains with such great, inspiring people, you guys. I’m so lucky.

road to the mountain (photo by alex vega)

Stef, Battlestars Counselor/Original Team Autostraddle: I headed up the Late Van Experience. Some of us had to go to work Monday, and some of us were just weirdos who booked late flights. Although I was super jealous of everyone who arrived early and got to the mountain Monday afternoon, there was something extra exciting about rounding up the latecoming staff (Malaika, Annika, Whitney and Laura) and piling into a van for old times’ sake. Once we’d excitedly gathered our tiny posse at LAX and picked out our trusty rental steed, we hit the road in search of late night tacos and lesbian camp adventures.

Megan O’Grady, Valencia Counselor: Every now and then, Laneia would screech, “We’re going to CAMP!!” And I could only say, “I KNOW!” in return because really, what else was there to say?

Carly: We were the first ones to arrive and I remember just looking around outside of Wolf Lodge, taking in the beautiful, quiet surroundings, and being overwhelmed with excitement and awe and gratitude.

Morgan: After the 2013 Calendar Girls shoot, I figured I’d never get to see Robin, Sara, Alex or Sarah again. Out, out brief candle as Bill said, but I never wanted to cling on like a Klingon and spoil that perfect moment on the beach. Then Riese asked me to join up as a counselor for A-Camp and it wasn’t until that late Monday night moment, when we’d finally hit mountaintop, that it hit me. Hit me in the form of Robin lunging out of the dark and giving me a hug to go down in the annals of hugdom. It’s good to come home.

Riese: Being back at Alpine was like going home for Christmas! All my friends are there and we’re planning this really awesome party! Except the food is probs a lot better at Christmas. I’m Jewish, so.

Laneia: Yes! I had that written down: “Going back was like going home. Where did that come from? Thank you.”

Rachel: There was much hugging and drinking of whiskey, and I think at one point Carly and Laneia and I spent thirty minutes just showing each other pictures of our pets on our phones. Laneia’s dogs are real cute, everyone.

Stef: We meant to stop for towels and other camp necessities, but by the time we got going it was almost midnight and the only open thing we could find was a WinCo in Pomona, where we bought champagne.

Malaika Alba, Misfits Counselor/Contributing Editor: And I also found the biggest bottle of Arbor Mist I had ever seen in my life! Yup, I’m classy like that. You guys, I couldn’t resist: they sure don’t sell wine bottles that big in Canada.

annika and laura (photo by stef)

Stef: With the help of my trusty navigator/roadtrip DJ Annika, we ascended the mountain at 2:30 in the damn morning with minimal issues and crept quietly into our bunk beds.

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Riese is the 40-year-old Co-Founder and CEO 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 California. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3036 articles for us.


  1. I just so happen to be wearing my A Camp t-shirt today because I needed to feel…I don’t know…maybe just feel something? And now I’m reading this and actually shouted RAINBOW WARS aloud and felt all excited when I thought about tug of war and stomping on people’s balloons and now I’m smiling. So, obviously my A Camp shirt (and A Camp) are magical.

  2. i forgot to mention this but i am sure i told much of the staff: when i was an angry little adolescent at summer camp in middle-of-nowhere pennsylvania, my camp had rainbow wars only they were called the OLYMPICS and all the colours were different countries and you had to cheer 24 hours a day including mealtimes until everyone was hoarse and miserable and you had to do awful sports all the time and when i didn’t want to do those things, the counselors screamed at me the way people being paid to take care of children should never scream at anyone. i went to that camp every summer, so after begging in the office to not have to participate, i learned that i could hide in the tack room of the camp’s stable with a kitten and a discman and read my little kurt vonnegut collection for three or four days, skulking out once in a while for mealtimes and sleeptimes. i was not very popular, so nobody ever noticed i was missing.

    i was NOT INTO THE IDEA OF RAINBOW WAR AT ALL and when i mentioned this to robin, she told me “oh, it’s going to be SUPER SCARY.”

    instead rainbow war was super fun and helped everybody band together and fight the patriarchy and smash balloons!
    AND i got to be co-counselors with morgan which is the luckiest thing anybody has ever won.

    team polite forevs.
    i miss you guys.

  3. oh god, you took a cuddle puddle picture! I think a just had a mild anxiety attack. thank god it’s a well-behaved one… (a lot, and I mean A LOT of feelings happened after the staff reading but..smokers’ circle love, yes…)

  4. oh my god I miss camp and all your shiny faces.

    Also, I’ve come to embrace the fact that I am essentially a mobile bar.

    Alsox2, can I get an Awomen about having ice this time around! Praise LJ!


  5. You guys are the best ever and god dammit it might take me YEARS but I am going to come to A-Camp sometime and you’ll all be disappointed by the fact my hair isn’t rainbow any more but I WANT TO FEEL ALL THE QUEER LOVE so much. You’re all beautiful.

  6. So many feelings! Mel I love your face, Katie I love your photos, Mel I love your face, Laneia I love you and Riese and your initiation ceremony is the best and I tell myself the code all of time and!!!!! And reading about the before we got there, so happy that it was good and happy and not too stresful for you guys.


  7. This makes me positive that, come hell or high water, i will be at the next A-camp. It will be the perfect way to celebrate finishing my Peace Corps service/returning to the States/getting to be a full-time queer again. May cannot come soon enough.

  8. me and my cabin straddled chairs in front of riese and alex for our straddling addiction. it may not have been original, but from our viewpoint it was surreal! little rascals 4evs!

  9. so many feelings! also MAY MAY MAY MAY…y u so far away.
    continually checking flight rates and already told my dad I will not be at what feels like his 10th wedding (-celebration, not the actual thing) on the 25th of MAY MAY MAY MAY MAY

  10. The first thing I said when I walked into Wolf for registration was “I’m home!” It amazes me how fast camp becomes the norm. Readjusting to the real world takes so much time, but flying across the country and climbing up a mountain to live with queermos from the internet just feels right. The people feel right.

  11. I think Robin is a genius because the rainbow wars clearly brought us all together. Just read the comments on every single post since camp! I can’t wait to see what the next wars will be like :) It will be hard to switch up the teams though! Purple team will forever be my people :)

    *hunger salute!*

  12. I was having such an awful day… it’s getting cold here and all I want to do is hibernate, but this recap made everything so much better! I miss camp like crazy.

    Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve wanted to be thrown up in the air by a parachute. I got to do this during the color wars, and it was basically the best thing ever. Even though my feet went way over my head, I wasn’t scared at all, because a cluster of lovely people were there to catch me. (This is probably a metaphor for camp as a whole.) Seriously, you make dreams come true.

  13. Tonight I passed the derby assessment I thought the time off for A-Camp might cause me to fail, and now I am fully mins passed and I belong in that community of awesome (50% queer) women that is starting to feel like a family, and then I come home and there is a recap of my other community of awesome (~100% queer) women that felt like a family too.

    Today is a really good day, you guys, is what I’m saying.

    And booking September A-Camp in the depths of despair as something to look forward to / cling on to was an excellent decision, because sometimes it is six months after the world fell apart and you can’t believe how well everything has worked out. And I miss camp all the time.

  14. Idk how to feel about having two pictures of me on the internets in which I cuddle/spoon people…proud, I suppose. Two years ago, I would have never dreamed that I would be doing this kinda thing. AS, you are the magic I needed in my life.


  15. Lately, I think of life as Pre-A-Camp and Post-A-Camp.
    I wish I could put into beautiful words what this queertopia in the mountains meant to me, but I can’t, so I’m glad you can.
    A-Camp was full of love of all kinds, where you could cuddle for the fun of it and TRULY be yourself.
    After camp, I understood the true meaning of “You Do You,” and I did.
    A week after I came home from camp, with my new-found queer support, I came out to my homophobic dad.
    I love you, A-Camp, and every single person I got to share this experience with.

  16. I really love that Grace and I tricked everyone into thinking the lighting at the campfire was somehow magically installed by the two of us.

    Alpine installed it. Sorry everyone.


  17. Y’know… I’ve missed people and places in my life, but not the way I miss A-Camp. There was just something about this simple life where people got along, you were fed at such and such time, people discussed stuff, and so on and so forth. These feelings are coming back hard.

  18. “I was ushering campers to their cabins and trying my best not to grab them and scream WE’RE SO GLAD YOU’RE HERE WE LOVE YOU. Instead I just carried their luggage.”

    MEGAN I really wish you had done that.

  19. i have so many feelings i can’t even begin to process. i am so in love with my THUNDERCATS (HOOOOOOO) cabin i can’t even start, and i want to hug Carly and Crystal so hard i might burst. Also, my big dumb face appeared so many times in this recap i want to die. Robin! If you see this, please send me a larger version of the photo of me photo-bombing the Misfits, because it looks like it might be magical. I’m the giant blonde mess in the tiny picture of the rainbow war photobooth collage!


  20. SARA MEDD you were the best with the gift bags.
    Did you get Lina’s and my “Du hast wunderschöne Augen”-note? Because you saying that to me was so amazing, I just had to blush and giggle stupidly.

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