A-Camp September Recamp #2: Blame It On The Altitude

Welcome to the second 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, 2013 in Angelus Oaks, California, Mark your Calendars!

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Thursday, September 13th

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I. Hello, Morning

Block A:

GAYming w/Morgan & Jill

Queer Families Panel w/Vikki, Laneia, Carrie, Whitney & Riese

Book Club w/Carolyn, Jamie & Meredydd

Music Trivia w/Crystal & Stef

Postcard-Making w/ Carmen

Hiking

Individual Style Workshop Sessions w/Sara Medd

Marni & Robin give morning announcements

Jill, Wild Stallions Counselor/VIP Camper: Gaymers was one of the first morning activities of the first day of camp so everyone was a little muted and tired. Thankfully Morgan was full of energy and got everyone stretched out with a game of “Human Pac-Man,” in which we turned Deer Lodge into a life size Pac Man course and everyone ran around eating ghosts.

Morgan, Battlestars Counselor/Calendar Girl/Contributor: It was all part of a diabolical scheme to force my fellow gamer kin to get up and move around a room and experience the awesome power of cardio.

Jill: We then discussed our favorite games, obscure games, and websites we liked. Morgan also discussed her involvement with the Trans Panel at PAX East.

Morgan: Then we moved on to the meeting’s meat: feelings. There are no feelings more fulfilling, as a geek of any stripe, than telling people about your favorite things, and then hearing about everyone else’s favorite things.

Jill: So that was the morning in which I was amazed by the greatness which is Morgan.

picking up chicks, starring morgan (photo by gabby)

Gabby, Catch-22 Counselor/Writer: I wasn’t scheduled for anything which was nice. When the schedules first landed in our inboxes, I realized that all of my feelings regarding my entire life would eventually be put out into the A-world, so a nothing block was a good block. I set out, camera in hand, ready to peer into the morning’s workshops/crafts/things.

Cee Webster, Golden Girls Counselor/Tech Director: I spent the morning roaming and helping/hindering where I could. For example: Finding supplies for Carolyn for her sewing workshop, dropping in on the introvert meetup and searching for the elusive tape.

cee & vikki

Carolyn Yates, Valencia Counselor/Contributing Editor: For Read a Fucking Book (Club), we read Santa Olivia, by Jacqueline Carey.

Meredydd, Golden Girls Counselor/Business Advisor: Santa Olivia is a really good book and I hoped it would give us a lot to discuss. I think it was a success! Campers also enjoyed the book and we got into the themes of science-fiction world building and comparing the relationship of the queer characters with the straight characters.

Carolyn: I really wish I’d written down everyone’s recommendations.

Meredydd: It lead into a larger discussion of how far authors are allowed to go with sex scenes for queer characters in Young Adult fiction – something I hadn’t really thought about much. Also we now have a Nerd-Straddling group on Facebook where we talk about our favourite books (science fictional and otherwise)!

Stef Schwartz, Battlestars Counselor/Writer/OG Autostraddler: This was our second time leading Music Trivia, and this time around we’d decided to turned it into a Rainbow War activity. Crystal and I were a bit nervous but somehow we assembled a fairly large crowd and the competition got pretty heated, with question topics ranging from Tegan & Sara and other well-known queer artists to hip-hop, riot grrrl, film soundtracks and obvs the Spice Girls.

Crystal, Thundercats Counselor/Music Editor: 50 campers started buzzing and shouting out answers all at once at it was pure madness. The Yellow team were the only ones who played by the rules and I suspect that this was their downfall.

Stef: Crystal threw delicious Australian candies to whoever answered correctly.

Gabby: Watching Stef doing anything in her Captain’s hat is probably on my top ten list of favorite things to watch. She is a master and knows her music shit.

Crystal tossing candy (photo by Rachel Walker)

Crystal: Just like when we played this game at the April A-Camp, I kept hitting Keisha with stray Toblerone missiles. I’M SO SORRY KEISHA.

Gabby: Crystal was throwing out candy to the crowd but like Australian candy so it was all weird and amazing looking. I love how A-camp competitions aren’t ever overly aggressive or mean spirited. It’s really just a hoard of queer chicks knowing that they’re smart and flying with it.

Crystal: The Purple team won, which I felt really good about despite my allegiance to the Red team because Chelsea sung all of her answers and deserved all of the points.

music trivia (photo by rachel walker)

Carrie, Forever 21 Counselor/Community Managarette: Everyone came to the Queer Families Panel with really different stories and perspectives which was great. I felt tiny and inexperienced hearing Whitney talk about marriage and Laneia and Vikki talk about their kids because those are worlds I don’t know anything about. But it mostly just made me excited and hopeful for a future that will involve those things.

Laneia Jones, Runaways Counselor/Executive Editor: I was really honored to be part of it. Everyone’s perspectives were so unique and important, and the audience had great questions and comments.

Gabby: I don’t think I’ve ever heard Laneia speak irl so much. It was awesome.

(photo by katie o’donnell)

Alex Vega, Avengers Counselor/Design Director: I could listen to Laneia and Vikki tell stories about their children all day. Especially stories that involve important/deep topics like how to tell your kids that your family is a little different than the other kids at school, as an example. It was the first time I had even thought about that stuff… like maybe possibly having my own family some day and how that situation might go. (i.e. terrifying)

Riese Bernard, Runaways Counselor/Editor-in-Chief: The Queer Families panel was my idea and I was so pumped to rep my gay self and my gay Mom, but then I got altitude sickness and couldn’t sleep Wednesday night or move Thursday morning (I also have fibro, which basically doubles the pain of anything that ever happens to me ever) and Marni had to have a Real Talk Moment with me where I had to face the fact that I wasn’t gonna be on the panel after all. Intern Grace brought me water pitchers and Cheerios in a styrofoam bowl and listened to me writhe and told me stories. I didn’t have pants on and I determined that I’m officially a “sickly” person in general. Alas.

Laneia: I talked with a camper afterward and she showed me a whole new side of being the child of a queer divorced mother — one that I hadn’t really considered before — which I’ve definitely kept with me. Maybe the best part of A-Camp is how easy it is to learn something new, about yourself or the world. Like if you just stop and listen long enough, someone will show you something amazing and necessary.

Camper Quote“As a person who works in education, I am absolutely fascinated by the relationship between children/their gay parents, and gay parents/the educational system. Please talk about that forever.”

laneia and vikki at the queer families panel (photo by katie o’donnell)

Sara Medd: I love having the opportunity to meet individually with campers to chat style for Individual Style Consultations!! Not only is it more helpful to give advice that is individualized, but I get to know campers who are not in my cabin who I may not have been able to meet otherwise.

Camper Quote: I had a style workshop with Sara, and she really helped me. I LOVE HER.

this is a picture of sara medd from the last day of camp but it seemed like it would fit real nice into this part of the recamp

Carmen Rios, Misfits Counselor/Contributing Editor: I always think nobody will be interested in my lame nostalgic crafts but so many people came to postcard-making! We demolished a lot of paper inside of Falcon lodge and created a series of beautiful postcards ranging from practical to modern art.

Gabby: They were so damn cute surrounded by construction paper, scissors and the incurable virus of crafts: glitter.

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NEXT: The Queer Women of Color Panel, Speed-Dating With Hannah Hart and MOAR!


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Riese is the 39-year-old Co-Founder and CEO of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2855 articles for us.

142 Comments

  1. RachelR

    God damn this makes me wish I knew some queer people. I’m glad y’all had such a good time, though!

    • you know me so well. i always want EVERYONE to get in the van.

  2. Creatrix Tiara

    Is Page 2 down for anyone else or just me?

    • Creatrix Tiara

      …aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand there it is!

  3. S

    Is it just me or does anyone else feel so incredibly happy yet sad when they look at these A-CAMP pages?

    So incredibly happy that such a thing even exists, yet sad for myself because I missed out on a wonderful opportunity.

    Definitely going next year!

    • you should feel happy that it exists because you’re definitely going next year

    • Mel

      HOW COULD I FORGET, ANN?! I don’t think any of the Runagays could forget what happened that night in Cabin 17, including the feelings, the music playing, the snaps and that person that knocked on the door at 4:00am and woke up half the cabin.

        • Mer

          haha mine? yeah I’ve got my “insanely happy” smile on lol

        • Mer

          oh wait, just reread and understood! T-Pain definitely creeped the heck out of Hannah Hart! It was awesome

    • I think our Thursday night feeling circle was my favorite part of camp.

    • that was the beginning of the no-sleep-ever weekend of camp. but, feelings!

      • Mer

        I actually calculated how many hours of sleep I got during all of camp: 14. Yes, 14 hours from start to finish. I felt all the feels and there was just no time for rest.

        • i think i got ~12, not counting the hour i slept on your shoulder on the bus to lax.

    • to be clear i mean that i have literally not stopped having feelings since the Thursday night feelings circle. BROKEN.

  4. There is nary a mention of Jetpack in this recap, with the one exception of Rachel speaking about Chelsea, so! An explanation.

    The title of this post, Blame it on the Altitude, comes from the genius creation of Jetpackers Chelsea and Kathleen, our resident lyrical geniuses. It’s an epic song that was performed by much of Jetpack during the talent show(video). Our resident badass Judyna turned this into AN ACTUAL SONG which you can listen to here.

        • YES I HAVE IT THERE ARE LIKE THREE PICTURES OF YOU IN A TREE

          • CAN YOU SEND THEM TO ME. I’M STARTING A COLLECTION.

          • lookbriannaisinatree.tumblr.com

          • Oh hell no. Maybe if I photoshopped bread-cat’s face onto my face.

            (everyone not in the camp facebook group is suddenly confused)

          • I was very disappointed the link didn’t work.

  5. erin

    that’s so fun! we just went to gay family camp (campitup.org) this summer for the first time and it was great, but generally an older crowd. would love to find something for younger queer families, though i imagine A camp isn’t for kids…

    • that’s what I was about to say, Ashley!
      They need to at least mention it in recamp 3, in club deer

      • oh my god i forgot about when gabby and i were walking around and ended up shaking hands with completely naked women. obviously i forgot because it’s like, yawn, it must be thursday.

        • it was day 3 though, right? because i think croce and i attempted to make the streakers stand in line to get wristbands until we realized that they were, well, streaking.

          • Lanie

            This is true, I was awake and less substances for this!

          • DAY THREE YOU GUYS, DAY THREE

          • the days all seem to run together at camp. Camp is a blip in the space/time continuum.

        • shaking hands? is that what it’s called when someone presses their bare breasts into your chest?

          i call that 2nd base.

          • one day i’ll learn what second base is!!!!! one day.

          • Lanie

            Lesbian second base is a boob high five??? man I am doing worse than I thought.

          • Maurys

            xD this was so funny… +1

    • Marni

      Wait wait wait THERE WERE STREAKERS??!! man nobody tells me anything!

  6. I think I remember about as much of Thursday night as Brandy Howard. #ALTITUDE

  7. Wildman’s adorable little focused face in the zine picture is primo

  8. Lanie

    So that is what I missed on Thursday night! I had solo ipod listening time because I had too many cookies at High Tea and then took a nature walk before dinner…so the “altitude” made it impossible for me to function after a while. I did go give moral support to my Thundercats at all events. I’m really sad I missed Klub Makeout though.

  9. You guys, I had NO IDEA about this makeout rave thing until this very moment. I just knew a lot of my cabinmates got super drunk this night and I couldn’t figure out where the hell they were getting drunk and taking tequila shots. Kait, I see you.

    I was in bed by around 11pm every night. I am an old woman.

    • It all makes sense now! Kait, oh Kait.

      I’m okay with feeling like old people. We were in bed by then, because we never had hangovers.

    • Don’t worry, for the first two nights of camp, I went to bed at like 11PM. Then smoker’s circle cuddle puddle happened, so I tried to stay up late for the rest of camp. YOU ARE NOT ALONE HANSEN.

          • Amy

            I need this stitched onto everything I own.

          • NEXT CAMP — SHIRTS.

          • Amy

            KAPPA PHI TOBACCO

            (I felt obligated to respond in all caps to compete with Carmen.)

    • oh my gosh this was the night I ran all the way across camp at 4am to get geneva at the other cabin and then all the way back and it was somehow really dramatic cause I didn’t know which cabin was the staff cabin and it was after I thought that trashcan was a person and I was still really freaked out about that.

      (but playin it cool! playin it cool!)

      • “and then we were just sort of like, ‘holy shit. that’s a trashcan.'”

          • I just kept repeating that as if it justified my talking to it

      • But your granola bars were the most important, I think. And vacuum-sealed to keep the Misfits free from bears.

    • Amy

      Based on the events that followed, you must’ve known shit got crazy somewhere.

      • “the events that followed” Is that how we’re describing it now?

  10. btw I am EPICLY PROUD of JILL STROMBERG and her white shorts repping the snatches!! Jill wins all the things!

  11. I remember wishing and hoping I might get the amazing opportunity of having a picture in even ONE recap…. so far I’ve been in both! So happy! You guys even included my overuse of commas in my love for Sara Medd!

  12. Aaah, I got recapped! I remember saying that “I didn’t know any Persian queers” not that there weren’t any (I’m no Ahamdinejad), so I was so excited to meet Minna! I was hella nervous about getting up and sharing my experience, I almost didn’t do it. Glad I did.

    Every time I see camp photos, my heartstrings tug a little bit and then I curse my mother’s need to see me walk at graduation because it falls smack in the middle of mAy-Camp. :(

    • Mer

      Also, every time I have tea (which is many times a day) I think of High Tea and Megan making use of coffee filters so everyone could have something to drink, and Laneia teaching T-Pain and I to make spinners, and Mel being as super duper excited as me about the Jazzercise bears, and everyone sitting at the picnic table making friendship bracelets. It makes my heart feel warm and glowy.

  13. Everytime I read a recamp and look at pictures from camp my heart just melts away because of feelings and because I want to come back and don’t know if I can and also I miss everyone and just want to hug all of you.
    Kbye.

      • yes yes. this week-end could already be planned out, but yes, soon please.
        I don’t know what happened last night, I wasn’t even drunk but I was feeling all the feelings. maybe it was because thursday night was Cuddle Puddle Night heeeyo.

  14. I really hope I get to go to one of these in my lifetime, but I doubt it because of the Atlantic ocean and theyre always on during term time :(

  15. Creatrix Tiara

    (Ha, ani difranco is playing in riteaid as I write this …)

    The camper quote after the non-monogamy panel (which was mine) seems especially bittersweet after the events of the last couple of weeks :/

  16. Liz

    What’s the link for the fb group about books? I’d love to be in it!

  17. This whole post is giving me Muppet arms! I remember it fondly as the day I dominated all of the things (music trivia/faggity feud), the day Brandy Howard groped my ass, and the glory of the Wild Stallions amazing rack(s). I had a front row seat to all that shizz and I regret nothing!

    JETPACK BLAST OFF!

    • Orange + Purple = LOVE

      This was one of the best days of my life. Thanks for the boob shout out. They loved you too.

      Also, I still can’t get over your amazing “Blame it on the Altitude” song. You rocked Acamp.

  18. mon

    I’m pretty sure that green team won girls gone wild, even though we were annoyingly competitive we definitely took points on that one (and little else).

    • mon

      (that’s right, still being competitive)

    • As a compulsively accurate purple team member I have to agree that we did not win girls gone wild. We came in second, but that gave us enough points to put us in the overall lead for the rainbow wars,

  19. I wanna give a shoutout to the campfire event with Vicki that happened at the same time as the Julie and Brandy event because it was a huge highlight of my camp experience. We never told ghost stories, instead we spent the whole night talking about herstory and lesbian activism (Vicki is so cool, you guys. Seriously.) our duty to spread the word to younger generations. We also talked about kink, sex positivity and erotica (Ali is bomb. :D) and we did it all while getting blasted in the face with smoke.

    Basically it was epic and amazing.

    • I’m totally agreeing with Launa. I think one of my favourite moments was getting to talk to Vicki at that fire briefly like I wish I could talk to my own mom, while she was able to ask a question about what she should do as a mom and all of us were able to answer like her fake daughters. It was just such a cool perspective swap, in such a chill environment. I didn’t realize how cool it was until I walked away.

    • Yes! That campfire was awesome. I know Vikki has a blog somewhere I’ve been meaning to start reading, but I can’t remember where it is.

      Hey Vikki are you around? Can you fill me in? :)

  20. i just want to talk about how hot crystal looks chucking that piece of candy across the room.

    • i wanted to say she was like a dolphin trainer but then there was really a dolphin trainer at camp and i don’t want to marginalize dolphin trainers.

      • carlytron

        all of the thundercats are total babes, haven’t you heard?

        also Crystal I want tim-tams so bad right now.

        • i also heard that the wild+cats are total babes. i mean i saw it on page 4.

          also carly i will send tim tams.

          • Lanie

            WILD + CATS for life!!!

    • Ava

      I thought the exact same thing when I saw that picture and I don’t even know Crystal, so.

  21. I’m so glad that the zine from Camp 1.0 is still coming!

  22. As I recall it was the ghosts that ate the pac person at GAYmers, and we all learned a lesson about the importance of balance in game design.

  23. Amy

    I was not prepared for the amount of feelings these recamps would cause. I would like for it to be May right now thanks.

  24. So I had to walk through that makeout rave in my pajamas to get a library book to read in my bunk while I was sick and dying, which made me very sad. But then ALICE MOTES offered me some tea (seriously, I was hyped over the constant presence of tea at camp… and Alice’s one person black market) and then Marika/Christina/Morgan moved my bed and like seven staff came to Mary Poppins all over me, which was sort of disturbing but also incredibly rad and helpful. Meghan definitely deserves credit as the camp nurse.

    • I’m so glad you were well taken care of. I remember how sick you got in our cabin.

    • <3 If you had to be sick at least you got TARGET LINENS! And love!

    • Black market- hilarious and maybe a little true! Best kept open secret?

      I was super bummer you were sick and was happy to help!

  25. Dear Carrie, Cee, Meredydd, Stef, Croce, and Lil’ C,

    Thank you for Klub Deer.

    That is all.

      • Well that is how you were referred to on the official Klub Deer flyer — c’mon lil C, stay in character here…

  26. So Jill told me I was all over this recap, and now I feel special.

    I would like to say that I was fed at all points! I didn’t even finish all my snacks! Although the first night my protein source was Morgan fetching me a cup of eggs from the salad bar and looking at me in a concerned fashion, while I demolished ALL OF THE MASHED POTATOES after a 14 hour trip.

    Morgan is the sweetest.

    • Oh so that’s why Morgan was putting eggs into a cup. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

      *smishes*

      • Every time a Battlestar says “So say we all,” a Morgan and a Stef get their wings.

  27. And thanks Malaika, now I know how Carmen had her spirit animal bear vision/hallucination.

  28. Sam

    It’s so fun to see pictures of us! Everyone looks so great. I miss camp.

  29. Mel

    The sense of community within A-Camp and the queers really sunk in for me on Day 2. I gained newfound confidence, love, respect for myself as a gay woman and for my fellow queers.

    The Queer WOC panel really helped me open up to the rest of A-Camp. Although I was too timid and in awe of the panel and participants to speak up, I caught myself constantly smiling, nodding, cheering and clutching my poor queer heart and for the entire duration (lost it with everyone with the Persian queer outburst). I mustered up the courage to approach Katrina afterwards, the only other queer Filipino woman I met at A-Camp, thanking her for being the strong, articulate voice I could relate to (RICE). Yep, I fangirled a bit too.

    I dappered it up with Ann for the first Speed Dating session and consequently High Tea after. Just because a date lasts only 2-3 minutes doesn’t mean you can’t dress up at 7500 feet! I couldn’t believe how many compliments we received from all the cute women, even after at Barbershop! I regret not joining the dapper luncheon on Saturday :-(

    I can’t remember much else because ALL THE FEELINGS hashed out this night too, but ugh, Day 2 was amazing!

  30. “Then Hannah arrived and jumped in on the dates, so a few campers got to go on a 3 minute date with her. Robin and I made sure to ask her the most awkward sex-related question from the list.”

    Thank you, Robin and Sara, for one of my favorite moments from camp. I was the one lucky enough to be sitting across from Hannah when suggested question #1 was asked.

  31. One of my favourite moments from A Camp was when Dena found the other Persian queer woman at the QWOC panel and just. It was so powerful that I’m crying just thinking about it again.

    Thank you, Autostraddle, for making these moments a reality.

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