Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sandy Cove, Camp I Love...

I'm linking up with Flashback Friday today. For more posts on summertime memories visit Mocha with Linda...

I have lots of happy summertime memories but without question, my favorite are from summer camp. My first real camp experience was at a Chrisitan camp called Sandy Cove. The girls camp was situated on the Northeast River in Maryland, not far from the Chesapeake Bay. I can say in all honesty that some of the happiest memories of my life are tied to that place.

I started out there as a camper and went for just a week the first year. My sister came too but we were in different age groups so she was a 'Papoose' and I was a 'Maiden'. We stayed in cabins, ate in a dining hall, learned to canoe and sail on the river, played massive games of Capture the Flag, rode horses, shot arrows in the archery range, poured sand candles in the beach, made the requisite leather crafts, held 'rap sessions' (there's a term we don't hear anymore) and Bible Study under the trees, drank bug juice, dined on the infamous Sandy Cove Stew and cooked rice krispie treats in a #10 can over a roaring campfire...I could write forever here. Every week was themed-Water Week, Olympic Week, anything Can Happen Week...just to name a few. We called our counselors "Chief" and I loved mine that first year...Chief Judy.

I returned to Sandy Cove two more summers as a camper before entering their CIT (Counselor in training) program. The first summer of the program revolved around a two week 'survival course' and our group of 8 CITs along with our two fearless leaders counselors spent 8 days backpacking across roughly 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail. The very first day, almost the first hour actually, I hyperventilated on the trail in a serious way. I passed out and worried those two counselors quite a lot. I bet they still remember me : ) I recovered (obviously) and stayed on without any more issues but it did get things started with a bang.

My second summer as a CIT I worked at the waterfront, teaching canoeing. The waterfront instructor was an absolute hoot and we had so much fun. I found confidence I didn't know I had and I loved the sense of accomplishment I felt at perfecting a skill. I also loved the fresh air, the exercise, and spending days in the sun. In the final year of the program we were assigned to an age group and I worked as the relief counselor for that group all summer. This meant subbing in different cabins on the regular counselors day off. I was so sure I would be placed with the little ones (papooses)...after all, I'd always loved working with young children and I thought that was where I had the most to offer. The CIT 'chief' saw things differently however and I remember having a moment of panic when she told me I'd be with the squaws (teenagers). But you know what? I've worked and volunteered with teens in all sorts of settings since those days at Sandy youth groups, Young Life, scouts, even working in the public schools, and it was at Camp Sandy Cove that I learned to really love that particular age group.

I know this is long but I have a lot of memories and I want to write a few of them here. I went back to Sandy Cove several more summers, both as a counselor and later as a tripper (I do love that term)...As a trip counselor it was my turn to act as one of two fearless leaders on a backpacking trip with a group of young high school girls. I think I learned more about myself on those backpacking trips than perhaps almost anywhere else I've ever been. There is nothing like days and days of hiking in beautiful, rugged terrain and quiet wilderness to have some serious talks with God about who you are and why you are here.

There was a boys camp (5 miles away) and eventually the girls camp was moved there too...the camps were still separate in their day to day operations, they just shared the same large piece of property. And from the counselors perspective it was way more fun to have the boys nearby. Just sayin'

I could write a thousand and one memories from my days at camp but they wouldn't mean anything to someone who hadn't shared in the experience. Roughly 30 years have passed since my last days of summer camp and in the course of those 30 years there have been moments where for an instant, I'm back at Sandy Cove. It might be the smell of a fire, the sight of a sunset on a river, or the sound of a whipporwill singing that does it, but in that moment I am carried right back to those sweet days of camp...I can see the playing field, the chapel on the bluff, the steep path down the hill to the waterfront... I remember silly songs, cleaning latrines, counselor hunts, the camp store, standing at the flagpole, 'waitressing', quiet talks after dark, the stars, the dirt, the bugler's song in the morning and the quiet strum of the guitar at night. I remember candles floating out to sea. I remember the music...always, always there was music.

Two things in particular stand out to me from those long ago summers...the first thing is this-Sandy Cove is the place where God was made real to me. The place where the faith I'd had since early childhood finally became my own.

And the second is this-when you live with people in a setting like camp you develop friendships that are unlike any other. There were summers of laughter. There were moments of heartache. We came from different states, different backgrounds, and different denominations, yet we shared a common faith. We worked, we played, we grew in every way. Including up.

♫ Sandy Cove, camp I love ♫
Rocks and trees and beauties
that are from above ♫
♫Skies so blue
Friends so true ♫
♫Take me back to
camping days at


  1. I just loved reading this! What a wonderful time in your life! And isn't it fun how a smell or a sound can trigger the memories and transport you right back there?!

    Oh, and the "rap session" cracked me up! I'd forgotten all about those! Nothing like being a child of the '70s!

  2. Love it! Makes me want to go! What happy memories you have! :)

  3. I LOVE hearing about camp experiences! Isn't it neat how one little smell, song, or scene can take you back?

  4. I went to a few summer camps too, but I have little to no memory left (it was before I turned 12, then we moved to P.). But from what you wrote, some of it came flooding back. Good times!

  5. Camp memories are wonderful and lasting!

  6. I used to go to Girl Scout camp every summer and have some wonderful memories of great times spent there. Enjoyed your post so much. Love & blessings from NC!

  7. Great post! I'm going to have to remember to link up with this one of these days. ;0)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Sorry, I wasn't the one who asked for the teriyaki recipe, but I'd like to hear it anyway! Yum!

  8. Camp Memories are the greatest. Thank you for MY walk down momory lane!

  9. I can't even tell you how much fun it was to read this post! I, too, spent summers at Sandy Cove. I started as a Papoose, continued as a Maiden, and finished as a Squaw. I didn't go through the CIT program like you did, but I did end up back there when the girls' camp was moved to Sandy Hill and I taught sailing school for two summers with a gal who is still one of my very best friends.

    You know what got my to your site? Sandy Cove stew! I always liked that and wondered for years what the recipe is because I forget! lol I, too, grew deeply in my faith during my years as a camper and also as a counselor. I have spent several summers at the main camp with my family, attending Homeschool Week. And this year, my daughter will be there for all seven weeks on staff as the assistant photographer. She will be the third generation in my family because my MOM also went to Sandy Cove as a girl!

    Thanks for the memories of one my favorite parts of my life and at one of the best places on this earth, my little slice of heaven to enjoy until I get there. :-)

  10. Thanks for your flashback. I had one too today as a fellow Sandy Cove/Hill Alumni myself. my memories of camp are just as warm. I learned so many valuable skills during camp that I still remember to this day. Wish I had thought to go back as a CIT. The best was the end of the week camp in the woods with the infamous Sandy Hill stew and smores. I have two young girls who are too young for camp now but want to camp in the backyard....of course we will be making the stew and smores. Happy Thoughts. God Bless.

  11. Great read! Like Sandee above, I found your post through a search for "Camp Sandy Hill stew!" Though I am younger, I also "grew up" at this camp. It was a family tradition, starting with my mom and aunt. Then 3 of my aunt's kids went. It was around this time that they combined the girls' Sandy Cove and the Boys' Sandy Hill at the boys' camp location. My oldest cousin was a CIT shortly after the switch (I think), and my mom took me to visit her there. I had to be about 4 years old, but I still remember going down to the waterfront and playing with clay from the bluff while we sat on the floating dock. When I went, the two camps were together at Sandy Hill. I skipped only one year after being diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, but I returned to spend several weeks every summer until my first year as a CIT. (Things were dramatically different that year, and I never returned. :'( ) Sandy Hill is where I learned about God. Where I forged lasting friendships. Where I learned how to sail a Sunfish, canoe, and ride a horse for real. I ended up staying in the horse cabin as soon as I was old enough. I learned how to identify poison ivy without contracting it first. I learned how to build a camp fire and cook over it. As with you, my fondest childhood memories are from summer camp. . . Camp Sandy Hill: A Christian Camp for Boys and Girls. To this day, I sing the songs I learned there. They soothe me, I guess because they are from a time when life was simpler. Thanks for the flashback. :-)

  12. Ahhhh. The memories. As tears of fond memories and tender moments developing my faith stream down my face I reminisce on the best carefree days of my life. I still remember the electives I took. The awesome Olympic week. Sandy hill stew (with that magical pinch of dirt). The sense of safety, fun, and love. I miss those days and would love to give them to my son and neices, but I think they changed the camp all around? Sandy Cove camp is now in West Virginia and Sandy Hill camp page says nothing about Jesus. That was such an integral part of camp. The songs, the growth, the same beliefs is what wove our experiences for a lifetime. I wonder what happens..... I remember the clay banks. Hearing loud thuds in the distance from Aberdeen, MD where they disposed of old munitions. I remember those sunfish sailboat. I remember Chief Woodcock or Haycock. I remember how to strong a bow, build a fire, sing flea, flea fly, flea fly flow. Chapel. Prayer. What a great gift to give a youngster.

  13. Ended up on this page as I google searched Camp Sandy Hill Stew!! What a great camp! Such awesome memories made & I love the memories of polar bear swims, leather making, candle making and so much more! I wish I could track down my dear camper friend Jessica Dunkle who I traded a polo shirt for a training bra and a sea isle city shirt!!! Good times!!

  14. Dose anyone remmber the recipe sandy cove stew ?

    1. Ground beef, Velveta, bacon, white potatoes, canned tomatoes, pinch of dirt.