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Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.  Albert Einstein

Week Nine of Summer Camp 2017!

Sarah Chaffee, August 26, 2017

Advanced Primitive Camp

This week Advanced Primitive Camp explored the far corners of 4-H Acres, gathering materials to use for crafting projects and paying attention to the the natural world around them. On Monday they enjoyed the solar eclipse from sit spots they picked in the forest, coming together afterwards to discuss what they observed. They made Raccoon Motel their base camp and even found perfectly intact raccoon tracks they were able to perserve in casts!

A camper holding raccoon track casts.

On Friday while enjoying lunch around a fire and telling stories at Mystery Camp, the Advanced Primitive Camp instructors presented the campers with a challenge- transport a hot coal from the fire and use it to build another at their base camp at Raccoon Motel. The campers discussed their options and settled on using punkwood to hold the coal. They carefully hiked along the path to Raccoon Motel, taking several breaks to breathe the coal back to life. When they made it to their destination the campers quickly began gathering wood and successfully made a roaring fire!

A camper keeping a hot coal alive between two pieces of punkwood.

All week long they worked on individual crafting projects. Some campers coal burned spoons and craved intricate spiral designs into the handles. After soaking them in vegetable oil to seal the wood, campers were able to use their new utensils during lunch. They also practiced pecking and grinding, a method of using a hard stone to break away at a soft one that ultimately creates a stone bowl or basin. One camper diligently worked on his stone bowl project during free time and by Friday had made a significant dent in his rock.

A coal burned spoon a Advanced Primitive camper made.

On Friday after having built a fire from a transported coal at Raccoon Motel, the instructors gave the campers another challenge. They had to fill a bucket with water using the stone bowls and coal burned spoons they had made during the week. The campers worked together to create an assembly line and were able to complete the challenge.The water they had collected was then used to make tea from wild edibles they found around their camp. Afterwards they had to face their biggest challenge yet- defeat the all-mighty sheep! They did so and enjoyed cooking steak on their fire and playing in their epic fort, complete with a primitive trampoline, one last time.

A camper hanging out in a shelter he helped build.

Bow Camp

This week's bow campers worked through calloused hands and sore arms to create their own bows. On Monday they began the delicate process of using a hand axe to chip away the excess wood in order to shape their bows, being mindful that one mistake could ruin their project.

A camper beginning the first stage of bow making.

In addition to bows, campers made handles using scraps of leather and sewed them together using cordage. They also made their own bowstrings by reverse wrapping wax-coated string and adding them to their bows. Some campers found some extra time to make arrows that they got to use when they tested the efficiency of their bow.

A camper making some final touches to her bow.

Growing Wild

This week Growing Wild had two groups of adventurous campers at 4-H Acres and at the YMCA Outdoor Education Area. The 4-H Acres bunch spent the week exploring Trillium Camp, going on horsey log adventures and making new friends.

A member of Bow Camp teaching a Growing Wild camper how to hold a bow and arrow.

On Friday they got a special surprise when three campers from Bow Camp taught them about archery! Growing Wild learned the names for different parts of the bow and the arrow and also got to practice the proper archery stance. After listening very intently the Growing Wild campers each got to take aim at a target, many for the first time.

A Growing Wild camper getting ready to shoot an arrow for the first time.

The Growing Wild campers at the YMCA Outdoor Education Area spent their week learning about weather. They even wrote a song that they added to every morning about clouds, rain and stars! On Wednesday they were visited by the mysterious "cloud" and were able to give gifts to it. These campers loved to use charcoal face paint, climb on the natural playground and play Tree Tag.

Nathan, a Growing Wild instructor, holding the cloud while campers give it gifts from nature.

On Friday Melissa, a Growing Wild instructor, told them she had seen a rainbow not long before they arrived. The campers soon embarked on a special mission to find the end of the rainbow and whatever treasure was at the end of it. Their journey led them through the forest to a mysterious and empty amphitheater where they found a pot of gold!

A camper playing Tree Tag.

Primitive Camp

Igneous Clan

The Igneous Clan spent their week stalking a mysterious creature that many have heard about but few have seen.This animal is said to live deep within the forests of the YMCA Outdoor Education Area and is an expert at camouflage making it nearly impossible to find. This clan made it their mission to track and find the elusive water marmot!

A camper guarding a special letter during a game of Keeper of the Keys.

On Tuesday morning the campers found a letter in their base camp but in order to read it they had to perfect their fox walking skills during a game of Keeper of the Keys. After several intense rounds the letter was won and read aloud. It was from the secretive West Hill Wizard who thanked the campers for the fairy village they created and asked them to harvest plants to make tea. He also gave them a warning- "Practice moving through the forest quietly and with ease for the water marmot may be here hiding in the shade amongst the majestic white pine trees."

Campers reading a letter from the Wizard of West Hill.

While the Igneous Clan searched for plants for their tea they found evidence of the water marmot's pretense in the forest- a three-toed paw print, torn bark off a tree and a half eaten Jack-in-the-pulpit, a plant that is poisonous to humans but loved by water marmots. All week long the campers the campers searched far and wide using their tracking and scouting skills to eventually find the mysterious creature. They celebrated with an epic feast!

Wood sorrel, goldenrod and many other ingredients to make tea.

Metamorphic Clan

The Metamorphic Clan built their base camp deep within the forest at the YMCA Outdoor Education Area where they created a primitive village. They built several shelters throughout their camp using y-sticks and other large pieces of wood. They also added a bottom layer of bark and then covered it with leaves to keep the interior warm and dry. On Tuesday afternoon they placed matches within their shelters and left them overnight to see if they stayed dry.

Sean, a Primitive Camp instructor, and campers carrying a log they used to build a bench in their base camp.

On Wednesday the campers used their navigation skills and led the way to their base camp. During Opening Circle Sean, a Primitive Camp instructor, asked them what was the best part of being human. One camper said that the best part was being able to form relationships with other humans while another said that being able to think and communicate were the best. Afterwards they worked together to carry heavy logs into their camp to turn into benches. They used a saw to cut smaller pieces for the log to rest on and after forty minutes they had built two long benches large enough to seat the entire clan!

Campers enjoying one of the benches they made.

Later the Metamorphic Clan went in search of an apple tree they had found the day before. They harvested fallen crabapples but also made a hook out of a curved stick to reach crabapples still on the tree. They collected until they had a potful and gathered close, each with an apple in hand, and showed some gratitude for the fruit they were given. Afterwards they returned to their camp and peeled and mashed the apples to make applesauce!

Campers and instructors showing some gratitude towards the crabapples they harvested to make applesauce.

Sedimentary Clan

The campers of the Sedimentary Clan made their base camp at the YMCA Outdoor Education Area in a hidden corner of the forest close to the nature playground where they enjoyed playing many rounds of Lava Monster. On Tuesday they played a partnered a game where they pretended to be birds and had to hide orange bandanas that represented nests. After they had adequately hidden their nest they had to retrieve as many seeds as they could from Becca, a Sedimentary Clan instructor, while Jesse, another instructor, flew around as a predatory bird trying to find their precious nests.

Campers pretending to be birds during a game.

During lunchtime the campers collected whispies, pencil sticks and markers sticks to build daily fires. The campers enjoyed harvesting crabapples from a nearby tree and roasted them over the fire until their skins softened tasted like apple pie.

Campers roasting harvested crabapples over a fire.

All week long the Sedimentary Clan built an epic fairy village in a hidden corner of their base camp. They creatively used small pieces of bark, tops of acorns, leaves and many other gists of nature to build tiny houses, beds, towns halls, they even made a fairy zip line using cordage!

A camper working on a fairy house.

Raven's Camp

This week campers at 4-H Acres enjoyed the first amazing week of Raven's Camp! Each morning they were greeted by the mysterious Raven who they learned more and more about as the week progressed. These campers enjoyed having choices in the mornings and afternoons that included face painting, crafting, circus performing and acting. Check out some highlights below from their week!

A camper with wolf face paint.

Candles made in the tops of acorns.

A camper showing off their awesome hula hoop skills.

A camper getting thrown into the air by a deer hide.

Campers working on a sewing project.

Alex, a Raven's Camp instructor and Tribe Leader, getting her face painted during the eclipse.

A small salamander found by a Raven camper in the Hemlock Forest at 4-H Acres.

A camper getting her face painted.

Campers giving a raven's crow during their Closing Circle on Friday.


The Trailblazers enjoyed another week exploring the Finger Lakes area hiking new trails, playing epic games and making new friends. On Thursday they went to Shindagin Hollow State Forest and hiked the trail to the lean-to. Along the way they came across bear scat their instructor, Jenn, believed was fresh and from a few previous hours. They kept their eyes peeled for bear tracks in the mud for the rest of their trek.

A Trailblazer collecting water from a stream.

Once they made it to the lean-to and the fire pit, Jenn told the campers that they were going to be making natural fabric dye. The first step was to fill three pots with water. Several campers went down to the stream and collected water from the edge of a small waterfall. Their next task was to gather as much wood as possible to create a long enough fire for the water to boil. These Trailblazers proved themselves to be some of the best firewood gatherers ever as they found several dead trees and processed them in no time.

Black walnuts, hickory nuts and ferns sitting in boiling water to make fabric dye.

Once they had a fire going they added the pots of black walnuts, hickory nuts and ferns to the top of the fire. The campers eagerly stirred them using sticks and talked about what designs they were going to dye into their shirts, pants and other articles of white clothing they brought. As the water began to boil they started to see what colors each gift of nature was going to create- the black walnuts turned the water into a dark brown, the hickory nuts into a very light red and the ferns into a darker red.

Campers crushing jewelweed flowers to colorize a picture they drew on a white bedsheet.

After the water had been boiling for fifteen minutes, they took the pots off the fire and soaked their clothes in them. The campers were amazed to see the colors they were able to create using nuts and plants. Jean brought out a white sheet and had a camper draw a nature scene which she then colored in using some dye, crushed jewelweed flowers and hickory nuts. While their clothes were dyeing they enjoyed playing epic running games in the woods with campers from Project R.I.S.E who were also visiting Shindagin Hollow.

The Trailblazers heading down the trail.

Thanks for reading! We're sad to be entering our final week of summer camp but are looking forward to all of the amazing adventures that are yet to be had.

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Need a trail guide?

We’re happy to help you navigate. Give us a call at the office (607) 272-2292 ext. 195 or use the link below

Get In Touch

Don't miss a beat, add yourself to our list to get all the latest details.