Notes from the Director
July 11, 2017

Eat, Drink and Be Merry – A Dining Hall Adventure

Why Yes.  We do slow down a few times a day.  At least we sit down three times a day to meals in the dining hall.  Unfortunately for Miss Manners, we try to squeeze in some fun when we’re all together these three times.

For us, the Dining Hall gives us a chance to get some All Camp time in.  Every meal starts with, a prayer, a reminder for a dime sized dollop of hand sanitizer and the ever important decree of one full glass of water!  Routine, routine, routine.

Every meal is wrapped up with a cheer: “What do we want, meds.  When do we want ’em, NOW” (and absolutely no one would dare forget a mealtime medication).  There’s a table game to see who gets the bus tub for dirty dishes, and finally, the after meal announcements.  These range from camper recognition for accomplishment in classes, a joke of the day, updates on activity meeting spots and evening schedule wardrobe plans.  Finally, after about 30-40 minutes we are gone.  Three hundred and fifty in together.  Three hundred and fifty fed.  Three Hundred and fifty leave together.  Just like an NBA game.  The precision of swiss timing and the energy and smells of laughing campers!

In between is our chance as program directors and directors to watch the interactions, see all the kids flow by and catch all the staff we need for updates.  It’s a great time for the staff table to catch kids headed to fill an empty pitcher or to the salad bar and watch to their body language.  Are they happy?  Are they limping?  Are they sun-burned (never)?  It’s another time to watch our boys being boys.

You can only imagine (actually, you probably can’t begin to fathom) the inner workings of the dining hall at a meal.  (Again, sorry Miss Manners).  There are the helpers setting the tables.  There are the guys who drop the plastic cups just to hear them bounce.  There are the guys who bang plates with spoons because we’re all closet drummers.  There are the guys who pop wrags at the trash can.  There are guys who help their buddy with the dirty dishes.  There are guys who leap over the wet floor sign and guys who crash right into it.  There are guys who lick the empty pudding bowl on the way back to the kitchen and the guys who pretend to be interested in talking to Cheryl and I so they don’t have to clean at all (you think we’d figure it out after awhile).  We have all kinds.  An hour and a half each day in the dining hall is the best part of the day.  Please join us at closing, we’ll save you a pudding bowl.

And oh, yeah, we eat.  We drink at least one full glass of water.  We make too much noise.  (sorry Miss Manners).  We can’t have too much fun.

Life is Good.  So is Food.  Camp is Better.

Blake

Notes from the Director

June 23, 2017

Manhugs and Victory

If you’ve ever read the Director’s Notes in the past – and I’m not sure I’d suffer through more than a few – you know that this is my favorite time of the term.  We’re winding down the session and ramping up the excitement.

On Wednesday night, by the glow of the setting sun, we all gathered at the Riding Arena for the 2017 Rough Rider Presentation.  Alums and Veterans both remember that this is the traditional ceremony (same script for my 36 summers) where we introduce the Rough Rider Nominees on Horseback and then announce the First Term Camp La Junta Rough Riders.  There’s no running around.  There’s no keeping score.  There’s no competition taking place.  What there is, is 90 years of tradition wrapped up in 30 minutes of ritual riding.  But the tradition is not my favorite part.

What I love and what I saw again last night, is how much of the La Junta program culminates in that ceremony.  All the boys who are nominated, with a few exception are Hilton campers, are in their final main camp year.  They’ve strived, struggled, dreamed and worked hard to grow more confident and accomplished on a horse (which is not a place that some of us ever grow comfortable).  There’s 18 young heroes who want it bad.  There are 10 that won’t get it.  As the ceremony progresses and the eighth name is called it becomes obvious to the 10 just who they are.  There is of course disappointment, but in a few hours it is replaced with confidence that in defeat there remains the fact that only the truly top 18 riders were recognized.  But that’s not my favorite part of the evening.

The Nominees are always mounted on their steeds under the bleachers and out of sight of the masses.  What always happens next gives me goose bumps and faith in our future leaders.  They are not coached.  They are not assigned the task.  But when the remaining 10 learn who they are, the riding staff begin to make their way through the fog of disappointment.  Whether 24 year old leaders of the program, or 16 year old assistants, all 8 are shaking hands, patting knees and squeezing shoulders.  (Manhugs).  The most classic is when our head instructor, on horseback rides up to a disappointed rider, places his index finger in the middle of their chest, looks them straight in the eye and tells them, “I’m proud of you! Hold your head high!  You’ll always be one of the best!

Disappointment is always going to be a part of life and we want to help teach our boys, through tradition and perseverance, that life goes on.  A near miss is no more than that.  There are billions of lives in other hemisphere’s who will never ride a horse, or paddle a war canoe, or advance in the Black Eagles or make it to Bulldogger.  Their life goes on.  If you aim high, you sometimes miss.  If you never aim high, you always miss.

Life is Good.  Camp is Better.  Never perfect.  Always Better.

Blake

May 2017

Summer is Almost Upon Us.

If you’re 10 years old, you’ve already let your mind move past school assignments and into the anticipation of another Summer.  If you are a CLJ man, you’re already looking toward a first or another CLJ Summer.  Either way, we’re already looking forward to having you here.

Last weekend we finished up our third Father/Son weekend.  Those six days are almost as exciting as the summer.  We had over 200 boys, veteran and rookie alike.  We even had a pile of young ones who aren’t even old enough for a summer session.  It’s great to hear their stories of memories from last summer as well as to answer their questions about what great new things they’ll be doing in 2017.

During this final month of preparation, parents should become very acquainted with their CampInTouch portal.  We’ve activated numerous planning guides, information and helpful hints.  In addition to the packing instructions, one of the most valuable forms online is the homesick handout.  We hope you’ll glance over it, even as a fifth year parent.  While everyone is concerned about homesickness in first year guys, multiple summer guys can be stressed as well.  They worry about who else will return, what awards they’ll win, will it be as fun?  They’re boys.  They have concerns.  The Homesick Handout, as well as others, give you loads of our years of experience to help make the final weeks before camp beneficial.

On this end, we’re wrapping up a new athletic shed/toons night screen, staff training plans, activity upgrades and revisions, activity and cabin assignments and final forms.   We’ve got some surprises in store for evening program so we’re a little nervous, too.  Will they like it, will it work, will it go down in history.

Enjoy the final weeks of school.  (if that’s really possible)  Hollar if you need help packing.

Life is Good.  Camp is Better.  2017 should be the best at 90!

Blake

2016 Has Ended and 2017 Is On Its Way

 

Notes from the Director

September 1, 2016

The 2016 camping season is in the history books.  The windows are shut, the horses put out to pasture and the office staff is headed for a long winters nap.   We had 6 great sessions and 650 happy campers.    When our main camp summer was all completed here at Camp La Junta, and Katie and Cheryl were starting on the lost and found laundry, Scott, Dave, Colton and I turned our energies toward our annual DREAMKAMP.

Since 1997, the final week of the summer is always our DREAMKAMP.  It’s our week to give back to the community.  For our 20th year, we  hosted over a hundred and forty Kerr County kids for a free week of camp, absolutely no cost to them.  These outstanding kids were selected by their teachers for their attitude, enthusiasm and leadership potential.  We ran them through a week of Christian Leadership training.  We squeezed in as many activities as we could, surrounded by a morning Bible study by a local clergy and an evening campfire message by a local community leader!  We even had girls!  It’s a great way for us to end the summer and work on our community’s young leaders at the same time.

Speaking of ending, thought you might like to see the CLJ Evening Prayer.  It goes across the PA every night of the summer, delivered by a different camper each time.  I know it’s been used for at least a decade and maybe even a few years more.  It’s a fitting way to wrap up the summer as well.

“The Bedtime Prayer”

Father, we thank you for this day,
We thank You for our friends and play.
We ask Your blessings overnight.
Please guide us safely til the light.

Teach us to always say what’s true,
Be willing in each task we do.
Help us be better every day,
and lead us in Thy Holy Way.

We pray whatever wrongs we’ve done,
You will forgive us every one.
Be near us when we wake again,
and Bless our Families, AMEN.

Have a great school year.  We can’t wait to get you all back for 2017!  If you’re new to La Junta, now’s the time to get registered for 2017.  While many terms and age groups are already wait listed, there will be cancellations in the Spring when summer and summer school plans start to take shape.  The sooner you are on the list, the better your chances of getting a spot!
Life is indeed Good.  Camp is still Better.  Blessings to you and yours.  Thanks,

Blake

Spring, the build up for Summer!

Notes from the Director, January 25, 2016

Of course we’re biased.  We are an 89 year old Summer Camp.  What else could the other 9 months be about than proper preparation for Summer!

If you’re a camp veteran, then you know that when yearbooks and videos arrive, and camp parties are right around the corner, so too is camp.  Yes, it’s almost half a year away, but who can help it if your mind starts thinking about activity choices and schedules, cool hats for ranch competition and which buddies will be your cabin.  That’s us.  We had a quiet Fall to plot and scheme improvements and program ideas.  Thankfully it’s finally time to start the bidding and get things and people in place!

Scott is fully ramped up with the counselor hiring process.  Contracts are beginning to go out.  Interviews are consuming our office time.  Our new systems for gathering and tracking staff papers are being tested!  Yahoo.

Cheryl and Cindy are putting CampMinder and CampInTouch through the review process to make sure all is ready to be activated, utilized and tracked.  You’ll start getting summer planning tips soon, as well as paperwork requirements and policy updates.

I’ve got a cool stack of dream-list items on my desk.  You know “Dream-List”.  The exciting challenge is to see what we end up with.  We’ve found T-Shirt Cannons, Wireless Video Projectors, Indoor Tailgate games, Red, White and Blue Kayaks, Indoor Riflery and other cool stuff.  Even with a jam packed program I bet we can find places to add a few new ideas.

Most importantly, we’ve been keeping tabs on kids and the social development of great ones.  We’re so saddened by the reports we continue to hear of bullies and social media misused.  We’re working hard this Spring to incorporate much of what we’ve learned into new staff training modules, cabin meetings and all camp campfires.  It’s an ever changing world, and we feel it’s important to us to evolve, keep up, and hopefully help get things better.  In reent years, we’ve been building on a theme of “Building young men of Character” and are excited about continuing to evolve the ranch and black eagle aspects of camp to send home confident, capable, empathetic, school leaders and sportsmen.  We’re gonna move some of our historic behind the scenes notions into the forefront of our daily programming.

We can’t wait until summer.  Actually we have to wait.  Darn calendar.  We hope you’re as excited about June and July as we are!

Life is Good.  Camp is Better.  (and we think, getting better all the time).

Blake

CLJ Offseason News
December 1, 2015

It’s officially the holiday season now that Cheryl, Katie and Cindy have put up the Christmas Lights at the camp entrance.  Cindy got her first taste of how cold it always is on the Monday after Thanksgiving and Cheryl and Katie were reminded just how much cedar pollen we store away with the garland!  (Scott, Dave and I are of course too busy indoors manning the phones).

December is always our final respite before the new year and the newest sets of Camp forms and programming updates.  Most of you will never notice a change, but we often impress ourselves!  This fall we’ve met with pharmacists and programmers to see how we might best make the process of summer medications easier to plan for and easier to track!  CampInTouch of course has their tweaks each year to help us with video and photos in the summer.  We’re hoping this summer to join into the online, on demand, video craze.  DVDs seem to be the newest VCR and we’re looking at some awesome ways to replace that technology.  We’re looking at some awesome new toys!  There are always new games, new wireless technologies, new t-shirt cannons and even low tech Bocci Balls.  It’s almost time to stop our research and start our set up!

If you haven’t made plans yet for the summer of 2016, now’s the time.  Most terms and many age groups are already full, but Cindy will do here best to find you a spot!  If you’ve made CLJ plans, get ready for the rush of paperwork when the new year arrives!  It happens fast.  If you can’t wait for summer, sign up for a Father/Son Weekend.  We’re taking those applications now!

Have a great holiday season.

Life is Good.  Camp is Better.  The next session is always right around the corner.

Blake

Another Season of Father/Son Weekends is Wrapping Up

It’s on to Summer Camp

 

It’s almost May and no, we’re not getting ready for camp, we’re getting ready for Father/Son weekend number 3.  It’s hard to realize, but this is our 24th Spring to host father and son weekends.  We had no idea back in 1994 that not only would Dad’s tolerate a weekend without the conveniences of home, that they would crave the excitement of a two days alone with their littlest buddy, shooting, riding and swimming.  We’ve watched the weekends go from Basketball to SWAT and 9 square.  From canoeing to kayaking.  From rapids to rope swing.  From 20 dads at a time to 65 dads at a time.

 

In nearly 25 years and over 70 weekends, we continue to see  not only the joy of getting to do camp but the confidence of new guys as they determine that this is their place.  When they return in the summer, they know some staff.  They know the flow.  And they know the water slide.  It’s been a great journey.

 

As we prepare to wrap up our final Father/Son of the Spring, it’s time to start putting final touches on the program.  The staff are pretty much lined up, but now they have to be trained.  The menu is set, but the orders need to be made.  The program is outlined, but now the supplies need to arrive.  Your guys are ready to go, we just need paperwork and foot lockers!

Have a great end to the school year.  We are getting more excited by the day for your little guys to become our little guys!

Life if Good.  Camp is Better.

Blake

Check Out our New Online Camp La Junta Tatlers

A printed, tradition dating back to the earliest Summers, Camp La Junta has begun to post Tatlers on the website every other Month during the offseason.  Click on the link below to begin enjoying CLJ photos, news and even competitions for Ranch Points.

 

http://www.lajunta.com/camp-news/the-tatler/

 

87 Years Strong and Counting Down
February Weekly News 

If it weren’t for this excellent cold weather we’d have mosquitos like the rest of the country!  Plus, it’s the perfect time for us to get ready for the summer.  Since it’s way too cold to go outside and hit the SWAT Pit, we’re left working out details of the summer.  Of course, Lori’s details rarely change, as she’s busy from now until camp with the processing of paperwork (electronic paperwork).  The rest of us get to have all the real fun.

Just this morning we were brainstorming about whether or not it would be possible to turn the new Archery Shed into a tower that could launch a giant swing, host a skeet shoot and even serve to propel water balloons into the Soccer Field!  It’s not rocket science (unless we decided to launch rockets from the top of the tower and see who’s went highest or stayed in the air the longest) but it keeps us striving for new ideas.

With the onset of February comes the time we start putting details to all the rough ideas of winter planning.  The cancellation deadline has passed so we know who we’re expecting and can start looking at things like evening program, Advanced Camper projects and CIT leadership topics.

We’re working on ideas to beef up security at the gates, ideas to expand the daily newsletters in CampInTouch, add a “Hot” Bar to the food service program and of course, revamp our counselor pay scale and internship program to improve our already excellent summer staff!

We also are finding time to watch the Olympics.  Except for the figure skating, it should remind you of Summer Camp.  Loads of racing, slding, shooting and most important, PRIDE.  I love the behind the scenes videos that show the dedication and commitment needed to by an Olympian.  Sometimes it’s only camp Riflery or Canoeing, but we see the same determination to pick up a Promarksman Patch or to make the Tennis Tournament and the same HUGE smiles when we have winners!

If you’re looking for a great summer place, there are a few spaces remaining in various ages and sessions.  We’d love to have you.

Enjoy the Month.  Stay warm.  Root against the Mosquitos!  Life is Good.  Camp is Better, even over ice!

Happy Earth Day from CLJ

Camp News – April 22, 2013

Among the fringe benefits of summer camping, is the fact that during a two or four week session, we get to do some things to educate our boys, that go beyond basketball and riflery.  This summer we are excited that our Trash Removal Contractor will be offering recycle bins.  We have always tried to teach our fellows throughout their camp activities and camp outs that we should be good stewards of our planet, and this year we get to make a direct impact.

We’ll have some recycle bins in the dining hall which will let us take care of plastic milk jugs and hot dog cookout soda cans.   We’ll be able to recycle cardboard so there’ll be a new place to bring boxes after opening and package time.

We’re delighted that we will be making young leaders and even more happy that we can be eco-friendly now, in an obvious way!

Have a great Earth Day.

Camp La Junta

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