Have you explored Rocky Mountain National Park? If you haven’t, please consider it. Fellow students, put it on your Block Break checklists. The two and a half hour drive from Colorado Springs to Estes Park is gorgeous enough by itself (you go through Denver, Boulder, Lyons….), and the destination is sublime. Though I hail from Connecticut, my grandparents own a cabin in this cute (and insanely touristy in the summer) mountain town, which hosts entrance to RMNP. I’ve spent a portion of every summer here since I was born, with four summers spent at a summer camp hidden in the town’s limits. This summer, four years after my final year as a camper, I came back for more!
The idea of coming back to work on staff didn’t occur to me until this past spring, when I was deep in frustration with failed internship applications. Then, one of my best friends from camp told me she was working on support staff. Wait. You mean I could work at the camp I love, with people I love, making food, which I love, and getting paid….which I would love as well? Being a counselor was out of the question since it was so late in the year, but after a bit of gushing about how much I love food discussion, I secured a position as Assistant Cook in the girls’ unit!
You might be wondering, Just how hard is it to cook three meals a day for hundreds of (ravenous) campers and staff?
Only the strong survive.
The schedule alone is killer. I worked 6 AM-1:30 PM, then 4:15 PM-7:30 PM. Not a lot of time to enjoy the sunshine, but the feeling of accomplishment is always there.
Duties include: arranging, agonizing, baking, berating, crawling, contemplating, cussing, cooking, cutting, chopping, cleaning, dancing, laughing, laundering, learning, jamming, mixing, mashing, organizing, planning, preparing, pouring, slicing, smiling, stocking, setting, scraping, stemming, sweetening, singing, sharing, unloading, washing, yelling…and many more.
(In the upper right corner, you can see a love note from the younger girls’ unit.)
There were tears. There were triumphs. There was tyranny. There was teamwork. But most importantly (at least to the campers), there were tacos.
-The age gap. 50-somethings (and one 80-something!) working with 20-somethings? Times have changed.
-Being the only vegetarian. Camp food is designed to fill you up, which means a lot of starch, and more importantly a lot of MEAT.
-Girls gossip, judge, and backstab, just like anywhere else. Except that it feels horribly wrong at summer camp.
-WORK! How do I prepare this? Where does this go? Does this have gluten in it? What is the vegetarian option? Where did the box-cutter disappear to? What temperature should this be? Should I make the 200 or 400 batch? Why does the walk-in fridge feel colder than Antarctica? Why do I have to wash the bananas? How can girls eat so many tacos? Are you sure the milk man didn’t come already? Where is the Food Dude with today’s order? How did I just cut my pinkie on a saran wrap container?
It might have taken a month, but I was finally able to start answering these questions from experience.
All in all, I love camp. And food. Just not camp food. At the end of the day, seeing the smiles on campers’ faces makes all the work, all the squabbles, and all the burns (plus scars) worth it.
So while I won’t be partaking in tasks like this next summer…
I’ll be back as a counselor.