To Trip or Not to Trip

Yes, let’s Trip! A trip at Camp Runoia is about getting outside on a wilderness camping trip (adventure, journey). Last summer, with the new uncertainty of the pandemic, we stuck close to home and did not make plans to go off campus.

This summer, we are keen to run low-risk out of camp trips to beautiful remote places where we will not be interacting with other people. Camp trip programs are a great opportunity for social distancing, being outside and with the help of hand sanitizer, doing it all quite safely.

Ask any alumnae of Runoia what her camp experience entailed and she will pipe up about a trip. We remember the funny things, the hard things, the team work, the adventure and being in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Moments become memories: that sense of achievement of working hard to climb a mountain, to paddle 8 miles, the joy of cooking your own food (and yes, it does taste better when you cook it yourself), taking a sunset swim in a sandy cove, learning how to purify water and the importance of packing your belongings properly.

Many leadership opportunities and life skills arise from taking trips. Is it the most comfortable sleep you’ve ever had- probably not! But we learn in life there are compromises. Deep in the chill of winter we dream to get out on the trail and out on the Maine lakes. Yes, without a doubt, let’s trip!

JMG – A college application essay topic

The Junior Maine Guide (JMG) program has been a mainstay at Camp Runoia for decades. It provides older campers with the opportunity to participate in a Maine State, organized youth program that develops and tests their wilderness skills. It is a rigorous program that can take a couple of years to accomplish. Camp develops all kinds of life skills and becoming a  JMG is a huge achievement but the process also has great value.

This weeks guest blog is Lilly Grace’s college application essay that focused on her time working towards becoming a JMG.

Common App Main Essay by Lilly Grace
To the average person, building a roaring fire with a soaking wet billet of wood, an axe and just a few matches may seem like a nearly impossible task. After all, that’s what I thought as I was first learning how to make a “wet day fire.” However, what most people don’t realize is that the dryness of a billet is irrelevant to one’s ability to build a “wet day fire.” Rather, what is most critical to their success is practice, preparation, and an ability to persevere through
setbacks until ultimately satisfied. Building a wet day fire is a mentally and physically challenging skill that is just one of twenty-one tests to become a Junior Maine Guide. Although the process of becoming a Junior Maine Guide was only intended to teach me wilderness skills, I believe it was the most rewarding experience of my life thus far because I gained more than just a vast amount of knowledge about the wilderness. I also took this unique opportunity to
learn and develop critical life skills.

The wet day fire test
One thing that I learned quickly upon arrival at the five day testing encampment is that candidates must be organized, disciplined, and confident in order to succeed in this environment where there is little structure. I had three full days to complete twenty-one tests at any time and in no specific order. I lacked those three essential qualities that I needed, and JMG presented additional challenges that I had never had to tackle before in school. However, as I had learned from my past experiences, success is something that does not come easily to me and has always required more time, effort and motivation on my part. Therefore, these challenges that I was presented with were simply just a few hurdles in reaching my goal.Throughout the three summers, I was committed to gaining the skills needed to succeed.
I overcame my organizational challenges by making study and testing schedules that were essential to keeping myself motivated and on track throughout the summer, and I made sure to stick to them. I learned how to study in more exciting and efficient ways that developed my self-discipline. For example, when learning locations on the map of Maine, my friends and I would place M&Ms on the different locations and if we guessed the location correct, we were
rewarded with the candy. As for my time-management, I learned that using a watch was extremely beneficial to budgeting my time and ensuring that I was able to complete every test in the short time frame. And once I learned that I could build a Wet Day Fire and solo a canoe with ease, I knew I had the confidence to take on anything.

Becoming a Junior Maine Guide has been, by far, the proudest moment of my life, as I knew it was something that I worked so hard to accomplish on my own. This rigorous program typically takes two years to complete, however it took me three. While some people may perceive my additional year in the program as a failure, I choose to see it as a blessing in disguise. I struggle with ADHD and weak executive functioning skills, which is something that affects my everyday life, but I clearly have never let it stop me. In fact, I believe that I have made more improvement with my executive functioning skills through trial and error in the JMG program than I ever have in a school classroom. In the end, I proved to myself and others that I am exceedingly capable of persevering through my learning challenges to accomplish anything that is important to me. It just might take some additional time and effort.

The New Normal with Help from Comfort Food

Okay. You’ve got your new normal plan for the day.

  • Early morning workout (earns the comfort food!)
  • All children are set up at their remote learning stations.
  • Recess and snack breaks and lunch are planned.
  • Dinner menu is in the works. Maybe.
  • Now dive into work and get as much done before you get interrupted and/or the school day is over.

And…what will we do after school today?

Let’s start with some fresh air and outside play.

Everyone can help fold the laundry.

Fall kitchen fun engages, educates and puts food on the table.  Food transitions from summer to fall is fun and refreshing.

We need comfort food now more than ever.

Start this apple crisps in your oven during the school day.

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Thinly slice one apple per person. Leave the seeds in as it’s easy to eat around them. For four apples, toss with 4 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Take out a baking sheet and place a rack on the sheet, lay out the apple slices on the rack so they are not touching. Flip after an hour, check again an hour later. Will take 2-3 hours. Remove from oven when they are dry but still bend. They will continue to crisp after baking.

Try Bon Appetite’s salt and vinegar potatoes -a great twist on the roasted potatoes we all know and love.

And as a side for tomorrow night, the cheesy baked zucchini helps with the prolific zucchinis in your summer garden and involves the kids with cooking. Try Wholesome Yum’s zucchini gratin recipe making a fab low carb side for dinner. Looking up the definition of au gratin will even enhance their French skills! 

We sure miss camp food, wholesome, readily available, on time and prepared for us. Meanwhile, we can do this: plan, prepare, pivot. Repeat.

Hang in there!









Now is the Time

Thank a mentor before it is too late. The other day I was thinking about my 5th grade teacher and how, through his teaching, I was inspired to delve into creative writing, love math and grow curious about science. I think about him frequently. I searched for him online and found out I was too late; he had passed away in 2016.

Like school and other child development experiences, the camp experience transforms lives by increasing self-esteem, connecting face to face with people, building skills in activities and generating meaningful friendships with peers and adults. If you are lucky, you come across someone who influenced you in a way that has lasted throughout your life.

I have a camp counselor like this in my life. Although we aren’t in touch often, the learning experience from the summers of 1974-1975 lives with me in my daily life. That summer I started training for Junior Maine Guide and
she was my counselor: coach, guide and teacher. In the 15th summer of life, I was saved from my own insolent teenage personality. I was physically and mentally challenged. I thrived on the JMG program (solo canoeing, axe work, fire building, cooking, and shelter building) and had to stay focused to learn those skills. I lived in the present. Our JMG group canoed for five days on the St. Croix river – we read rapids and then “shot” the rapids – mostly successfully excepting a flipped canoe that wrapped around a rock. We went to testing camp and had to exhibit our skills through written and physical tests. We lived on our own without adults checking to see we were doing things right. What a learning experience. It was exhilarating and a great diversion from my self-proclaimed boring life.

Little did I know how much those two summers at Camp Runoia and the enduring patience and guidance of a camp counselor would stay with me. Those summers helped shaped who I am today.  I owe this to a person who believed in me through thick and thin and even in my less gracious moments. This week we had lunch together and I had the chance to thank her for who she was for me 44 years ago. Although it wasn’t for my benefit, it felt good.

Who influenced you in your life? Now is the time to reflect on who meant something to you through camp or school and reach out to your mentor to thank her or him.

And We’re Off!

The Second Session of camp comes quickly and before we have time to lament the departure of our First Session #runoiagals, we are off and running again. This group always comes in with an eager pep in their step ready for camp. Some girls have been traveling or with family on summer vacationbut most have been counting down the days till camp. Before we share the news of this session, we’ll look back on the news from the end of First Session.

 We had lots of competition, final activities and personal bests. Blue White swim races, soccer, softball and kickball were all played. The Katahdin trip returned as did the Mooselookmeguntic canoeing trip. Ocho had lots of stories to share about the summit of Maine’s highest mountain (also the end of the Appalachian Trail) and canoeing in the wilderness of Maine. Sailors circumnavigated Oak Island a few times over the week and our endurance swimmers swam to Oak Island and back two mornings before the end of camp. A group of equestrians competed at Forest Acres and another was invited to Camp Vega for a Swim Meet.

Evenings were a time to reflect and celebrate this last week of camp. The classic “Ms. Tacky” Evening Program took place, our talent show showcasing many original acts and part two of “Mark Tank”, guitar, flute piano and ukes accompanied by songs, a few amazing dances and gymnastics routines and SV’s “It’s a Hard Knock Life” dance routine. Our Log night captured many events from the session and elected Log Staff read their shack-mates statistics. Our final camp fire was combined with our awards ceremony. Girls received their award packets and stood up in front of all of camp to share something they were proud of, an achievement or what they would tag up for the rest of their life. It was incredible to hear how much campers accomplished. We hope the stories are still coming your way! We enjoyed a full moon the last night of camp.

Although it’s just our second day of camp, we have a lot happening. This morning at Assembly, campers were able to “meet” all the staff through staff introductions. Campers are enjoying program on this Friday afternoon from riding lessons to tubing fun with archery and tennis in between.

Harmony Land Camp hiked in the Belgrade conservation area called “The Mountain”.

Coming up this Saturday is the Library 5K Fund Raiser for the town of Belgrade. We have about 20 girls competing. Good luck and here’s to reading and access to books! Speaking of which, we have a great lending library at camp. We read aloud at night and many girls make reading part of their night routine.

On Monday our JMGs are off to Testing Camp. More on their story next week!

Bring on the heat, summer fun and activities… and we’re off!

Love, Aionur

Runoia Suffragettes

Whether it’s the fact that it is Halloween, or the fact that the midterms loom before us (fraught with fear and with some, determination and stamina), it seems appropriate to talk about voting and scary times in our nation’s history, including women suffragettes and their organization and strong voices that changed the US constitution and gave women the right to vote in the United States.

US citizens, who were men, regardless of their race, were allowed to vote in 1870 after the 15thamendment to the US constitution. We are thankful for the people who helped make that happen nearly 150 years ago.

Women’s suffrage in the United States came about through a lot of effort of a lot of people with women leading the charge for their right to vote. The 19thamendment to the US constitution was passed by Congress in 1920 and women were finally able to vote. That’s less than 100 years ago in our history. (So, wow!)

What is unbelievable to me is that the two women who founded Camp Runoia in 1907 did not have the right to vote. And that for the first 13 years of summer camp at Runoia on Great Pond, the directors and counselors at camp, who were of voting age, were not able to have a voice in who represented them… and yet they charged on.

They built a camp, they moved a camp (from Loon Cove to our present location in 1914), they designed and built buildings, marketed the experience, rode horses the 12 miles to Augusta to get supplies, hired local drivers and builders, grew food in gardens, built wells and pumped water, took campers on trips around the state from the rock bound coast to the lakes and mountains, ran drill teams, read the classics, wrote and sang songs, ran track and played basketball and canoed all over the state of Maine. They swam in the lake in long wool bathing suits and slept under canoes on wool blankets when on trips. They bought a car and made a summer camp bringing girls from all over the Northeast to live with other girls and women at a camp on a lake in Maine to have a profound outdoor camp experience. How daring!

To their credit, they built a camp before they could even vote to influence the laws that ruled them while they were building a camp. If I were to dress up this Halloween, I would dress as a Runoia Suffragette.

This picture is from the 1920 and Constance Dowd (the very first camper enrolled at Runoia) blowing the bugle outside the Dining Hall. Radical! Thanks to Matti Bradley who contributed the photo from her mother (Joan “Baynie” Williams)  camp memorabilia.

First Camper, Constance Dowd, as a Counselor


The Runoia “Log” and More Traditions

Double entendres abound when I think of the word “log” – all related to Runoia traditions. My mind races to our weekend campfires and the logs we use to build the campfire. To camping trips and “hugging” trees – from before Leave No Trace… “hugging” was our phrase for finding a small standing dead tree we could hug out of the ground and saw into logs for our campfire.

Then I think, “Ah ha!” it’s the camp “logs” – the written logs of each summer’s camp activities and antics dating back to the summer of 1910. The logs have been scanned and uploaded through a generous donation from the Tabell family. They are available on our website – just click here.

And, last but not least, my mind recognizes the bi-annual newsletter of the Camp Runoia Alumnae Organization (CRAO). The CRAO was founded by the Cobb Family with support and guidance from Jody Sataloff and Jack Erler to provide a “Campership” fund for campers to be able to attend camp. A volunteer organization that has developed efficiently and with enthusiasm over the years to provide partial camperships for over 20 campers each summer. 10% of Runoia’s campers receive some kind of assistance.

With the guidance of past-president Andrea “Nandy” Florey Bradford, the name of the fund was updated to honor Betty Cobb. The fund is now the “Betty Cobb Campership Fund”.

Find out more about the CRAO in volume 31, issue 2 and the ongoing mission in the Fall 2018 newsletter “The Log”:

CRAO Fall 2018f LOG



Runoia Celebrates 110 Summers in Style!

In the middle of August Camp Runoia hosted its 110th reunion.  Some 150 women young and old came from far and near and wallowed in the warmth of friendships and happy memories.

Runoia Gals from Far and Near Returned for the 110th Reunion
Runoia Gals from Far and Near Returned for the 110th Reunion
I’ve been thinking about camp, and the weekend, and camp, and friends, and camp….  I thought about how so many of us keep coming back, sometimes after years of absence, but still we come….and I thought about what it is that makes this happen.  I realize it’s because Runoia really is “home” to people.  Not home like where our parents live, but home in the sense that it’s where we feel safe, where we can be ourselves without pretense, where we are accepted for who we are and we get to shed our veneers and tear down our walls, it’s where we can laugh and cry with enthusiasm and without fear of judgement. It’s where we feel alive and secure and joyful.
The Camp Runoia Alumnae Organization raised $123,000 for the Betty Cobb Campership Fund in honor of this event.  I hope people will continue to give generously forever onward so that lots of young girls who couldn’t otherwise afford it will be able to know these feelings years from now when they come back for Reunions.
Thank you Jody!
Thank you Jody!
From Jody Sataloff, Past President of the CRAO and many other amazing accomplishments!

How the Runoia Pix Got Its Name

According to Runoia lore, as told by Joan “Baynie” Williams, may she rest in peace, the Runoia bathrooms got the name PIX on the train from Grand Central Station to Belgrade Depot.

The Belgrade Train Depot
The Belgrade Train Depot

Back in the day campers would arrive with their trunks at Grand Central for the train to camp. Both Runoia girls and Pine Island boys would voyage on said train. Of course the ride was chaperoned but there were plenty of shenanigans to go around, as you can only imagine.

Girls being girls and boys being boys back in the 1920s pretty much stayed with their own kind. The rueful glance, a random prank and other tit for tat ensued. The boys from Pine Island Camp wore their camp shirts that said PIC. After a few years of trips back and forth, Baynie and her gang decided the name for the Runoia bathrooms should be called the PIX (clever disguise) – as you can see an acronym not to far from the initials of that boys camp across the lake!

So, to this day, the Runoia bathroom is called the Pix.

We Call it the Pix!
We Call it the Pix!

I’ve noticed in the past decade that the word pix is falling from the vocab of the current campers and counselors. As many traditions go, it only remains a thing if people keep saying things like “I am going to the Pix” or “I have to go to the Pix” or “Will you come with me to the Pix?” or “Where’s the closest Pix” (Come on folks, I’m spoon feeding you here – let’s keep it going!). Runoia alumnae out there, you know you are horrified at the thought of Pix disappearing from the vocabulary, right? It’s our 110th summer and we will make an effort at bringing back this 90+ year tradition!

Maybe our next blog should be on how to resuscitate lost traditions!

New Pix at Fairy Ring
New Pix at Fairy Ring

That is So Cool; Camp Runoia – Style!

“Wow! That is so cool. Where did you learn to make that?”

spring baskets happy

Upon being asked, you reply, “ Camp Runoia”.

With great pride, you show off your stained glass, woven basket, or wooden box–just a few of the art projects possible at Runoia.

For many years, Camp Runoia has provided campers with a unique and exciting visual arts program which continues to flourish. The days of summer are filled with inspiring opportunities, allowing girls to find their inner talents, regardless of age or skill. Think back to your first time you finished a basket and stood on the rock and heard the shouts of “BASKET WEAVING SHOW OFF TIME.” Remember when you showed up at dinner wearing earrings you personally designed. How did it feel when you learned to wood burn and created a beautiful image of a loon on the box you made in woodworking?

This summer, I encourage you to tag up for a visual art project at Camp Runoia–perhaps one that may seem challenging or time consuming. You will be surprised to find

Make a Basket - a Runoia Keepsake!
Make a Basket – a Runoia Keepsake!

that you have talents waiting to be discovered. You will also learn a few things about other campers in the activity and perhaps find a new friend. The very best part is that you will have an object to keep as a memory of your summer or a special surprise gift for someone you know. More links to arts and Runoia programs are here.

I am very excited for you to discover the many visual art opportunities around camp. You will be amazed at the artwork created by fellow campers as well as yourself. Just think of what your friends back home will say when you show them the art project you made at summer camp!

By Jeanne S. – returning to weave baskets with you second session 2016!