First Impression

My First Impression in early May is the scents that are only at Camp Runoia. The leaves and grass and earth and air and lake water scents all combine into one scent. If we bottled it up, it would be called Eau de Runoia, or perhaps Eau de Harmony in the spirit of the meaning of Runoia.  I was instantly reminded of E.B. White’s book, “Once More to the Lake”.

Traditions abound at camp and one of the Camp Runoia traditions is recording your First Impression of arriving at camp for the “Log”. The Log is a record of all the things that happened in a summer.

You can only have a first impression, once (we like to do it once a season). Not unlike making your own first impression on other people (warm, stern, welcoming, exclusive, funny, serious, happy, sad), the land and lake puts on its very best display of nature and scents and views which evoke feeling. Especially when you return again and again.

The phrase First Impression seems obvious but here’s further explanation to get you pumped to record your immediate reaction to arriving at camp. A definition of first: Coming before all others in time or order; earliest, Combined with a definition of impression: An idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, especially one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence.

Of course, when we arrive in early spring, the parking lot is empty. Jen is not standing at the gate welcoming us, Alex is not in the parking lot directing us and beaming upon your arrival and Mark is not perched on the waterfront eager to greet your family and share the beauty of the “crown jewel” of Camp Runoia, Great Pond. Your counselors are not here yet to give you that big “hello” and “let’s go” kind of attitude. Finally, the sounds of shrill, excited voices from girls floating all over camp are not here, yet.  Only the spring birds, rustle of soft winds in the trees and waves lapping along the shoreline are here this time of year.

What will your First Impression of camp be when you arrive at camp? You may have to wait and see and feel and then write it down before it disappears.



Writing in Pencil – a medium for change and flexibility

It’s a bit of a joke around the camp office that I always write in pencil. While I certainly do a lot of typing there are still a multitude of camp jobs that require hand writing and notes so a pencil is always nearby. It’s my go to writing implement and while supplemented by some colored pens there is always typically a sharpened pencil to hand.


It’s always exciting at the start of the season when I find a new box of Dixon Ticonderoga’s, ready sharpened with new erasers set to go on my desk in the Lodge. The Camp Runoia fairies know how to keep me happy. The perfect pencil helps me plan and re-plan schedules with great satisfaction. It has to be the right HB# and sharp is preferred. TheWorking away in the Lodge program office erasers often get worn down quickly so are supplemented by a larger one.

Someone once asked me if I write in pencil due to not being able to commit. Moreover it is an ability to be able to be flexible and be able to make change. The schedules at camp are complex with many moving parts and often things need to get switched around quickly. The act or writing and erasing cements the information better in my mind. I can often then recall it without needing to go back and look at it.

This year we are having to use all of our creative resources to adapt and be flexible as we plan our camp summer. Even though we ran a successful camp last summer, the changes in how we understand and navigate the Covid virus means a slightly different approach this year. A month or so ago vaccinations were only trickling out, now most adults have the opportunity to get them and hopefully older children will be next. We have to keep updating and re-working our policies and plans to accommodate new information and shifting protocols. Having the ability to change and erase what we had in place allows us to be the most current and not be frustrated with information coming in that is outside of our control. It’s a great life skills to be able to erase what you have written and adapt it to what you now need.

I’m going to stick with writing in pencil. I love being able to erase and rewrite, to navigate change without feeling stuck and to create new words as needed over the old ones.

Using my pencil to check of the days until it is camp time. We cannot wait to see all of our girls and staff on Great Pond.

Getting ready for tag up the daily schedule is always fun!

March brings us Maple Syrup Sunday!

Maple syrup making – this is a Maine tradition you won’t want to miss – it is always the fourth Sunday in March.  Plus Governor Mills just lifted travel restrictions to Maine if you live in New England so come on up!

Plan your getaway to Maine for Sunday March 28th by seeing the sugar houses that will be open this year.

Our local Belgrade CSA Farm, Winterberry Farm will have their Maine Maple Sunday as usual with Covid protocols in place. And surprise, they are celebrating on Easter Sunday, April 4.

Quoting Danielle Pepin from Quebec’s maple syrup industry, “The maple syrup production process gets its start from one of nature’s true phenomena,” she says. “As water from soil absorbs into the maple tree during a cold spring night, warmer temps during the day create pressure that pushes the water back down to the bottom of the tree, making it easier to collect maple sap. The sap is gathered over 12 to 20 days, usually between March and late April, according to the region. Then, the tapping process begins; the sap is transported to a sugar house where it is boiled down until it becomes syrup.”

Are you not a fan of pancakes? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with 70+ recipes that use maple syrup. There’s always a good reason to have maple syrup in your fridge:

Epicurious gives us more ideas for whisking maple syrup into your cooking:

Enjoy the season for everything it has to offer and plan a trip to a Sugar Shack at the end of the month!







Women History Month!

March Blog

Women’s History is celebrated in the month of March. The 1925 Camp Runoia Log was dedicated to the founders of camp – Lucy Weiser and Jessie Pond. The quotes next to Miss Pond’s photo in the log reads, “Grace was in her step, in every gesture dignity and love” and next to Miss Weiser, “Society, friendship, and
love Divinely bestowed upon man.”

These two women had the vision to start a camp for girls. In 1907 they opened Camp Runoia for the first summer. They were courageous and resourceful and certainly are smiling upon us as we begin our 115th consecutive summer of Camp Runoia for girls.

We celebrate Lucy and Jessie during women’s history month and all the years they dedicated to bringing girls and women together on the shores of Great Pond for growth, adventure, friendship and more.

Check out more about Runoia history and the women whose legacy families have helped camp to continue operating on our Runoia family tree section.

So many women have accomplished so many things in this world. If you’d like to dive a little further into Women’s history, check out the US library of congresses resources on women’s history in the United States including women related to arts, culture, government and politics, historic places, women and war, women rights and women’s suffrage, women in science, women in business and more.

Here’s a great resource for teachers for lessons, images, data and research from the library of congress.

Find out more about the 14th Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden, the first woman and the first African American to lead the national library, nominated by President Barak Obama in February of 2016 and confirmed by the senate 6 months later.

And realize the #runoiagals were pioneers of owning a business that allowed girls to do what so many boys were able to do – get out of the city, connect with others in camp






What the Teachers Say

First, let us express our gratitude to teachers. We’ve always been fans but this fall, we have seen teachers turn into super heroes. They have multi-tasked, connected with their students, doubled their lesson planning and most of all put their own health at risk to help others.

This past summer many of our counselors who also are teachers learned a lot about navigating covid and creating systems to help keep themselves and others safe.   One moment that really strikes us is when we completed staff training in those complex and uncertain times and we prepared to welcome our campers the next day. We created our graduation for staff training as we often do with a clever connection to our theme “Camp over Corona, All the Things, We Can Do It – Our Vision is 20/20” And each administrative leader got up to share something with all the staff. A pep talk of sorts. Colleen “Cleen” shared this:

2020 has been quite the year

It’s felt lonely and we have known fear

But look round at this staff

Hear those distant laughs

How lucky we are to be here



Remember June and July? We had been in shut down mode and living in our homes and apartments for four months. It was a poem reflecting on the connection camp creates and what a milestone it was.

And, then in the spirit of Harmony Land (the meaning of Runoia is Harmony) she added this Haiku:

Harmony is here

This world seems new as our friends

Smiles still seen through masks

“Cleen” thanks for the poetry, the reflection, the inspiration. We send our energy to you as you finish your fall semester teaching in New York. You truly are a hero and have helped all of us be better teachers.




Living Leadership – a unique CIT summer

Providing opportunity for leadership and growth in personal development is a key component of all of Camp Runoia’s programming. Multi age classes and self directed goals allow campers to navigate their own skill development and girls of all ages are given a chance to have their voices heard. Older campers often take on the role of friend and mentor to younger girls and share their skills and love of camp activities with those that are in need of help. Skippers in sailboats, captains of teams, helpers at the barn and other opportunities to be up front all allow campers to gain leadership skills while working on their own goals.

The Counselor in Training program (CIT) is often the capstone of camper years and allows for a very intentional, full summer experience with a leadership focus. In typical summers CIT’s live as a group with their CIT Director and work together in and around camp to build skills. 2020 proved to be a whole lot different. Four amazing young women who were up for a new and evolving challenge joined Harmonyville for a different kind of CIT program. 


With the creation of ‘households’ and restricted interactions of groups it meant that in order for the CIT’s to get the best experience of actually working with campers they spent much of their summer living in cabins.  The CIT’s also joined us for staff training and were able to live together during that time and get some very intensive skill coaching before their move to live with campers. It was a very different approach yet worked incredibly well under the unusual circumstances. This group of young women were able to navigate not only the transition from being campers to taking on a more comprehensive leadership role but also having to be separated from their peers and fellow CIT’s. They truly were living their leadership development as they actively engaged with all aspects of daily life in camp.

This fabulous four accomplished so much over their unique CIT summer. Even with a reduced amount of time at camp and additional responsibilities they passed archery instructor training, managed to navigate a socially distanced lifeguard class, made connections with their campers, took classes in child development, homesickness and a multitude of other camp related situations and did it all while maintaining and building their personal friendships. Their growth was amazing and they worked through the hard parts and saw the benefits of being at camp even when it wasn’t what they had originally imagined. They built life skills that will serve them well as they head out into their junior years and begin to navigate what life after high school may look like.


We hope that this tenacious group will be back for more Runoia summers. Our counselor staff group will benefit from their skills, capable competence and true Runoia spirit.

Garage band – creatively navigating covid

My choir has been singing in a parking garage! We literally drive in, park on one side and then can spread out on the other side so that we can sing together. It’s never something I would have imagined doing.  It’s certainly not the same as a typical rehearsal space. The sound is at best interesting but it at least provides us the opportunity for community singing and some choral experience. We have had to be incredibly creative and intentional with the covid protocols.  Numbers are limited, everyone is 13 feet apart, masks and social distancing are strictly enforced when not on your X and the time is restricted to under an hour. Everyone is on board with navigating the rules and enjoys being together far better than when we are  meeting on zoom. Sometimes it’s chilly and as the nights are getting dark earlier the lighting isn’t great so it isn’t going to be a long term solution moving forward into the winter but it has worked for now. Having a great attitude and out of the box thinking has resulted in a workable solution and an unexpected outcome. I was skeptical at first but it has turned out to be incredibly fun and allowed us to shift out of our usual pattern and engage with each other differently with very positive results.


Working from basic goals and using mission based planning, navigating through covid has become a challenge facing many community organizations. While there are often defined protocols and procedures for many operations sometimes you just have to be a bit crafty and do what works best in your individual situation.  It would certainly have been easier to have just cancelled this semester of choir. It isn’t really essential, it’s more a social outlet than anything else and there is no hope of giving a public concert indoors anytime soon so we are not rehearsing for an event. Yet a desire to be together, to maintain our community and to engage in person drove the problem solving and created a workable solution. 

As camps are busy looking towards the summer of 2021 and enrollment is opening up, having a positive ‘can do’ attitude and being able to think outside of the box is going to move us forward. At Runoia we are glad to have had these past summer experiences to build off of.  We feel confident that we can be flexible and navigate covid protocols while still maintaining our camp goals and mission. We want to be part of the solution for camps so that the most children possible get a summer experience that is tech free and engaging. We are planning, thinking, reflecting and know that we will be ready.

We can’t wait to share our 115th continuous summer on Great Pond, creatively navigating whatever comes our way and helping our campers to have an amazing summer. At Runoia we model for our girls that we are resilient, capable, competent and confident. Summer camp is a place to grow and we are confident that we will all be doing that, building life skills that are relevant to the world that we live in.

Home School, Remote or Hybrid Learning – Runoia Can Add to Your Daily Schedule

Trending across US education are hybrids of remote learning, home schooling and some in-person connection at schools or pop up play spaces. Let the experiential education of camp layer into your school year with these great tutorial videos from counselors. Last spring Camp Runoia staff put together about 20 videos of easy to do at home projects including science, crafts, exercise and more. You can find them all on the official Runoia YouTube channel.

Build in Break Times During Your School Day

Building exercise breaks into the school day helps increase attention and creates more brain space for learning! Fit in a break during the day by having Kara teach your children a yoga class.

Cooking is also a fun break and involves, following a recipe, measuring, learning about stove safety and more. Check out Jen and Natalie’s fun baking moments on the Runoia Youtube channel.

Craft Ideas – Stimulating Creativity

Crafts involve planning, organization and coordination – great skills. Get your Runoia “building lifelong skills” action happening by checking out our craft ideas on Youtube. Simple crafts from things around the house – join Callie to see what you can do with TP tubes or get more involved (pre-order supplies) macramé with “K” or nature imprints or marbled paper with MacKenzie. Abbie shows how to make a pipe cleaner flower, too!

Science Applied to Camp and Life Experience

Baking comes up again in the science category as does CJ’s 24 hour Egg Osmosis experiment. And, check out Ruby’s Best Paper Airplane Ever –add in some physics lessons about aero-dynamics and physics with this Scientific American article and learn how Bernoulli’s principals also apply to how a sail boat’s sails involves lift and how it harnesses the wind to move a boat forward.

Challenge your daughter to sing (and or learn and sing) Out on the Blue Waves – one of our favorite sailing songs at camp.



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!









We Rejoice in Phase Two!

In the midst of a global pandemic, our responsibility to the health of our campers and staff, the greater Belgrade Lakes community and campers and staff families, home towns and cities is paramount.

With the results of negative testing at camp, we have rolled out phase !! of our summer. Campers’ household groups expand to at least twice the size, more time is spent with more people without face coverings, and camp is rolling along with activities, surprises memorable moments, face to face connections problem solving, beautiful sunsets and fun. Our careful plan to methodically increase concentric circles for contact tracing is in play.

Due to our cautious roll out of phases, we feel confident by next week we will be able to move into phase III for our final week of camp. Campers’ households will expand to include entire neighborhoods and as in Runoia culture, girls of different ages will be interacting and playing together. Campers will be able to “tag up” for activities and daily camp life will be much more like normal.

We will consider CRH a success when every camper and every staff member returns home safely with memories of playing tennis, swimming in Great Pond, water skiing, horseback riding, connecting with new friends and meeting up with old camp pals become subjects of school essays and college applications.

Meanwhile, our gratitude to the families who believed in us and the hard work of staff at Runoia who are making this possible is enormous. In the camp time warp, every day feels like a week and every week a month. hundreds of things happen in one day and life feels full. We linger on the moments created and take stock in the memories to hold.

Sincerely, Aionur