Three years ago they called us the last morning of their mini-camp the summer our boy was still 3 and we placed a deposit. Why when he was still 3? This camp is so popular families return for years on end and priority goes to those already in the system. The only way for a new family to get in is to have a family already attending watch for an open cabin and stand in a long line the last morning. And with their phone call we are in for our first mini-camp, a 3 night, 2 full day session.
Why 4? 4 years old is when children can start attending camp counselor led activities. Counselors are pulled from wonderful high school to college age young adults who hail from all ethnicities and backgrounds, but above all they are all really personable and great with the kids.
No food to pack or meals to plan as there is also full kitchen staffed by again incredible young adults feeding you three hot meals a day and snacks around the clock. And if you still have not had enough to eat a general store with ice cream, popcorn, and gourmet coffees.So with a boy age 4 and a girl age 6 we were in and packing, but just the essentials and bed linens and a few other items to make camp comfy; camp chair, head lamp, etc.. We would find our cabins to be rustic, but plenty comfy. There is a full list of suggested packing items on their website.
We pull under the big “Welcome to Camp Sacramento” banner and park our car and go into the main lodge building. Here we get sticker name tags, lanyards and our cabin keys to go on them. We also meet many of our counselors along the way. Then off to our cabin to unpack and decorate. Well, the adults unpack and the kids really go play on the playground. There’s never much traffic in camp as once you are there there is no reason to leave until we caravan to Pope Beach on the 2nd day, but we still like to keep our eyes on our younger children and therefore book a cabin with clear visibility of the playground. Oh and yes I said decorate…not mandatory, but every year there is a different theme which you may choose to decorate you cabin to match as well as bring costumes for the last night’s family dance. This last year it was the groovy 70’s and we took 3rd place with big smiley faces, peace signs, and a beaded entry door.
Evening 1 is spent meeting your counselors and making name tags to replace your sticky ones. These will hang from your lanyards so misplaced keys can be linked to a name. Children get a tour of camp including all the off-limit areas…and new adults may take a tour as well. The adults also get a talk from Tim, the long-time manager, where he encourages you to loosen up and allow your children to explore a bit more freedom within the safe confines of camp. Then on to a wine social and dinner and a great evening of camp fire songs.
Day 2 starts with the traditional pajama-rama…i.e. wear your pj’s to breakfast and the children colorful slippers and all line up to ring the dinner bell or call to breakfast. After breakfast and change of clothes everyone starts their first sessions with their counselors. 1.5-2hrs in length these sessions include everything from arts & crafts, archery, hiking, tie-dye…and much more. Lunch, another counselor session, dinner and then Day 1 wraps with a dutch auction. You have 10minutes to go to your cabin and bring back anything they may have on this secret list of items…which may pertain to the year’s theme, camping in general, or some off the wall oddity.
Day 2 finds 80% of campers head to Pope Beach in South Lake Tahoe for a day of sand
and sun. This is where the camp chairs come in handy…also some spare beverages. The counselors and some kitchen staff join us and do a BBQ on the beach which is followed by a sand
castle building contest. Not to toot our horn too much, but our group we joined is undefeated for many years now in a row. Back at camp this evening to a learning/fun carnival for the kids. After a closing campfire complete with skits by the counselors about 75% of campers don themed-costumes and have an blast at the family dance
complete with hula-hoop contest. Now before dinner on this day you will have needed to re-up for the next year if you want to continue the fun.
Day 3 morning finds most packing. Check-out is 11AM. But if you want to change cabins or get some friends into the Camp Sac family you will need to hop in line early for the cabin swap and deposits for new visitors. And as most folks are traveling a distance to get home the kitchen staff loads you up with sack lunches and with a quick goodbye and photo-op with your counselors you are on your way with another wonderful year of memories.
Next year will be our 3rd year. And they now have friends they only see at Camp, but have started some pen pal relationships with. If you are interested check out the what to expect page. And as long as our kids want to GO….we will return for this incredible mini-camp nestled in the Sierras
Love your write up and family camp experience, Avis! We are thinking of doing one in the future - our boy may be too young at 2.5 yrs old by next summer. What do you think?
Jane, if you want him to be able to enjoy (and really I also mean by that you enjoy some adult time) the counselor activities then wait until he is 4. But we had our kids doing the regular camping thing before they could walk.
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