By Peg Healy
After Berkeley Tuolumne Camp tragically burned down last summer, the City of Berkeley hired some BTC staffers and created three sessions of a family camp program at its smaller camp at Echo Lake, near South Lake Tahoe. This camp has charms of its own. Here are my top ten:
1. Afternoon thunderheads and little sprinkles of rain. So there’s hardly any red dust on your toes and everything else you own. And plenty of wildflowers among the cabins and pines!
2. The jaw-dropping view of Lake Tahoe from the Rec Hall, the volleyball court, some fortunate cabins, and the green Adirondack chairs built by the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.
3. The camp is relatively flat and easy to walk.
4. The program is smaller: 25 cheery staffers and 130 campers, compared to 60 staffers and 250 campers at Tuolumne Camp. Somehow smaller is even friendlier. The Dining Hall is quiet enough to actually converse with your table mates or chat with folks in the buffet line.
5. The food is better than I remember: Lunch was turkey, veggie, or beef burgers; dinner was tri-tip with rosemary potatoes, penne pasta, plus a salad bar; breakfast was cheesy eggs, sausage, melon, and hot oatmeal.
6. Tuolumne Camp tradition is alive, with silly songs and chants, Kiddie Kamp, the staff show, Theme Days, Bingo Night, sports tournaments, arts & crafts, nature hikes, tie-dye, and more.
7. There’s plenty to do besides relax. Volleyball, badminton, archery, table tennis or bocce ball, anyone? The lifeguards are hoping to reopen their pool soon. Berkeley Camp keeps canoes at the Echo Lake Marina, a short walk down the road, where you can fish or ride in a water taxi. Hiking is at your doorstep on the Pacific Crest Trail and in the Desolation Wilderness. Birders have already spotted flickers, sapsuckers, woodpeckers, tanagers…. Campers have donated what looked like about 50 board games.
8. They’ve got a real recycling program now for bottles and cans. Also metal food lockers for campers’ snacks, to keep the local ground squirrels (and black bears) out of your tent cabin.
9. The canvas tent tops look new. Many cabins have decks, with wooden picnic tables and seats nearby in the trees. Our cabin had eight built-in bunks with mattresses, but no electricity.
10. Short showers are encouraged, to save water, but they’ve got flush toilets and the nicest porta-potties ever. Seriously. These port-potties are so clean they’re poetic.