ErnstLIFE is good.
A timeless tradition: Camp Songs!

Tonight it rained for our opening campfire so Megan (Program director) and I split the camp—she in the Lake area and I in the Valley—at two separate campfires. Later, I was telling her that the counselors sang one of my favorite classic camp songs, “Austrian Yodeler,” but they did it WRONG! Somehow it has morphed away from being a repeat-after-me song, and they have cut out the fun “oooohhhh, eeeee, ooooooaaaa…” part. It’s fine, it’s still fun…it’s just different.

Then I got an email from one of our country’s summercamp gurus, Gary Forster, who quoted a former camp director from NH about WHY CAMP SONGS ARE GREAT. That inspired me to tell you why I love camp songs!

When I was 12 and a camper for the first time, my counselor, Katee, was the “song queen” of camp. She knew EVERY song. Naturally, I wanted to be like her. I spent the next couple of years gathering camp songs from my friends who went to other camps, Girl Scout handbooks, and anyone else I could find. (this was pre-internet, of course… Today I could have just searched youtube!)

I typed them (yes, folks, on a typewriter!) and created a songbook for camp. By the time I was 15 and in my first year on staff, I was the “Song Queen” of Camp Ernst!

Now, as a mom, my kids have grown up with me singing fun camp songs during those car rides when toddlers get bored and whiny, and slow camp songs during the nights when they couldn’t get to sleep. Camp songs have been my friend in lonely times and have helped me celebrate successes, too. Camp songs are an endless source of inside jokes. My camp friends still send me emails on Tuesday that are signed, “Tuesday: Green Beans.” 

Singing a ridiculous song with nonsense lyrics and wild hand motions in front of 700 people at a campfire really breaks down those inhibitions one might initially feel.  Years and years of leading camp songs have given me the confidence to speak (or sing!) in front of any size group on just about any topic.

So this week, as our campers hike up and down Camelback Road singing “Baby Shark” and “Reese Peanut Butter Cup,” I will smile and remember that camp songs are just one more tool in the cool camp counselor’s toolkit of building kids up. Sing on!



Just happy to be at camp!

The guy jumping in this picture (Ben) is the counselor…walking down Camelback Road with his group of 13 and 14 year old campers.

I love how in this shot you can just see that the ragtag group of kids is happy to be together and, well, just happy to be at camp.

I have accidentally neglected our tumblr for the last month as we’ve gotten camp up and running. Now, in the middle of week 3, I can look back and say, “WOW, it’s been a great summer so far!” 

I am so proud of the counselors, who are here for the campers and because they love helping kids shine. I am proud of our tradition of encouraging growth in spirit, mind, body, and friendship. And I am proud of the young leaders who are excited to be at camp today and who will carry our positive culture into the future.

Feeling blessed,






Hello from England

Hi all!! 

I’m Christina Schiesler and some of you may know me as the banana boat driver last summer!! I have been staying in the beautiful city of London on a film study tour with the University of Cincinnati. I’ve seen many sites where films and television shows have been filmed, including many sites where scenes from the Harry Potter films took place!

Though I am enjoying myself overseas, seeing all that I can in the short time I am here in London, I am most looking forward to the days following my cinema tour. One of the most amazing things I’ve gained from attending camp, is meeting so many wonderful people from all over the world, many of whom I have become very close with. 

In just a fews short days, I will travel from London to the beautiful city of Nottingham to visit and stay with Danny (Lakeview Unit Leader last summer) and Tilley (LIT Unit Leader last summer). Not only are Danny and Tilley opening up their homes to me, but also George Gadd, who will be leading the crew this summer, Gaz, last year’s Lakeview boy’s color leader, and Daniel who was in charge of movies last summer. Each of them are even giving me small tours of their cities!! What could be better than that?!

After all of the tiring traveling through London, it is going to be so amazing to see everyone. There is honestly nothing better than visiting an old friend, and even better than that having the chance to visit them in their home countries. I am so fortunate to have met every single one of them, and I can only thank camp for giving me that opportunity. I have met many of my best friends at camp, and nothing is better than being surround by friends thousands of miles from home. Thanks to camp, friendship can be found all over the world, and I am so thankful for it!! I can’t wait for another amazing summer at camp!

#TBT Family Camp in the 50s

Patty Burton Dietz sent me this picture of her and another toddler at family camp in the 50s. I have been thinking about family camp today since it’s MAY (!) and family camp will be here in about 3 weeks.

Since the 1950s, Camp Ernst has hosted Family Camp on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Some families who still attend have been with us since the beginning, through multiple generations! Many have great memories of tractor rides, meals in the Dining Hall, campfires, and chapel services. Just yesterday I received a camp scholarship donation from a former family camper whose advice to me was, “Eli, make sure people always know to walk around the campfire the RIGHT way.”  These longtime family campers love tradition…they have grown up with camp, and they have seen camp grow up as well.

We are always excited when new families come to establish a new tradition among their groups of neighbors, family friends, cousins, etc., and of course we love when the “old school” families come as well.

Basically, we just love to share our camp with moms, dads, kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends all having a great time, enjoying horseback riding, ziplining, swimming, eating, and just being together.

Hope to see you here in a few weeks!


Let the Countdown Begin!

Can you believe there are only 38 days until the first week of summer 2014?

Today in the office, we were checking out our wall calendars and realized that tomorrow we’ll have to erase April and put up June.  It’s hard to believe that summer is almost here.  My initial reaction came in the form of an “eeekkkk” sound, but honestly, I couldn’t be more excited!


There are lots of signs that the summer is drawing near and the camp season is in full motion- the constant sound of the lawn mower, newly strung bows at the archery range, a fresh coat of paint on the boys cabins, and animals in the petting zoo (wait til you meet Wilbur, our potbelly pig)!


The only thing missing now is you!  Next week, the counselors will start trickling in to help get camp ready and go through lots of training to prepare for the summer.  Soon enough, you’ll be here, making new friends, trying new activities, and having the best week of your life.


We’ll get a small taste of summer this weekend with our Kids Night Out and Ranch Day Programs.  Maybe we will even see some of you here!

Hope you’re ready for a great summer!


Oh, the difference a month makes…

A month ago, our new superstar ranch director, Natalie, ran our first ever “Ranch Day.”  If you follow us on twitter you might remember that we said the participants went home with lots of new horse skills as well as having made friends with the other kids (and all the horses!).

Tomorrow we hold our second Ranch Day. I was looking at this photo

of last month’s event and couldn’t believe how cold it looked. And the grass had only barely turned green. Just wait until our pictures tomorrow! Not only do we have green grass, but tons of green leaves in the woods as well as the beautiful red buds in bloom right now.

Flash forward another month into the future and it will be time for Lead Week, our annual training of unit leaders and crew leaders, when we take care of final preparations for our OUTSTANDING summer. Time flies—and we are blessed to experience it flying by while doing the best job in the world: running a summercamp!

See you this summer!


"It’s like my Second Home"

I often ask campers what they love about camp. Answers include the cool counselors, the zipline, the banana boat, the horses, the food, making friends, being away from younger siblings, etc. But the answer that has intrigued me lately has been, “It’s like my Second Home; I can be myself here.”

One of my favorite writers these days is Brene Brown. (Look up one of her TED talks if you haven’t heard of her—you’ll be glad you did!)  Tonight I was reading part of her book DARING GREATLY. She writes:

         “Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

This is why I love summercamp, friends! This is why in one week, lifelong bonds are formed. This is why our counselors have been coming back for 8,9,10,11, and more years. This is why kids say camp is like their second home.

I love that camp provides an environment where kids (and counselors!)can be their authentic selves, and hope that one day they will love themselves enough to be their “camp self” everywhere else in the world, too. 

But until then, we’ll be here…365 acres of awesomeness…a place of encouragement and acceptance…your second home.




Supermoon #TBT and Night time at camp

For tonight’s Throwback Thursday memory, I was thinking back to the “old days” when I was a counselor. At least one night each week, I would take my cabin group (usually cabin 8—cabin 8 is great-yeah!) out into center campus and we would lay down in the grass. (Yes, in our PJs. It’s camp.) We would all look up at the stars and share hopes and dreams. Not really a structured devotion, but hopefully one some of my campers from 20+ years ago still remember today.  It’s one of the thousands of things I love about camp: just taking some time to appreciate God’s creation, each other, and the gift of each day. We would do well to remember that more often during the rest of the year!

Each Friday night at Camp Ernst we symbolically place the “Camp Ernst Star” in the sky (it’s right there in the “buckle belt” of the constellation Orion).  We say that when their camp week is over, kids can still look at the sky, find the star, and remember the friends they made and the fun that they had. So tonight, Throwback Thursday just 50-something days before summercamp 2014 begins, I invite you to think back and be thankful.  And always let your light shine.



It’s Jared- the Boy’s E-team Leader!

Hey everyone my name is Jared and I can’t wait to be back at camp this summer! As well as this being my 6th year at camp I am also pumped to say that I will be the boys E Team leader this summer! E Team has a special place in my heart because it is where I started my camp career, and I can’t wait to get back to my camp roots. Laurel and I have lots of exciting plans for the newest staff at camp; I know we both are eager to being this wonderful  journey with all of our E Teamers. Well i guess that’s it for me; see you all at camp!!   

Favorite sights at camp!

We’re putting together some text boxes for a new project this summer…it’s going to be a really cool memory book of each week at camp. I’m brainstorming favorite sights at camp for one of the sidebars and thought it would be fun to share…here is one of my favorites: the sight of everyone’s candles lighting up the Chapel by the Lake at the Sunday night Spirit, Mind, and Body Ceremony!  What’s yours?