Nostalgia never really goes out of style, does it? Just take a look at today’s entertainment landscape. Reboots of popular movies and shows? Yup. Remaking old video games? Sure, those make money. A summer camp specifically designed for adults? Wait… that’s thing? Well, as long as there are bunkbeds… and alcohol.
Thankfully Camp No Counselors brings both in spades.
Camp No Counselors, which you may already know if you watch Shark Tank, is a weekend-long summer camp for grown ups. It’s basically everything you remember from camp as a kid—sports, climbing, swimming, games—plus an open bar and themed dance parties at night.
Earlier this summer I attended a preview edition of the Los Angeles version of the camp, and in tribute to my camp experiences of yesteryear, I wrote daily letters home to my parents because, well, who else was I going to write?
Hopefully you enjoy the letters as much as I enjoyed the camp.
Dear Mom & Dad,
The first day of camp is always a little weird. Fortunately there’s plenty of beer.
After a long bus ride packed with 30 racks and anticipation, we arrived at CNC, and happy hour was already in full-swing.
Campers congregated near the pool, sizing each other up like teenagers at junior prom. I surveyed the group. Would I find a bestie this weekend? Would I find love? Was I going to be the guy everyone thought smelled funny? Thankfully this one dude had that spot locked down.
Eventually the ice broke. More liquor was consumed. I lectured a guy who told me Shake Shack was better than In-N-Out. We hung by the campfire. Before long it was time to hit the hay.
I’m in Bunk Five (look alive!), and what a cheesy 80’s coming-of-age-summer-camp bunch we are. For real, you would not believe how much this one guy looks just like Anthony Michael Hall.
Our group seems solid- which is good because I’m going to be stuck here for the next few days having either the best or worst time of my life. Fingers crossed for the former.
In any case, I’ll keep this note short and sweet. The butterflies in my stomach are tingling. Well, either butterflies, or the 37 shots of tequila I just took. Let’s go with butterflies.
Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
Dear Mom & Dad,
There’s so much to do here! Hiking! Yoga! Climbing! Other things!
Dodgeball was my first move of the day. Here’s the thing about dodgeball… it’s harder than I remember it. Or at least way more intense. One guy on the opposing team was completely bananas. You know, the sort of bro who thinks even the most casual group competition requires the intensity of the NBA Finals (in fact, let’s just call him Johnny Bananas). Bananas didn’t just throw dodge balls, he hurled bolts of lightning across the court with no regard for human life. This was not my speed.
I decided to get away from the banana fury and head to archery. This I was much better at. You should have seen me, mom! I was a regular Katniss Everdeen out there! I was just like Merida of DunBroch; a real Susan Pevensie (maybe Legolas or Robin Hood are better examples for a dude, but whatever, you get the point).
As we cruised through the rest of the day, what was previously a group of strangers grew closer. Grubbing down together in the dining hall was a big relationship builder — and believe it or not, the food is actually good! At one point I locked eyes with Bananas and I thought he was going to incinerate me with his laser eyes right there on the spot.
Thankfully other than JB everyone is super friendly. One of our Bunk Fivers is a Camp No Counselors veteran — let’s just call her MVP — and she’s agreed to to give our group a leg up when we all participate in the team competitions tomorrow.
As for today… after hours of alternating between camp games and food consumption, we geared up the first party of the weekend: PAJAMA PARTY. People were wearing all the best PJs: onesies, sweatpants, a gigantic, murderous-looking chipmunk suit. You know, the classics.
There was a DJ. There was booze. There were games. Whatever bonds we started to form during the day were solidified tonight. It truly feels like I’m getting to know these people.
It’s been a big first day, Mom & Dad, but it’s lights out for now in Bunk Five (look alive!). I’ll write you guys tomorrow!
Dear Mom & Dad,
What. A. Day.
No summer camp experience is complete without an all-out group competition. The all-out, fierce, unbridled, unflinching, monstrous battle for dominance that is… Color War.
Color War is divided into two parts. The first part consists of multiple sports and challenges taking place at the exact same time. The winners of these sports and challenges are given a head start in the second part… the Apache Relay (and yes, I’m well aware of the culturally problematic nature of this name).
The Apache Relay is a 19-part relay battle that stretches across the grounds of the entire camp. It includes everything from a straight-up sprint, to a cereal eating contest, to a beer pong shot, to a race up a rock climbing wall, and culminates in the Flip N Slide — AKA, a 75 foot slip-n-slide followed by a flip cup shot.
Despite MVP’s previous camp experience, the odds were stacked against us from the beginning. We were Green Team. We had by far the fewest amount of players. This could be a blood bath.
Red Team (the clear villains, I might add), was completely stacked, full of hulking talent and by far the largest in number. Now you’re probably guessing Johnny Bananas was on Red. Certainly seems like it’s where he belonged.
WRONGO! Bananas was with us. Undermanned and saddled with my enemy, I was ready for a lonnnnnnnng day. But, as we learned in the acclaimed 1996 documentary Space Jam, an underdog story is always possible. Green Team — or Salsa Verde as we began to call ourselves — was ready for the challenge.
Under MVP’s guidance, we gathered our troops and prepared to divide and conquer. While most of us split up to compete tournament-style in our sports, a few other heroes went off to prepare for our lip-sync battle (which we were ROBBED of winning), and the flag design contest.
Color War had begun, and everything was happening at once.
I decided to play volleyball, which was an especially excellent idea because I’ve never played a single second of volleyball in my life.
But guess what, Mom & Dad?! Are you guessing??? If you guessed that we took first place in volleyball, you guessed correctly. Hit after hit, save after save, our ragtag bunch of Bunk Five (look alive!) and the rest of our Salsa Verde family began to look like a professional squad. If it was a sports movie shot by Janusz Kaminski, you probably would have cried.
Invigorated by our victory, we marched to dodgeball to cheer the rest of the Greenies on. Led by none other than Johnny Bananas, we also took first in dodgeball. I’m pretty sure he sent a couple people to the emergency room.
Then something strange happened when we went to congratulate them. I sensed a flicker of humanity in the eye of the Banana. Was there a soul in there, just waiting to get out? Could we truly band together to win this thing?
I never would have called myself a competitive person, but when we saw that our kickball team had also done well, I think it’s safe to say those days were long behind me. Old Wilder was gone. New Wilder painted a gigantic “S V” across his face and began shouting Salsa Verde at literally anybody that walked past him.
He was kind of awful.
Many sports, lip-sync routines, and flag designs later, the results of the relay head starts were in. The dastardly red squad was tied for the lead (obviously) with none other than the snarky upstarts wearing the shirts in green (have I hammered this underdog theme home enough?!?!?). Now it was time for the relay.
The relay started with the human carry, which is exactly what it sounds like. Four of us needed to grab somebody and sprint across the field towards the second leg of the relay, where the next Greenie was waiting to take a beer pong shot.
Now WHOM do you think was one of my partners for this activity? That’s correct. Johnny Bananas. We looked at one another.
“You doing this?” Johnny said.
“Yep.” I replied.
And suddenly, as though it was always meant to be, we understood each other. Johnny Bananas was no longer my enemy. He was my partner. My teammate. My brother. We clapped our hands together and took a knee. Electric guitars blared while lightning bolts crashed in the background. Without a word, we hoisted our teammate, and took our position. And you’d best believe we won the human carry.
After sharing a passionate and knowing moment with Johnny Bananas, I ran off to my second post; the basketball shot. As the rest of the relay happened around me, I got into position and surveyed the scene. Three teammates, all lined up to make layups. The first team to make all three gets to move on.
As you probably know I’ve been favorably compared to retired Canadian-Bahamian small forward and three-time NBA champion/occasional actor Rick Fox (because I’m also an occasional actor). I made the shot is what I’m trying to say.
The sweet sweet swish-diddy (is that how basketball people talk?) of the net still ringing in my ears, I raced over to the Flip N Slide.
Upon my arrival at the Flip N Slide, however, I noticed something about 200 feet away; The Human Pyramid, the penultimate leg of the race. Four of the five required teammates were flagging me down, and shouting for my help. Apparently, the final member hadn’t shown up yet, and our team was approaching fast to tag them.
Now by this point, I may have given you the impression I am sort sort of CNC superstar.
If so, good, that’s exactly what I’m going for.
I reached the pyramid just in time. We knocked the human pyramid out of the park, then I ran back over to the Flip N Slide. Because of our aforementioned small team size, most of us had to go twice.
The Color War was winding down. And as fate would have it, we were just about neck and neck with Red. Victory was within our grasp.
Then, a terrifying thing happened. We began to slowly fall behind. It was like someone had sucked the lifeforce out of us with that wacky vacuum from Luigi’s Mansion (how’s that for nostalgia?).
Were we done for? The tension was so palpable you could grab a spoon and take a scoop out of the air. And soon enough, we only had one cup left. There it was, the win, just sitting there.
I looked up to the top of the hill to size up the person who’d flip the final cup. The crowd parted. The sun hung high in the sky.
Only one person could have flipped that final cup. Only one man was suited for the challenge. And there he was, a vision on the mountain top.
Jonathan. Amadeus. Bananas.
He flipped. He scored. We won.
Chaos. Victory. Champagne everywhere. A never-ending chorus of the Salsa Verde chant ripping through the field. We hoisted MVP into the air. We hoisted the trophy into the air. We hoisted MVP hoisting the trophy into the air.
And the rest of the night is a blur. Winning is fun. Partying after you win is even more fun. I don’t even think the Golden State Warriors celebrated their victory as hard as we did.
I almost forgot to write this letter, in fact. Luckily I woke up in a cold sweat due to severe dehydration and I’ve found the strength to pump out the story for you.
I hope I remember to mail this.
Dear Mom & Dad,
I’m writing this letter from the bus. We’re just about to head home, but I can’t believe the last day of camp is here already. It legitimately feels like an entire summer has passed.
As we packed up our bunks, ate breakfast, and lounged by the pool one last time, it suddenly became very emotional to cut ties with all my newfound friends. I saw two girls hugging and crying this morning, telling each other how much they’ll be missed. The false promises of “see you soon” filled the air. Typical camp stuff.
Was this summer — er, weekend — what I expected? Not remotely. Did I expect my camp enemy to become my camp best friend? No way. Did I expect to drink the equivalent of an Olympic swimming pool in booze? Yes. Definitely yes.
I don’t think I’ve ever felt this dead in my entire life. My lips are cracked open and bleeding. Every limb feels like it’s going to fall off. My organs have melted and become Flubber. I’m physically exhausted, emotionally exhausted, mentally exhausted, and spiritually exhausted.
So yeah, I’ve already signed up for next year.
Why am I mailing this letter to you? I’m only an hour away, and I’ll be home before it even arrives. Oh well.
Camp No Counselors costs between $525 – $700 for an all-inclusive three-day experience with prices dependent on how early you register. Sooooooo, yeah, do you think you float me the cash for next year? I’ll do the dishes. You guys are the best.
For anyone reading these letters who is NOT my parents, keep in mind Camp No Counselors is also doing a special New Year’s Eve edition that you can sign up for now.