Wolfeboro Summer Camp

For generations, Scouts have made the pilgrimage to Camp Wolfeboro to experience the joys of an old-fashioned summer camp. It’s a place where Scouting traditions are of great consequence, and the ghosts of Wolfeboro’s venerable Pioneers are with you during every flag ceremony, campfire, swim test, rifle shoot, and trip to the KYBO. It’s a place grandfathers love to talk about and today’s Scouts love to hate.

Camp Wolfeboro was founded by the Berkeley Council in 1928 in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains on the shores of the Stanislaus River, across the river from family-oriented Camp Baxter. A few decades later, Camp Baxter closed down and its property was absorbed by Wolfeboro, who built new camp sites and remodeled the dining hall and medical shack into a nature lodge and hike shack. Not much has changed at Wolfeboro since then.

Wolfeboro Summer Camp
Troop 60 at Wolfeboro

The Wolfeboro glass is both half empty and half full at the same time, depending upon your Scouting perspective. Scouts who lean towards the “keep yourself Physically Fit” part of the Oath are happy with hiking into camp, sleeping on the ground, and making their way to Upper Falls for an afternoon of jumping off the rocks into the river. Those that are more inclined to keeping themselves “Mentally Awake” can find the whole experience a little too strenuous for their modern outlook. The conflict is very apparent at meals.

For traditionalists, the ancient Dining Hall is a reminder of a time when Scouts said Grace before meals, removed their hats indoors, and cheered themselves hoarse under the leadership of a Troop Yell Master. (“There ain’t no flies on us…”) The quality of the food isn’t nearly as important as the Scout Spirit that pervades the building – and so what if we have to sit on wooden benches. For others, the Dining Hall is a place of cramped and smelly tables, early and late seatings, repetitive Troop cheers, pounding headaches, KYBO Casseroles, and sanitation issues. (“What is this brown stuff on my plate?”)

Flags at Wolfeboro
Flags at Wolfeboro

And then there is the lake. Screams, bribes, curses, threats, boasts, and an occasional splash are the sounds of the waterfront. The Wolfeboro Swim Test is where the “men” are separated from the “boys” in one slow, numbing, breath-taking plunge. Described as the “coldest water on the planet” by experienced campers, it is not unusual to see Scoutmasters chasing hysterical little Scouts around the small beach area, yelling at them to get into line for their swim test. Older Scouts refuse to bring swim suits to Wolfeboro for fear of somehow being tricked (or pushed) into the water. Adults hide behind trees so they won’t be expected to jump in and save Scouts who are quickly turning blue and thrashing feebly a few yards from shore. Waterfront counselors just roll their eyes and tell stories about Scouts with hypothermia as they order everyone to stay away from their fire.

Wolfeboro Waterfront
Wolfeboro Waterfront

This year, Wolfeboro Medics were responsible for halting the spread of the dreaded Swine Flu. So they dutifully lined up every Scout and Adult to take their temperature before being allowed into camp. (Please, no jokes about where to stick the thermometer!) Fortunately, there were little plastic sleeves for each Scout to put over the end of the thermometer to guard against the transfer of germs as it was passed from mouth to mouth to mouth. (Gross.) Unfortunately, the two battery-powered thermometers from Rite Aid proved insufficient to the task of taking 300 Scout temperatures in an afternoon. At some point, every temperature began reading exactly 96%, giving Scouts the feeling that they should be experiencing the first signs of hypothermia.

Wolfeboro definitely has enough history and grandeaur to warrant at least one visit. The beauty of the Sierras masks most of the camp shortcomings and complaints from “Girlie Scouts” are easily drowned out by the roar of the Stanislaus River. (Plus, it’s a really great place for backpackers.) So, for me, the Wolfeboro glass is definately half full. In fact, it remains my favorite summer camp experience.

If you have any special memories of Wolfeboro, let me know.

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7 thoughts on “Wolfeboro Summer Camp”

  1. I was a camper in the late 70’s and on staff in 1978 (Nature Shack). I had the time of my life at Camp Wolfboro. The experience has remained a highlight in my life. I distinctly remember the pride I felt that summer working with men I admired and looked up to. The description is exactly how I remember the camp. There is something special about this almost sacred place.

  2. Troop 115, Richmond. 4 years in the late 50s as a camper and 1 year 1961 as Staff. I worked Hike Staff with Lee Evans (Antioch) as the lead and Jim Shaw (Walnut Creek) among others. I can remember Spiecer’s, Elephant Lake Monkey Bridge and Bloods as some of the trails we hiked. I was also in camp when the mess hall exploded. Must have been ’58 or ’59. Wonderful times. I wonder what became of those guys I met and hiked with in those days. I am @ theunionduke@aol.com if anyone wants to get me.

  3. I was in Scout Troop 203 from St Isidore’s church in Danville in the early 1960s. I made at least 3 trips to Camp Wolfeboro and they truly are fond memories. My friend Tony and I recently set out to find it again and were happy to see it has not changed a lot. The road in from Highway 4 is no better than it was 50 years ago. I recall the muffler getting torn off one of our parents cars on that road. Once down a the bottom the smell of the woods and the sound of the wind through the trees instantly came back to me. We talked about the hike to Spicers and up to BAS, now called a more politically correct “Sliding Rock” I understand. We wondered if the kids are still allowed to skinny dip there. I hope it continues for many years to come.

  4. Sounds like it hasn’t changed much since I was there 1956 thru 1959. It was one of my most happy times. Yes the water was cold but we got used to it during the greased watermelon contest between troops and the jousting in the canoes. We also had bathing beauty contests to see who could look the best as a girl in a bikini.

    One year the water boiler in the wash area behind the mess hall blew up in the middle of the night and tore out half the mess hall. Thank goodness it happen at night and no one was injured. We heard it all the way from upper falls. I think it was 1957 or 58. Anyway it was a blast.

    I was with Charles Binkley’s troop 99 of Kensington. Watusi’s

  5. As an adult leader who has been to Wolfeboro each year since 2006 with two of my sons, I can relate to your description of Wolfeboro. I was never a scout, but both my sons have said Wolfeboro is their favorite. You forgot to mention Sourdough, another great hike. And lest we forget an adult favorite; watching which scouts in camp will wear the same clothes (without showering) for as many days as possible… talk about Pig-pen! Wolfeboro has been a fantastic journey for me and my sons. Memories to last forever. And I’ve got 4 more years to look foward to!!!

  6. My favorite memory of Wolfeboro was “Stud Rock.” It took a night of camping out on the rock before I worked up the guts to take the plunge. Back then it seemed like a mile high…i’m sure it wouldn’t seem as horrifying today. After jumping, I was then considered a “stud” with the rest of my troop…talk about peer pressure! Great memories…

  7. It’s funny but your description is exactly how I remember Camp Wolfeboro being in the early 90’s. Going to that camp is one of my fondest childhood memories and I am happy to hear that the traditions are being maintained.

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