This past summer, at 52 years old, I returned to work as a camp counselor at Camp Highlands for Boys – the same camp I attended over 40 years ago as a child and 30 years ago as a counselor. Accompanying me was my 12-year-old son Charlie, experiencing the camp for his second summer. Witnessing Charlie immersed in the same adventures and activities I enjoyed decades prior was incredibly nostalgic and moving.
Perched on the shores of Plum Lake in Wisconsin’s pristine North Woods, Camp Highlands has been shaping young lives through character development and outdoor experiences for over 120 years. The natural splendor of the area, from its majestic bald eagles to the haunting calls of loons across the lake, transports you back to a simpler time. Camp Highlands fosters its mission of developing “worthwhile men” through principles like “I am third” which emphasizes selflessness and service to others.
Stepping back into this cherished place was like entering a time capsule. Though decades had passed, the spirit of adventure, connection to nature, and camaraderie between campers and counselors remained unchanged. Witnessing my son thrive amid the same activities and values that shaped me powerfully illustrated Camp Highland’s enduring legacy across generations.
Navigating my responsibilities as a camp counselor while still leading my law practice remotely was an immense challenge. With the camp’s highly structured schedule, I strived to be fully present whether I was guiding campers through activities or connecting with my firm. This required dedication, creativity, and commitment from both my colleagues and the camp staff.
A 50-mile backpacking trek with a group of campers proved transformational. Trudging through rugged terrain and rain tested my perseverance and deepened bonds. In the stillness of evenings around the campfire, the barriers between counselor and campers faded away. This trip marked a turning point, making me feel truly integrated into the camp community.
The campers demonstrated remarkable resilience and determination, especially on demanding canoeing and hiking excursions. It was inspiring to watch teenagers push their limits and draw strength from camaraderie. The senior campers’ reflections on their growth and experiences on the last night encapsulated the profound impact Camp Highlands has in shaping lives.
Equally impressive were the alumni counselors who returned summer after summer because of their passion for the camp. Despite generational gaps, our mutual love for Camp Highlands connected us. These counselors helped me rediscover a part of myself I had long forgotten – a childlike wonder, connection to nature, and simpler pleasures. Their support allowed me to fully immerse in the experience.
Saying goodbye to Camp Highlands this summer was bittersweet. While my son Charlie eagerly anticipates returning next year to make new memories, we both cherish the experiences and lessons learned. Camp Highlands’ influence is evident in the increased empathy, determination, and thoughtfulness Charlie demonstrates at home. And I’ve rediscovered a sense of adventure and curiosity that will guide me in the next chapter of life.
Stepping back briefly from my established career to embrace an unconventional detour ended up profoundly impacting my outlook and growth. It’s never too late to challenge oneself or follow a forgotten dream. My time at Camp Highlands is a testament that some of life’s most rewarding choices are those that lead us back to our roots. I’m tremendously grateful I had the opportunity to rediscover a place that left an indelible imprint on my past and will continue shaping my future.