This World is Pine Forest Camp

Imagine a world with no TVs, no cell phones and no internet access, where…

– “Mail” is simply on a piece of paper, hand written, with a pen.

– The only “gaming’ is on a field or a court.

– “Chatting” is done verbally: in a cabin, on a walk, over a meal or around a  campfire, the purest form of “FaceTime.”

– You can only “like” something or someone by giving a real compliment, a smile or a hug.

– A ‘wink’ is done with eye contact and a grin, and ‘laughing so hard you cry’ is not an emoji but rather the funniest late-night bunk conversation that will live on for decades.

– The biggest news of the day is whose birthday it is, what evening activity will be or what’s for dinner.

– You don’t need to have hundreds of “friends,” instead you strive for a quality handful of the best, truest friends you could ever imagine.

– A “snap” is simply a hand gesture.

– Silly costumes are homemade or brought up in trunks not created with apps or filters.

– The only “tweet” comes from birds and being one with nature.

– A “house party” is getting to hang out in your cabin with your favorite people, bunk mates.

– The latest songs and videos come out of a bunk skit, song or cheer rather than top 40 radio hits.

– And, the only photos you take during the day are ones that live in your mind, providing you with lifelong memories.

This world is Pine Forest Camp. It was this way for me as a camper at PFC, and it’s the same for my own children. Kids need camp, now more than ever. I am tremendously thankful that my children get to turn off, unplug and disconnect every summer. Where else in the world can that truly happen? And, although they may not always admit it, I know that my kids wouldn’t have it any other way.

What Your Child Will Get Out of Camp

In addition to mastering the zip line and perfecting the butterfly stroke, the intangible lessons of camp know no bounds. In fact, it’s these more abstract takeaways that make the biggest impact on our campers. When we talk to families about camp in their living rooms, when we walk touring families around our grounds, we tend to focus on schedules and special programs; the most important thing about camp, though, is its people, the community, and the gifts we take from it.

We often say that camp teaches you to be the best version of yourself, but that doesn’t always come easily. Nothing great does! It takes work to practice living away from your parents! It takes work to live with people from different neighborhoods or even countries who might have different views! It’s not easy to have face-to-face conversations instead of sending a text or email in camp’s tech-free zone!

So, what will your child get out of camp? We hope team-sport skills are perfected and yoga is given a real chance, but it’s so much bigger that. Your child will come home more confident for having stood up for a friend, happier for having spontaneously burst into song and cheer, more comfortable in his or her skin for having navigated both big and small tasks independently. Oh, and your child will have a group of friends and community for life that are sacred, that are all his or her own, that they can always come back to and rely upon.

Camp takes a sense of adventure and grit and stick-to-it-ness and empathy and goofiness and a zest for life that we all wish for our kids! Those are the true gifts of camp, and what gifts could be more important?

Camp Cuisine Extraordinaire!

We are thrilled to share the good news that Kristian Unvericht will be our new year-round full-time Camp Food Director. Working closely with Barbara Black, he will take our camp cuisine to new heights. Kristian comes to us with a wealth of experience and a passion for food that is extraordinary. Whether you’re a true foodie or just love good food at camp, having Kristian on board is something very, very special.

Here’s his food background before he came to Greeley, PA.

Chef De cuisine -Fuego Restaurant, Tucson Arizona-Fine Dining Southwest cuisine
Assistant Corporate Pastry -Chef Fox Restaurants, Tucson Arizona- Modern American
Assistant General Manager-Fenouil Brasserie, Portland Oregon- Fine Dining French Nouveau
General Manager- Janos and Downtown Kitchen and Cocktails, Tucson Arizona-Janos was Fine Dining Southwestern Cuisine and Downtown Kitchen was global comfort food
General Manager-Quinn’s Gastro Pub, Seattle Washington- Farm to Table northwest cuisine
General Manager-Tallulah’s Café Seattle Washington- Vegetable focused Farm to table casual
Restaurant Consultant- Salare Restaurant, Seattle Washington- Southern American farm to table
General Manager-Super Six, Seattle Washington- Hawaiian and Korean fusion

We asked Kristian for fun facts about himself and here’s one of our favorites:

“I once met Bill and Melinda Gates, Dave Mathews and all of the members of Pearl Jam in the same night at a restaurant I ran. That is like hitting the Seattle trifecta.”

Read Kristian’s full story of how he developed an infatuation with food and a passion for quality, and what he loves about camp below. Welcome, Kristian!

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My interest in food came at an early age, mainly because I loved to eat it! But I also attribute my love for food to both of my grandmothers. They were born into families that made them learn to cook at an early age as part of their house duties. From these early times as children cooking, they were passed down generations of recipes and cooking techniques that they still use to this day. So as a boy, I would watch them prepare meals that sometimes took the whole day – it was the true definition of slow foods. Meals of braised meats, homemade breads and tortillas, potato dumplings, elaborate confections. Looking back, it was truly amazing that so many dishes took a lot of care and knowledge.

One of my grandmothers is Mexican and the other is German so I also had this diverse culinary experience in my life. The smells that would permeate the house were just intoxicating and by dinner time, I would be starving from anticipation. I think my favorite part was not only this sense of happiness I got from tasting food, but also how it brought our family together to relax from the day and just exist in this moment of togetherness and enjoyment.

By the time I was 17, I had dreams of what I wanted to be and working professionally in a restaurant was not one of them. But like all good moms that recognize their child’s true desire and potential, I was asked if I would like to meet a well-known chef in my hometown. My mom thought I could be a chef’s apprentice and see where it took me. It didn’t take long after being in a professional kitchen before I fell in love with the energy. The camaraderie, bonding and commitment. The dedication to pushing yourself to the limits. All of these things made me realize I didn’t just want to commit myself to my relationship with food, but absolutely needed to.

After working my way up through that kitchen and becoming a chef de cuisine by the age of 23, I decided to learn more about restaurants. I went on to work as a pastry chef under someone I still consider to this day to be one of the greatest. In that restaurant, we had an open kitchen, a new concept at the time, and boy did that shake up my whole world. I got to see people eating this food we all worked so hard to prepare. I saw smiles, laughter and pictures being taken of this food.

My next thought was that I already knew I wanted to own my own place some day and thought it would be best if I learned every job in a restaurant. So why not learn to serve and manage a dining room where I could be surrounded by this joy? For some reason, I had this naive thought that every person who comes into a restaurant is happy and smiling so it would be a piece of cake being out with the guests. Ha!

At that point, I decided I needed to move from my hometown, Tucson, to a bigger city with an exploding culinary scene, so I packed my belongings and moved to Portland, Oregon. Even though my first restaurant was fine dining, after moving to a bigger city with such a talented chef, it just blew my mind seeing the progressive techniques and new ingredients. I quickly landed a job managing this beautiful French Nouveau restaurant and in my off time, I ate my way through the city.

Years went by and I landed back in Tucson to help my grandmother recover from an accident and found an opportunity to work for a James Beard award winning chef. His life’s work was rooted in the preservation of heritage foods of the southwest and his commitment truly inspired me. I helped change local health codes to allow schools to have onsite gardens that they could use to feed their students. I became a board member for Slow Food. I really discovered an awareness for sustainability and cultural preservation from that chef. But after several years of learning and opening a new restaurant with him, the big city bug came back.

I met a woman, fell in love, and we decided to move to Seattle, which was another great food city that constantly inspired me. I helped open and run several restaurants there. Lauren and I had our first child, Eleanor, and my world changed. Family became a bigger focus in my life, as you would expect.

We had this great idea to travel to Latin America for awhile, showing our daughter more of the world. Then, one day before we were able to start our travels, old friends of mine, Johnny and Rachel Waszczak asked me if I knew someone that wanted to be a Food Director for some family-owned camps they work for. It sounded really fun and brought back fond memories of my childhood at a sleepaway camp, so I jumped at the opportunity.

Lauren, Eleanor and I picked up once again and moved to Greeley, PA. Lauren now works at Camp Timber Tops, where she gets to use so much of her past education and life experience. Seeing her in front of a group of girls playing, mentoring, and helping them grow up to be strong women is so amazing. Not to mention our daughter has hundreds of acres to play with the other staff children too young to be campers. Honestly, her development exploded as soon as we set foot on camp and I can’t ever see her not being at camp. It is also funny when we leave camp and go places like New York City and get on a subway where she waves at every single person because she thinks everyone is her camp family. If only this world was like camp all the time.

This year in the off-season, our family is setting off on our original adventure for a few months and heading to Mexico and Cuba. We will be going to Mexico City, Guadalajara (where part of Lauren’s family lives), Oaxaca, Yucatan and finally, Cuba. I have traveled all throughout Europe and have spent a lot of time in Germany where my father’s family is from. I have learned a lot about my family’s background there, but never as much about my mother’s side. So this trip we are about to embark on is to find out more about our Mexican heritages. And let’s be honest, it is also about eating a ton of fantastic food! While we are there I hope to learn some great recipes and get culinary ideas that I can possibly bring to camp.

Our menu is always diverse and you will find Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and Middle Eastern cuisine. So many of our dishes are from Barbara Black who is not only a camp owner, but also all of the campers surrogate grandmother, a role she wouldn’t give up for the world. I love coming in to work and seeing Barbara making Matzah balls for Friday dinner or Mandelbread for a sweet treat.  Her love for feeding her campers and the joy they receive from it brings me back to the reason I became interested in food, my own grandmothers. So I am here at camp to continue traditions passed on from Barbara and the Black family and also honor the traditions of my family. Because I believe that happiness and love come from something as simple as a good meal.

In this role, I hope that my culinary experience and background can help to maintain the success of our food program and also bring new ideas to compliment tradition. A few of the new things I am working on are even more delicious items to expand our menu, more options for campers with dietary restrictions, and a pizza oven and grove breakfast that are going to knock the socks off our campers. Also, this year Lauren and I will be planting a camp garden so our cooking school program has lots of fresh vegetables to use. I also hope to have a good portion of our food waste go to composting and feed for local pig farms in our community. As I have discussed in my background, I believe sustainability and being more green is beneficial to our planet and also the future of our children.

And what do I like about camp? The first day I was introduced to camp, I felt like family. Everyone went out of their way to show me around, introduce themselves, and make it clear they were happy to have me as part of this great team. I quickly learned that camp is a special place that brings joy to everyone involved. We are all here to promote good values, acceptance and respect for each other while having fun. This is a place that creates long-lasting bonds of friendship. It’s almost like a secret club that you wish the whole world could experience. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel fortunate to be surrounded by special people. As I was told from the beginning, and I strongly believe it, people who come to work at camp are good people. Because devoting your time, energy and love to make each summer for the campers the best, most memorable experience, can only come from someone with a good heart. This is what excites me and makes me so passionate about working here at camp.

Reminders from PFC!

It’s that time of the year! You forget what your living room floor looks like under all of that camp gear, you’re constantly hearing the most up-to-date countdown to camp (8 days, 21 hours, 43 minutes!), and you miss them already. Take a deep breath. We are here for you as always! Below are some last minute tips as you make your final preparations for PFC 2016!

What to pack:
Plenty of underwear
A good flashlight
Lots of socks
Bug spray
Sunscreen
Stationary and stamps
A favorite stuffed animal
Hopes and dreams

What not to pack:
Homework
Electronic devices (Kindle, iPod Touch, screens that play games or shows, cell phones)

Important dates:
First day of camp: Saturday, June 25
Visiting Day: Saturday, July 23 @ 11:30AM
Last day of camp: Saturday, August 13

Important contact information:
PFC summer office: (570) 685-7141
Mountain Baggage: (570) 775-0556
R&B Baggage (for Florida families): (603) 536-2197
CampRx: (877) 302-3881

PFC mailing address:
185 Pine Forest Road
Greeley, PA 18425

Policy reminders:
-Phone calls are not necessary, but one can be scheduled before Visiting Day and one after Visiting Day. You can schedule your first call once your camper arrives at camp.
-NO packages, please! If a necessity is inadvertently left behind, please call the camp office for a pre-approval code so that your package will be accepted and delivered to your camper. We do allow birthday packages, so please clearly label these as birthday packages with your child’s birth date. Remember: NO food is allowed!

Photos:
Photos from the day will be uploaded to CampInTouch almost every night. You can access them using the same login you use to fill out forms.
https://pineforest.campintouch.com/v2/login/login.aspx

Expert tip: Mail a letter to your camper a few days before camp starts so that there’s one waiting for him or her on the first day of camp.

Follow us! You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat using @PineForestCamp.

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We Love Our New Campers!

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What a weekend!

New Family Weekend is an amazing Pine Forest Camp tradition: we invite all first-time campers and their families up to camp to spend their first weekend at PFC together! Families stay overnight in their own bunks before camp starts, and future campers participate in activities in their age groups to get to know one another. Think ziplining, canoeing, gaga, arts and crafts, basketball – you name it, we do it! It’s a good thing we lucked out with the weather! We end the day the best way possible: at a campfire! A big campfire highlight for us (besides the s’mores, of course) was Mickey leading a round of his famous “Fish and Chips.” We also loved watching the awesome talent show that included dances, jokes and gymnastics. You’d never be able to tell that these campers just met that day! We ended the campfire the only way we know how to: with “Taps and Friends.” After the campfire, there was a wine and cheese party for parents so they could get to know each other, too!

The next morning, families enjoyed a delicious breakfast in the Dining Hall, complete with hot chocolate and whipped cream. After breakfast, many families took advantage of the fields and courts being open and all new campers left with an exclusive new PFC sweatshirt and a great deal of excitement for what’s to come.

We want to extend a special thank you to our outstanding staff for making New Family Weekend 2016 one of our best yet. It really is all about the people! Being at PFC with new families each year confirms what we already know: Pine Forest campers are awesome because Pine Forest families are awesome.

As we sing when you visit:
“WE WELCOME YOU TO PINE FOREST, WE’RE MIGHTY GLAD YOU’RE HERE!”

And now, the big show! We can’t wait to see our new campers again in 18 DAYS!

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New Family Weekend 2016!

New Family Weekend is just three days away! The comfort and excitement of our new campers and their families is a top priority, so PFC opens its “doors” just three weeks before opening day! It’s our official start-of-summer!

To truly experience camp life in all its glory, each new camper family gets a cabin to stay in overnight. It’s really a perfect way to see the facilities, experience the activities and get a taste of bunk life. This weekend is also a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends, their families and our awesome camp leaders.

There is nothing like these first sounds of summer: children’s laughter echoing throughout camp, balls bouncing on the courts, crickets chirping at night and even the sound of the cabin doors opening and closing. It’s a right of passage for all PFC campers to smell a campfire and taste a s’more. And there is nothing that brings the day to an end like breathing in fresh mountain air, gazing up at millions of stars in the sky, singing arm-in-arm with incredible children and adults, all with the same goal in mind: becoming acclimated and excited for the best summer ever.

Even for parents, having this inside perspective and first-hand experience of what camp is truly like is incredibly valuable. The weekend provides parents and campers alike with that extra bit of confidence and comfort.

Created so that each new camper’s first night at camp is not actually his or her “first night at camp,” this weekend is truly such fun and so very special.

We can’t wait to welcome many of our new families on Saturday!

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Signs It’s Almost Time for Camp

1. You begin almost every sentence with, “at camp I…”

2. You have a pile in your room for “camp stuff.”

3. You’re having dreams about that amazing moment on the first day of camp when get out of the car or the bus and smell the Greeley air for the first time!

4. You are doodling “18425” on your papers at school.

5. You and your camp friends have started guessing Color Days themes and breakout options.

6. You’ve already made your Visiting Day list in your head.

7. You’ve already made a playlist of potential songs for MTV Night.

8. The smell of bug spray makes you happy.

9. You know exactly what you want for your first canteen.

10. You check the weather in Greeley daily.

11. You post weekly countdown photos of your camp friends.

12. You sing camp songs and cheers at the kitchen table (sorry, moms and dads!).

13. You check the camp website or app every day to see the countdown to camp number get smaller and smaller!

14. You already know what you’re wearing to the first social.

15. You’re making room on your arm for friendship bracelets! That camp arm will be here before you know it!

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Never Lost

It’s a time honored principle. Military leaders tell their elite troops. Indian Chiefs tell their scouts. Parents tell their children.

If you ever feel lost, go back to the last place where you knew where you were. Start from there and you will find your way.”

For some of us, alumni, counselors, campers, Pine Forest is that place that we go back to. For many it may be the last place where we really knew where we were.  Who we are.  Where we are headed.

I’ve seen and heard about it many times from former PFCers at every age. After all, in everyone’s life there are times that we feel a little lost, in school, in our careers, in relationships. How do we get our bearings? How do we know where to go? What to do? “Go back to the last place where you knew where you were.”

Surrounded by friends, fresh air and fun, for many of us that place is camp. We are our true selves. We know where we are and where we are going.

Let camp be your North Star, your compass, your launching pad.

If you ever feel lost, start here.   

–Mickey

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Packing Tips for New Counselors

You’ve just scored this AWESOME job at Pine Forest and you’ll be turning onto Pine Forest Camp Road before you know it. You can practically hear the campers singing and see the bright Greeley stars. Before you leave for the best summer of your life, we want to provide you with this “unofficial” packing list. These are items that past staff members have found to be “essentials,” and most can be purchased at a low cost near camp!

Gear: Your favorite hoodie (hooded sweatshirt), lots of socks (when you think you packed enough, pack more!), rain boots, comfortable athletic shorts, blue and gold gear (think Color War!), white T-shirt for tie-dye, sunglasses.

Bedding: Warm blanket or comforter in addition to a light one. We know, we know- it’s summer! But we are in the rural mountains and the nights and mornings are cool! If you’re coming from overseas, don’t worry. We’ve got you!

Equipment: What will you be doing at camp? Will you need something specific for your activity? (Think baseball mitt, tennis racket, etc.)

Everyday Stuff: Sunscreen, water bottle, laundry bag, casual watch (you won’t have your phone with you to tell you the time!), headphones, pen and paper (to actually write letters!).

Fun: Theme-night clothes or wacky gear, clothes for a day off out of camp, bunk games like Jacks or a deck of cards.

Random awesomeness: Guitar (if you play), Diablo, juggling balls, playlist of music for your bunk, flag from your country, college gear, photos of your family and friends.

And most importantly, bring a camp state of mind: a sense of humor, enthusiasm, a great attitude, openness to try new things, excitement to meet new people and the realization that you are about to embark on an incredible, rewarding adventure that is truly life-changing!

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Earth Day, Every Day

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Every day is Earth Day at camp.

It starts when you wake up in the morning. You breathe in the fresh mountain air, smell the pines, hear the birds outside your cabin window. You open the screen door and feel that warm sunshine on your shoulders. Breakfast, like every meal, is prepared fresh using local ingredients, many from farms right down the road.

The day’s activities embrace the natural beauty around us. Dive into our natural lake, run on the fresh green fields, hike the trails that wander through towering pines. And at night, look up at the incredible, magnificent stars. You can see the Milky Way above your head, far from the lights and pollution of the cities. The view at night at camp is truly amazing. It’s breathtaking.

And we never take it for granted. We can’t. Every year camp, we take steps to lessen our footprint. Here are just a few things we’ve done recently:

-No more paper or Styrofoam tableware in the Dining Hall
-Fluorescent or CFL lights in every socket
-New special, high-quality pool covers to keep the heat in and lessen electricity demands
-Recycling in our trash system
-More environmental education activities

Did you know that PFC won the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) award for energy conservation? We’re a proud Energy Star Award winner!

But we can never do enough. So make Earth Day every day, all year round!

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