A Mother’s & Daughter’s Camp Reflections
Posted May 9, 2015 by Carolyn & Laura Bernhardt
Laura (Saunders) Bernhardt (Leadership '74) was a camper at Red Pine from 1969-1974, and a counselor during the summers of 1975 and 1976. Her favorite activities as a camper were canoeing, tennis, and swimming (which she taught while on staff). She now works as an upper level consultant for The Oliver Group in the Chicago suburbs, where she raised her family.
Carolyn Bernhardt (Leadership '08) was a camper at Red Pine from 2000-2008, and on staff from 2009-2014. She was a swimming department head in 2013 and 2014, and Head of Waterfront in 2014. She also taught mountain biking for three summers, and she now works in marketing and social media at Mighty Media Press, an independent children’s book publisher/packager in Minneapolis, MN.
Many years ago after picking up our son at camp, I asked my husband and young kids to drop by Red Pine to see “my camp” before heading home. This was a spur-of-the-moment thought as it was a beautiful summer day and I was not at all ready to leave the Northwoods. Once we hit the waterfront, our daughter, Carolyn jumped out of the car and said, “I want to go to camp here.” A bit taken aback, my comment was, “We can look at a few camps and you can decide where you’d like to go.” This never happened as Carolyn was hooked. Never in my wildest dreams did I plan on a daughter loving RPC for 14 summers! What a gift.
While her camp sports wear is much better than what I wore in the '70s, it's amazing how our Red Pine experiences are so similar. How special, that 15 years later, we now share the 50-mile swim board as well as our love of Northern Wisconsin. What’s also great is that some of her friends, mentors and campers are connected to my RPC contemporaries.... including Connie!
As Carolyn now becomes a young woman living on her own, I’m just beginning to fully understand the lifelong bond we share around Red Pine.
Outside of the independence, manners, and goal-setting skills camp instills in us from a young age, it is my opinion that the most special part of Red Pine is it’s ability to hang on to its history and tradition in an ever-changing world. Red Pine has always been a refreshing time capsule for me, where I could escape the over stimulating and complex world of my daily life, take a deep breath, and actually take the time to grow up. Whether I was walking across the amphitheater at sunset, or partaking in the daily ritual of swim class, I was lucky enough to carry a comforting thought with me throughout my entire camping experience: I share camp with my mother.
There were certainly school years in which my mother and I fought, but through it all, I would still elect to nap beneath her 32-week blanket because of its ever present scent of pinetrees encapsulating me in sleep. My dad and brother would often exchange glances whenever we discussed the quirky fun of Muskawama and how we couldn’t say what happens during the secret ceremony. Try as they might, they could just never understand the good times had during the talent show, airband, candlelight, or even just while singing revised Red Pine versions of 1970’s soft rock songs in the dining hall. That was just fine with me; I could be connected to more than just my mom - I could envision the young Laura Saunders, and know her girlhood self. It made her so much more accessible to me as a person - we had concrete shared experiences. What follows naturally is empathy, which transcends any argument or disagreement.
Now, Red Pine has a way of holding every camper’s experience close to its heart - this I learned most during my time on staff. Being a second or third generation camper in no way places you in a higher rank than others - everyone has something to contribute. However, there is something to be said for the fact that - due to its ability to persist in its own true, raw identity throughout the tumultuous passing years of the outside world - Red Pine can provide the exceptional experience of just knowing you’ve shared it with generations of women before you. Whether these women be related to you or not, Red Pine’s connective phenomenon is extraordinary. When multiple generations can share the camping experience that Red Pine provides, they can always return to that lifeline of memories.