Tiger Lily and Flash greeted us with big smiles as we pulled up to Camp Cloud Rim’s modest Guardsman Pass entrance gate on a hot afternoon last July. Once inside, Big Foot directed us to parking and the medical check area, while Sage, Skittles, and Dino helped haul our duffels and sleeping bags to our tents.
Though no one really knows how the practice started, adopting a special camp name is a tradition celebrated by Girl Scouts everywhere, presumably since Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low founded the organization in 1912. “Camp names let girls create their own identities while they are at camp without having to worry about how they are labeled or viewed in their day-to-day life at school, at home, at church, and so forth,” says Amber “Frog” Kuecker, Camp Cloud Rim’s director.
Located at 9,200 feet above sea level on the Wasatch Mountains’ crest between Park City and Big Cottonwood Canyon, Camp Cloud Rim is a truly special place for more than just its camp names. I have fond memories of three summers spent at Girl Scout camp in my native Michigan, and while at Cloud Rim as a chaperone for my daughter’s troop last summer, I found much of what I loved about my own experience here, too. Campers are housed in the same yellow canvas platform tents I slept in 30-plus years ago; a raucous sing-along is the highlight of every meal; and waterfront safety is carefully managed by the same tag checkout system.
Though Park City is literally a stone’s throw away, Camp Cloud Rim’s topographically protected locale makes it feel as if it’s delightfully in the middle of nowhere. Old-growth evergreens, quaking aspens, ferns, and lush Gambel oaks surround the camp’s rough-hewn main lodge, situated on the mountainside overlooking glassy Lake Brimhall. The Works Progress Administration constructed the camp’s original lodge, shower house, and cabins as Camp Pinar in 1934. The site was dedicated and renamed Camp Cloud Rim in 1937, but a fire destroyed most of the original camp buildings in 1992. Following years of fund-raising and a generous donation from the Janet Quinney Lawson Foundation, the main lodge was rebuilt, and the camp reopened in 1999.
Exposing girls to the outdoors is a primary goal at Camp Cloud Rim. Each of the nine weeklong summer sessions includes an overnight backpack trip and an opportunity to hike nearby Mount Majestic (also known as Clayton Peak). Other outdoor activities include swimming, canoeing, sailing, kayaking, paddle boating, and rock climbing. “For many girls, camp is the only time in their lives that they haven’t slept under a roof,” says Lisa Hardin-Reynolds, Girl Scouts of Utah COO and a former Camp Cloud Rim director. “It’s an opportunity for them to experience success in the outdoors that they would not have otherwise.”
Though I wasn’t aware of it when I attended camp as a child, I recognize in retrospect how camp created a subtle shift within me. I had more confidence and just felt more comfortable in my own skin after my time spent there. As is the case at Girl Scout camps across the country, Camp Cloud Rim’s supportive, affirmative atmosphere is by
design. Kuecker and her staff focus on developing five leadership outcomes in every girl who attends camp: sense of self, seeking out challenges, cooperation and teamwork, conflict resolution, and healthy relationships. “While six days at camp might not seem like a long time, the individual growth that takes place in a child is unbelievable,” Kuecker says.
As part of its long-term goal of preserving both property and programs at Camp Cloud Rim, late last year the Girl Scouts of Utah purchased 236 acres adjacent to the camp’s existing 22-acre boundary, the largest land acquisition in the organization’s history. The pristine mountain real estate, purchased from Silver Islet Partners for an undisclosed amount, is in permanent conservation easement prohibiting commercial development in perpetuity. The land purchase will preserve the spectacular lakes, wildlife, native species, forests, meadows, and aquatic environments around the camp—a great way to mark last year’s 75th anniversary of Camp Cloud Rim and the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting in America.
As for our stay at camp last July, my daughter and I ended it tired, dirty, and happy—just as we’d hoped. And as much as I’d like to visit again, my now 8-year-old will be returning on her own this summer. The camp happenings she’s most looking forward to were my favorites, too: whispering with her tentmates after lights-out, postmeal sing-alongs, and waterfront time. But what she talks about most often is whether she’ll choose a new camp name or stick with the moniker she picked up on the fly last summer: Hot Dog.