People in canoe

Dear Treetops Families,

Over the last few months, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to stay connected to friends, family, and the Treetops community despite quarantines and the miles between us. With Treetops not opening this summer, that thought has broadened to how to maintain connection to a place and to its traditions, even when we’re not at that place together. Through the uncertainty of these times, I have been consistently reassured that the spirit of place, of this place, is not contingent on geographical location. As thoughtfully handwritten notes arrive in my mailbox, photos of barefoot would-be campers fill my inbox and even a loaf of sourdough bread is delivered to my door, I am certain that we can maintain and strengthen these relationships, and even nurture new connections, from afar.

As I explored this idea of connectedness, my mind returned to the first days of a typical Treetops summer. Campers make connections with one another, with new smells and tastes, with the way their feet feel on the gravel as they walk to the garden. I wonder at the ease with which campers do this year after year, at how quickly the unfamiliar becomes familiar. As we all face a summer that is unfamiliar, perhaps we can look to the connections we make at camp to help us navigate a summer at home.

At Treetops, we connect through food. By growing, weeding, harvesting, and cooking together, we make connections to each other, to the land, and to the cycles of nature. We take time to reflect on those connections before each meal, when we stand quietly together as a community before digging into the wholesome food at our tables. Each week, we will provide a recipe inspired by the seasonal rhythms and deep-rooted traditions of Treetops. We hope you will try some of the recipes that we share, and we hope you will be inspired to unearth some of your old favorites—and share them with us.

We connect by making things. Since the start of Treetops, handcraft has been an integral part of our program. In the pot shop, the wood shop, the craft shop or anywhere else in between, we connect to ourselves and to the materials we are using, we make gifts to connect to loved ones, and we work together to connect with peers. We make canoe paddles, we make music, we make campfires. Each week, I will share with you some of what I’m making and doing. I hope that your family is inspired to find projects to keep your bodies and minds busy as well.

We connect by spending time with nature. Whether we are lying on the Lake Hill watching clouds, in a swim class in the lake, hiking up a mountain, or visiting the sheep in Dexter Pasture, we are building relationships with the natural world. No matter where you find yourself this summer, there are opportunities to connect with nature. Each week, I will share with you a way that I am learning about and connecting to the world around me.

In this summer’s camp journal, I hope to bring a little bit of Treetops to your home each week. Through my experiences, observations, and reflections throughout the summer, I hope you are reminded of Treetops, but I also hope it helps your family to connect to wherever you are and whoever you are with. As you establish new routines, try out new games, or discover a hidden swimming spot, please keep in touch with us. We would love to hear how you are spending your summer and remember, if you send us photos of your family’s Treetops-inspired activities, we would love to feature them in our weekly slideshow.

nature journal

Treetops at Home

Eat good food.

Rhubarb is one of the first plants to come up on the Treetops farm. Every summer, before the campers arrive, rhubarb is harvested like crazy, then processed and frozen to eat throughout the summer (and even into the school year). Paulette makes a rhubarb sauce that is a delicious topping on oatmeal or French toast. It’s actually good on just about anything. Here is a recipe for the rhubarb sauce we eat at camp. It is very adaptable; if you have just a little bit of rhubarb, add some strawberries or try blueberries. If you don’t have any rhubarb at all, make a sauce out of whatever seasonal fruit you can get. Most fruit is not as tart as rhubarb, so if you add other fruit, you can reduce the sugar by a little or a lot, based on your taste buds!

Make and do things. 

Every Sunday at Treetops, campers write a letter home to their family. I want to keep this tradition going through the summer, so this week I made these notecards. I drew plants and insects that I have seen on the Treetops campus. If you want, you could make some of your own, too. On yours, you could draw like I did, or you could paint, stamp, collage, or write. Be creative! Sending handmade notecards or postcards is a perfect way to stay connected with friends and family this summer.

nature illustrations

Spend time with nature.

One of my favorite ways to connect with nature is with my nature journal. I have kept nature journals for many years and I love that way it encourages me to carefully observe the natural world. Sometimes I sit outside and draw. Other times, if I’m out on a hike or a walk, I’ll collect small items to draw later. Below is a glimpse of my nature journal with an entry from this spring. It might be fun for you to start your own this summer. You can use words or drawings or both. It can be in a journal, notebook, or on scrap paper you have lying around. Whether you are observing house plants or pets, spending time in a park or on top of a mountain, you can start to record things you notice around you.

nature illustrations


Karen Culpepper
Camp Director