My month spent in Minnesota was nothing short of amazing. A couple weeks ago, I got back from serving an entire month out in Detroit Lakes, MN at YoungLife’s spectacular Castaway Club, and let me tell you, it was an experience to remember. So, rather than let memories fade and relying solely on pictures and videos to remember it, I’ve been writing down every experience and day’s events in my journal – some of which are relevant enough, I think, to justify writing my first blog post in 2 years on here (I have a recap post of my 2020 that’s nearly complete, but I’ve procrastinated finishing it for the last 6 months). I’ll be omitting a bit of the more personal events that happened during camp, but other than that, I hope this can serve as a near-complete recap of the month! I’m predicting that some bits of this will sound more like a list of events than a summary of important and interesting things that I did, but whatever. It’s just a massive unloading of information I’ve stored up.
A bit of background to Castaway – I had never done anything significant with YoungLife prior to serving as a Summer Staff beyond going to a few clubs and an event here and there during high school, so jumping right into that was really fun, not only getting to see how YoungLife camps work, but also seeing everyone involved in putting it together from a different position than being a camper.
The first evening was pretty fun – We got settled into our new home for the month inside the Brig, a recently-built living quarters + hangout room building that we were informed cost $4 million (:P), then had dinner outside on the lawn at one extremely long table. After dinner, we got in a quick 18 holes of ultimate frisbee around the property, and then after that… I honestly don’t remember much else about the first day as my journal entries weren’t very detailed until around the second week.
The first week was a bit more unique than the following 4, as it was the only WyldLife (middle school) week during Session 1. It also happened to be the only week where I woke up every morning at 6 to go for a morning run, which I deemed not possible to keep up consistently after I realized that I’d probably be staying up until past 1 AM every night and waking up at 7-8 every morning. Running every morning ultimately culminated in a 10 minute nap one afternoon turning into me crashing for 4 hours, which I then realized would not be sustainable.
Day 2 was the first day I met my group I’d be working with – I actually had no idea where I’d be working until the afternoon I arrived, which was kinda funny but also a good surprise – I ended up working Wall/Zip, managing the climbing wall, zipline, and giant swing, with whom I maintain are the best people I could’ve asked to work with this month, including Allie, Ali, Bryn, Jesse, Kayla, Tyler, and our two interns, Maren and Josh. After meeting everyone and getting trained on our positions around the ropes on which we rotated once per day, day 3 was our first real day, with campers arriving and the work day starting after that. We rotated between 7 different positions, doing 2 per day, which included two swing operators, a swing harnesser, two climbing wall operators, a zip top operator at the top of the zipline, and a zip bottom operator on the beach at the bottom of the zipline.
At night, we ran our first challenge course for the campers, where I was assigned a station making campers do jumping jacks (basically stalling groups before they moved on to the next real challenge) with Jayden, another Summer Staffer.
The rest of the week was pretty fun just getting into the groove of things, getting to know the rest of the Summer Staff, running events, and meeting campers. Every morning after breakfast, the Wall/Zip team started helping clean the beach, clearing seaweed, moving beach chairs, removing trash, etc. On day 5 (week 1 day 3), I helped set up and demonstrate the Field Games with some Summer Staffers and Interns, and even got to start helping Jacob, our Video Intern, film the event each week.
The following day (week 1 day 4) after work, I helped with the Opera (the final big performance/play with the established characters at camp), basically just moving stuff backstage, before heading down to the beach for our first beach night. Following sendoff on the campers’ day 5, we had our own beach party, which was great to get some time to relax after the first week.
Week 2 marked the start of the high school weeks, and was super fun. By the end of the week, I felt like I knew most of the Summer Staff much better, and got into the routine that continued for the following weeks. Campers arrived on the 17th, which was my day 8. The first day of the week was always super fun because everyone came into camp super hyped, but also because we got to do so many things to kick off the week. After the camp welcome, the campers’ free time, and dinner, we performed “Be Our Guest” as the campers were eating their dinner, basically involving a bunch of fully-costumed college-aged people sprinting into the dining hall and dancing as another welcome to the campers, which was really fun.
Other events taking place on the first day included the camp tour, where I got to ride around on a banana boat as the campers watched from the beach, and our first obstacle course! Lauren (another Summer Staffer) and I ran the tire jump station, which basically involved campers having to jump over a four-foot-tall rack of tires. I thought this was too boring, so we grabbed bats from the wiffle ball fields and made the campers do dizzy bat spins before jumping over the tires. This was a lot more entertaining for us and I assume for them, and I really think that doing that, combined with blasting music from my speaker, made it an even better experience for them.
The rest of the week proceeded well, and I think that Week 2 was definitely one of my favorites. I helped run the ring toss with my friend Madison at our carnival event after a speedy set up of the carnival, which involved the Summer Staff and Work Crew running different stations that campers could win fake money to use to pie their leaders in the face and other various things. I came to the conclusion that regular ring toss for a couple tickets wasn’t interesting enough, so I made three “levels”, where campers could stand 3 feet away for 3 tickets (assuming they landed a ring around a bottle), around 10 feet away for 5 tickets, or around 30 feet away for all the tickets I had in my pocket at the time. I also made a betting system once I started running out of tickets where campers could give me one of their tickets in exchange for doubling their reward. This led to many more campers coming to our station, so I’d consider it a success as well 😛
On our day 11, a storm came in and we eventually had to shut down rides, but not before a couple hours of work in the rain. I was assigned to work zip bottom for the first half of the day, which involved me sitting on the beach helping harness campers and help zipliners get out of the water if needed. Unsurprisingly, I only had a single group of two come through during the entire two hours, as it was raining pretty hard the entire time. Not wanting to sit out in the rain for two hours with no cover, I ran over to the guard room, where I found an unused umbrella, a lot of rope, and a couple towels. Naturally, I had to make a fort, so I spent the rest of my shift comfortably inside an umbrella/blanket fort with my speaker.
Our day 11 was also the first time I got to watch club, and it really was cool to see the dedication and work the program team puts into every performance. The morning of day 12 was pretty fun as well – Bryn and I helped out the kitchen staff clean and organize everything after breakfast, before coming back later again to help bus tables. We sent the campers off in the afternoon, and then had a lot of rest time. In the evening, we were surprised with a dance party and all got to square dance together, which was super fun!
The next day was also one of our only real “free” days, where after we did landscaping during the morning, we got to have the beach to ourselves, and I got to paddleboard out on the lake with a couple other Summer Staffers. I also played volleyball for the first time, and surprisingly wasn’t too bad at it! After a long day of hanging at the beach, we watched “Fargo” in the Brig, per the request of the Summer Staffers from Minnesota. Possibly the strangest movie I’ve ever watched. Anyways, it was overall an awesome day getting to know everyone a bit better in between work and campers!
Week 3 was probably my favorite week. I really connected with a lot of campers, and got to do a lot of fun things myself, while also helping serve the campers as best I could. That being said, it was really weird to mentally and physically “reset”, and prepare to do the exact same 5-day schedule as we had just done, while at the same time knowing that we’d do it again two more times! The first day of week 3 was a very chill day for us, which was really nice to continue having more time to “reset” before the event-filled next couple days.
The next day was pretty long, from waking up at 5:30 to go help the kitchen staff prepare bacon with Bryn, to helping our video intern Jacob film the morning event, which was super fun to try and get a lot of unique shots and angles of the campers’ teams, and finally in the evening hanging at the beach with all the campers.
The rest of the week went really smoothly as well – I helped out with the field games on day 3, filming and demonstrating with a couple other Summer Staffers once again, and then got the opportunity to be part of the program on day 4! This was literally the first time I’d been on stage in costume for anything, so I had no idea what to expect. It ended up going pretty well, and it was hilarious to see myself back on video later dancing in front of the campers.
Week 3 was also the time I read the Bible during free time, which was the first time I’d actually read through entire books rather than just individual chapters and stories. I had read the book of Matthew during a free hour we had earlier in the week, then read Luke and John during a two hour free period we had before sending the campers off on day 5 (We were studying Mark during the whole month, so I skipped reading it by myself). Reading and understanding complete narratives gave me a whole new perspective on the Bible (well, the gospels at least), and I’m really glad I found time to do it.
If Week 3 was the best week, Week 4 was not far behind. The week started off with our usual welcome celebrations, a couple hours of working our jobs, then our weekly “Be Our Guest” performance. This week I was asked to zip down the zipline during the camp tour, so after we finished up inside the dining hall, I quickly changed out of my suit and into my trunks to get ready for the camp tour.
Other highlights of the week came from the week’s days 2 and 3, where I got stung by a wasp (ow lol) near the end of the work day, but then got to watch club again! Field/Messy Games on day 3, while requiring me to get absolutely bombarded in the face with shaving cream and colored flour, was honestly one of the best parts of every week. Getting to see all the campers and leaders in one place, all extremely hyped on adrenaline and having the times of their lives, as well as being able to capture all the joy on film for them to see later was just amazing for me.
Anyways, I didn’t get too covered in shaving cream and flour during the actual event due to my impeccable dodging skills, but ended up getting just as messy as the previous weeks during cleanup afterwards (a couple of us Summer Staffers stuck around every week to clean the shaving cream and trash off of the field), where Bryn found a couple cans of shaving cream that were still pretty much full until they were sprayed directly into my hair 😛
After the evening’s carnival, we got to square dance for five minutes after taking down the carnival in record time. I went onstage the next night once again to play my background character, and the entire Summer Staff was in attendance to watch the Night 4 performance for the first time, which was great. Sendoff day was pretty sad once again, as I had really made some good connections with a couple of the campers and leaders.
The evening of day 5 was really amazing, and I’m thankful we got to have such a fun-filled night. We had a Summer Staff dinner outside, where everyone dressed up, ate dinner, then proceeded to get down to the waterfront for a surprise party on a party barge!
Following the ride on the lake, we were surprised once again with a massive game of dodgeball in the gym, where we played for over an hour, then ran down to the beach to jump in the lake in the dark. After hanging in and around the lake for a bit, we jumped on the roof of one of the buildings to hang out before getting kicked off and sent back to the Brig. We went out once more on the lawn after midnight to watch the stars, but quickly ran back inside after the sprinkler system decided that it was the perfect time to water the grass.
The final week was extremely fun-filled, but also a bit sad. We ran through our routines one final time, and we had some definitely memorable experiences during the final week that set it apart from the others. Day 1 of week 5 was pretty standard for the most part, until after work (I had run the swing), where it was pointed out that I looked terrible, and it turned out I was not cooling down after staying out in the sun for the whole work day (thanks to Bryn noticing that I was completely out of it :P). Looking back, I can see that I definitely had heat exhaustion lol. After dinner, I took a long cold shower, proceeded to throw up, threw on my suit for our “Be Our Guest” performance, did that, and then threw up again before running down to the docks for Camp Tour. In hindsight, the entire situation was actually pretty comical, sprinting around the camp throwing up while putting on and taking off my suit in record time.
The obstacle course at the end of night 1 culminated in a massive group of Summer Staffers and Interns coming through the obstacle course, the group growing larger with each obstacle course stop. At the end of the obstacle course, the entire group jumped in the hot tub with all our clothes on, hanging out for a bit before heading back up to shower.
Day 2 was the Fourth of July! Coinciding with beach night, it was a pretty fun day, starting off with testing the zipline twice before hanging around for the volleyball event. After helping Video Intern Jacob film for the entire event (a lot of these clips were mine), I worked through the work day on the swing and wall, then got the beach ready for beach night. The night was extremely special, getting to watch the fireworks out on the lake, playing music on the beach late, and finally jumping in the lake with the Summer Staff after the campers had departed for the night.
I started day 3 of week 5 by spending over an hour and a half looking for a lost necklace in the lake, which we did not end up finding. It was during day 3 that it really hit me that I’d be leaving in 3 days, which was the weirdest thing considering I’d been doing more or less the same things in the same location with the same people for 26 days straight. I finished out the day by filming field games for the last time, working on the swing and wall, helping the work crew by jumping in after dinner to help bus and reset the dining hall, and finally running our carnival for the final time.
At night, my friend Leo and I finally got to bring our plan of getting Zorbas (a local pizza restaurant) to life when we coordinated Leo’s friend dropping off pizzas at Castaway!
Day 4 of week 5, our 27th day at Castaway, marked our final day of work. After cleaning the beach, breakfast, sharing a mostly-complete-but-still-slightly-abridged testimony, and lunch, I worked at the top of the zipline and then basically hung out at the wall for the rest of the work day as there were a only a very small amount of campers wanting to swing. After work, I played basketball with a couple other Summer Staffers before going to prepare for our final Opera performance. The Opera went great, the program team crushing it as usual, and afterwards, we all danced on stage with the rest of the Summer Staff team who had come to watch.
Following the Opera’s ending at around 10:15, the campers went down to the beach as usual, and I decided to head down as well instead of just heading back to the Brig as I had done for the previous weeks. When I arrived, I was asked to go retrieve a volleyball that had floated out pretty far into the middle of the lake. Not wanting to swim in the dark, I grabbed a paddleboard and had Leo shine a spotlight on me as I paddled out to retrieve the volleyball.
Returning to the Brig after midnight, a couple of us Summer Staffers decided to head back down to the beach once more. We hung out in the hammocks and talked for a while, and then returned once more to the Brig, where I stayed up talking in the hallway until 2 AM.
Day 5 of week 4 was a big day for us, as it was our last day as Summer Staff! We ran through our typical routine once more – Breakfast, beach clean, final club, saying goodbye to the campers, then cleaning the property. Following cleaning,
chasing geese into a soccer net, and packing our stuff up, we ate dinner and proceeded to the beach, where we worshipped for quite a while, reflected on the month, and took a lot of pictures.
The time on the beach was very special and all, but that wasn’t even the most memorable part of day 28 for me. We headed back to the Brig for the night after our time on the beach, where we had a final meeting as Session 1’s Summer Staff before saying goodnight to our Summer Staff coordinators.
We spent the next couple hours having some extremely fun times. Setting up the sound system and microphones, we danced for a while, grabbed mattresses to mattress surf down the stairs, and recorded a Mannequin Challenge video four-and-a-half years too late.
Day 29 🥄
July 8th, Day 29, the final day! Day 29 was probably the longest day of my life, calculated by the amount of time spent awake. Anyways, after midnight on day 28, we kept on with the night. We had gathered a couple mattresses in the big room, and pitted various Summer Staffers against each other in mattress wrestling. The hype eventually died out, though, and we all went to bed for a couple hours at around 1:30-2.
Waking up at 5:30, we packed our final things in cars, and I decided to head out with my friends Ty and Collin rather than take the shuttle back to Minneapolis, as my flight left at 8:05 that night and we had made plans with everyone heading back to Minneapolis to go to the Mall of America for the day. We all ate breakfast together for the last time, then went out to say a sentimental goodbye to everyone leaving on the shuttle. After receiving tearful hugs and goodbyes to them all, we headed over to the cars to drive out. Unfortunately, a car had a deflated tire, so we waited around for a while longer to watch and help Marty replace a tire.
Anyways, after the tire was changed, we all started driving towards Minneapolis. Stepping into the first gas station was extremely strange, being the first time most of us had been back in the “outside world” in an entire month.
We stopped in Fergus Falls to pick up Leo, who had decided to come to the MOA with us after initially thinking he wasn’t able to come. A couple hours later, we arrived at MOA and met up in a parking garage before heading inside to walk around and meet up with a couple more Summer Staffers.
We walked around for a while, going into a couple stores and hanging about in various parts of the mall. Later in the afternoon, people started leaving, until it was just us five (below right). We eventually left MOA and headed to the airport. After one more round of extremely sad goodbyes to a couple of the Summer Staffers I was closest with, I checked in at MSP and waited for my flight.
Flying back into Denver, I was stuck in the plane for over an hour on the runway, as the airline had forgotten to give us a gate to pull into. Finally getting off the plane, I was picked up by Mom and Dad and drove back to Summit. I was extremely exhausted, but managed to stay awake until I got home at 12:30. My best friend Noah had been in town for the week, and he and Isaac had been hanging out around town until I got back. I took a quick nap on the couch in our townhome that we have for the summer, and then hopped in a car and drove around with Isaac, Jadyn and Noah for a while. I ended up heading back to the house “early” because I literally could not think or function at all. I went to bed at around 3, having been awake for about 23 hours straight.
And that was my month at Castaway Club in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota! A month filled with many, many, many fun times, amazing opportunities to serve campers, and truly special people on the Summer Staff team with whom I’ll (hopefully) stay connected with for many years to come. There are so many smaller things that happened during the month that were just as important as the things I’ve written here, but I’ve cut the majority of them for time, and am content with them staying as memories and journal entries. My wall/zip team – Tyler, Jesse, Kayla, Ali, Allie, and Bryn, plus Interns Maren and Josh – were the best team I could’ve asked to work with at a camp like this, and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to not only work with them, but to work with them in that way – serving kids and guests! The rest of the Summer Staff was equally as amazing to hang around and get to know, and I hope to see everyone again in the future (I’ve already checked a couple off the list!)
My summer has been absolutely crazy with the amount of things I’ve done, starting off with lots of snowboarding during the final days of the season, tennis, and my month at Castaway. Once I got back from Minnesota, I had one day to pack it in in Breckenridge with the family + Noah before flying out to Philadelphia, PA for the week with Isaac. After a week in Pennsylvania (and a day in New York City), I had a week back in Colorado, hanging out with my younger cousins who were in town for the month. Isaac and Jadyn had gone to a YoungLife Summer Camp at Frontier Ranch, and Mom and Dad were out in Nashville, TN. 5 days later, I found myself in a van headed to Crooked Creek as a WyldLife leader! 5 days of pure fun and chaos leading kids, and I was back in Summit. I had signed up for a tennis tournament in Parker, but fortunately received a couple Byes in my draws and had two days to rest and recover before driving down to Parker.
Tournament concluding (and two very large Ls taken in singles and mixed doubles), I drove back to Summit, where I promptly got sick and didn’t do much for the next two weeks. Fast forward to the 14th of August, and I’m on a plane to none other than Minneapolis, MN for round two at Castaway.
After lightning delayed my plane a couple hours, I landed in Minneapolis at around 1:15 AM, getting to the hotel at around 2:30. I didn’t have anything to do on Sunday, and with friends all either busy or gone during the morning and afternoon, I headed out around the city and ended up biking around 15 miles, plus another 4-5 miles of running. In the evening, I went climbing with Bryn, then met up with some old friends and some new friends, hanging out late before waking up in the morning and driving out to Castaway!
I’m currently still at Castaway as a Wrangler for Session 4! A couple Session 1 Summer Staff are back here with me, plus a couple new faces that are helping out for a while. I don’t know who’s going to be reading this all (hi Greta), but if you’re that invested in my life to read five thousand words of my writing, then…. thanks, I guess 🙂
I plan on posting once more soon recapping the rest of my summer outside of Castaway (snowboarding, Pennsylvania, New York, Crooked Creek, Parker tennis tournament, Minnesota round 2, and Texas, which is happening in a couple days), so hopefully I can do that relatively soon.
Anyways, spectacular month with some amazing people! I’m glad I had the opportunity to do something like this, and grateful that I was able to help all the amazing campers. The friendships and bonds made during Session 1 were truly special, and I hope there will continue to be opportunities to reconnect in the future!