Woman’s Weekend at Camp Willson

Athena ScalziWhen I was a kid, I went to Camp Willson, a YMCA summer camp in Bellefontaine, Ohio. I went for nine years. The first time I went, I was seven, and the last time I went, I was sixteen, and I was a counselor in training that time around rather than a camper. I had meant to be a junior counselor the next year, and become one of the legendary ten year campers, but I never did it, because I was more interested in being a camper and having fun than actually having responsibility.

Camp Willson was one of the best things in my life. I’m so glad my parents sent me to camp (even if the first year or two I got homesick and kind of maybe cried a smidge). I have always remembered my camp days fondly, and part of me always wished I could go back. Well, little did I know what awaited me at their Woman’s Weekend!

Once the summer camp season is over, Camp Willson offers a couple different programs. Usually they partner with schools in the area for field trips and whatnot, but they also have weekend camps for kids like spring, fall, and winter camp (which I also used to go to), and then for adults they have Woman’s Weekend twice a year and Men’s Weekend, as well. And it was exactly what I had been hoping for: Summer camp for adults!

My mom and I signed up and went this past weekend to Camp Willson, where we had a blast. But, how do you make something like summer camp safe during a pandemic? I’m here to say, Camp Willson did a great job of being safe and sanitary, by giving each party (for example, my mom and I) our own cabin. Cabins normally sleep fourteen, so to have one or two people staying in a whole cabin by themselves was interesting, but definitely a necessary precaution. The cabins had attached bathrooms, as well, so there was no worry over germy communal bathrooms.

Also, everyone sat six feet apart at the campfire and at meals, and instead of their usual serve-yourself style, gloved and masked staff served the food. Not to mention there were only a dozen women including my mom and I, and we rarely interacted with each other outside of the socially distanced meals, so contact was certainly limited.

My mom and I arrived Friday night, but the only thing that really happened that evening was the welcoming campfire. Oh my gosh there was the most amazing cheeseball, it was like strawberries and cream cheese and it was bright pink, it was really good. Other than that there nothing worth noting for that night, so I’ll just skip straight to Saturday.

Picture of a bucolic field of green grass.

We woke up at seven and went to breakfast. All the meals were outdoors (probably also a safety precaution), and watching the sun rise over the horse pasture in the crisp morning air while eating a fan flippin’ tastic waffle was definitely the right way to start off our activity packed day (man, those waffles… something about them was so good, they had some kind of crispy sugar crust on the outside).

First up, we did archery. It was just my mom and I and one other woman, and we all stood about ten feet apart, and the staff wiped down our bows with sanitizer repeatedly. My mom did a great job! I didn’t shoot quite as well, but I think we all could’ve guessed my mom is kind of a bad ass.

Krissy Scalzi pointing to the archery target she was shooting. She has gotten a bullseye.

We shot for about forty-five minutes before we went to our next activity, the Giant Swing. This is my personal favorite thing at Camp Willson, and something I haven’t done for roughly five years, since I was a CIT. My excitement was immense. The Giant Swing consists of three tall wooden poles, and you’re in a harness, then you get pulled to the top of one pole, about thirty-five feet in the air, and are dropped, and you swing in between the other two poles. It’s really hard to explain so I’ve provided a video of an attraction that is very similar:

This one is at an amusement park in Canada and is a LOT taller than the one at camp, but that’s basically the gist of it is you’re pulled to a high height and then dropped and swing around for a bit. It’s insanely fun and feels like flying, you feel totally weightless and free (maybe not exactly free because of the harness) and it’s exhilarating! Here’s my mom and me swingin’ away:

Athena and Kristine Scalzi in the sky, on a swing.

After the high ropes escapade, we had some lunch, and then hit the lake! My mom kayaked, and while I do really enjoy kayaking I decided to paddleboard instead, which made for a much more interesting (and carefully balanced) expedition. I didn’t fall off though, which actually surprised me, I did much better than I thought I would! It was super fun, and it’s a decently large lake. I didn’t get any pictures because I didn’t want to risk dropping my phone in the water, but it’s a very pretty lake with woods all around it.

Once we had paddled around a bit, we went horseback riding. Granted, it was only a trail ride, but it was nice to explore some of the paths through the woods and be in a saddle again; horseback riding is something I did more often in my youth that I miss a lot.

Horse in a field as clouds roll by.

These activities I mentioned weren’t our only options, by the way, the camp had a lot more to offer! There was yoga, wine glass painting, making your own bath bombs, a climbing wall, canoeing (and normally they offer massages and facials but due to COVID this year they only had manicures and pedicures, but those have like a 25 dollar extra fee). My mom and I had planned to go to a Sip and Paint (mocktails, not cocktails), but I ended up falling asleep super early in the evening and sleeping until the next morning.

Sunday morning, it was pouring outside, so my mom and I just sat on the cabin porch and read our books and drank the coffee the staff had brought to our cabin. The rain stopped just in time for brunch, where we had a really good quiche and some seriously delicious scones. One was chocolate strawberry and one was pumpkin spice, so my mom and I each picked one and then split with each other, because how could you not try both?! After brunch, we packed up and headed out for the little over an hour drive back home.

It was a seriously fun weekend, and I’m so glad I was able to do these awesome activities with my mom. There’s no one I would’ve rather gone with, and I hope we get to go again soon. And I’m so happy that places like Camp Willson exist. It gave me amazing memories as a child that will last for the rest of my life; I never expected it could give me new fantastic memories as an adult, too.

Kristine and Athena Scalzi at Camp Willson.


21 Comments on “Woman’s Weekend at Camp Willson”

  1. The Wife (note the cap) used to go off to karate camp every fall. She’s the family black belt (Kenpo). She loved it and the kids who ran around trying to figuratively kill each other for a long weekend in the Texas hill country.

    Many adventures were had, some I even found out about. A compound dislocation of a finger due to a kick (that’s bones thru the skin) was hard to hide. The emergency room staff were somewhat skeptical about that (spousal abuse? car wreck?).

    It was great for her to get out with the others of her “kind”, to get away from the house, and mundane house stuff.

    Sounds like you had a great time with your mom. Do it again. You’ll remember it forever and can pass the experience into your future by retelling and “improving” on the fun.

    Regards –

    ps – keep up the good work on the site.

  2. That sounds like heaven. I love the pictures, especially that last one of you and your mom. You both look gorgeous! And although she may be the reigning the bad ass, you are the bad ass in training. :-)

  3. Oh, that sounds like so much fun! I treasure the trips that I take with my adult daughter – they’re fairly infrequent (she’s a busy person) and she’s not into the whole camping thing, so there’s no kayaking or archery involved, but they are still an incredibly fun way to share a few days with a very, very dear friend who happens to also be my daughter.

    By the way, the only minor, tiny comment I have is about this phrase: “I think we all could’ve guessed my mom is kind of a bad ass.” There is absolutely NO guesswork about that. Just sayin’.

    Thanks for letting us tag along with you vicariously!

  4. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us, Athena.

    I’m glad that you were able to take a break from all the madness and enjoy some quality time with your mom and other women.

    Pardon the cliché, but your posts are a breath of fresh air. 😊

  5. In the 70’s I went to Camp Flintlock in Zirconia county in North Carolina. Still in touch with some of my fellow campers.

  6. Wonderfully written, Athena.

    I have not been camping since I was a teen with my best friend and his family. You brought back some fond memories and now I want to go somewhere and sleep under the stars again.

  7. You know what this reminds me of? Last September, I participated in Lezathlon, a lesbian summer-camp competition at a camp up by Lake Hughes, north of Los Angeles. This involved a number of teams of lesbians competing in various events. I was there at the invitation of our team’s captain; not only did I help win the tug-of-war as anchor woman on the line, I was a key part of our winning the trivia contest. What with all that, our team, “Team Lady Wood,” won the trophy.

    Aside from competitions, I got a chance to get a massage and spend an awful lot of time in the pool, as well as attend an 80’s dance party. (Ever dance with a woman wearing only Hammer pants and pasties? Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. ;) ) It was a fun weekend, that’s for sure. Definitely worth flying out to L.A. for!

  8. Really enjoyed reading about your weekend. I would love to do something like this. And no, I’m not at all surprised that your mom is good at archery!

  9. Really enjoyed this!

    I was secretly glad I never had to go to summer camp myself (I was a city kid, an introvert, a bookworm, and a bit of a homebody – plus I got along better with my parents than with most of the other kids I met). However, I liked reading about other people going to camp, and I see things haven’t changed much in this respect!

  10. While I had read about camp in YA books, my first time at camp was a compulsory weekend at the start of my two-year community college program in Leisure Services. The ones who had summer camped before taught us skits and joke-songs.

    Besides teaching us, the value was: The whole class got to know each other well before we buckled down to two years of study.

  11. I’m glad in this crazy world there are things we can do to make us happy and perhaps forget the world’s problems for a little bit. I added a German Shepherd puppy to my household right at the beginning of the pandemic, and if it weren’t for L’Rell and having her as a companion (I’m a widower) things would definitely be a lot worse. Thank you for your posts, I love reading this blog and your posts give it a wonderful variance that makes me look forward to new entries.

  12. Looking at the last picture, I know where your hair went. Those are some well tressed women right there.

  13. Definitely feeling envious. I’m also a Miami (of Ohio) grad and look forward to your posts about school, though there won’t be any this fall.

  14. This is so cool to read about, thanks for sharing!

    I had a hard time visualizing the big swing, so I searched, and found this video:

  15. In 1978 or 1979, I spent two glorious weeks in Bellefontaine. No summer camp was involved, though. My dad was there for work and took his family with him. I was fifteen or sixteen, and it was one of the most wonderfully calming vacations I’d ever been on. I flirted with a lovely, very very buff blond farm boy, and a very strange, dangerously exciting brunet who lived in the town. I rode a borrowed bike for miles and miles and miles. I snuck out of the house and went walking at midnight around the town. I am glad that the summer camp there also had magic for you. The landscape is not exciting, but it is beautiful and calming.

  16. Athena, I haven’t been here in a while and I’m here now because I can’t sleep because I have had a Really. Bad. Week. Along with pandemic stuff and getting my kids set up for all the virtual zoom links everywhere that change every minute, we have not been able to go outside in Portland because of the wildfires, like NO outside at all. In the house with the AC blasting at 65 to filter the air so we could breathe. And THEN, I got sick and ended up in the hospital with a kidney infection. It’s just been UGH! (And I really can’t complain because people around me are having to evacuate and losing their homes and all of that awfulness.) All that was to explain that I really enjoyed reading this. I liked all the imagery and the descriptions and just the sun-shiny-ness of it. I know that amusement park in Canada, too. I wish I could have had my own cabin at this camp and sat 6 feet from you and your mom! Thanks, for writing this, I can’t read about Trump anymore sometimes, you know? : )

  17. Yes, please! More of normal and less of the constant news obsessions. Reading about your weekend was so much more relaxing than the dumpster fire of news and click bait bullshit that is out there.

  18. Just wanted to drop in and thank you for the banana jam suggestion. It’s amazing and so is their chile jam if you like hot and sweet.

    Also, I would love to do this with my old camp in Vermont – what a great idea!

  19. Sounds like a fantastic time! Not sure I’d be game enough to try the giant swing, though.

    I’ve attended several crafting weekends at venues like the one you were at. Camps like that are a good (cheap) alternative to hotel & cruise ship-based events. The best ones offer excellent food service, nearby scenic walks, spacious airy workrooms, comfortable sleeping quarters, and bestest of all, plenty of like-minded craft enthusiasts to hang out with!

    Then it’s all over, and time to go home with 5 or 6 partly-finished projects to add to the already burgeoning collection of UFOs (unfinished objects) waiting at home; a big bag of dirty washing; and half a suitcase-full of extra craft supplies that I will definitely need & use in future, honest.

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