Linda Jacobsen’s children are all grown up now—but back when they were kids, she sent them to every camp imaginable. In a way, Jacobsen was living vicariously through her son and daughter. “When I was a kid, I never got to go to camp,” Jacobsen explains.
Two years ago, Jacobsen retired from her job as a small business owner. By then, she had already traveled extensively, and she”d seen some pretty amazing sights. When Jacobsen started thinking about what she hadn’t done, she realized one of her unfulfilled dreams was to go to summer camp.
Life is short, and there’s rarely enough time for fun—especially for us moms. When Jacobsen told her girlfriends about her dream of going to camp, they loved the idea of returning to a worry-free, pre-digital time filled with good, wholesome fun.
Jacobsen spent months scouring the internet for fitness and adventure camps, and landed on Camp Chief Ouray’s women-only adventure camp. Modeled on classic camps for kids, the Women’s Adventure Camp was gearing up for its first season when Jacobsen came across it in 2016. She and her friends signed up for camp, and promptly began preparing for the adventure.
Located near Winter Park—at YMCA of the Rockies Snow Mountain Ranch—Camp Chief Ouray is a summer sleepaway camp for kids, but the organization opens its doors to nontraditional campers, too, in the off-season. When they arrived at camp, Jacobsen and her friends were united with two-dozen other “campers”—like-minded women searching for adventure, camaraderie, and solace. Some of Jacobsen’s bunkmates had flown in all the way from the East Coast, and Jacobsen recalls, “There were a few moms with young kids at home who made comments about how much fun they were having, even though they missed their families.”
While Jacobsen didn’t experience those particular emotions, she did engage in some unexpected introspection during her stint at summer camp. “I had an unusual personal situation,” Jacobsen begins, elaborating, “A close friend passed away the morning we left for camp.” Jacobsen decided to continue with her trip as planned. “My friend had loved the mountains, and I decided it would be a great way to celebrate her life,” Jacobsen recalls. And, it was. Her second night at camp, Jacobsen lit candles for the friend she”d lost, and honored her memory while watching shooting stars dance across the vast, open sky stretched above Snow Mountain Ranch’s 5,000-acre property.
From the reflection to the room and boarding, the experience was legit. “It totally met my expectations,” Jacobsen says. She and her girlfriends participated in nine activities laid out over a jam-packed weekend that included archery, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking. The women tried the on-site summer tubing hill, too—”What a rush!” Jacobsen says—and, at the request of one friend, they tie-dyed T-shirts.
At Camp Chief Ouray, activities are offered a la carte style throughout the day giving campers a chance to pick and choose the experiences that interest them most. “We offer three to four activities every hour,” says Michael Ohl, executive director of Camp Chief Ouray. What’s more, activities can be tailored to individual participants: When campers asked for a challenging hike, guides gladly accommodated the request by switching to a more difficult trail during a day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
That flexibility is one of the many ways Camp Chief Ouray’s “counselors” advance the camp’s mission. When the Women’s Adventure Camp was developed in 2015, Ohl says, “We already had a family camp and a camp for active older adults, and we wanted to compliment those programs with something that fit into the mission of YMCA.” The idea was to help guests feel comfortable in the great outdoors while developing skills.
In addition to the traditional camp activities listed above, women can also attend workshops on topics such as packing a backpack and building a campfire. New this year, campers can take part in a guided waterfall hike and bouldering. Except during off-site adventures, guests are permitted to come and go to activities as they please, and they”re encouraged to spend some time in solitude, too, reading, journaling, or just reflecting.
Camp is a very natural place for people to make connections. “There’s definitely a social aspect,” Ohl says. And it starts in the bunkhouse, where campers get to experience communal living. “We stayed in the same cabins as the kids,” Jacobsen says. Unlike adolescent campers, though, the women had access to private showers. Many guests hung out in a common area that was just right for the kind of late-night gossip and giggling that fosters lifelong friendships.
“We were worried about the food,” Jacobsen admits. “But honestly,” she says, “It was fine.” Meals and snacks are included with your camp registration fee and served up family-style in the dining hall. A salad bar accompanies dishes such as grilled chicken and vegetables, and fruit and yogurt are staples at the breakfast bar. “When they didn’t have the brand of yogurt one gal wanted, the chef drove into town to get it,” Jacobsen adds. And Ohl notes, “We work with food allergies and preferences.”
Jacobsen and her peers didn’t play any pranks on their counselors, but like most campers, the women were a little bit naughty. Alcohol is not sold on Snow Mountain Ranch premises. “We snuck in booze,” Jacobsen says, noting that deviance added to the experience of being a kid again. “I”ve been to some pretty spectacular places,” Jacobsen says. “But there was something truly magical about spending time with my friends at camp.”
Women’s Adventure Camp will be held August 24 to 27, 2017, and space is still available for participants 18 and up. For more information, call 970-887-2648 or visit campchiefouray.org and click the “adults” link under the “off-season” tab.
3 More Colorado Camps for Grown-Ups
Camp Shenanigans Colorado is a coed sleepaway camp created by five Denver women. Held August 18 to 20, the weekend trip is billed as an active mountain getaway for adults who want to live like kids again—but this time with booze. Campers participate in individual and team activities—kayaking, zip lining, disc golf, yoga, hiking, and more—plus open activities such as swimming, giant Jenga, beer pong, and flip cup. In true sleepaway camp fashion, participants have the option of getting picked up for camp by a party bus! $499 per camper; Colorado Parent readers who mention this article get $100 off their admission fee.
Camp Shenanigans Colorado
8716 S. Y Camp Rd.
Cattle-Herding Camp at Vista Verde Ranch offers an all-inclusive weeklong getaway for adventurous moms who aren’t afraid to get their cowboy boots dirty. At this guest ranch, participants ride into the national forest on horseback to scout and herd cattle in late August, September, and October. A resident horse trainer is on hand to help riders of all levels improve their skills, and all necessary equipment is provided. The cattle-herd is incredible, but the biggest payoff is the upscale accommodations and five-star meals, which are a far cry from the cabins and cuisine you had the last time you went to camp.
Vista Verde Ranch
5800 Cowboy Way
If you don’t have a weekend to spare, you can still sample summer camp with Vela Adventures, a Denver-based provider of all-inclusive adventure outings for women. The organization hosts two or more events per month with the goal of bringing together outdoor enthusiasts for fun one-day excursions. Whether you’re paddleboarding, rock climbing, white water rafting, or snowshoeing, your day is sure to be memorable—and totally hassle-free, too, since Vela Adventures plans out every single detail right down to the gourmet lunches, lip balm, and hand sanitizer. Participants are guided by professional instructors, and all of the equipment needed is provided.