Stanford Sierra Camp: (Upcoming) Best Summer Ever

Posted by at 6:04PM

I spent my weekend weathering a blizzard (well, a heavy dumping of snow is probably more accurate) in South Lake Tahoe at the staph retreat/orientation for Stanford Sierra Camp. The mountains, seclusion, and the relentless (but genuine) uberenthusiasm of former camp staph wrapped the 40+ of us in a shared feeling that promises a stellar summer. What follows is a bit about Sierra Camp to convince you to apply next year or to come visit us this summer.
Recruitment video:

Stanford Sierra Camp is a conference center by spring/fall, Stanford alumni family camp by summer. It’s located just out of South Lake Tahoe at Fallen Leaf Lake:

photo courtesy of Larry Prosor at <>“></center><br />
During the summer, ~60 Stanford students run the family camp, working as camp counselors for children of all ages, photographers, kitchen aides, water-ski instructors, hike leaders, naturalists, crafts coordinators, culturalists, and so on.  At the retreat, the former workers spoke so highly of their jobs that I couldn’t tell if it was a ploy to make housecleaning, dishwashing, and other less than desirable jobs tolerable, or if their surroundings and bonds created an atmosphere that they couldn’t get enough of.  I’m convinced it’s the latter – these people seem to live for this job, live for the summer, and create a community that lives on well beyond the 12 week summer.  Many wear their staph necklaces year-round, identifying how many years they’ve worked at camp, a signifier that borders on a cult emblem.  Here I mean cult positively, less ritualistic sacrifice and more an intense community, one that works hard, plays hard, treks through mountains, plays in lakes, and inspires children and families together.<br />
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The i-com (interview committee) prides itself on its goal of diversity, attempting to select students from all walks of life and all identities. I met people in my own class that I’ve never met on campus before. We never bumped into each other in lecture, and/or we belong to different communities: sports teams, greek organizations, and the like. I think our staph is a microcosm of the university; I’ll be working along side international students, athletes, sorority girls, musicians, queers, etc. in a representative blend. By completing a multi-page application, talking through two rounds of interviews, and performing a show and tell skit, we all know everyone really, really wants to be in Tahoe for the summer, so there’s already a palpable sense of community bound by enthusiasm and mutual respect.
photo courtesy of

Though I may already want to make out with most of my fellow staph, I want to caress the camp’s surroundings. SSC’s little patch of cabins is at the end of a winding one-lane road, smooshed between a pristine lake and undeveloped mountains on all sides. Camp’s boundaries end where Desolation Wilderness begins. This weekend, nature blanketed our entire surroundings with a hefty white fluff, inviting snow angels and imparting a sense of balance and warmth. SSC’s mission includes educating visitors on environmental sustainability and respect for Mother Nature, so I was able to somewhat reconcile my guilt brought forth by SSC’s little scar of human development amidst the natural refuge. I stayed on the lakefront in a cabin John Steinbeck built (Point 43), where gusts of howling wind and old windows competed with a faithful heating system. In the summer, the lake will generously provide us with sailing, water skiiing, swimming, tubing, canoeing, and fishing, but we couldn’t wait until warmer times to get intimate with this seductive body – about 15 of us lost our ability to breathe or fill a speedo when we jumped in after dinner. Much merriment and anti-hypothermia activities followed.
So I’m gushing, almost grossly, but I believe rightly so. Next winter, when you’re considering the confines of a cubicle in resume-building internships, consider applying to Sierra Camp instead. You’re only young once, and this is an opportunity not to be passed up. And besides, this camp serves Stanford Alumni, and many campers have been known to get hired on the spot, no internship required.
Photos courtesy of and Website citations will pop up if you hover your mouse over the image.
SSC history:
More on camp life:
Working at camp:


3 Responses to “Stanford Sierra Camp: (Upcoming) Best Summer Ever”

  1. Gracie says:

    Has anyone heard if the Conference Center is still standing in this fire??

  2. bradley says:

    the fire is real close but hasn’t reached camp. we’ve all been evacuated.

  3. Paradox says:

    How does camp look now after the fire? Has the scenery changed, or is most of the damage out of sight?


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