San Diego Summer Camp Offers - and Captures - Adventure

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To celebrate its 60 anniversary, Camp Stevens – a summer camp and retreat center outside of Julian, California – is releasing the “Adventure Is…” video series. Created by San Diego native Garrett Phelps and being released on YouTube and through the camp’s website, “Adventure Is…” captures the magic of an outdoor summer experience for children and teenagers.

From sleeping outside to climbing a 40-foot rock wall, summer camp brings one adventure after another. Just ask filmmaker Garrett Phelps, who spent his summer in 2011 documenting kids’ experiences at Camp Stevens, a summer camp and retreat center just outside the mountain town of Julian, California. The result is a series of 2-minute films “Adventure Is…,” which are being released throughout the spring on the camp’s YouTube channel to celebrate Camp Stevens’s 60th anniversary.

“Adventure Is…This Crazy Moment” shows a crew of 10-year old campers discovering a glory hole (a large depression in the earth caused – in the case of old mining towns like Julian – by dynamiting while searching for gold) on Camp Stevens’s 256 acre property.

“The idea behind the series is to show just a sliver of the summer camp experience, an experience that was so important to me as a kid, and that has the potential to be just as important to kids today,” says San Diego native Phelps.

In “Adventure Is…Taking That Plunge,” we join a group of teenagers, including campers from Japan, during Camp Stevens’s annual International Odyssey session, as they figure out how to, using a log and ropes, retrieve a flag that’s dangling 15 feet above them. Their counselors leave the campers to their own devices to solve the challenge, as a means of team- and trust- building. This concept is core to Camp Stevens’s belief that when campers feel welcomed, safe and bonded to their group they experience genuine, empowering fun.

“We design [these challenges] so that every person feels like they have a part, because every person does,” says Associate Director Abbey Gordon.

Team-building challenges are key to the Camp Stevens experience, but they’re not the only challenge a summer camper might encounter.

“Challenges present themselves every day at summer camp,” says Summer Camp Director Trevor Graham-Wilcox.

For some kids, the challenge is that first day, meeting their group, full of nerves and uncertainty about what to expect. And for other campers, the challenge is going a week without electronics. That’s right: No iPods, no cell phones, no hair dryers.

“It might sound impossible in 2012, but it’s actually incredibly easy and rewarding. Once you’re out on the trails with your group, or in the pool during freetime, or eating s’mores on your first overnight, you’ve completely forgotten to miss Facebook,” promises Graham-Wilcox.

There is an exception to the “No electronics” rule: Cameras. In the hands of campers, cameras may capture their new best friends, or a beautiful sunset. And in the hands of Phelps, a camera gives the rest of us a taste of summer camp adventure all our own.

See the videos at

Camp Stevens is a 256-acre property in Julian, California, a one- to three- hour drive from San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Riverside and Imperial Counties. Focused on fostering community, and providing opportunities to connect with nature and one another, Camp Stevens offers 5- and 6- day residential summer camp sessions throughout July and August, as well as Wilderness Adventure Trips for teens. Videos capturing the experience can be seen at Owned and operated by the Episcopal Dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego, where all are welcome, Camp Stevens has an extensive campership program, designed to give the summer camp experience to any child who wants it. Find out more at or by calling the Camp Stevens office at 760.765.0028.

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Ashley Graham-Wilcox

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