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By Cathy NewmanPhotographs by Penny De Los Santos



On Bear Island, New Hampshire, boys have fleas and girls wear bras on their heads. It must be summer camp!



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Why come to Bear Island? For the girls of Camp Nokomis, it is the promise of archery, canoeing, camp songs, and, of sensing, as Maureen Corsetti, a counselor, explained, "the possibility of what can be."

"It's about finding a place to belong and friendships," said Lisa Honeyman, who has attended camp as a camper, then as staff and volunteer, since 1972.

"When things aren't going right, I crave this," she said, looking out over the lake. A breeze ruffled the water; sailboats skimmed the surface. "At those times I just want to sit on a rock and look at the lake. When I'm not here, I do that in my mind."

There is a time-warp feel to Nokomis. It's always the summer of 1958, 1968, or whichever year you happened to be there first. You can return and find your way to the dining hall, lodge, or the Chippewa cabin where the youngest juniors reside—even if 25 years elapsed between visits. You still hear the slam of screen doors, the creak of the flag hoisted up the birch tree pole, the warble of the bugle blaring reveille. You still smell sweaty socks, campfire smoke, and the astringency of pine.

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American summer camps are increasingly playing host to a large number of foreign kids. While almost any American child has a summer camp of some sort nearby, kids from other countries must cross oceans to enjoy what is truly an American phenomenon. According to Jeffrey Solomon of the National Camp Association, 90 percent of summer camps worldwide are in the United States. Many of the rest are in Canada, where the camping tradition has also taken hold.

Camps first sprang up in the United States in the early 20th century as a means for hardworking immigrant families to expose their children to the bucolic countryside surrounding the growing, and often dangerous, cities of the period. There are now nearly 10,000 camps in the U.S. with six million children attending each summer.

—Tom Cannell

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Related Links
Camping Services Branch, YMCA Merrimack Park
www.bica.org
Learn about the YMCA-sponsored summer camps on Bear Island, including the activities ranging from sports to crafts, and request information about next summer's camping season.

Peterson's: Summer Opportunities
www.petersons.com/summerop
Interested in archery? Miniature golf? How about bicycle mechanics or organic farming? There's a summer camp for every interest under the sun, and you're sure to find one that interests you when you search this extensive database.

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Bibliography
Bear Island Reflections, 2nd ed. Bear Island Conservation Association, 2000.

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