This Sunday, Aug. 27, from 2 until 4 p.m., one of Cambria’s hidden jewels, Camp Ocean Pines, will open its doors to the public for a free summer celebration. Perched on the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this pine-forested facility has evolved much over the decades it has been a youth camp, even since I lived there when I first moved to town in 1981.
This 13-acre parcel was donated to the YMCA back in 1946 by the Sibley family, whose Rancho Marino embraced it with the rolling hills of a working ranch. When I moved up there, the original wood-sided and open-screen cabins were still in place. The school I worked for that rented the property after summer camp had a lot of winterizing to do in order to house students we would be boarding there for the school year. Yikes! I, fortunately, lived in a converted school bus that the then-caretakers of the camp had moved up in (they moved into the mobile home that was on site). It was all quite rustic, to say the least.
All of that is a quaint memory now. Around the turn of the millennium, the camp was permanently deeded to the nonprofit board that had been formed to support it (there had been a clause in the original contract that if the property were to go belly-up, the 13 acres would go back to the Sibleys — our school kept them afloat at that time!). It has been a tough but rewarding journey for all involved.
Camp Director Chris Cameron came on in 2001. Known around the mess hall as “Pop Nature,” Cameron has overseen the construction of “hobbit style,” passive solar, straw bale cabins, built with wind-felled trees from the property. They all have their own bathrooms, so no dashing through the forest dodging deer and raccoons for a midnight wee!
The dining hall, with its grand view of the ocean, has been resided and cleaned up and … the food is good! Talented chefs prepare wholesome, tasty grub. The connecting fireplace room has the perfect deck from which to watch the whales migrate or to hold a meeting, lecture or gathering of any sort. Actually, the conference room can hold up to 50 people.
Oh my goodness — the Crafts Lodge … well, so many of the buildings were so disgusting! They are now fully functional, bright and sturdy. I am so very thrilled to see the changes! The Nature Center is an incredible development — in fact, there is a huge environmental/nature component to the whole camp. Chris has his birds of prey and other “creature guests” there, too.
And then there is the beautiful stonewall amphitheater. Weddings and concerts have all happened there, but I have fond memories of talent shows on the little stage. You see, after moving out of camp, years later I would teach crafts at a number of vacation sessions there. Nothing leaves a lasting impression like five sweaty, little boys performing on pit tubas, yes siree, Bob.
And don’t think summer camp is just for kids! The Stone Carver’s Symposium has found a home there for many years. Family reunions, retreats, workshops on primitive skills, naturalist certifications and more have all been hosted on this comfortable, slick-magazine-cover-worthy camp. It’s a camp, but, you will not be sleeping in the dirt … unless, I suppose, you want to!
Yeah, I’m a bit gushy about Camp Ocean Pines. Hey, it was my first home in this community I’ve been blessed to be in for 36 years. They have done amazing things to it, and it deserves to be appreciated for that. Check it out this Sunday. Catch the “Camp Fever” like I did!
2 p.m. Open house welcome, brief history of Camp
2:20 Tomahawk throwing at target ranges
2:40 Craft project at the Craft Lodge
3 p.m. Touch tank exploration at the Nature Center
3:20 Archery at the target ranges
3:40 Bird show at the Ocean Lodge
4 p.m. Reception (snacks and drinks) at the Ocean Lodge with Coast Union graduate Marcus DiMaggio playing music