The view from Echo Lake camp. Photo: Mary Flaherty
The view from Echo Lake camp. Photo: Mary Flaherty

After the Berkeley Tuolumne Camp was destroyed in the August 2013 Rim Fire, the city created a “new” family camp at its Echo Lake camp. Families who had spent summers up near Yosemite have had to adjust to the new camp high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. How do the camps compare?

Berkeleyside contributor Mary Flaherty returned recently, and, for the most part, liked the new location.

“I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go to Berkeley’s Echo Lake Camp when I signed up,” said Flaherty. “My family had attended Tuolumne Camp for seven years and loved it more every year. We were heartbroken when it burned. Our experience at Echo Lake Camp was very different from Tuolumne – and yet the same in so many ways. “Out of body experience” my daughter called it, as we arrived in camp. I did miss the Tuolumne River a lot – but the incredible view helped make up for that.

Flaherty shares some of her observations in the captions of the photos below.  Peg Healy, a legal editor in Albany, took her children to Berkeley Tuolumne Camp for three summers. One of her daughters is a counselor this year at Berkeley Echo Lake camp. She says the Echo Lake camp is smaller and less dusty, has level paths instead of rocky slopes, has a lake instead of a river, and has canoes instead of floaties  Healy composed a “Top 10” list of the differences between the two camps. It runs below the photos.

Photo: Mary Flaherty
Tuolumne Camp’s green Adirondack chairs were lost in the fire, but new chairs, built by a group of volunteers in June, now perch at the edge of the ridge that runs the length of camp. Set at 7,400 feet, the camp looks out toward South Lake Tahoe, down at 6,200 feet and at mountains all around. Photo by Mary Flaherty
I knew from the website that there would be a view, but wasn’t quite prepared for this. And it wasn’t just found in one far-flung corner seen only from one coveted tent. Not so: sitting areas, an observation deck, the recreation hall and at least half a dozen tents all sit perched on the edge of the ridge. Photo: Mary Flaherty
There were some small changes, too: not only were the canvas tent covers newer, with amazing plastics clips to hold up the flaps, but, I’m afraid, there was cellphone service throughout the camp. Photo: Mary Flaherty
Photo: Marty Flaherty
Many traditional Tuolumne activities have been brought to Echo Lake, including archery, basketball and Friday night campfires. Photo: Mary Flaherty
Photo: Mary Flaherty
Camp staff at the campfire. Photo: Mary Flaherty
As much as I missed the old camp, exploring new territory, especially nearby Echo Lake and the Pacific Crest Trail, was a welcome new experience. Photo: Mary Flaherty

Ten Things I Liked about Berkeley Sierra Family Camp This Summer

By Peg Healy

After Berkeley Tuolumne Camp tragically burned down last summer, the City of Berkeley hired some BTC staffers and created three sessions of a family camp program at its smaller camp at Echo Lake, near South Lake Tahoe. This camp has charms of its own. Here are my top ten:

1. Afternoon thunderheads and little sprinkles of rain. So there’s hardly any red dust on your toes and everything else you own. And plenty of wildflowers among the cabins and pines!

2. The jaw-dropping view of Lake Tahoe from the Rec Hall, the volleyball court, some fortunate cabins, and the green Adirondack chairs built by the Friends of Berkeley Tuolumne Camp.

3. The camp is relatively flat and easy to walk.

4. The program is smaller: 25 cheery staffers and 130 campers, compared to 60 staffers and 250 campers at Tuolumne Camp. Somehow smaller is even friendlier. The Dining Hall is quiet enough to actually converse with your table mates or chat with folks in the buffet line.

5. The food is better than I remember: Lunch was turkey, veggie, or beef burgers; dinner was tri-tip with rosemary potatoes, penne pasta, plus a salad bar; breakfast was cheesy eggs, sausage, melon, and hot oatmeal.

6. Tuolumne Camp tradition is alive, with silly songs and chants, Kiddie Kamp, the staff show, Theme Days, Bingo Night, sports tournaments, arts & crafts, nature hikes, tie-dye, and more.

7. There’s plenty to do besides relax. Volleyball, badminton, archery, table tennis or bocce ball, anyone? The lifeguards are hoping to reopen their pool soon. Berkeley Camp keeps canoes at the Echo Lake Marina, a short walk down the road, where you can fish or ride in a water taxi.  Hiking is at your doorstep on the Pacific Crest Trail and in the Desolation Wilderness. Birders have already spotted flickers, sapsuckers, woodpeckers, tanagers…. Campers have donated what looked like about 50 board games.

8. They’ve got a real recycling program now for bottles and cans. Also metal food lockers for campers’ snacks, to keep the local ground squirrels (and black bears) out of your tent cabin.

9. The canvas tent tops look new. Many cabins have decks, with wooden picnic tables and seats nearby in the trees. Our cabin had eight built-in bunks with mattresses, but no electricity.

10. Short showers are encouraged, to save water, but they’ve got flush toilets and the nicest porta-potties ever. Seriously. These port-potties are so clean they’re poetic.

4 years at least until Berkeley Tuolumne Camp is rebuilt (05.28.14)
Support for Tuolumne Camp stretches across the nation (02.06.14)
Berkeley family camp will this year be at Echo Lake (01.27.14)
Berkeley Tuolumne Camp unsafe for visitors, says city (12.20.13)
Berkeley Tuolumne Camp supporters push to rebuild (10.16.13)
After the fire: What next for Berkeley Tuolumne Camp? (09.05.13)
Berkeleyans gather to remember Tuolumne camp (08.27.13)
Berkeley to hold a vigil Monday for Tuolumne Family Camp (08.25.13)
Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp appears safe for now (08.24.13)
Rim Fire forces evacuation of Cal Alumni Lair camp  (08.23.13)
Berkeley Family Camp in danger due to escalating wildfire  (08.22.13)
Wildfires close down Berkeley’s Tuolumne Family Camp  (08.22.13)
Breaking: Wildfires put Tuolumne Family Camp on alert (08.20.13)

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