They come expecting to learn outdoor and recreation skills: how to cook over a campfire, how to paddle a canoe, how to climb rocks and make pots, how to tie knots and tie-dye T-shirts.
They go home knowing all that — and so much more.
Camp Cloud Rim, one of two Utah camps operated by the Girl Scouts of the United States of America, is high in the mountains above Park City. The main lodge sits at the edge of Brimhall Lake, one of a number of little glacier lakes that dot the area. Cabins and tents nestle among the pine and aspen trees; hiking trails and forest paths meander along the hillsides.
So, says camp director Amy Hugh, it's a great place to come and learn about the outdoors. The camp offers a full contingent of water activities, from swimming and paddleboats for the younger campers, to sailing and windsurfing for the older girls. There is outdoor cooking: Dutch oven, camp stove, box oven. There are crafts: pottery, stained glass, etching, soap-making, rag rugs, doll-making. There is hiking. There are campfires and camp songs and camp stories.
There are so many things to do, you might wonder how they can fit it all in. But, says Hugh, that's part of the plan. "We want the girls to learn about choices, learn to make decisions. We have a lot of planning meetings, and they get to plan their programs."
The girls learn communication; they learn to express their ideas and to talk about problems, says Hugh. They learn to work together, to cooperate and help each other.
"We want to empower them. We want them to not be afraid to try new things or try hard things."
They learn to tie knots, she says, and they may not use all of those knots in their everyday lives. "But maybe the next time they are sitting in math class, and it is hard, they will remember how hard it was to learn knots and how good it felt to do it. And they will be willing to try something hard."
What is so great about camp, she says, is that it takes the girls outside their realm. "Too often they get narrowed into what they do. Here, they are often not with their same friends, they are not doing the same things. This is a great place, a positive environment where they can be whomever they want to be — they learn to be their own persons."
Camping is an integral part of their program, says Barb Guy, director of communications for Girls Scouts of Utah. "It's hard to say whether Girl Scouts grew out of camping or whether camping just fits in so well, but the two are practically synonymous."
The theme of Girl Scouts is "Where Girls Grow Strong." "Our purpose is to help them become self-reliant, self-respecting, Earth-respecting young women," says Guy. "And that's exactly what they get at camp."
At Cloud Rim, the girls are divided by age groups: Brownies, age 6-8; Juniors, age 9-11; Cadettes and Seniors, age 12-17.
Sometimes troops will all sign up together. "They really get closer together as a troop," says Hugh. But often, girls from all over the state sign up for a particular week, and that's good, too. They don't even have to be Girl Scouts, although there is an extra insurance charge for non-Scouts. "Most girls, if they aren't already members join before coming to camp," says Hugh. And, she says, a lot of people don't realize they don't have to be in a troop to be a Girl Scout. "You can be an individual Scout and work on your badge books and things on your own."
Many of the girls come back year after year, and things are set up so there is a natural progression. The Brownies stay in cabins; the Juniors have platform tents; the Cadettes have springbar tents. The Brownies climb on the Brownie Boulder; the Juniors use the climbing wall; the Cadettes climb the face of a rock cliff.
Most of the activities are tailored to the specific groups, but some campwide activities allow interaction among all the girls.
A typical day at Cloud Rim might go like this: Up at 7 a.m.; breakfast; Opening Circle, where the girls talk about and plan what they will do that day. Flag ceremony, at 8:45, includes singing "The Star Spangled Banner" and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the Girl Scout Law.
Morning activities follow: climbing, hiking, water sports. Lunch is at 12:30. Then the girls have an hour of "me time," when they are free to do whatever they want: take a nap, read, write letters. At 3 p.m., there is an optional yoga class; more activities follow; dinner is at 5:30 p.m.
Closing flag ceremony takes place at 7:15 p.m., followed by an all-camp activity such as a campfire with skits and songs or a dance.
The counselors plan a late activity and then go around to each of the cabins and tents to sing until the girls go to sleep.
Lights out is about 9 p.m. for Brownies, 10 p.m. for older girls.
"It's really not hard to get them to go to sleep," says K'Leena Murphy, assistant program director. "It's cold, it's dark — and they've been going strong all day."
Each group is also assigned some "camp capers" — chores that must be done, says Murphy.
Each of the campers also has a community role, something that contributes to the whole community, such as distributing mail or participating on the Camper Counsel, which chooses themes for each day and for the week. (It might be Princess Day or Pirate Day. Or, it might be Space Week.)
And there's also time to appreciate and enjoy the setting, which rests at 9,211 feet.
"This is an incredibly beautiful place," says site manager Michelle Daum. "Our own secret paradise. There's some of everything. The kids can enjoy the outside without being afraid of the outside."
As camps go, Cloud Rim would tip the scale on the lush side.
From the lodge to the lodgings and the showers to the biffy (which stands for, if you didn't know, "Bathroom In Forest For You"), facilities here are first-rate, says Guy.
Cloud Rim opened in 1937, when it hosted a World Encampment (one of the guests was former U.S. first lady Lou Hoover).
But in the winter of 1992, the old lodge burned down.
So the camp was closed through 1997 while new facilities were built.
"We have some nice touches," says Guy. "For example, the cabins are all named after famous women. And in each cabin is a shelf with books and pictures about that person."
The camp holds about 112 campers and has a 30-member staff.
"We also have five moose and two beaver," says Murphy. (They don't participate regularly, however.)
Most of the camp counselors have gone through the complete camp program themselves.
"I've been a Girl Scout for so many years," says Murphy, "and it's opened a world of opportunity for me."
At camp, she says, they try to help the girls reach their full potential. "We want them to think it's cool to be a girl, there are so many things they can do."
At Cloud Rim, says Guy, "we are teaching camping skills. But the girls are learning life skills — things that will help them the rest of their lives."