Emily From Ferncliff Visits Kintail

I just returned home from a lovely nine days at Camp Kintail near Goderich, Ontario. Kintail is a beautiful site located along Lake Huron. Because the school year in Ontario begins later than in Arkansas, camp is still in session through August, and I was kindly invited to spend some time seeing how Kintail does camp!

I arrived late my first night after a successful rendezvous in Detroit with Todd Beneteau, the president of Kintail’s board, who very graciously picked me up in the US and drove us the three hours to camp. I was exhausted and a little out of it by the time I made it to Owl’s Burrow, my cabin for the week, but I managed to catch my first glimpse at the gorgeous starry skies above Kintail. The camp is located near a part of Ontario that is a dark-sky preserve, meaning that there is little light pollution and the skies are very, very dark. You can see millions of stars every night. I’d never seen anything like it, and it was breathtaking.

Photo from bluewatertourism.com. Not at Kintail exactly, but not far down the road!

Sky aside, Kintail is a lovely site. They have about 25 acres and they know how to use it. Wooded, shady glens! A gorgeous sand beach along Lake Huron! Long stretches of cedar forests! Big grassy playing fields! Their cabins and buildings are awesome – they are completely functional and comfortable, but “rustic” enough to maintain the rich history and tradition of camp at Kintail, which has been operating since 1929.

They have a lot of cool programming: a high ropes course, zip line, and climbing wall; a low ropes course for team-building activities; swimming in the lake, a floating aqua mat, and water crafts; a garden; a Shady Chute (inspired by Ferncliff’s!); an 18-goal disc golf course; arts and crafts; archery; music and drama and dance; outdoor living skills; and much more. I got to experience many of the activities they offer. My favorite? The Flying Squirrel on the high ropes course.

Theresa McDonald-Lee and Johnathon Lee are the directors of Kintail. They’ve been here for 8 or 9 years, and they are awesome at their jobs. They’ve made Kintail a wonderful place to play and learn. They are also excellent hosts who were gracious enough to entertain a visitor during one of their fullest weeks of camp this summer. I had met Theresa and Johnathon at a PCCCA conference in November. Ferncliff and Kintail have a lot of common ground when it comes to vision and programming, and it was awesome to chat with them and share ideas and strategies.

The staff is huge – they have over 80 this year – and it’s clear that Kintail is not just a fun place to play, but it’s also a wonderful place to work. Kintail has an excellent LIT program, and it seems that most LITs progress into staff members the following summer. This camp also sees a high retention rate for their staff, and they all seem to get along very well. One cool thing that this camp does is camp names. The staff members are known by nicknames that are chosen at the beginning of the summer.

The staff is also very capable of building epic beach bonfires.

Being Canada, there was, of course, talk of hockey and moose. I left camp with four bottles of maple syrup in my toiletries bag. There were (to my ears) the classic Canadian accents and I heard “eh” more than a few times. I had butter tarts, Tim Horton’s coffee, poutine, and Nanaimo bars.

But the most notable Canadian stereotype I noticed was that people are so nice. Everyone was completely welcoming and gracious and kind from the moment I met them. Kintail’s head counselor, Algae, one of the first folks I met, was friendly from the moment I stumbled out of Todd’s car to share Owl’s Burrow with her. I didn’t see anyone grumpy, even at 7:30 in the morning. I didn’t hear anyone being unkind, even when tired or frustrated. People are just nice, period. I think they might have an edge on that famous southern hospitality, y’all.

I couldn’t be more pleased with my week at Kintail. It was an educational, refreshing, spiritual, and affirming trip. I learned a lot, played a lot, and, I admit, relaxed a lot. (Hey, I just finished mycamp season, after all.) I’m eternally grateful to Theresa, Johnathon, and the staff of Kintail for the great time and hospitality. I’ll miss all the Kintail songs and mealtime cheering, the campfires on the beach, the quiet and serene walk from McDonald Lodge to Koinonia, and the perfect weather, and I certainly hope my camp journey brings me back to this place someday. But for now, it’s good to be home.