The stars at Camp Bothin are special. I would tell this to my campers on their first night with me at camp, usually as we stood in the field, breathing in the nighttime air of Marin County, looking up at the sky. The stars at Camp Bothin are special, and you can’t find them anywhere else. Inevitably, someone would correct me because obviously these are the same stars that can be seen anywhere; they aren’t unique to just this place. That girl was right, of course, but I would always respond that, although you can see these stars from the road above camp or from the hill behind it, you will never feel the same way that you do standing there with your fellow campers, looking up, with only the sound of your breathing and the wind in the trees to keep you company. Everything at Camp Bothin was special, from the raccoon who would take your food if you left it in your unit to the sticks we used to build fairy houses with the girls.

Everyone comes to camp for a different reason. As a camper when I was a young Girl Scout, I went to camp to feel seen, understood, and safe. The names of most of my counselors and the secrets whispered amongst other girls late at night have long faded from my memory, but I still remember the feeling I had during those weeks. I remember what it felt like to be able to mess up, to be loud, and to take up space, to be, without apology or fear, fully myself.

As with many girls who found themselves at camp, I returned as a college student to be a counselor at Camp Bothin in the North Bay. It was a new camp for me and in many ways I was a new person—fresh off my first year in college and on the edge of figuring out who I truly was and what I wanted. My three summers at Bothin as a counselor changed me in ways I am still discovering. The girls I worked with were much like me when I was younger, yearning for a place to be themselves and finding it there amongst the redwoods or on the steps of Stone House. They came to camp from all over, with different stories and different backgrounds. They’d dive into Bothin’s unique opportunities: taking aim with a bow and arrow, swimming in the sunshine with new friends, and expressing themselves in theater productions and campfire songs. Days or a week later they would leave, a little dirtier and a little tanner, with a shared confidence they didn’t realize they could feel.

Gabi's Camp Memories

I learned from everyone at Bothin, from these campers to every new counselor who became practically family by the time August rolled around. Some of these counselors have worked at Bothin for years, and I admired how they carried themselves as they led girls and how rooted they seemed to be in the work they were doing. They were all my sisters, mentors, part-time mothers: women who believed fiercely in the strength of girls and the power of camp. It was with my fellow counselors that I found who I wanted to be, that I learned that I could make a life out of working with girls outside, putting roots down in the California soil.

It’s been years since my days as a counselor, but now, as a GSNorCal staffer, I am taught new lessons every time I take girls outdoors. I still sing the same songs I learned at 19, still challenge girls to do the thing they didn’t think they could, still respect them when they know their boundaries, and still listen when they find the voice they always had but didn’t know how to use. And no matter how many years stretch between my time as a camper and a counselor, I will still stand in that field at night, the sound of my breathing and the wind in the trees keeping us company, and tell a new group of girls that the stars at Camp Bothin are special.

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Gabi Reyes-AcostaGabi Reyes-Acosta—Gabi is a Program Manager for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she works to create experiences and programs for girls to enrich their Girl Scouting experience. A graduate of Saint Mary’s College of California, Gabi has been a member of the Girl Scouts family since she was a Daisy (Girl Scouts of Central California South!). In college, Gabi found her passion for helping girls develop their leadership skills while having fun as she worked several summers as a camp staff member at Camp Bothin, and again during her years serving in AmeriCorps in Oakland. A lover of all things outdoors (there’s nothing better than songs and stories around the campfire), Gabi can usually be found in any Bay Area park, wilderness, or forest with her dog close behind.