Camp Jack Hazard
Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains
Re: Outdoor/ camping summer camp for 13yr old boy
I highly recommend a small residential camp in the Sierras called Camp Jack Hazard (www.campjackhazard.org). Its program includes easy backpacking, but really it is a simple, old-school summer camp with arts-and-crafts, nature hikes, campfires, a swimming pool, and a ropes course. They get kids familiar and comfortable with the outdoors because the location is so spectacular (north of Yosemite, near the Sonora Pass). A week spent doing fun camp stuff at this location gives kids the chance to just love being outside in the beauty of it all, gets them over squeamishness about dirt, bugs, etc., and teaches them some basic outdoor skills (Leave No Trace philosophy, for example).
Every kid also goes backpacking with their cabin group on a relatively easy 2-night overnight backpacking trip. Because of the location and the camp's long history of operation in the region (they celebrate 90 years this year), they are able to send every backpacking group on a hike that is relatively easy but feels like real backpacking and ends up in a location that it an excellent reward for the effort (alpine meadows, creeks, peaks, etc). Even the young kids (as young as 6 yrs) go on mini-backpacking trips (usually only hiking within the camp facility but to a place where they can sleep under the stars).
Camp Jack Hazard primarily serves the Central Valley (operates out of Modesto) and so represents the diversity you see there, including much greater socioeconomic diversity than you generally see in the Bay Area. Side benefit for Bay Area families: it is dirt cheap compared to locally operating camps ($495 for a week of sleep-away camp).
Full disclosure: I once worked there (eons ago) and now help with operations serving on the board of directors. My 12 year old (daughter) has been several summers and loves it. I'm sending my six year old to the mini camp (3 nights) this year, and I would definitely hesitate sending a kid that young to a sleep away camp anywhere else, but this place is magical. Stephanie
Re: Sleepover camp for third grader?
I've got just the place for you! Camp Jack Hazard (www.campjackhazard.org) is a sleep-away camp in the Sierras near the Sonora Pass. They do week-long sessions, but also have a shorter 3 night ''rookie'' camp for kids age 6 to 10. The three night sessions are a great option for kids who are new to sleep-away camp. The camp involves a lot of the traditional camp stuff: arts and crafts, campfires, etc but also has a ropes course and they take the kids backpacking too: the week-long sessions involve a two night backpacking trip, but even during the rookie camp, they take the kids backpacking for one night (they only ''backpack'' about a 1/2 mile, but still get the experience of setting up camp in the woods).
My 10 year old did her first sleep-away camp there last year. She did the week-long camp (she actually did two sessions, with a week break between) and, although she had moments of homesickness, the counselors were great with her and I think things were so fun and busy, the homesickness was fleeting. She had a friend with her, which also helped, and they accept requests to be in the same cabin.
Best part: its pretty cheap as sleep-away camps go. Three night sessions are are $295 and week sessions are $495, and they offer financial assistance.
Full disclosure: I serve on the board of directors, which is made up entirely of alumni of the camp. Lots of happy former campers! Feel free to email me if you want more information. Stephanie