Sharing the Spirit of Natoma


                Sharing the Spirit of Natoma


In 1976 a 10-year master plan was written by two Cal Poly students to complete their senior project and Architecture degree. Their college advisor was Natoma’s beloved Ken Schwartz and special thanks were given to Dorothy Anderson and Bill and Carol Hutchinson in completing the study.


On page 1 of the study, under the caption of “Camp Fire Philosophy of Camping,” the authors capture the essence of all our work at Camp Natoma today;


“A Camp Fire camp is a microcosm in which all the elements of life are intensified by the total environment. It is a place where optimum conditions for learning to live with oneself and with others can be created.”


It seems that the term “Sleeping under the stars” was not coined at that time but rather the report states that the camp was designed in the spirit of ‘roughing it.’ The report suggested that intensified environment and roughing it were the precursor to optimum learning. I would have to agree!


This past weekend, I saw this hypothesis in action; not with campers, but with adult Natoma volunteers. Apart from Jamie’s cooking, the volunteers were roughing it; sleeping under the stars, mowing and weed whacking the 3 ½ mile entrance road, emptying, cleaning and filling the pool, creating a new rodent proof storage room in the kitchen, replacing the dishwasher, expanding the office, replacing the fire ring benches and expanding it to seat over 100, doubling the size of the boy’s camp and reclaiming the stage coach road all the way to Soto springs - an "endless maintenance project," Andy says. All this begins to give you the picture of the hard work that is being done at Camp Natoma this spring. With each layer of paint and each shrub removed, great care is taken to maintain the integrity of the outdoor experience and preserve the perfectly rustic facilities for new campers each summer.


When John was asked how everything was going, knowing the projects are many, large and the camp season is rapidly approaching, he stated, “Everyone is working hard on their projects, and getting it done. Everyone is just getting along so well, this is a wonderful experience to be a part of.”

Certainly, this was the “community learning about others and oneself” in action and is a part of the magic at Camp Natoma it has been known for.


The philosophy remarks continued saying;


“It is an outdoor learning laboratory with unique opportunities for campers to understand their relationships with their environment. It is an oasis for children and adults; a land of fun and adventure and learning where great depth of understanding can grow from the simple experiences of living.”


Camp Natoma is an OASIS indeed! For many of the volunteers, they were participants at Camp Natoma when this report was written in 1976. For some volunteers, they have been coming to Natoma for 30, 40, and 50 years; their oasis from the busy and over-whelming world. I shared with Mark, one of our long time volunteers, that 600 campers would be coming to Natoma this summer - the most in a long time. His response, while busy reconstructing the office and without missing a beat with his hammer, replied; “That’s why I love coming here and doing this. It’s all about the kids.”


His comments were confirmed to me on my way home from my work day at the camp. Upon my return from Natoma to the “busy and over-whelming world,” I dropped by the grocery store wearing my Natoma t-shirt. After a wait in line and without me saying a word, the 50+ year old female grocery clerk announced to all who could hear; “You from Camp Natoma? I went there as a child when Camp Natoma was just for girls. I went there for three years; best three years of my childhood.”


Natoma is “a land of fun and adventure and learning, where great depth of understanding can grow from the simple experiences of living.” And it is not soon forgotten.


And I know your memories at Camp Natoma are vast. I hope to see you, your children and grandchildren this season at Camp Natoma, where the beauty, fun, adventure, great depths of understanding and great community never ends.

Here is a list of upcoming dates. Please contact Emily if you have any questions at or by calling 805-709-2569.


  • Campership donations needed by June 1
  • Volunteers needed every weekend until June 11
  • Memorial Work Weekend May 26 - 29
  • Family Work Weekend June 2 - 4
  • Natoma Staff Training June 17 – 23
  • Family Camp June 23-25
  • Camp 6 week-long sessions June25 – August 12
  • Volunteers needed for season’s end clean up August 13 – September 2


I hope to see you at camp!


Kenneth D.  Miles, Executive Director