Trinity Woods takes camp back to basics


Larry Sullivan

Trinity Woods campers take turns jumping off a rock.

In a rain soaked field, just north of Lake Tobesofkee, 120 children run at top speed, some slipping in the mud, with shouts of joy and frustration, trying to catch a boy in a blue shirt gripping a yellow plastic flag in a clamped fist.  This is Color Wars week. The most popular week at Trinity Woods Camp and the campers are at war. 

Founded in 1997 by the Lutheran Church of the Holy Trinity, this camp has become the hottest ticket in town over its 25 years. Trinity Woods opens its camp registration for their 10 one-week sessions in March, which quickly fills up and overflows into a waiting list. 

The camp, which is a ministry of the church and noted for being all outdoors, is celebrating its 25 years with a July 23 party, but for the current campers the focus is on winning this week’s Color War. 

The children on the field, ages 5 to 13, all have either stripes of blue or purple on their faces. 

“Run!” bellows a girl, who is a bit older than the kids on the field. She is wearing a blue tutu, Mardi Gras beads and blue-tinted sunglasses despite the overcast sky.

The popularity of the camp is counterintuitive at first glance. Electronic devices are forbidden, any phone calls to parents must be made in the camp office. The camp is held completely outside on the 17 acres of woods the church owns. There are only two buildings used by the camp: the church itself and a wooden pavilion lined with picnic benches and currently decorated half in purple and half in blue for their Color Wars week. 

A Trinity Woods camp counselor teaches a cheer to her campers during Color Wars week. (Larry Sullivan)

Yet, despite the spartan surrounding, or maybe because of it, children come back year after year. So much so that 90 percent of their junior counselors are former campers and the administrative staff is mostly made up from camp alumni. Jordan Ware, the office manager for the camp and third grade teacher during the school year, is well into her 19th year at the camp. 

“There is just something about Trinity Woods that brings you back every year. There are so many rich traditions and the returning staff help keep those traditions alive,” Ware said. “ I also love that technology is not allowed so campers can really immerse themselves into nature and friendships with each other. I feel like Trinity Woods gives kids that true, outdoor summer camp experience you read about or see in movies, with camp stories, songs, and games that you only know if you’ve spent time at camp. It truly is so special!” 

For the past decade, all of the counselors and junior counselors have “camp names” they choose and are strictly referred to during the 10 weeks of camp (Ware’s name is “Graham Cracker”). Names like “Gator,” “Helmet,” and “Cocoa Puffs” are shouted around the camp. This protects the counselors from social media snooping from the campers. 

Mattix Terry is 9 years old. This is her first year at Trinity Woods but she’s already chosen “Mockingjay” as her junior counselor name when in five years she can take a camp name. Twelve year old Olive Kinross has chosen “Firefly” as her potential name when the time comes. It seems that every camper, while at camp, makes solid plans on coming back. 

“Friday is my favorite and least favorite day,” says 10 year old Henry Tsavatewa, explaining his camp week. “It’s my favorite because we get snow cones but least favorite because there’s no camp until Monday.”

The day is filled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with games like capture the flag, zombie tag, a form of dodgeball called “Gaga” and playing in the creek on the property. The campers only go inside if there is thunder and lighting or for excessive heat. On Tuesdays and Thursdays campers have “devotional time,” a 30-minute block, in addition to the daily morning, afternoon and lunch prayers, which is centered around themes such as compassion and empathy.  

The activity Kinross looks forward to is the waterslide dismissal when campers are allowed to play on a 20-foot inflatable water slide while they wait for their parents to arrive to take them home. 

Eleven year old Samuel Clark’s favorite activity is building forts in the woods with the counselors.

Trinity Woods campers play capture the flag during the Color Wars week. (Larry Sullivan)

“It has four tee-pees, four hammocks, a platform for kids and a platform for counselors,” Clark explains. 

Fort building is the favorite activity of counselor Eric Woodford (camp name “Zeus”) as well. The camp keeps a 10-to-1 ratio of counselors to campers, not counting junior counselors. 

This is the first summer working at camp for counselor Connor Battles. Last summer he worked at the Chick-fil-a on Tom Hill Sr Boulevard but prefers working at Trinity Woods. 

“It’s more meaningful than other jobs,” he says. 

This summer marks the 14th year at camp for counselor Annabel Wilson, an 18 year old entering Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College to study wildlife management.

 “I look forward to it every year,” she says. 

On the camp website parents are encouraged to send a change of clothes and swimsuit with their child. In addition they should come with close-toed shoes and be checked after camp for “creepy critters” that they may have picked up during the camp day. 

“We send the kids home tired and dirty,” laughs Ware. A sentiment echoed by the campers themselves with Kinross saying she wants to fall asleep in the car on her way home from camp. 

The boy in the blue shirt on the wet sports field gets closer and closer to base. The cries from the purple team get more panicked, “Stop him! Stop him” they yell, close on the boy’s heels. The boy makes it to base in a kind of half collapse, exhausted but proud of his achievement for the blue team. The purple team, though disappointed from the loss, doesn’t let that take away from a great day with their friends at camp. 

Trinity Woods is celebrating their 25th Anniversary on July 23 with inflatables, snow cones and a camper appreciation festival. The staff is reaching out through Facebook to reconnect with former counselors to invite them to the party.