This year, we celebrate our 60th anniversary on Old Forge Mountain. We have thousands of Camp Highlander alumni all over the world, many of whom have continued the Highlander tradition within their families. Each month, we’ll profile one family who has come to the mountain for generations and experienced the magic and long-lasting positive effects of camp.
Our family in the spotlight this month are the Hyatts. Paige Cole Hyatt is a beloved member of the Highlander family. She has been affiliated with CH for decades and her children, Steph and Christian Hyatt, grew up at camp!
How many summers have you and your kids attended camp thus far?
I have attended 11, my daughter Steph has attended 12, and my son Christian has attended seven. I still can’t believe I never talked my husband Steve into working at camp (he already had a job when we met). All my other boyfriends went! We also hosted Highlander home shows for about 10 years and have hosted at least three alumni reunions. Steph and Christian have a pool party with their fellow CH staff and friends every year when Steph is home. Most of the families we are close to also sent their kids to Camp Highlander, so I feel like my Highlander family has definitely extended to the next generation not only through our own kids but also our friends and their kids. It is hard for me to understand how some people do NOT send their kids to camp—especially a cabin-oriented one like CH. I love that for three, six or nine weeks, they get to unplug and tune in to others.
What has Camp Highlander meant to you? Why have you attended for so long?
How can you explain something that is so integral to your very being? I cannot imagine who I would be had I not been a camper or, more importantly, a counselor.
How have you seen your children grow from the camp experience?
Steph and Christian are absolutely more independent, well rounded, and grounded thanks to CH. Their sense of humor might be a little more warped because of camp, but Steve and I could probably have accomplished that on our own!
What are your favorite memories of camp as a camper/staff member?
I always found Evening Programs inspiring; staff and campers alike went to such elaborate lengths to have fun. I still laugh over some of Gaynell’s Evening Program hijinks. Most of all, I loved being a counselor. I adored all of my campers and co-staff, especially the last few years in Cabin 2 and then Cabin 1 because, by then, I had had many of the girls earlier in Cabin 9 (Mighty Fine!) so those friendships carried an even deeper appreciation.
I loved overnights because we got to really bond as a cabin group (and cook some awesome food over a fire!) and they were always a challenge— whether it was Shining Rock, Graveyard Fields, three days over the Balds, or just making “Tarp City!” at the Fisheries—overnights brought us closer as a cabin and there was always way too much laughter (and hopefully blueberries).
How have you seen camp evolve through the years?
It is far more strict which I might not have thought was necessary as a staff member, but absolutely love as a mother. Your kids are way more likely to get in trouble in your neighborhood than they are at camp!
Final thoughts about Camp Highlander?
I love you guys so much! I adored the south Florida reunion with Matt and Bruce at Rattlesnake Jake’s and especially last reunion at CH with our Cabin 1 (and Billy), but truly every moment I spend at CH (or with friends from CH or even thinking about CH) are happy ones! While I was looking for pics, I found this letter that we posted in Cabin One (Janie Lyn, Dana Grossface, or Laura Weiss must have been co-staff at the time). I think it sums up what we all want for our children to get from going to Camp Highlander:
The really neat thing about being at Camp Highlander is that, by the time you get here, you are pretty much the person you are going to be. The friends you make here are real friends that will last through high school and college and—even though you might not see or talk to them often—will still be friends throughout your life.
Face it, after you’ve spent 24/7 with someone for 3, 6 or 9 weeks, you know them better than 90% of the other people in your life. You can totally be yourself—silly, funny, happy, sad—and your cabin mates will accept it and love you for it.
This will be the best summer you’ve ever had at camp. Enjoy this precious time together, on this special mountain. Have fun always; be open to and protective of your friends; do everything with enthusiasm; be leaders for the younger kids and learn everything you can from your counselors and the rest of the staff. But most of all, as Bill and Ted would say, “Be excellent to each other.”
So this is it … Camp Highlander … Be it, live it, love it.
Did you attend Camp Highlander as a camper or work as staff and now you send your kids to CH? Tell us your story! Email CH alum, Julia Ade, at today, and you could be our next Highlander Family Spotlight!