YMCA Camp Pine Crest

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Coordinates: 44°58′40″N 79°32′36″W / 44.97778°N 79.54333°W / 44.97778; -79.54333

YMCA Camp Pine Crest is a summer camp in Muskoka Lakes, Ontario, Canada, near Torrance. Operating continually since 1910 on Clear Lake, it is one of the longest operating summer camps in North America. It began as an all-boys camp, and was opened to girls in 1980. The Pine Crest Games is a two-day event that takes place on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of each summer involving competitions between two teams, the Lumbermen and the Voyageurs.[1]


In 1896, C.J. Atkinson began the Broadview Boys Institute. The institute ran summer camps for boys in Toronto, Ontario in various locations, including Niagara-on-the-Lake, Cobourg, Ontario, Oakville, Ontario, Geneva Park, Ontario, and Lake Couchiching. In 1910, the first camp on Clear Lake was run by the institute. The next year, the camp operated on a site around what is now known as First Point. In order to attend, one had to devote at least 30 minutes per day to help construct the camp. In the late 1910s, Pine Crest adopted its current name - the Broadview Boys Institute had referred to all of their camps by their location, thus Pine Crest was originally known as "Camp Clear Lake" - and became affiliated with the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

In 1945 and 1947, Pine Crest purchased all of the land surrounding it from the Willison Family, creating its current site of nearly 650 acres (2.6 km2), including four miles (6 km) of shoreline on Clear Lake, Gullwing Lake, and Echo Lake.

Camp Pine Crest expanded rapidly during the 1950s and 1960s. Most of the cabins were built during this time, as was Willison House, which used to house the Camp Director and his/her family. Centennial Lodge was finished in 1967 to commemorate Canada's centennial year. It was built as a chapel but was disassembled and moved to Pine Crest and is now used for various activities and clubs.

In 1980, the camp layout was changed to accommodate girls separate from boys. Pioneer Point was no longer used to house campers, and the Senior and Bantam sections were converted into the girls' side and leaderland, respectively, with the Junior Section being used for all boys.

The dining hall and infirmary, Kekindewin, was built in 1995, and Winter Lodge was renovated to become the Environmental Learning Centre. After lunch and dinner everyday, the campers and counsellors engage in cheers and songs. There are camp-wide cheers as well as constituency cheers such as ones specific to gender or age group. The cheers allow campers to feel a sense of belonging to the camp and raise spirits and morale among staff and campers alike.

The camp was significantly changed for the 100th anniversary. Every cabin has been renovated, beginning with one cabin in 2008, followed by the girls' cabins in 2009 and the boys' and leaders' cabins in 2010. The Outtripping Centre was rebuilt in 2009, and Winter Lodge was redone into a winterized dining hall in 2010. Three new winterized lodges were also built in 2010. The new buildings have been named after YMCA summer camps that were closed down - the Outtripping Centre is called Beausoleil and the new lodges, Wangoma, Norval, and Algonquin.


Everybody who attends Pine Crest goes on a canoe trip in his/her session. The length of trips varies by session length, program, and age. Younger campers tend to go on two- or three-day outtrips to the campsites on the three lakes that surround camp (Clear Lake, Gullwing Lake and Echo Lake) while older campers go on four- or five-day trips. Campers who attend for a full month go on six- or eight-day trips, while the Junior Leaders-in-Training and Leaders-in-Training go on eight- and ten-day paddling trips, respectively, and two- and four-day hikes, respectively.[2]

Pine Crest runs a program known as Adventure Leadership. This programs run a very long outtrip, from ten to thirty days, in farther rivers than those tripped by regular campers, such as the Spanish River, Coulonge River, Bloodvein River, Dumoine River, Petawawa River, Killarney Provincial Park, Wabakimi Provincial Park, Attawapiskat River, Coppermine River, Quetico Provincial Park, Seal River, Moisie River, Kazan River, Missinaibi River, and Lake Superior Provincial Park. These are the only whitewater paddling trips that take place on camp.[3]

Many trips are done on the Musquash River (Ontario), Georgian Bay, Go Home Lake, Gibson River,Twelve Mile Bay, and around Honey Harbour due to their close proximity to camp. However, the longer four- and five-day trips can be done farther away, such as the French River, Lake Nipissing, Key River, Magnetawan River, Mattawa River, and Lake Temagami.

Camp Pine Crest also offers two-week-long white water outtrips on the Petawawa River. These programs are offered only to 13-year-olds and over and will begin summer of 2013.

Camp Pine Crest offers a seven-week program exclusively for 16-year-olds (senior leadership) on the Coppermine River. It is a six-week-long whitewater canoe trip.

The Pine Crest Games[edit]

The Pine Crest Games are an annual two-day event in which a series of competitions takes place between the Lumbermen and the Voyageurs. The games begin with the announcement of the two team leaders. The leaders are camp staff, one man and one woman, who each have to hold their team's symbol - an axe for the Lumbermen and a paddle for the Voyageurs - without allowing it to touch the ground over the two days.

Three different sets of competitions are held. Swimming is held at the swimming docks, Boating is held at the boating docks, and Woodcraft, competitions which do not occur in the water such as portaging, tug-of-war, and giant jenga, is held at the Adventure Field.

On the afternoon of the second day, three marathons occur. The Neanderthal Crawl is done by Bantams and Juniors - the competitor must paddle in a kayak around a marker in the water, and then run to the adventure field and complete an obstacle course. The Snake Island Marathon is a canoe race completed by two-person teams of Seniors, in which the team must paddle from the Boating Docks, around Snake Island, and back – roughly 3 km. The Tri-Lakes Marathon is a longer race run by Pioneers and Leadership participants, in which two-person teams, which can have up to one staff member, pick up a canoe near the boating docks, carry it and two paddles 300 metres to Gullwing Lake, paddle 4 km through Gullwing Lake, the narrows, and Echo Lake, complete another 200-metre portage, and then sprint 500 metres across Clear Lake to finish the race.

At the end of the games, a campfire is held in which the winners of each marathon are announced. A four-person relay takes place in which one member from each team paddles from Willison House to the swimming docks, then another member from each team jump off the jumping tower and swim a pool length together, and then the third members from each team run together back around to Willison House. At the end of the relay, each team leader drinks an unknown beverage, and then a letter on Sunset Bridge is lit on fire and spun to indicate either a V or L, whichever has won the games.

The rules for deciding the team leaders and the winner of the games was made into a sworn secret in the 1970s. Only games leaders and Camp Directors are offered the secrets. Once one knows the secrets, he/she becomes a Referee-in-chief, or RIC, and can no longer compete in the Games. Additionally, he/she is sworn to secrecy and cannot tell the secrets to or discuss them with anyone who is not a RIC. Games leaders have the option to defer knowledge of the secrets, in which case he/she can continue to compete in the Games with the team that he/she led. To date, only two have done this, of whom only one still does not know the secrets.



  1. ^ [1], Main camp page
  2. ^ [2], Leadership Information
  3. ^ [3], Adventure Trip Information

External links[edit]