Virginia and Marlin Prowell started Orcas Summer Camp in September 2001. We rented Friday and Saturday at Camp Moran on Orcas Island. We put out a flyer at Folklife. We had 62 adults and 18 kids attend camp that first year, and we’ve held camp every year since (until COVID-19 arrived).

In 2006, we moved the camp to the first weekend in August, which is now its permanent date. The camp rangers tell us that, weather wise, this is the very best weekend of the year.

But a two day camp felt very short. There was no ferry reservation system in the early 2000’s. Campers got in line at the Anacortes ferry terminal and waited for hours for the next available ferry. Some campers arrived at camp very late Friday night. Also, we had to check out of the facility by noon on Sunday, so Saturday was our only full day at Camp Moran. So in 2008, we expanded the camp to three days, leaving Monday by noon.

We served four meals that first year: three meals on Saturday and Sunday breakfast. Friday night was a camper potluck. But with the unpredictable ferry arrivals, the Friday potluck was spread out over many hours with cold and unsatisfactory results. We soon started providing a vegetarian stew, bread, and salad on Friday night that would be served warm whenever campers arrived. With the three day camp, we now serve nine meals, including a build-your-own sack lunch on Sunday morning so campers would have a meal while waiting for the ferry at Orcas Landing.

When we first started camp, we brought all the camp supplies and food in a yellow 1978 VW van. When the van could no longer hold all the camp supplies, we added our Honda CRV for transporting supplies.

The kitchen is not big enough to prepare everything we wanted in a dinner, so we would use the two free-standing permanent charcoal grills at the camp for grilling the dinner chicken or salmon. One year, a week before camp, State Parks declared a fire ban that included no charcoal fires. Yikes! We scrambled and found two propane grills to rent, and also rented a truck to haul the grills and all the other supplies. There have been several fire bans during camp since that first ban, so renting and bringing propane grills has been part of our plan ever since.