There’s No Place Like Camp Tuolumne

I’ve sailed around the world on a ship, spent a year as an exchange student in France, and backpacked across West Africa. I’ve been inside a pyramid in Giza, baked a 5-tier wedding cake in a stone oven in Cameroon, and lived with an Indian family. I’ve had a lot of amazing adventures in my life. But I’ve never been anywhere as magical as Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp.

The camp has been around for almost a hundred years. My family has been going since my daughter Bird was 3 months old. We took my son Bear to camp for the first time when he was only 5 weeks old. It’s that kind of place: once you’re there, you feel like you’ve come home. The Tuolumne river runs through the camp. Fragrant pines provide shade. Campers sleep in rustic tent cabins with no electricity. The kids run free.

jumping off

Bear jumping off Beaverhead rock

The best part about camp is the community that develops. We see the same families each year. We’re doing it together: our kids are growing up, and we are growing older. As I walk through camp for the first time each year, I’m flooded with memories. We look forward to our time at camp all year. For months, my kids count down the days until we go. It’s hands-down our favorite vacation.

And now it’s gone. On Sunday, Berkeley Tuolumne camp burned in the massive Rim Fire. The word the fire marshall used was “destroyed.”


Destroyed. When I read that, I couldn’t breathe. And I couldn’t believe it was gone. Sunday night, a memorial group sprang up on Facebook. Hundreds of people began to post pictures and memories. Monday afternoon, someone suggested a candlelight meeting in the park across from the Berkeley Camps office. Hours later, we gathered.


Within hours, Tuolumne families came from all over. Photo: Trina Whiteside Rymland

We sang camp songs, we reminisced, we cried. Camp was really that special. Friends have gently suggested that perhaps I could find another spot to replace Tuolumne, but there’s no place like it. And yes, maybe we can rebuild our beloved camp, and of course we will always have our memories, but right now I’ve got a jagged hole in my heart.

Do any of you have a special place like Tuolumne?


  1. What a beautiful tribute. Sending good thoughts for Mother Nature’s swift healing and recovery at this special place.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Annissa – Thank you so much for your good thoughts. There is a lot of love out there for Camp Tuolumne.

  2. Sounds like a wonderful place. Very sad to hear of the destructive fire. It sounds like your family has many great memories – and hopefully photos and mementos as well. I wonder if there’s any possibility of rebuilding? Just think, in another hundred years, kids and families would sit around the campfire telling stories of the great fire that came thru in 2013, that did not destroy the camp spirit, the camp was rebuilt and able to continue to be the venue for many more memories to come.

    My family used to go to Cazadero Family Camp which sounds a lot like Tuolumne. The Russian River ran through the campground and we too had tent cabins with no electricity. We also went a couple summers to Camp Blue though I don’t recall much.

    With each chapter that ends, a new untold unread will begin. the high country in Yosemite? Another wonderful family camp in the Sierras? A new Tuolumne? Whatever it is, memories are sure to be made.

    • Points Pixie says:

      Rebecca – Yes, the “Rebuild Tuolumne” site is already 600 members strong! I like the way you think 🙂

  3. They made the announcement on the news last night and my immediate thought was of you – I had remembered reading your post. I am sorry you have lost such a special place, but as others have said – there may be others.

  4. I could feel the love for your Camp in your post. What a terrible lost! Hugs to you and your family.

  5. Points Pixie says:

    ElleX – I’m glad that my love for camp came through so strongly. Thanks for the hugs.

  6. My special place was/is…Camp Tuolumne 🙁

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