Girl Scouts and camping just naturally go together! Enjoying the great outdoors has been a part of Girl Scout tradition since the start, and while some things have changed, camping remains an important part of our program and activities.
Girls in the early days of Girl Scouts enjoyed outdoor adventures in woodsy areas near Savannah, Georgia, and at campsites on local islands. Girl Scout Founder Juliette Gordon Low recruited the naturalist Walter Hoxie to give girls nature study lessons at his cabin in Bonna Bella, outside Savannah. She even bought land nearby and had a cabin built named Lowlands, for what is now called day camping. And she took the first troop on a five-day camping trip herself! Later, she established a camp on Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and called it Cloudlands (later renamed Camp Juliette Low). Hiking, canoeing, swimming, cooking over a fire, or sleeping in tents or under the stars were all favorite outdoor activities for Girl Scouts – then and now.
Girls used to wear their uniforms to camp, and Girl Scouts eventually had official camp uniforms. Campers from the 50s and 60s remember their greenies – dark green shorts worn with white cotton blouses. Everyone knew how to pitch their tent and make a bedroll to sleep in, and official flashlights and compasses helped guide you on your way. Mess kits and canteens came in handy at mealtime.
Girls today still camp in tents, but many enjoy staying in cabins or lodges. Mess kits still come in handy, but plastic or metal water bottles have pretty much replaced canteens, and sleeping bags are much easier to manage than bedrolls! T-shirts and shorts are the camp uniforms of today, and girls proudly show off the logos and names of the camps they have attended.
Day Camps are still popular, and hundreds of girls here in Middle Tennessee attend our residential camps each summer. In the early days of Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, girls camped on farms, fields, and wherever they were allowed to set up. Girls from Nashville traveled to Camp Juliette Low and other nearby camps, but eventually we were able to purchase and establish our very own camps. We are fortunate to still have our own Camp Holloway, Camp Piedmont, and Camp Sycamore Hills for our girls to use and enjoy.
Wherever and however you camp, you are carrying on the traditions of more than one hundred years of the same outdoor skills and adventures as Juliette Low and the first Girl Scouts. Some things may change, but campfires and s’mores stay the same. We hope you will be able to “linger a little longer” and remember many happy “camping days and friendships true!”
We would love for you to visit our Girl Scout Museum in the Nashville Service Center and take a look at all the vintage Girl Scout camping gear we have on display this summer! The museum is open during our regular office hours, and troops can even arrange a special tour and talk by emailing CRobinson@gsmidtn.org.