Have you heard of Mulberry Street in Fort Collins? Well if you have, you also probably have driven by the office of Camp Timberline. Big bold letters mark the spot. Camp Timberline’s home base is here in Fort Collins, but their entire summer is spent in the mountains at their other base on Longs Peak Road, close to the trailhead where you start the mighty fourteener trek.
Imagine kids running around, playing sports on a field called the “Elk Meadow.” And pretty frequently, the field turns into just that. Campers have the opportunity to have how-down parties, time at the lake, weekly hikes around the area, face their fears on the ropes course and find themselves at the top of the rock-climbing wall with a heavenly view of the Rockies.
Former Colorado State University student Emily Bistany graduated in 2017 with a human development and family studies degree, with an emphasis in business administration. Bistany is one of six directors running the camp from start to finish. This is her second year as director and her fifth year on the staff, but she was also a camper for four years before that. You could mildly say that Bistany loves Camp T.
Bistany said that her favorite part of being a camp director is the fact that “lives were being changed and it had nothing to do with me.”
“We want a safe space where people can be known and loved.” Being known and loved was a theme that Bistany repeated over and over when talking to College Avenue Magazine.
Camp Timberline has grown from 250 campers to 2,000 campers since 1997, the start of a couple’s dream coming true. Bill and Dana Darrough, who lived in Fort Collins at that time, laid out their vision for a youth ministry “that combined God, mountain adventure and sports in the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.” Campers now come from all over the nation and from foreign countries, to “have the time of their lives and to be introduced to, or be strengthened in their walk with Jesus Christ,” according to Camp Timberline’s website.
The camp has grown to four separate but unified sections: Overnight Camp, Day Camp, Beyond Timberline and Shift.
Overnight Camp (Base Camp) is where it all started; Bistany explained this is where youth ages 7-18 get to “experience the love of Christ” in the thin air next to Longs Peak’s trailhead, maybe a close contender to what stairsteps to heaven might look like. They stay in cabins all week long and enjoy camp-wide meals together in their main hall, a large log-cabin overlooking breathtaking mountains.
Day Camp is a moving camp that jumps from church to church each week in the Loveland-Denver area. Kindergarteners to ninth-graders get to hop on giant inflatables that the staff sets up each morning. Their trailer is stuffed with materials ready to put joy in kids’ hearts. Bistany said that Day Camp is amazing in the way that it helps “get in touch with local churches and develop awesome relationships” with the community.
Beyond Timberline is a great opportunity for ages 13-18 to dive into Camp T’s mission by backpacking in the wilderness for a week. Headlined, “meet us on the mountaintop,” BT welcomes everyone with all ranges of skillset and has three different types of trips to choose from. The weight of BT’s impact rests in the hand of the Earth as campers engulf themselves in God’s space.
The Shift program is a means for older high schoolers to have the camper life while also transitioning into training to be a counselor. Since they are older, bolder and braver, shifters get to go mountain biking and rock climbing, taking the adventure to the next level. After their two weeks are up, some of them get to be full-time counselors at Day Camp.
Bistany said that they are already looking at staff applications for next summer. Consequently, the camp fills up quickly, and parents are warned to sign up as soon as possible.
One of Bistany’s main responsibilities is hiring female counselors for each summer. The counselors’ job is to go above and beyond anything and anyone could ask of them. Bistany said that the best part of her job “is to give pieces of Jesus” to the staff as she equips them for the task of knowing and loving kids all day.
“They don’t want or need me; they need Jesus, just like anyone else,” Bistany said. “I know that I can’t help everyone, but He can.”
Fort Collins is fortunate to have such impactful missions living right in the heart of it. Our community is filled with many passionate purposes. Have you found yours?