By Michael Carrillo
Camper from 1967-1972
Camp Roosevelt in Mountain Center
I was lucky to attend camp in the Idyllwild area during the years from 1967 through 1972. Camp Roosevelt was nestled about seven miles from Idyllwild in Garner Valley located right next to the Hurkey Creek campground. I was 10 ½ when I began attending the camp, which had been in existence for over 30 years. It was then owned and managed by Dan Slater. It was a co-ed camp that my brother Steve and I attended during the 60’s counter-cultural revolution. We had hippies as counselors and no parents at the camp, and seldom on parents’ weekend. It was an overnight camp where you could stay from three to eight weeks.
We lived in cabins, the boys on one side of the camp and the girls on the other side. However, all our activities and meals were coed. For activities, we had archery, hiking, boating and fishing on Lake Hemet, photography, ceramics, dances, drama and just about any activity that a boy or girl from six to 15 could want.
We also had the opportunity for overnights in the mountains above Idyllwild. For those trips, we started at Humber Park on our way to some of the best hiking and camping in the country. Before starting our camping trips, we had some time in Idyllwild. We would start in Mountain Center at Taylors for the best hamburgers and chili on the mountain.
Idyllwild then was a bonanza of opportunity for a teenager. It was before lattes and cappuccinos and Idyllwild was a still a sleepy village. But we had the general store, the movie theater, and wonderful restaurants. We could go into the shops, buy stuff and even get a postcard (our counselors made us buy one) to send to our parents on our next letter writing day.
After Idyllwild, we would hike to Humber Park and make the trek up to Skunk Cabbage as our base camp. Skunk Cabbage is the junction for continuing to many different points in the mountain. From there you can continue on to Tahquitz Peak, Red Tahquitz trail, or head on up through Round Valley on the way to San Jacinto Peak at nearly 11,000 feet or even over to the Palm Springs Arial Tramway.
On one camping trip, heavy rain poured on us all night. The next day, because of the bad weather, we had to hike back down the mountain back to Camp Roosevelt.
Once we made it to Humber Park we had to walk about a mile until we came across the first houses in Fern Valley. There were no cell phones in those days so we had to knock on someone’s door and ask if we could use their phone. I was 12 years old at the time and there were about 15 of us between 11 and 13, wet, tired and hungry wanting to get back to camp. Our counselor knocked on the door and I remember a woman opened the door, saw us, and never even thought twice about helping us.
My summers at camp and the times in Idyllwild are etched in my memories forever. Like many who still visit Idyllwild, it all began, for me, with summer camp.