The Camp Stevens mission is to inspire, challenge, and empower personal, social, and environmental transformation.
Rooted in the Episcopal Church and our natural world, Camp Stevens’s core values are:
- Openness: We celebrate diversity and welcome all to our table to listen to and learn from one another.
- Gratitude: We believe that gratitude toward one another, the natural world, and God is the foundation upon which humans build a healthier, more sustainable, and loving world.
- Connection: We challenge all who experience this peaceful place apart to reconnect with themselves and connect meaningfully with one another, the natural world, and the Divine.
- Wonder: We believe that a sense of wonder transforms adults and children alike, renewing joy, excitement, and mystery in the world we live in.
Supported and propelled by the mission and magic of this place, the Camp Stevens staff lead programs, wash dishes, plant seeds, raise money, repair waterlines, plan retreats, and everything in between. (Want to join them? Check out our job openings.)
My favorite place at camp is in the chicken coop collecting eggs or anywhere I can see the sunrise.
My favorite place at camp is The Kitchen Garden Cob Shed (aka: the den of wonder).
Farm & Garden Director
My favorite place at camp is listening to owl sounds from the ravine behind my house.
My favorite place at camp is the Wolterstorff Lodge deck.
My favorite place at camp is the pine grove west of upper meadow.
Food Service Director
My favorite place at camp is the bench on the side of the shed in the Kitchen Garden.
My favorite place at camp is the kitchen!
|Ian “Gator” Barreto
My favorite place at camp is wherever there is a group of people sitting around a campfire together!
Farm & Garden Manager
My favorite place at camp is the tent deck below the Phoenix Garden.
My favorite place at camp is the Phoenix Garden.
Retreat Center Manager
My favorite place at camp is Upper Meadow at sunset.
My favorite place at camp is 33.087128,-116.601087.
My favorite place at camp is the Upper Meadow rocks – I pretend it’s Pride Rock and belt “The Lion King”.
My favorite place at camp is Cow Pond.
My favorite place at camp is the Phoenix Garden.
My favorite place at camp is the crossover at the fence on the hike to the farm.
My favorite place at camp is the run to Upper Meadow during sunset (“The Golden Hour”).
My favorite place at camp is the amphitheater in the summer during a repeat after me song (specifically the last verse of “The Jellyfish”).
My favorite place at camp is my room in St. Matthew’s. When I lie in bed & look out the window, it’s like living in a tree house.
Camp Stevens began in the 1930s, when the Right Reverend William Bertrand Stevens, second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles, began taking groups of young people camping in the San Bernardino Mountains for a week or two each summer.
In the mid-1940s, a group of clergy and lay people from the San Diego area (then a part of the Diocese of Los Angeles) rented a camp near Descanso in the Cleveland National Forest and began a second program, called Camp St. Aidan. In 1950, a committee, under the leadership of the Rev. Jack Lax and the Rev. C. Boone Sadler, Jr., purchased the buildings they had been renting. Just after that summer camp season, a disastrous forest fire leveled the campsite. Undaunted, the group searched for another site and found a 66-acre property for sale near Julian for $20,000. They raised enough money for a down payment, bought the property, and re-established Camp St. Aidan in 1952. The property, as purchased, consisted of a small ranch house, workshop, tool shed, and four small cottages.
At the same time, the Diocese of Los Angeles, now under the leadership of Bishop Francis Eric Bloy, completed a capital fund drive that included $175,000 to develop a diocesan camp. In 1953, the San Diego Camping Committee agreed to transfer the Julian property to the diocese. Now one entity – location and program — Camp Stevens moved to its permanent home in the summer of 1954, and soon an outdoor chapel, pool, summer camp cabins, and a director’s house were constructed.
In 1957, Nat “King” Cole, the popular jazz musician and an Episcopalian, offered his rare talent to aid the youth of the Diocese of Los Angeles. The sold out concert he performed at the Shrine Auditorium provided most of the funds needed to construct the Dining Hall and kitchen. The Dining Hall was completed in 1961, along with St. Aidan’s (later renamed Lax-Sadler Lodge), a summer camp infirmary that doubled as a lodge for weekend retreats in the fall, winter, and spring, and St. Mary’s Cabin, an additional small dorm cabin near the Dining Hall.
The Episcopal Diocese of San Diego was established from the Diocese of Los Angeles in 1974.
Demand for weekend retreats at Camp Stevens increased through the 1970s and early ‘80s, and led to the development of a new master plan and the construction of Blum Lodge. Named for the Rev. Edward Blum, first resident director of Camp Stevens, the lodge was completed in 1987 with two meeting rooms and lodging for 48.
The Bishop’s Lodge, with a meeting room and lodging for 24 persons, was completed in 1992 and was named in honor of the Right Reverend Robert M. Wolterstorff, first bishop of the Diocese of San Diego.
Beginning in the 1980s, Camp Stevens’ year-round programs expanded to include environmental education for school groups, ropes/challenge course teambuilding programs, family programs, organic gardening workshops, adult retreats, and off-site wilderness programs in the high Sierra Nevada Mountains, Baja California and the Galapagos Islands.
Alarmed by the increasing encroachment of development around the Julian area, with the leadership of then Executive Director Peter Bergstrom, the Camp Stevens Board developed a plan to purchase adjacent properties as they became available. By 2002, six adjacent parcels (200 acres) had been purchased, protecting Camp Stevens as a peaceful place apart, and new areas for hiking, exploration, and adventure.
On September 15, 2007, a campfire started by trespassers in a remote section of the property spread into a forest fire and seriously damaged Camp Stevens.
70 acres of forest were severely burned and twelve buildings were destroyed, including our chapel, four guest lodges, six summer camp cabins, one summer camp bathhouse, and four other buildings. Fortunately, the central campus, including the Dining Hall and Blum Lodge, sustained only minor damage, and, with the assistance of three temporary yurt cabins, Camp Stevens continued to operate while rebuilding. Rebuilding was also an opportunity to focus on sustainability in our facilities, including incorporating solar power, recycled carpet, and on-demand water heaters. The outdoor Chapel of the Transfiguration, designed by James Hubbell, was dedicated in 2011 on the same site as the chapel that burned down, The new Bishop Wolterstorff Lodge opened in 2009, and Lax-Sadler Lodge in 2010. The Bergstrom Lodge opened in 2018.
In 2012, long-time Executive Director, Canon Peter Bergstrom retired, having helped establish Camp Stevens as a year-round destination for retreats, as well as a thought leader in community- and adventure-based programming. In fall of 2016, John Horton retired as Administration Director after 40 years at Camp Stevens, having established our ropes course and backpacking programs, and led the fire recovery effort.
Farm and Gardens
Camp Stevens organic garden began as a small herb garden behind the Dining Hall, and, beginning in 2000, has grown into three year-round production sites with three acres under cultivation.
Our farm and gardens are intentionally designed to provide spaces for reflection, inspiration, and learning as well as physical nourishment for our guests, campers, and resident staff.
- The Kitchen Garden continues to produce fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers for our chef right out the back door of the camp kitchen. A few steps away, in our orchard, apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries, pluots, persimmons, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and much more are cycling through their various, seasonal stages and producing an abundance of healthy snacks for children and guests, as well as year-round habitat for a huge variety of micro-organisms, insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals.
- In 2007, on a sunny, warm, south-facing slope to the north of our main garden and camp center, we broke ground on a new one-acre site called the Phoenix Garden. The terraced fields of this warm garden provide excellent growing conditions for the year-round production of seasonal vegetables, which are alley cropped between perennial stands of grapes, apricots, figs, lavender, insectary plants, dynamic accumulator plants, and native/habitat plants.
- We lease another acre of land about a mile down the road or via hiking trails from Camp Stevens. Volcan View Farm houses a mobile greenhouse, as well as greens, carrots, onions, raspberries, strawberries, and corn.
- The Episcopal Dioceses of Los Angeles & San Diego: Camp Stevens, at its current location, was founded in 1952 by two priests living in the San Diego area of the then Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. Still owned by the Los Angeles diocese, Camp Stevens is now geographically in the Diocese of San Diego (which extends to Yuma, Arizona) and serves both dioceses and the entire region of Southern California and beyond. The Diocese of San Diego was created separately from Los Angeles in 1974. The Bishop Diocesan of Los Angeles is directly responsible for the camp and the Advisory Board by-laws require seats for clergy and laity of both Dioceses, as well as for those outside the church.
- Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers: Camp Stevens is a member of the nationwide network of 100+ summer camps, retreat centers, and conference centers affiliated with the Episcopal Church.
- American Camp Association: Camp Stevens is accredited by the American Camp Association, which assures our programs, facilities, and policies meet a national standard for quality, health, and safety.
- San Diego State University: Camp Stevens operates two challenge courses, built and managed in partnership with SDSU’s Aztec Adventures.
- Volcan Mountain Foundation: From many spots at Camp Stevens, you can see Volcan Mountain, a 5,000 foot mountain that is one of the last privately-owned and relatively untouched areas of Southern California. Campers and guests have the chance to hike this beautiful piece of land, which offers views extending over the Anza-Borrego Desert and out to the Pacific Ocean sixty miles away.