The Not So Happy Campers

Camp Mystic has been a sparkling oasis for Texas girls to escape the heat. But rising land values, old rivalries, and lawsuits have now hurled the camp’s owners into a family feud. What will become of this summer paradise?

  1. There is a point on the long drive to Hunt from Dallas or Houston or even San Antonio where the cities and suburbs fall away, and the limestone hills dotted with cedar and mountain laurel reveal the emerald-green Guadalupe River. Pass through Kerrville, turn south on Texas Highway 39, and follow the river until you see, on your left, the iron gate with the initials “CM,” the entrance to Camp Mystic. Here, on about 725 acres, the sky is an almost blinding blue, flecked with red-tailed hawks; herons nestle in the cypress trees by the water. Atop Sky High, one of the camp’s highest points, you can see for miles and miles while your horse nibbles the grass. The river on scalding afternoons is warm on top and a cool plunge below. At night it’s chilly enough to need a blanket and bright enough to read by moonlight, and a girl lying in her bunk in Hangover Cabin might see, written on the ceiling above her, the name of her mother or aunt or grandmother.

    Ask almost any woman who has attended Camp Mystic for her memories of summer, and she will respond with, well, mystical joy. For those whose recollections of camp involve bullying and blood-sucking insects, this may be a baffling sentiment. But for the generations of females, aged eight to seventeen, who have crowded the unair-conditioned cabins of the girls-only camp since 1939, Mystic is a haven. There is fried chicken every Sunday. The cabins have names like Wiggle Inn and Chatter Box. The word “Mystic” is emblazoned on Sky High ...