Happiness is right around the corner.
It's an expectation written on the Facebook page of San Jose Family Camp near Yosemite, which was scorched on the edges by fire last summer but will be ready for returning generations of campers when it opens for the season Friday.
In many ways, though, it's only a dream for the neighboring Berkeley Tuolumne Family Camp, whose own Facebook page is now a memorial site.
This summer, Berkeley is moving to temporary quarters high in the Sierra, after its cherished camp near Yosemite was destroyed in August by the same raging Rim Fire that threatened San Jose's camp 7 miles away.
The blaze wiped out the heart of camp, built by the city in 1922, including the dining hall with the stone fireplace and rocking chairs, the amphitheater where "Table Night" talent shows and staff musicals were performed under the stars, and the "Green Chair Circle" of painted Adirondack chairs enjoyed on lazy afternoons close to the river.
"It's like your home burning down," said Scott Gelfand, 55, who hadn't missed a year at Tuolumne Family Camp for 29 years since he worked his first summer there and had been bringing his family ever since. "The memories are so deep and so important and so loving and so family- and community-oriented, I think most people are still in shock."
Until the camp is rebuilt -- a project that could take years and must navigate numerous regulations because it's on U.S. Forest Service land -- the city is inviting campers to a second, smaller youth camp it operates a mile from Echo Lake near Lake Tahoe, calling it Sierra Family Camp. It opens June 21. At higher altitude, it is windier and colder at night and can accommodate only about half the campers, who will have to eat meals in shifts. Hardest of all? It has a swimming pool instead of a river.
Rikki Moreno has mixed feelings. She's been camp nurse for six years and took her two school-age children to Tuolumne Camp for a week every summer. They'll try the new site this year.
"It's like everything's been shaken underneath us. We're super-excited, but it's kind of scary," said Moreno, whose daughters are prime camper ages at 7 and 9. "While my kids know camp is burned, it's going to be a very different experience to show up at camp but have it not be camp."
In the midst of an extreme drought, the threat of fire is severe again this summer. But it's something that, as Moreno puts it, "I just can't ... I can't think about it."
Cal Fire has hired extra firefighters as it braces for the season. As of May 1, the Sierra snowpack was only 18 percent of the historic average. Vegetation is tinder dry and San Jose Family Camp is as ready as it can be.
"There's always a chance for another fire," camp manager Jena Sorrells said in a phone interview from the camp east of Groveland, where crews are preparing for opening day. "We can't sit and worry too much, but we can do a lot of prevention."
In the same meadow where San Jose campers have been gathering for singalongs around a nightly campfire, the trees have been trimmed way back and brush hauled away. It's in this meadow that Cal Fire staged its trucks to battle last summer's blaze. The camp was evacuated before 14 of 60 tent cabins were burned to ashes. All that remained were the charred frames of the metal cots. Unlike the heavily wooded and harder-to-access Berkeley camp, the big open meadow at the San Jose camp was its saving grace. Cal Fire was able to stage its firetrucks and battle the blaze from there.
"If you're standing in the middle of camp, you would have no idea that a fire happened," Sorrells said. "We're so lucky to have what we have. But they've got nothing left."
In an offer of solidarity, San Jose Family Camp is inviting Berkeley campers to stay at its camp for the same discounted rate that San Jose residents enjoy.
But the traditions that make up the soul of each camp are different. And Scott Ferris, Berkeley's head of parks and recreation, says his staff at Echo Lake will "try to recreate the Tuolumne Camp experience as best we can." In late May, a crew of devoted volunteers spent a day making 20 green Adirondack chairs that will be taken to Echo Lake for the summer.
Tears are sure to flow when the displaced Berkeley campers sing the campfire song they've been singing for generations: "There's no place like Camp Tuolumne, there's no spot that I would rather be."
But the show must go on, says Gelfand, who not only has been a Berkeley camper for nearly three decades, but has written and produced the staff musical that's performed each Saturday night.
This year, it will be a parody of "The Wizard of Oz" called "The Wizard of Echo Lake." In it, Dorothy is sad because she doesn't have a camp to go to. She meets up with a dishwasher, a cowardly maintenance guy and a rec leader who sings "If I only had a camp."
They fight the evil camper from the east who takes away their camp spirit, Gelfand said, and find another camp with the same traditions: the circle of green chairs, the theme days and dances, the same campfire song.
It has a happy ending.
"The camp lives inside you and friendships never die," Gelfand said, "even if they get burned down."
Contact Julia Prodis Sulek at 408-278-3409. Follow her at twitter.com/juliasulek
San Jose's Family Camp runs June 13 to Aug. 9. For rates and reservations, go to www.sanjoseca.gov/prns/familycamp or call (408) 794-6208.
Berkeley's Sierra Family Camp runs June 21 to Aug. 4. For more information, go to www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/Parks_Rec_Waterfront/Recreation/Berkeley_Sierra_Family_Camp.aspx or call (510) 981-5150.