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Always welcome at St. Dorothy's Rest

  • The chapel at Dorothy's Rest in Camp Meeker is nestled among the redwoods. The camp, founded in 1901, is the oldest in California. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG / The Press Democrat)

St. Dorothy's Rest in Camp Meeker, the oldest continuously operated camp in California, traces its history back 113 years yet has managed to remain one of the best-kept secrets of Sonoma County.

Perched high above Bohemian Highway, the historic camp and retreat center can only be accessed through a series of narrow lanes. They twist and turn for nearly a mile before arriving at a cluster of quaint, arts-and-crafts structures surrounded by swimming pool, basketball court and outdoor amphitheater ringed by redwoods.

“It's tucked away,” said Executive Director Katie Evenbeck, who has overseen St. Dorothy's for the past 10 years. “Once you enter through the gate, the air is different... There's a timelessness about it.”

Under the auspices of the Episcopal Diocese of California since 1966, the intimate camp welcomes youth of all denominations through the Lynchgate, a wooden gateway traditionally found at the entrance to an English churchyard. The campers, ages 5 to 18, enjoy hiking and swimming, community service and canoeing.

“We're very welcoming,” Evenbeck said.

“The kids are Catholic, Episcopal, Muslim and Buddhist. I think that makes it a very rich experience.”

Founded in 1901 with a 1-acre gift from lumber baron Melvin Meeker, the camp was the brainchild of Nellie Lincoln and her husband, the Rev. James Lincoln.

The couple dedicated the camp to the memory of their 8-year-old daughter Dorothy, who died of meningitis in 1900.

At first, St. Dorothy's Rest served as a summer home for chronically ill children who could benefit from the outdoor sleeping porches, healthy diet and the fresh air circulating in the rolling hills between Occidental and Monte Rio.

“The Lincolns were adamant about the healing that only occurs in nature,” Evenbeck said. “That's what our guests experience ... being in a loving, healing community.”

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