Camp Trinity on the Bar 717 Ranch was founded in 1930, when Grover and Erma Gates first welcomed campers into their pioneer ranch family.
Since then thousands of campers have spent a portion of their summers living, working, and playing as part of a large ranch family in the mountains of Trinity County. This family model continues to provide a framework of cooperative practices and wholesome traditions around which Camp’s programs and philosophies are shaped. Still owned and run by the Gates family, Camp Trinity is the oldest accredited coeducational summer camp in California, welcoming children and staff from across the state, the country, and the world.
The Bar 717 Ranch was originally three separate homesteads. The first, known as the Old Gates Place (Emily’s today) was homesteaded by Moses Williams in 1884. In 1906, William Shules homesteaded the property where ‘main camp’ would later be. Finally, in 1919. Robert McKay, homesteaded what today would be the Bar 7.
In 1901, Grover’s parents, Alfred and Delia Gates purchased the Williams homestead and came to live there the following year with their children, Raymond, Calvin, Grover, Dewy, and Beryl. Within a few years two more children, a daughter, Nina, and son James would be born.
Grover spent his childhood days on the family’s homestead, farming, raising and tending animals, and living a wilderness life. School was nearly a 7-mile walk down mountain trails and across two creeks. Some winters the Gates children would board with a family in Hyampom in order to be able to continue to attend school when the weather turned bad.
After graduating in 1917 from Willamette College in Oregon, Grover returned to California to teach PE and history at Paso Robles High. It was there that he met another teacher, Erma Leedy, and in 1928 they were married. Erma was born and raised in Ohio where her family had been farming for many generations in Knox County. She too, had come to Paso Robles to teach after graduating from the University of the Pacific.
During the late 1920s, Grover purchased the adjacent homesteads and assembled them into what he would then call the Bar 717 Ranch. Grover derived the ‘717’ from his initials, Grover Allen Gates, with G being the 7th letter in the alphabet, A the 1st. ‘Bar’ comes from the common symbol found on many cattle brands.
In the summer of 1929, Grover and Erma invited the first ‘camper’, Erma’s teenaged nephew Bob Haynor, to join them at the Ranch. In 1930, several other boys joined the group, and the tradition of Camp Trinity began. From the start, the program was ‘’life on a ranch’: living and working as a family to improve the land and the lives of the people who were there. Campers and staff helped with all the ranch work, building; places to sleep, cook, and eat, putting together fences, barns, and water systems. While there was a lot to do, early camp life wasn’t all work. Campers swam in the river, fished, rode horses, took pack trips, danced, put on skits, and sang around the campfire.
Campers and staff at Camp Trinity have always lived and worked as a large pioneer ranch family. This model provided the framework around which the practices and traditions grew that would shape the program and philosophy of Camp Trinity.
Still owned and operated by the Gates family, Camp Trinity today is the oldest accredited co-educational summer camp in California. For more then 80 years, we’ve been setting the highest standards in camping. Camp Trinity welcomes children and staff from all over California, the nation, and the world.