Summer is here and we are all for recapturing the vibe of the season from our childhoods, when school was out, the days were long and sunny, and the nights were perfect for campfires, storytelling, and s’mores.

Of course, not everyone can head out to the nearest idyllic cabin beside a lake, or pack a tent and disappear into the woods. If you’re stuck at your desk, you can still escape, for a quarter-hour or so, into some of our favorite episodes of the award-winning Atlas Obscura Podcast. These classics will whisk you to the Great Outdoors and all its delights and adventures. We’ve even got a cautionary tale about one summer camp that was not what it seemed.

Nightwalking with Bianca Giaever

One of the most magical parts of summer camp is the chance to be outside at night, away from artificial light. The experience of being in a forest or other natural setting after dark can be scary, invigorating, or even profoundly transformative. Just ask Bianca Giaever, the creator of the podcast Constellation Prize. Giaever and other advocates of nightwalking—solo strolls under the stars—say the practice can reveal truths never glimpsed in the light of day.

"Nightwalking" can be an intense, transformative experience at any age.
“Nightwalking” can be an intense, transformative experience at any age. Aaron McCoy via Getty Images

The White Squirrel of Prospect Park

Just because you may be trapped in a city all summer long doesn’t mean you can’t have a memorable wildlife experience. Consider this epic tale, set in Brooklyn, of a man on a mission—in this case, Atlas Obscura’s own Chris Naka—to behold New York’s most mesmerizing rodent (sorry, Pizza Rat).

Looking for Pawpaws

Aside from s’mores, does anyone remember the food at summer camp with fondness? How many hot dogs and sloppy joes can a kid eat? Modern summer camps have improved, with more fresh fruits and veggies, but we humbly suggest that they can be even better. We’d be all in for a camp where you could learn how to forage for native North American fruit. And not just any fruit, but one with an ancient story of sustenance and an obsessive fan base. Join Sporkful’s Dan Pashman in the hunt for the elusive—and scrumptious—pawpaw.

The Westmann Islands off the southern coast of Iceland are home to the world's largest colony of Atlantic puffins.
The Westmann Islands off the southern coast of Iceland are home to the world’s largest colony of Atlantic puffins. Nina Laakso, CC BY-SA 2.0/Flickr

Puffin Patrol

Ok, so maybe you did some neat woodworking at summer camp, or learned how to use a compass—that’s cool, but how about these Icelandic kids who spend their summers rescuing baby birds who stray from the world’s largest puffin colony, located in the Westman Islands?

The Lost Boys of Robber’s Cave

Maybe your summer camp memories are not so sunny—that’s ok. Boys who went to a summer camp in Oklahoma in 1954 would agree that the experience can be memorable for all the wrong reasons. In their case, what they (and their parents) thought was summer camp was actually a very questionable psychological experiment. What should have been a carefree experience turned into a harrowing, violent nightmare for the children. Author Gina Perry shares what she learned about the notorious event when researching her book The Lost Boys: Inside Muzafer Sherif’s Robber’s Cave Experiment.