July 2007


I’ve officially proved that I can pass for a fifteen-year old. Two separate groups of kids told me they thought I was a camper, not a leader. Mwa ha ha ha!

It went pretty well. I must say, it’s just as awesome to be there as a leader as it is to be there as a camper. Maybe even better since as a leader I didn’t need to wait for anyone else to take me to the flush toilets. (We had a latrine.) icon_biggrin.gif

Camping in tents was new for me; when I was a camper, we always had cabins. I always longed to do it “for real” in tents; now having done both I heartily support cabins! They make set-up much easier for one thing and for another, they make bad weather much more bearable. I like tents just fine; it’s just that I think they’re better for a family outing than for housing 50+ people. Let me tell you, I have an all-new respect for the pioneers who did pretty much the same thing but on the move and for months at a time, not just five days.

We camped at a conservation area near Guelph, Ontario. It had everything! Beautiful trees, a river that ran right smack behind our campsite and a beach! The only swimming I had at camp was this old, scummy man-made pond; by the second year at that site the leaders didn’t even bother with swimming time. Here we had canoing and paddle-boating too. There were islands all over the place, little caves, cliffs and inlets to explore. It was paradise — until the last day, when they closed the beach due to unsafe bacterial levels in the water. They didn’t make a big deal of it or herd people out of the water so it can’t be too bad but still, it’s not very confidence inspiring.

They didn’t do hikes the way I’m used to. Instead of each year going on separate hikes of different durations, everyone went at once and it only lasted a couple of hours. On the one hand, this is much easier on everyone and that was something of a relief. On the other hand, less rigorous seems less character-building or something.

Because of bad weather or delays (herding teenage girls is about as useful as herding ferrets) we had to cut out some games but on Friday we did this awesome Adventure game and I got to play too. I successfully faked my way into a half-hitch knot at the first task. icon_eek.gif That was very cool.

The only fly in the ointment was the “night hike.” I can remember one being planned one year I was at camp myself and the leaders scotched it. I was very disappointed; I thought the idea of hiking at night was awesome. Now I understand why they killed it.

They started off by having one of the priesthood leaders tell a scary story about his first “snipe hunt.” He claimed that it had really happened to him; I thought his acting was far from convincing but some of the other leaders said later — among each other, with no kids around — that he’d frightened them.

Then they had the girls leave their flashlights, gather in groups of three and took them off. I joined up with two of the girls, one of whom was very scared. I’ll call her “J.” They did the usual shtick of having other girls hiding in the underbrush making scary noises and jumping out. Once that was over, the Assistant Director gathered everyone around her. She asked if anyone was scared. J — who had a death grip not only on her friend’s hand but on mine as well — raised her hand. The Assistant Director then proceeded to tell another scary story using J’s name for the protagonist.

I don’t have anything against scary stories at camp. They’re as traditional as marshmallows. I’m not personally into horror but I realize that some people enjoy the scare. However, I really don’t like how this was handled. The night hike was mandatory; they didn’t let any girls stay behind. Then, when they were a captive audience, this creepy story was told. Go ahead and tell scary stories but it’s not fair to force others to listen. If you enjoy them knock yourself out but not everyone can turn their brains off afterward. I feel that, as leaders, it’s our job to make sure this kind of thing doesn’t happen and I’m upset that I was made a part of it.

I told them my feelings on the subject later so hopefully this won’t happen again.

As for the baking contest I mentioned earlier: we won second place! Woot!  Yes, Applesauce Gingerbread rocked the judges socks. We lost to Pineapple Upside-down Cake.  

My Girls’ Camp, ’tis of thee

Sweet tents of liberty, of thee I sing;

All the marshmallows we roasted,

Of hikes past we boasted,

From all girls bonfire toasted, let testimonies ring!

I loved Girls’ Camp. The Young Women’s program was okay, though I could have lived without the make-up sessions, but Girls’ Camp was the best thing since sliced bread. I lived for Girls’ Camp. It was more than the appeal of camp to my tomboy side; Girls’ Camp is where I made some of the most important friendships in my life. Others have commented on how vicious the girls can be to each other and I don’t doubt it but Girls’ Camp was nothing but magic for me.

We’ve all scattered to the winds now; every summer I remember the great times we had together and wonder what everyone’s up to. Out of all of us, there’s only one I’m still in touch with but they’re all written in my heart.

There was that lake, more of a pond really, man-made and green with the forces of nature marshaling to reclaim it. I swallowed some by accident once; I’m still surprised I didn’t come down with typhoid or something. It didn’t matter though, there was a creek running along behind our cabins, beautiful and clear, great for exploring and splashing around in.

There were the music sessions where we twisted and tormented songs until we could hardly breath for laughing, let alone keep singing. “My Camp Tis of Thee” is true to the spirit of those sessions, though not an actual product. No, our songs were “I Walk In Pain,” (a revision of “I Walk In Faith” and an homage to all those hikes) and a mutated version of “They Do Run Run” involving camp life in general. I’m sure there were more but those two are the ones I can still sing. Kind of.

There were the ghost stories, of course. And the Senior’s Prank which had us sneaking from cabin to cabin in the moonlight, throwing open the door, chucking in a bag of candy and dashing off. Oh, and since that year’s theme had something to do with Lamanites/Native Americans, we painted a Cabbage Patch doll with war paint and strung it up the flag pole.

My first year we had to do some kind of skit and I can still remember the song from the Cinderella knock-off that the older girls in my ward did. “Midnight… all alone in the bathroom… there is pee on the floor…” (Put that to the tune of “Midnight” from “Cats” and you’ve got it.) Also, someone decided we had to show off during roll call so when they called our ward’s name we all had to stand up, stick one hand on our hip and the other hand out like a stop sign, and shout “Stop! Annapolis time!”

I lucked out. Seriously. My fourth year I had mono and wasn’t allowed to go on the hike. I managed to talk my mom and the doctor into letting me go to camp anyway; I was only allowed to go for the two or three days at the end, after the Fourth Years had returned from their hike, and only on the condition that I take it easy. Are you kidding me?! I had a doctor-approved excuse to avoid some of the dumber activities and I got to do my fourth year twice! My dearest friend, the one I’m still in contact with, tells me her mom still knows me by the nickname I got that second fourth year when we all got lost doing orienteering.

Mortimer the glow-in-the-dark rat won’t be going with me this year. I have the giant sticks of Pixi-Stix but no idea who I’m going to share them with. I don’t think I’ll need my Super-Soaker either. My giant brown backpack, relic of my brother’s stint in the Boy Scouts won’t be stuffed with gear and strung with whatever else wouldn’t fit inside; I haven’t even seen it in ten years. Instead I’m packed in two old backpacks scavenged from our 72-hour kids. My sleeping bag, so often used as a comforter as much for the weight and warmth as the memories, has gone the way of the brown backpack. In general I’ve had to beg, borrow and jury-rig all the gear that I used to have.

Harder to face than the loss of my gear has been the realization that Camp will, of necessity, not be the same this year. The friendships that made it what it was for me won’t be there. I’m going into this as alone as I’ve ever gone into anything; I don’t know any of the other leaders. I don’t even know the girls. I teach in Primary; I’ve only seen the Young Women (all two of them) in the hallway.

The magic won’t be there for me this year.

This year, I’ll be there to make the magic happen for someone else.

And they’d darn well better appreciated it — I have absolutely NO idea what I’m going to do with the 5 1/2 liters of kidney beans I bought so we could bake in the tin cans.