I spent last week at Camp New Fork, a Boy Scout camp on the edge of the Wind River Range in Wyoming. I lost data coverage on my phone more than a dozen miles away from camp. I lost all coverage about three miles away from camp. All of the other adults with my troop continued to have both voice and data coverage in camp. But my employer-issued phone uses a sub par carrier. The first time I heard another leader's phone ring in camp I realized that being out of my provider's coverage area for a week was going to be a blessing.
Son #3, who has achieved the distinction of being the tallest member of the family (a title I believe he will maintain) participated in the camp's high adventure program. I spent the week shadowing my youngest son as he went to merit badge classes and activities. Despite serving as the troop's assistant senior patrol leader, his particular case of Asperger Syndrome renders it unlikely that he would complete all of the requirements for any badge without occasional one-on-one intervention. I sat around much of the time so that I could provide this assistance when needed.
Sometimes it's easy to know when to jump in. Other times, not so much. As I doggedly followed my son around the field archery range thinking that it should never be so hot in the mountains and cursing myself for leaving my water bottle at the campsite, I slowly learned to just stay in the background without offering any instruction or critique. Just making an occasional positive comment and helping retrieve arrows following each target turned out to be enough. Archery is a challenging merit badge. My son was on cloud nine when he completed the requirements at nearly the last possible minute on Friday afternoon. I remember his oldest brother doing something similar at Camp Aspen Ridge nine years ago.
We were pleasantly surprised at the low number of biting flies, something that is quite unusual for that area this time of year. I used repellent only once and sustained fewer than a dozen bites. But cattle range through the camp. They are mostly benign, except for the piles of excrement they leave behind and their frequent bellowing. Who knew that cows could be so darn loud (especially at night when you're trying to sleep)?
Most days were blazingly sunny and quite warm. Of course, we did get some rain. One evening we experienced a spectacular thunderstorm, complete with blinding lightening and torrents of rain. We stayed dry in our tent. The moisture reduced the dust for a day. Nights were cool and comfortable.
All of our 18 boys had a great time; although, I considered the program somewhat sub par compared to some other camps I have attended. Some of the more experienced staffers were away attending the BSA National Jamboree, leaving the staff short handed. After the Monday evening campfire, son #3, who has served on Camp Loll staff said, "That was no Camp Loll campfire program." How right he was. There were a number of faux pas throughout the week that belied a somewhat loosely run ship.
Still, the overall experience was pretty good. There was a troop in camp from Colorado and another from Reno. Despite the scout camp facilities available in their areas, both considered their Camp New Fork experience superior to their local camps.
I made friends with a strapping man in his 30s who had bold tattoos covering his arm. He offered some obviously expert archery advice to my son. The man is a Green Beret who was taking time away to spend a week at camp with his son. He described how he and his son stayed dry when they were camping at the other end of the lake on the overnight canoe hike when the thunderstorm hit. Scouting allows friendships like this to be built.
Camp New Fork has good quality dirt roads that run to each campsite and program area. The gate is kept closed, so access isn't open. But each troop gets to keep one vehicle parked at their campsite. This is a tremendous logistical benefit for loading, unloading, and storing scented items that are hard to store in the campsite bear box (such as grills greasy from years of scout camps).
When we finally got everything loaded up on Saturday morning, we headed home like horses heading back to the corral after being out on the trail. We made good time too. Until we ended up in a huge line of traffic stalled on I-80 due to a serious crash that killed two people. After waiting in 97° weather on the pavement for over an hour, we were diverted to a detour that consumed an additional hour, getting us home much later than expected. How grateful I was for the DVD system in my SUV that kept boys occupied during the delay.
Another week of scout summer camp is past. I have tried to count up all of the summer weeks I have spent at scout camps over the years. I think it's somewhere in the high 40s or maybe even low 50s. (That would be a year of scout summer camps.)
I am once again home. The gear is cleaned up and stowed. A number of boys have once again spent a week implementing the methods of scouting 24x7, hopefully further developing the character traits that lead to happy and virtuous lives. That, even more than the pleased look on my son's countenance as he told his mother of his triumphs at camp, is why I continue to go to scout camp.