The Return to Scout Camp

Camp Winton

For the second straight year, I returned to Boy Scout camp as an adult leader this past week. I wrote about my experience last year in my hub Going Back to Boy Scout Camp.

This time, I returned to the actual camp I attended as a scout, nearly 40 years ago. Honestly, there isn't much I remembered from that time- my experience was rather neutral. What I do remember was not being able to pass the swim test, doing some kind of craft project, and and I also recall the morning flag ceremony on the rocks by the lake front (see photo at right).

I can tell much is the same, though. In talking with the Camp Director, I learned the Camp was at risk of being shut down by the county before they completed a million-dollar upgrade to the kitchen, added water lines, and expanded the lodge. As I told him in response, I suppose that's the value of having the camp around to so long - at least one of the boys who attended as a youth now had the means the donate enough to keep the place afloat!

The seasoned scout

My son was a bit more seasoned this year, so we strategized in advance how he could take four classes in Eagle-required merit badges: Environmental Science, Emergency Preparedness, Camping and Communications. He tells me he would like to earn the Eagle rank, which is a wonderful life accomplishment, so I just serve as a gentle motivator and mentor to him - he does all the work!

I have to tell you, both a scout and an adult leader need a resilient spirit to participate in these programs, and for we adults, a good set of earplugs! The staff are, let's just say, very spirited - yelling, singing, doing skits, and belting out the lyrics to the theme to Spongebob Square pants, Gilligan's Island, or whatever song or limerick came to mind, at the top of their lungs before every meal. I joked with one of the other parents that after a few days I began developing a Pavlovian response, where whenever I heard yelling, I'd start to salivate, knowing food was on its way!

My son is a goofball at home, though put him with a bunch of crazies, he normalizes pretty quickly and is actually quite a good student, focused on completing his requirements.
But don't get me wrong: goofball first, student second!

Bad boys

Okay, so I have to admit I'm not much of a rule-follower by nature. If the rules are convenient, sure, but ...

Every day, when the boys went to classes, I did some trail running on my own, increasing my mileage every day. On the third day, I pushed myself a little longer, then decided to see if I could run around the whole lake. I never mapped it out. Never researched whether it was possible...or advisable. My goal was to make it back by lunch. Two hours into my run/walk about 11:00, I stood across the lake from Camp, having run and walked around half of the lake, past a resort, down remote service roads with sticks in hand, lest I need to "look big" for a bear or mountain lion. At that moment, staring across the lake, I realized I wasn't going to make it back for lunch, and that this trek might take awhile. I definitely didn't want to be rescued - what kind of example would that have set? Plus, I have testosterone. Nuff said.

I also began to realize there were no more roads or trails around the rest of the lake. Only huge slabs of granite, trees, cliffs and shrubbery. Since I don't normally drink unfiltered Sierra water due to the potential of giardia or other nasty bacteria, I was dehydrated, scratched up and exhausted when I discreetly walked into camp four hours after I started - no one the wiser, and my ego intact.

After I'd downed a couple of liters of water, my son wanted to go boating during free time, so we went down to the waterfront, checked out a canoe and paddled to the far side of the lake, knowing we had to be back by 5. At the far side, we docked, got out and went into the water for a bit, before getting back into the boat and paddling back to Camp. As we crossed the lake, we were greeted by a speedboat with three Camp staffers who said an APB had gone out on us because we were reported missing. Apparently, we weren't supposed to go outside the buoys, which seems a little silly to me - kind of like saying here's a sailboat, but you have to keep it in the bathtub...

The obviously very frazzled staff member lectured us about orientation and whether we'd listened when they said we weren't supposed to go beyond the buoys. "Evidently not," I responded. I thought free boating meant you just had to be back in time. I did feel like I owed it to the poor guy to at least pretend to be contrite, since we were oblivious in not following the rules, which were supposedly about safety, but seemed pretty obvious to me to be more about their legal liability.

So on our way back to camp, everyone teased us "bad boys". I thought it was funny (or karma) that I escaped notice for my first adventure, but got caught on my second!

Controversy

I have to take a pause moment to address an issue that has recently hit the news.

One observation I have about the Boy Scouts is that it became fairly clear while there that they've become a liability-avoiding machine. They pass out a huge tome of rules, and spend most of the first day repeating the myriad of "don't's" to the boys and leaders, which is fine. The problem is when the fear of legal liability exceeds common sense.

Which brings me to the troubling issue of them denying homosexuals from any type of leadership role in Boy Scouts. It is a bit astounding to me that an organization of this size and standing still does not understand the difference between a homosexual and a pedophile. All leaders must attend Youth Protection Training, which includes a large number of specific rules requiring "two deep leadership", to preclude any circumstance with an adult and a child theirs from being alone together at any time. These are good protections for anyone having their child in the care of any organized group, and I fully support those rules.

But to deny outstanding fathers and even former Eagle Scouts the ability to participate if they are "avowed" homosexuals is shameful on scouting as an organization. Locally, people in scouts are reasonable and politically neutral. On a national level, they need to realize they are killing a wonderful concept that must adapt to the times or perish. Prohibiting homosexuals does not make me feel safer; it makes me feel less safe, because there is an inherent trust violated when the people making the rules are obviously more interested in politics than logic, compassion and common sense.

Scout spirit

I don't let such things detract from the value the program brings to my son, and to so many youth, who simply don't learn self-reliance from many sources any more. While at camp, the boys conducted several service projects, such as building and repairing plywood platforms and improving trails. They learn wonderful life skills, and almost all adult leaders and scouts truly cherish the experience of exploration, adventure, learning and community.

On one of the many wonderful evening campfires, Camp Winton staff put on a nighttime ceremony honoring native Americans through a campy and clandestine ritual where the boys were given blindfolds and led to a lakeside fire while being reminded to be trustworthy, kind, courteous, clean, brave, reverent, etc. The massive fire and ceremony were visually impressive.

I sincerely hope the Boy Scouts will continue to survive and thrive as an organization in a spirit of inclusion. There's an element of it that is timeless and always relevant that sustains a compelling need. I'm happy for the opportunity to have my son attend and learn in this important venue, which I hope can nurture his spirit, heighten his sense of self-reliance, and help him and others to become the kind of leaders, fathers and men this world truly needs.

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Comments 11 comments

klarawieck 4 years ago

I can't imagine what getting in trouble with dad must be like. That's something that your son will cherish forever.

I agree that the thought of them banning homosexual leaders is absolutely primitive and plain absurd. It will be corrected soon, I'm sure.

This is a great opening hub but I'm still wanting to hear more about the activities you did. I know very little of the scouts program and I'm sure many people are unfamiliar with it as well.

Welcome back! We missed you! :)


Jackwms profile image

Jackwms 4 years ago

In my opinion, this is probably one of the best hubs you have written. The writing is outstanding, the way you build thoughts and analogies, create pictures and scenarios in the readers minds, and make one want to read more. I'm glad you brought up the subject of homosexuality as I have seen that as a major negative in the program. But, I'm with you on that one. I think it can be best changed from within, not by attacks from the outside.

As you know, I spent about 20 years in the scouting program, much of that as a leader (Cubs, Boy Scouts, hike leader, etc). I also spent part of a week as an adult leader at Camp Winton some 44 years ago.

Anyway, just a great hub.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I love that you two were the first to comment!

Klara - I can certainly elaborate more; I was actually trying to keep it tight and go on too much about the controversial issue. Like most people, my first reaction to something is more visceral - I get irritated. Then, I reflect and think about how it must feel on the other side of the fence and try to develop some level of compassion with that level of understanding. It's fear-based, like so many things. But beyond that, I just wanted to write about spending a week with my son at Scout Camp. It really is a great American treasure that has spread throughout the world and just needs a little adjustment to keep it going.

What was especially cool for me was just being able to have time to think and write and read, which is such a rare treasure for me! Perhaps some more experiences will wring themselves from my mind onto HP; who knows?

Dad, thank you. I think what you're noticing too is that I've usually tried to stay clear of controversy on my HP writing, because I didn't want to get into issues of divisiveness and ego, but instead let it be a forum for creativity. But this is such an elephant in the room, particularly in light of the issue that apparently took place the week before we attended camp. They're not "fixing" things by firing the former NINE-YEAR Senior Staffer at Camp Winton who was fired for obviously nebulous reasons. If I would have known about it while there, I would have had no problem sharing my perspective with the Camp Director, who is a fairly affable man, and is probably just following orders.

But again, this is about my son, about giving him opportunities to learn, grow, and become a mature, well-rounded person. I feel privileged to be able to be there with him.

Thank you both for your unwavering support!

G


shiningirisheyes profile image

shiningirisheyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

Great article. I thought you were going to need rescuing from the other side of the lake! I chuckled a bit when you "got in trouble". Bad bad scout..shame on you!

I too am sadden by the Scouts take on homosexuals and can only hope for the day whent his way of thinking changes.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I did too - here I thought I was getting away with it when I made it back to camp, but evidently karma caught up with me! Too funny, now in retrospect. Thanks, my friend!


Jackwms profile image

Jackwms 4 years ago

I lost my water privilges for a couple of days at Camp Harvey West, back in 1949, because I didn't take down my buddy tag after cannoeing.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

Shame on you! ;-) I think if I was a kid, the staffer would have taken both of ours, but I probably intimidated him. Either that, or I was just incredibly charming ...


arb profile image

arb 4 years ago from oregon

Thanks for writing greg. This brought back a lot of boyhood memories. I wasn't one to break rules until my college days and then I went into overdrive. I loved capture the flag at night with a full moon. Nothing like being straightened out by the rules police in front of your son.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I know - it was funny, though. My son and I are very close, so it gave us something to laugh about. There's so much value to getting young people outdoors, into the wilderness, learning new skills and building memories. Doesn't hurt too much for us of the next generation to do so as well! ;-)

Thanks Alan ~

G


BeyondMax profile image

BeyondMax 4 years ago from Sydney, Australia

That's what I call fate LOL You can run but you can't hide =) What a wonderful hub! I love to read stories about happy relationships between parents and their kids (unfortunately for me - I never had any of that, so I learn about it from others).

This is quite sad truth that people are so judgmental in this time and day, mixing the unrelated subjects. It only shows that management is lacking in education and common sense. They only achieve the opposite, planting hatred and fear in young minds... So sad.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 4 years ago from California Author

I'm sorry to hear that, Max - I hear it far too often about family relationships. It definitely takes work, and a thick skin to parent well!

Thank you for your positive comments -

Greg

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