Camp St. Albans Camporee 2012
2012 Camporee Patch
My trip to Camp Saint Albans with five little junior Girl Scouts. Why would I take on such an endeavor? Because it makes me happy to see those girls smile and I really just like any excuse to go tromping around in the woods. We atteneded the girl scout encamporee with 150 other girls and their leaders. It was a Sunny weekend in September. The weather had actually been so dry that there was a burn ban on and we were not able to have a real campfire "gasp" no smores for us.
Welcome to Camp Saint Albans
I packed up the minivan and loaded all the gear. Map, water bottle, Girl Scout Song CD check. This will be my first camping trip without my husband. For the all of the girls except my daughter it will be their first camping trip without their mothers. The camp is about an hour long drive from my home. Far enough away to feel like we actually went somewhere, but not too long of a drive for the girls. Just the day before we had received notice that due to the forest fires nearby the freeway leading up to the camp had been closed. So we were sent instructions for an alternative route. We were fortunate though because the freeway had opened back up to traffic the day we left for our trip. On the way up there we saw the big black burned patches of land were the fires had been burning just days before all the way right up to the road. I have to confess that I had packed all of the necessary ingredients for s'more just in case someone made a little campfire anyway but seeing those bare black patches of earth made me hope that nobody would. The girls were blissfully oblivious to my burn ban concerns. We made a deal that we would listen to the Girl Scout Song CD for the first half of the trip and my daughter's new One Direction CD for the second half. Where would ten year old girls be without the latest boy band, but can't really show up to camp not knowing any Girl Scout songs right?
Fire trail road
We have arrived
After an hour in the car we have finally arrived. We are greeted by a nice woman with a clipboard who directs us to the parking lot, gives us our official cabin assignment and our itinerary for the weekend. A friendly bearded ranger loads our gear up in the back of his truck and carts it off to our cabin. We follow the signs to our cabin which is about a half a mile away from the parking lot. The girls look at our assigned open air cabin with great skepticism. "Where are we really going to sleep at night, not there right?" "There is no door, what if a bear gets us?" I remind them that we will be sleeping in an open air cabin. "Remember girls, I showed you pictures and we talked about this." The girls are a little apprehensive about our half cabin. I make a joke about the bears only eating the sweet little girls so they will be safe. They don't really think I'm that funny. But we don't have time to obsess about being eaten by the local wildlife for too long. We drop our gear and have to race back to main camp for our fire circle.
Evening Around the Campfire?
We gather around the fire pit which has been decorated with orange cellophane and dollar store battery operated candles to simulate a fire. Genius! Have they had to do this before? It is very dark now but the glow of the candles from a distance looks remarkably like the low burning embers of a camp fire at the end of the night. We sing campfire songs until 9:30. Holy smokes who even knew there were so many campfire songs in existence. The girls are already starting to fall asleep around the campfire. "How are we getting back to our cabin" they ask. " We are walking" I reply. "In the dark?" "Yep" So we start trekking back to camp through the pitch black woods along the lakefront trail a half a mile from the main camp. Two of the girls forgot to put their flashlights in their day-packs so they grab on to a buddy who has one. Like something out of a movie an owl hoots loudly at us all along the way. The first flare ups of homesickness now occur. " I can't do this" and "I want my mommy" I feel sorry for the girls who are scared. My daughter of course thinks it is kind of funny, but is a good sport and says encouraging things like "it will be ok" and we will be back to camp soon". I tell the girls what a beautiful night it really is. "Can you imagine what this would be like if it were raining out here?" "Wow that is a real owl hooting can you believe it! "It is so peaceful out here, I just love the woods at night." The girls start to relax a little. I really do love walking through the woods at night and I don't get the opportunity very often. My daughter remembers that the ranger told us to sing songs loudly to scare off any critters while walking through the woods at night and the girls burst into the theme song for the Smurfs. They happily sing it all the way back to camp knowing that I think this is the most annoying song ever makes it even more hilarious. When we finally get back to camp the girls are so happy to see their sleeping bags that there are no complaints about the open airiness of our sleeping quarters. The girls have been assigned a teenage camp counselor to sleep in their unit and help out with our activities the following day. I am happy to retire to the adult leaders cabin so that I have a better chance of actually getting some sleep. The girls are just a few yards away and their giggles and shrieks let me know that they are OK. I spritzed on my bug spray and happily fell asleep.
Good Morning Sunshine!
I wake up feeling great. I don't remember the last time I slept so well. The sun is just starting to rise, and through the woods I can see just how beautiful the lake is this fine morning. I contemplate getting up and going for a walk before everyone else wakes up but decide that my nice warm sleeping bag is just too wonderful to leave just yet. So I lay there for a little while longer.
Trip to the biffy
The girls awaken with shrieks and giggles. They take their turns going into the biffy. Biffy stands for bathroom in the forest for you. No one wants to but everyone has to. There are flush toilets at the main camp a half mile away. The biffys are like honey buckets but have some sort of biodegradable bacteria in them so they don't have to be cleaned out a very nice idea but very smelly. They are dark inside so you have to bring your flashlight in. This is one of those times a headlamp would be preferable to a handheld flashlight.
There is an itinerary to follow for the day and we must hurry to the main camp to be in time for breakfast. We all get dressed and hit the trail. When we arrive at the main camp everyone has gathered around the fire ring for more songs before breakfast. Then we are dismissed to the dining hall. The Hall of Nations dining hall is a huge open dining hall with picnic tables, and flags from nations all over the world decorating the walls. We are served a breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage. There is coffee for the leaders which is surprisingly good. The girls loved breakfast.
Snap circuit set
Fun with electronics
The first activity that the girls have been assigned is electronics. One of the fathers works at Intel and he is leading the class. He does a little slide show for the girls on electronics and then shows them how to asesemble a complete electrical circuit and the principles behind it. We have a snap circuit set at home. Snap Circuits comes with over 30 pieces to create 101 different electronic projects. The pieces, which include snap wires, slide switches, an alarm circuit, a music integrated circuit, and a speaker, snap together easily on the included plastic grid--no soldering required. Each piece is numbered and color-coded to make identifying them easy. These components combine to create working circuit boards just like the ones found inside televisions, radios, and other electronic devices. This is a great way to teach the girls about electronics. The pieces are colorful and easy for them to snap together and take apart again.
Next on our itinerary is making pocket purses. The pocket purses were made using the back pocket from an old pair of jeans. The girls were able to choose a ribbon for the handle and sew it on. There were plenty of older Girl Scouts to assist the younger girls with this project which was a very good thing because they needed a lot of help with the needle and thread.
Follow these instuctions to make your own pocket purse
- Denim Pocket Purse
Recycle old jeans into a hip over-the-shoulder bag
Our next project was leather stamping. A nice man from the Tandy leather company showed the girls how to make leather stamped medalion neclaces. They each got a round leather medalion to decorate. First they got it wet, then stamped it with letters and shapes.
Hall of Nations
Tacos for lunch
After all of these fun projects the girls were ready for lunch. We ate in the Hall of Nations. No one complained about the menu. Tacos were served. The girls proudly boasted to each other the number of tacos that they were each able to wolf down.
After lunch we were off to the dragon boats. The girls all lined up at the boathouse and were fitted with life jackets. Then we walked down the dock to our assigned dragon boat. The girl on the dock asked me if I had ever been at the head of a rowboat before. I replied that I hadn't. She gave me instructions on how to steer the boat with the oars ect. So with a big shove were off to the middle of the lake. The girls skill with the oars varied so it was difficult to really get into any organized rowing. We mostly just went around in big circles in the middle of the lake for about a half an hour. The boathouse rang the big bell and it was time to go back to shore. Somehow we were able to coordinate well enough to get back to the dock. Whew we made it back in one piece. The dragon boats were beautiful and it was quite an experience but I think I would ask that someone else steer the boat next time.
As we were eating lunch one of the other leaders asked me what lashing was. I had never heard of it but it was on our schedule so we were going to find out. Lashing is an arrangement of rope used to secure two or more items together in a somewhat rigid manner. Lashings are most commonly applied to timber poles. We made small square picture frames. With twine and sticks.
Near the area where we learned lashing there were several little knome homes tucked into the forest. I am not sure if there is a story behind these. They sure were cute and the girls were delighted to find them.
Winding down for the day
After lashing we walked back to camp for a quiet rest for about an hour. Then back to camp again for a spaghetti dinner. Then we had another round of campfire songs and skits each troop would go up and do a skit or a song for everyone. After the flag ceremony we all walked down to the edge of the lake to release wish boats onto the lake.
Wish boats ahoy!
A wish boat is made of a large piece of bark. The girls all write a wish on a piece of paper and put it on the troops wish boat, they also decorate the boat with leaves or small pine cones ect. Each of the campers writes their wishes on a piece of birch bark and places them on the Wish Boat. As night falls one camper from each cabin is selected to carry a lantern down from the talent show. This lantern carries the flame from the opening campfire and is used to light a small candle on each cabin’s Wish Boat. The Wish Boats are released onto the lake as the children sing camp songs. As the candles burn down, the boats catch fire
After the wish boat ceremony we were all exhausted from the days activities. We dropped into our beds and fell right asleep.
Pack it up and move it out
The next day we swept out our cabins, cleaned up our camp area, and loaded up the good old green mini van and headed home after breakfast. We all had a great time but were happy to be going to home sweet home.
Things I learned from this trip
1. Must wear closed toed shoes for the rocky trails.
2. Make sure everyone has their own flashlight next year because no little girl likes to be in the woods at night without her own flashlight.
3. Encourage head lamp vs. handheld flashlights. Being hands free is great because we are often hauling around our daypacks.
4. Bring an extra sleeping bag. You don't want to be caught out in the wilderness if a sleeping bag gets wet or dirty for any reason. We had an incident and one of the other leaders was kind enough to lend me an extra bag.
5. Bug spray is a necessity.
6. Take advantage of the flushie toilets whenever passing through the main camp because nobody really likes to use the biffies.
7. Count children and bags at the beginning and end of the trip. One of the other adults advised me to periodically count heads and our count was always correct but we departed from camp missing one large important bag which thankfully someone was kind enough to bring back to town for me. She said there was a huge lost and found pile left behind.
More information on Camp Saint Albans
Links for campers!
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- Camping Tips For Girl Scout Trips
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- Camping and Hiking Activities and Games for Kids
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- How To Have Fun Camping With Kids
Camping with kids can be a lot of fun for the entire family, but only if the needs of the children are kept in mind. Some suggestions to make the trip a good one for all.
About the author
My name is Karen Shiley. I live in the beautiful evergreen Washington state. I have an adventurous spirit and love to share what I learn with everyone. I like science, gardening, cooking, reading, daytrips and above all else my amazing family who supply me with endless amusment and happiness.
This article was originally published by me on 12/3/12
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