Last weekend I got to do something I had not done for a long time.
Go to camp!
The local YMCA Adventure Guides organized a weekend camping trip up to a place called Camp Whittle outside of Big Bear Lake, CA. So Joyce and I packed up the kids (actually, Joyce did most of the packing), dropped Mookie off at the kennel, and drove the 3 hours to the camp site on Friday afternoon. I expected a very rustic non-heated cabin with outdoor “facilities”, but it turns out they had remodeled and the cabins were more like small cottages with central heat and indoor plumbing. Things were looking good already
At 5:30 AM on Saturday morning I was awakened by the voices of several 6-8 year olds.
“I saw my dad’s private parts”.
“I saw my mom’s”.
“I saw my sister’s”.
OK…time to get up. We had split into boys and girls groups, so I got to spend time with our 4-year old son Nate while Joyce got Kiara, our 6-year old first grader. There were planned activities, but campers were also free to do anything they wanted. Here’s just a little bit of what we did all in one day…
petting zoo … breakfast … archery … arts and crafts … foosball … ping-pong … basketball … lunch … built a dam on a muddy stream out of branches … hay ride … climbing wall … baseball … football … dinner … skits … pudding
Phew!!! By this time it was 8:30 and we were all very tired, so we started heading back to our cabins to collapse.
About 30 screaming kids and their exhausted parents gathered in the open area between the cabins while one of the Adventure Guide leaders described the lore and rules of the snipe hunt.
“You gotta be real quiet … the snipe like to hide in the bushes … when you see one, yell out and everyone shine your light on him … look for a small yellow and purple furry animal about the size of a small dog … there are two types, the long-tailed snipe and the short-tailed snipe … we almost caught one last year, but it got away”.
Armed with flashlights, we trekked out into the woods in search of the elusive snipe. “There’s one”, shouted one of the parents, pointing furiously towards a bush. The kids swarmed to the bush like bees on a hive, shining their flashlights as they tripped along. “Darn, he got away”.
“I got one here”, yelled a father. Again, the kids swarmed over to catch the snipe, but he got away again.
This frenzy continued for about half an hour (and we didn’t even lose a single child in the pitch black). Several of the campers saw the snipe and even touched it as it ran by, including Kiara and her new friend CJ. We came teasingly close, but we never did catch the snipe. “I’ve been doing this for 28 years, and this is the closest we’ve come”, said Chad, the veteran leader of the snipe hunt. “You guys are the best snipe hunters I’ve had the pleasure of snipe hunting with”.
Sunday morning nobody got up until about 7:30.
“No I didn’t”.
After breakfast we gathered together as a group and they had the parents go around and tell what they thought of the weekend. When it came to me, I recalled how much this reminded me of when I was a small kid at camp growing up. All the simple innocent games and how much fun it was just to be in the fresh air and make new friends and have all this unstructured time.
These days, our kids’ time is totally structured. A friend in Silicon Valley, Carolann, who is a 3rd grade teacher, told me that kids in her class go to Kumon tutoring right after school. They take classes all summer. She told me of one instance where a little girl came to her crying because another boy told her, “you’re grammar is bad so you’re not going to get into a good college”. Whatever happened to childhood?
At least for one weekend … we got a little of that childhood back.
Please tell me about your camp memories……..
harry the ASIC guy