Camp A (for Awesome!)

It was challenging for the 9 scouts and three adult leaders to get to their midway stop at Kirtland Air Force Base on the way to summer camp at Camp Alexander under Pike’s Peak. A gas stop traffic jam in Gallup, and I40 single lane backup due to culvert rebuilds didn’t help, but we managed to make the appointed time window to eat at the officers’ mess, and to locate our overnight accommodations – the Kirkland Scout Hut.  It is wisely located remotely from most of civilization on the massive air base to save the service men and women from the constant roar of scouts, which of course can generally drown out the sounds like those of the nearby airport. The hut contained unusual donated accommodations including very short church pews, a bit too tight for growing scouts to sleep on (the alternative was a red brick floor or a carpet from the early 80’s). Their indoor spiders were the friendly type, unlike the neighboring black widows on the porch outside with the adults.

Next day, arriving at Camp A, we met our staff troop guide – Hi Kyle!!! In our “Miles to go before I sleep” strategically placed Crow Camp site, we had as a camp-mate a short-eared resident bunny, a chipmunk and two deer, who were only slightly shyer than the other two.  It was absolutely gorgeous in camp, and with the animals, felt like we’d stepped into a Disney flick – we kept looking for Flower and Thumper to join Bambi and her friends. Temps overnight were perfect in the high 50s, but a Texas dad/leader in the shower that morning was complaining of getting no sleep due to the cold – not us Arizona campers! We were prepared!  Camp food was the best we’d ever had, and staff was very accommodating even at 80% with a full camp.  Adult leaders appreciated the daily 6AM coffee thermos delivery from the camp program director, but immediately thereafter out came a certain leader’s own stash of ‘Death Wish’ coffee as a chaser – world’s strongest coffee w/ 8X the caffeine.

First day of classes brought torrential rain at dinner, at 8PM, and after midnight. Our tents held up beautifully, and everything was dry. Largely the boys were too, taking rain gear everywhere after Monday afternoon. Tuesday was the day when lectures were largely behind them, and activities were underway. Lives were being saved, pots formed, bullseyes and traps hit, and orienteering, hiking, and casting performed. Qualifying scores in archery and shotgun were accomplished by first timers. Day 2 also brought another torrential downpour, ruining the scheduled outdoor carnival for the boys, but the adults bravely completed their steak dinners at the scheduled leader meeting indoors. Later at camp, hail followed by torrential rain, followed by more hail.  Troop Guide Kyle came running in his trademark hoodie and bandana through the storm to see if all the boys had gotten dinner in the midst of the hailed-out carnival, or if we had encountered tent leaks. None so far!

Midweek, another day of rainstorms, including flooded roads taking an adult leader to the Colorado Springs airport. While there is now some longing for home by the scouts, mitigating factors include showers, awesome food, great camaraderie, and new friends in staff and merit badge classes – everyone is having an absolute ball.  The boys did a great job serving and bussing Wednesday night dinner, and then, Thursday morning T648’s scouts demonstrated with absolute conviction how a flag ceremony should be performed. Practice definitely makes perfect, and they practiced on the parade grounds the day before, and got up the day of at 5:45 to practice some more. Two leaders took videos from different vantage points, and have shared them on the website under the Camp A photos.

During free time, one of our archery qualifiers took a shot at a fake bear 50 yards downrange and stuck it dead center broadside – in a bit of foreshadowing, we could have used him in camp at 4AM the next morning.  We had put care packages received from home in Igloo coolers with the lids on tight, since we couldn’t have cars or the trailer in camp.  Two of our scouts left for a sunrise hike to the top at Blue Mountain at 2:45AM, so when an adult leader heard rustling out by the picnic table, he thought it was the mountain climbers and rolled over. A bit later, hearing it again, he slipped on his hiking boots, and emerged into the moonlight to see a massive mound of furry black non-human in the dark at our picnic table, coolers on their sides with the lids pulled off, and a blanket of shiny wrappings and treats everywhere underfoot.  Trying not to wake everyone, he waved his arms wildly and stomped down the hill toward the table, as two wide eyes in the midst of all that black surrounded by cellophane gleamed back at him.  There was that crucial moment where the bear weighed options, and he wondered if he should stop his forward motion toward the bear, and then our uninvited guest turned, and lumbered down the hill.  In the ensuing assessment of the damage, he was likely full anyway, as there was very little left unconsumed of the Red-vines, fire hot Cheetos, Nerds, Cheez-its, Doritos, Pringles, Oreos and everything else that is high on the major food groups for teen boys and bears. Overheard in camp – Hah! My chicken in a biskit is bear-proof – he didn’t eat it! – Oh yeah, that’s how you know chicken in a biskit is toxic!

That same night, after a day of lightning and hail, a scout had wilderness survival, and somehow managed to sleep 5 hours in a shelter he built himself. In the camp Iron man competition the next day, our scouts ‘podiumed’ by coming in third in the 10 event relay, with a number of amazing individual performances.  The anchor leg scout, who had also performed the starting leg of the race collapsed at the finish line, vomited and began shaking as the camp pumper fire truck sprayed him and everyone on the flag grounds with water in celebration.  After real fire trucks and ambulances came and diagnosed him for altitude over-exertion and dehydration, an adult leader took him into town to the ER to be absolutely sure.  After a couple IVs, he was back to being himself, and on the return to camp, his actual, certified reaction was – “What a great day!”

It truly was universally unanimously declared a most awesome overall summer camp by our T648 participants.  The return to Phoenix was similar to the week before, but in reverse – long miles, Kirtland, officers’ mess, card games, church pews – but this time the black widow hung out by the boys on the porch, now with a dead lizard in her web, and this time every place we pit-stopped on Sunday had restrooms out of order.  That led to multiple scrambles, each successfully executed, but as we hit town, the scouts were happy to be back home, and looking forward to their own beds, bathrooms, and kitchens.

Trying not to make a mess of the Officers’ Mess
On my honor I will do my best to bluff my neighbor!
Remember everybody, drink plenty of sunscreen, and wear water!
How’d you sleep? Pretty good except for my fingers. Huh, your fingers didn’t sleep??
The hail hurt my knuckles. It actually hurts like ‘hail’
Practice, Practice, Practice – absolutely nails events like flag ceremonies and closing campfire skits.
And there they are – Your T648 75th Anniversary Camp A campers from 2022!