Written by: Vince Kauffman, Program Director
Wilderness trips are an important part of our camp program. Before a group begins to plan, they will often come to a supervisor to explain their reasons for wanting to do a trip. One of those reasons is often “to have fun,” and while that alone is not a compelling reason to let a group plan a several week outing, it is a good one.
The things we do at camp are designed to arouse and satisfy the natural curiosity and creativity of boys. Boys learn how to solve problems and function together in an environment that they naturally thrive in, and this includes trips. While on a trip, a group also learns more about trusting and following their Chief. The routines of camp can be very predictable. On a river trip, the scenery is always changing and we lay our head down in a different spot almost every night. Chiefs are extra cautious with trip activities, since help is not always close by should a need arise. Boys must learn to trust their chiefs and function as a team at a new level. They have to work together as a group to pull through the hardships of inclement weather, wet firewood, mosquitoes, finding clean water, and camping on a less than accommodating river bank.
In the past two months, each of our groups has planned and completed a river trip. Each group has reported significant growth, either at a group level or with individual boys, or both.
The Mountaineers completed a trip on the French Creek in western Pennsylvania. They started at Union City where the creek hardly accommodates a 17’ canoe and pulled out at Emlenton 109 miles later. The last leg of their trip was on the Allegheny River.
The Adventurers paddled around 117 miles on the Allegheny River, also finishing at Emlenton. The first week of their trip was spent on the Allegheny Reservoir. They reported the lake fishing to be excellent.
The Prospector group completed a trip they’ve been dreaming about for a year. They paddled 140 miles on the Connecticut River, starting with a mile or two of the Canadian border. The Connecticut forms the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, and the upper regions provided some great trout fishing.
The Highlanders paddled 156 miles on the North Branch of the Susquehanna, starting in New York and pulling out in northeastern Pennsylvania. They came back quite brown and boast the highest number of fish caught.
Each of these groups also reported significant acts of kindness by random strangers. Following are snapshots of several stories. The Mountaineers were given several gallons of bottled water at a time when they badly needed it. The Adventurers were given a very nice pair of sandals to solve a problem that the Dollar General cheapies could not. The Prospectors received fresh milk for breakfast while camped along a farmer’s field. The Highlanders reported a well-intentioned man crashing through the brush yelling, “Popsicles for the kids!” after the aforementioned “kids” were in bed.
These random acts of generosity are stories told and retold, trumping even the fish stories. These stories and opportunities for receiving kindness can also be added to the list of reasons to do a trip.
And yes, they all had fun.