Friday, July 23, 2010

Camp Vignettes: Episode I

The first time I talked to my friend Christa after she returned from her mission, she mentioned she’s going to our old Girl’s Camp as a leader this August. Instant nostalgia. We were the queens of Girl’s Camp. She and I went every year together (two as Youth Camp Leaders, aka YCLs) and those were some of the happiest weeks of my entire life. I’d start packing for camp weeks in advance, and lay wide awake in excited anticipation the whole night before. So I’m thinking about all that, and a plan begins to form in my head. Don’t get too excited though. Before it even got close to hatching, the leaders in charge dashed my hopes. Wouldn’t you think they’d be HAPPY to take a willing volunteer?? Well they turned me down. Their loss. Jerks.

Anyway, of course it got me reminiscing. This is where the Girl’s Camp stories begin.

The adventure always started in the church parking lot in the wee hours of the morning. The four hour trip to Buck’s Lake, CA required a bathroom/snack break at Hallelujah Junction, the world’s slimiest truck stop where we mingled with mutants and Death Eaters while waiting our turn to use the single-stall poop-smeared women’s bathroom. On one occasion a desperate middle-aged woman ran to the restrooms, let out a distressed moan when she saw the lineup, rounded on the empty men’s room and yelled, “THANK GOODNESS” as she darted inside. She was in there for several minutes, during which time a man arrived, tested the door, and then resigned himself to the wait. My friends and I were dying to see the look on his face when a woman walked out of there, and sure enough, he didn’t disappoint – he jumped back, then cast around completely bewildered, wondering if he was in the wrong line. Of course we girls all dissolved into uncontrollable giggling, but the woman in front of us was not amused. She kept shooting us daggers until finally I felt the need to let her in on the joke. “I know,”, she countered haughtily, “that was my sister."

Each year we’d get an earful about Hanta virus. Don’t catch rodents. Don’t eat food that fell on the ground. Don’t breathe the dust when you’re sweeping the trails. I’m pretty sure the Young Men didn’t have to sweep any trails at Scout camp, or neatly line them with rocks for that matter.

There was a huge tree right next to the kitchen where the meal lineup began that smelled just like puke. We called it the Puke Tree.

My fourth year of camp, the leadership decided to ditch Buck’s Lake and try a new place. There was a lot of criticism, but they stuck to their guns. The fourth year girls were scheduled to do an overnight hike, beginning the first day at the new camp. Packing in and packing out. It was brutal…one of the hardest hikes I’ve ever done (okay I haven’t done many, but it was tough). My friend Jenny and I collapsed in a heap as soon as it was over, and hadn’t even begun thinking about setting up our tents when a breathless forest ranger came jogging down the path, shouting that the whole mountain was on fire and we had to evacuate. So after having just completed a difficult, several-mile long hike, we had to turn right back around and do it all over again only this time with a massive forest fire on our heels. It was intense. By the time we made it back to the main group (they cheered for us!), darkness was setting in and I was the most exhausted I’ve ever been. Because many of the vans that dropped us at camp that morning had turned right around and gone home, we all had to leave our belongings behind and pack like sardines into the remaining vehicles. There were 10 in the Dodge Caravan I was assigned to – a couple of us had to sit on the floor. When I was dropped at home, my sisters were sitting on the front porch. We all walked in together, hoping to freak out my mom who wasn’t expecting to see me for a week, but she just quickly glanced up then continued washing dishes. It took a few moments of us grinning and coaxing her before shock finally registered on her face. Anyway, long story short, our belongings were rescued just minutes before the roads were officially closed, and the very next day camp was back on – at Buck’s Lake, just like God always intended it to be.

One year there was a girl in our group who was constantly trying to massage us with her enormous hands. We, of course, called her Man Hands. It got more and more difficult to evade her probing fingers. Christa emailed me some ideas for this blog post, and she has an update on Man Hands that you’re bound to enjoy at least half as much as I did: “Guess what? I saw her like 2 weeks ago and she's married with a kid and was honestly like crushing him in her giant hands!!”

Girl’s Camp was always a place for injuries. Not helping the matter was the notorious floating dock of Buck’s Lake. I’m almost certain they’ve banned the thing by now (if not, who’s in charge of this place???) because every year at least one girl ended up going home early because of it. I might be wrong, but I think the usual function of a floating dock is for peaceful sunbathing. Not the case at Camp Liahona. It was repurposed into a topsy turvy death trap. We’d get a big group of us, anywhere from ten to thirty girls on there, and all flock to different corners until our combined weight caused the entire thing to rise into the air Titanic-style. The last person to be dumped over the edge won. It was covered in moldy carpeting, so rug burns were the typical wounds (also: elbows to faces and other stampede-related injuries), but one year some genius decided to attach a two-step ladder on one end and that thing broke a couple of ankles before it was removed.

Speaking of injuries, as YCLs Christa and I served all the girls in our group boiling hot chocolate in wax paper cups. Fifteen seconds later they were all screaming, “Our hands are mellllttttinnnggg!!!!!!!!!!!” The cups were imploding and dripping hot wax. Turns out Styrofoam works much better for that sort of thing. Live and learn.

To be continued…
[Soon, I promise. I’ve already written it all. But it was too long for one post. Kthxbai]


  1. So funny. Unlike you, I hated girls camp, but I respect that no matter what, girls camp is ALWAYS good for a story. This made me laugh and laugh.