Last week we took our Boy Scouts out for a summer camp in the desert, here in Utah. Of course the views were spectacular, the campsite primitive, we had to bring everything needed. I brought along ponchos for everyone, not that we anticipated rain, but for their alternate use, hammocks. As we were getting settled I heard the boys complaining about the heat, the blazing sun, the lack of shade or water, or trees for that matter. They were saying we should pick up camp and head for the mountains where it was cool.
I decided I needed to say something, they were already negative and we just got there. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the week listening to this kind of talk. With the boys together, I assured them we were not leaving this location, this was our planned camp. I wanted to end any speculation that we might pick up camp and go to the mountains. My next focus was to address the comfort issues they had brought up. The boys needed to know that the adult leaders were not entertainment directors or camp construction managers.
My intention with the boys was to try to turn on their creative juices, telling them to think about what they didn’t like and why, then try to figure out how to make it better. I said, “Is it too hot, too sunny, too windy, think of how you can make the situation better.”
I further explained that the camps we go on are for enjoyment, but also for learning and to gain experience. “You cannot truly learn without actual experience,” I said. I talked of the miners and their families who used to live in the area, somehow they learned to manage with the harsh conditions. We’ve become soft, used to easy, cozy living. We can make of camp whatever we decide we want it to be.
Our camp was up next to a north facing cliff that had large holes eroded in its face. These holes became places of refuge during the intense heat and direct sun of the midday. There were trees, but they were sparse and small generally speaking, which meant we didn’t get much shade from them, we had to scatter out to get our hammocks hung. We soon had everything situated. We all napped for a couple hours in the holes in the rocks while we waited for things to cool down a bit.
My little lecture did not solve everything, but it helped to at least direct some attention to being positive and to look for solutions. It’s always easy to give up, to quit and to do something else. But I’ve learned some of my best lessons when challenged by adversity.
In all it was a great camp, we gained experience, explored, and had a fun time. We hiked a fun slot canyon, Little Wild Horse Canyon, we also explored in Goblin Valley one afternoon. Here is a link to a fun video of the camp YouTube
I think every camp should be a learning experience, and not just when with some Boy Scouts, but even when camping by oneself. Adults should help youth to learn the outdoor ways, provide experiences for them and guide them. It is good for them to figure some things out on their own, perhaps with a subtle occasional hint. Boys gain confidence and receive a feeling of achievement through these experiences. In successive encampments youth will learn to be more independent and importantly, they will learn how to help others.
Occasional tough camps are good for all, both youth and adult, they stretch us, they make us learn in a way that really can’t be duplicated in any other way.
Until next time, this is Perry Peacock, for “Simplifying Survival”