Saturday, August 04, 2007


Summer is here, and the kids are out of school. I'm sure many of them are off to summer camp like I used to do when I was about 10 - 12 years old. I would trek up to our local mountains to attend Girl Scout Camp - Camp Jo Sherman - nestled into a plot of land heavily populated by tarantulas, scorpions and rattle snakes. I couldn't find the camp by doing a search on the 'net, which leaves me to believe that they finally did manage to kill off some campers, as opposed to just almost killing them off when I was a girl.

In case you're wondering, Tarantulas are apparently drawn to light, like slow moving, ground dwelling moths, so that at night, when we'd gather in the group shelter, tarantulas would start migrating towards the shelter from all sides. The legs of the cots were placed in large cans half filled with water, so beasties couldn't crawl up the legs into your sleeping bag. And every year, a rattler or 2 would be spotted too near the camp for comfort. And, yes, it really does taste like chicken.

So one year, my group's counsellors (who in retrospect were just dumb girls in their late teens) decided to take us - 25 11 year olds - on an overnight hike. They drove us in trucks - all of us stuffed in the back - to a campground. The plan was for us to camp overnight, and then hike back to the Girl Scout campgrounds - the trucks would haul our sleeping bags and supplies back for us. Before we left, the camp nurse lined us up to make sure we were all fit to hike. I just had a visor, so she put a paper towel on my head for sun protection. (I later substituted a shirt). I never had to visit the nurse for any illness, but my recollection from the other girls is that her cure for everything was to make them put their finger down their throat to vomit.
What everyone overlooked is that less than half of us had canteens - I was one of the few who did. They seemed to think that there would be enough watering spots along the way that we wouldn't need to carry water - and boy, were they wrong. It turns out the counsellors hadn't been along this trail in quite some time, and/or were confused, and there was NOWHERE to get water once we broke camp. Those of us with canteens shared with the others who were without. Suddenly, I was 11 years old deciding who would live or die . . . well, sort of.
As we hit midday, the counsellors began to panic and decided we needed to find some shade to ride out the hottest part of the day. We climbed under an overhanging ledge in the face of the trail on which we were hiking. The only food we each carried was an apple, and in one of my luckier moments in life, I had received a perfect apple - sweet and juicy. To this day, I can remember how good it tasted.
As dusk was approaching, we finally found a cabin with a water spigot, and we all lined up to drink. The first time through, many of us, including me, vomited the water back up . . . the second time through the line, though, we were able to keep the water down. We finally got back to camp in the dark, and long after dinner had been served. They brought to our camp what was available from the kitchen - pans of peach cobbler and lots of milk. That too tasted unbelievably good . . .
Besides being almost constantly thirsty for the next few days, there were no ill effects, and I don't think I ever even told my parents what had happened, knowing they'd never let me return if they knew the truth . . .

16 Comments:

Blogger NY KAT said...

Ummm...yeah that sounds like the worst place to go to camp!!!

12:44 PM  
Blogger sage said...

having directed a number of camps, what you described is the worse nightmare for a director. Then, years later, I went twice to camp filling in for the scoutmaster for the week--they were interesting experiences and somewhere I have some of my writings about them. One, an aquatics camp on Bear Lake Utah was particular frightening.

2:23 PM  
Blogger EditThis said...

Camp Melacoma and cooking pancakes on an old coffee can with a candle burning under it and topping them with salmon berries.

2:30 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

ny kat - now I think that too, but it was fun at the time!

sage - I'll bet - even at that age I could tell the director was solicitious to us for the rest of the week!

edit - ok, I want to try cooking pancakes like that!

3:48 PM  
Blogger GetFlix said...

Great story!!

7:20 PM  
Blogger EditThis said...

It takes forever, sort of like cooking with an Easy Bake Oven. But it works!

9:25 PM  
Blogger D.O.M. Dan said...

I never got to go to summer camp, but having been a boy scout, I've been camping / backpacking many times.

You tell a good story, and it sounds like good memories of happy times.

9:55 PM  
Blogger LA said...

Oh hell no! Have you camped since then? Honestly, the tarantulas and cot legs in cans of water would be enough to keep me from returning!

8:07 AM  
Blogger sage said...

la: actually tarantulas are not bad, I'd take one of them up close to rattlesnakes any day.

I posted the story of my experience as a scoutmaster at camp today.

9:26 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

la - I'm with sage - tarantulas aren't that bad. I got over my fear of spiders by holding and petting a tarantula - they feel like velvet

Bugs, however, are another matter

1:52 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

oh, I loved camp as a kid and loved your story, diane!! :o)

can you imagine stuffing kids in the back of trucks nowadays!?!

5:51 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

So I have randomly come across your blog, I was doing a search for Camp Jo Sherman. As a kid I as well went to summer camp, but unlike you, I LOVED it. My sister was a counselor and was always there if I needed anything. I got to know a lot of the other counselors and I guess you would say I may have gotten special treatment from the counselors because of that. I loved the hikes, the rock climbing, the horseback riding, the craft, canoeing, obstacle course, etc. I could go on and on.

When I got to the age I wanted to go through the CIT and become a counselor as well, but unfortunately I had to move to Bakersfield and it wasnt as convenient as it was for my sister when we lived in Orange County.

I know each person has their own experiences, but you made Camp Sherman sound horrible and superficial! You had to have liked something about it, the camp fires... something!!

11:00 AM  
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