SUMMER CAMP


I walked into the Club’s lodge shortly before the informational meeting about the annual summer camp.  There was a potluck in progress, where at least eighty were eating.  I stayed out in the foyer with a few others.  Summer camps are where the Club goes to some interesting place, camps out, hikes, and provides breakfast, lunch and catered dinners.  With luck, there are showers and pit toilets.  

Damn, there were a lot of people there, and being around crowds isn’t my thing.  I spoke to a few people while waiting, and then as everything was cleared away, I noted that I probably knew a third to half the people there through hiking.  It wasn’t like I was a stranger there.

I went to the meeting, because I wanted to see if going to Glacier National Park for summer camp was something I wanted to do.  It was planned for early September, and I canoe in late September.  I don’t like doing two trips close together. It was a two day drive, the northern Rockies can be cold at night or be on fire.  Lot of the latter these past few years.  About a third of the attendees would be staying in hotels, so actual campers would be fewer, but then again, some people I knew well might not be going to evening meals or events, opting to stay warm, dry or quieter in the hotel.  I don’t know if fewer at the evening session would enhance or detract from the camp experience, and I don’t know how I would feel either way.

The hikes themselves were good, including one that was on the “20 best” of the world.  I am leery about these sorts of recommendations, because those rating these hikes have different values from mine, and the better a hike is rated, the more people decide to take it.  I can think of a lot of great,hikes I’ve taken where there was nobody. Maybe that is why they were so enjoyable.

The camp sounded well thought out and put together.  The organization was excellent.  It usually is.

And I won’t be going.

I’ve been to two summer camps before, one in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada, the other in the North Cascades.  Both had interesting hikes, although when we were there, it was in the 90s at 7000’ in Nevada and hit 100 in the North Cascades.  The West is hot in summer.  In the Northern Cascades, we had smoke after the second day, limiting hiking to only a few places.  It burns a lot in the West in summer, too.  

Of course, the weather might be perfect, with 70s in the day, 50s at night, rain only at night, and not a lot of crowds.  That does happen occasionally.  

I don’t enjoy summer camp all that much.  The first year, I agreed to take a “Leader” job which never should have been offered to a first time attendee.  I ended up working in the kitchen doing dishes both morning and evening, since the evening guy didn’t show up until the second day and left early.  Many attendees leave camp early so they don’t have to help with breaking down the camp, which takes maybe two hours if enough people are there.

As a leader, I was late getting started on hikes, which began right after breakfast, and I was doing dishes.  I missed a lot of information at the first evening campfire, because I was doing dishes.  I arrived at camp late enough that I didn’t have a good place to pitch my tent, and was immediately waylaid by two to see if I could give them a ride home at the end of camp, before I had even figured out where I was going to be sleeping.

There were a lot of inside jokes and some inane skits, and I don’t have a great sense of humor after hiking all day and doing dishes at night.  I also didn’t need the catty remark about how my camp chair was “one to get rid of,” from one who had used and didn’t like it.  There’s no shortage of advice in the Club about gear, diet, medical issues, and a host of other things.  

I went to the North Cascades mostly because (1) I wanted to see them and (2) I wasn’t going to be a “Leader” but just one who had two one hour jobs a week (one of the organizers said it would be one.  I chuckled to myself.)

I led a couple of hikes, and one individual complained for days after how I went to a lake that wasn’t very pretty.  Mind you, these are “Explora Hikes,” meaning the leader has not hiked the area before.  If there is a trail to a lake I haven’t seen, I think it might be worth seeing.  No, we didn’t see much, because brush clogged the shore, but it was only a 15 minute detour out of a 5 hour hike, not worth the half dozen or more times I caught grief about it. I suspect a lot of people heard how I led such a crappy hike.

After the second day, the smoke and hot weather moved in and stayed. I awoke more than once at night wondering how we would get out of our dead end road if a fire started nearby.  There was a fire burning 20 miles north that would eventually consume 100,000 acres. I was happy to leave there days later.

I would see new country at Glacier, only having been there in 1970.  But I can see plenty of new hiking country near home.  I would like to hike the entire Timberline Trail around Mt. Hood or the many hikes near Crater Lake.  I would not be gone as long, and frankly—this is my biggest reason—I don’t want to be away from home all that much.  I like where I am, and I have been fortunate enough to have seen a good deal of the world.  

If I were single and had no animals, that might be different.  But I am not and do, and ties to home are strong.  I will see the eclipse in the South Pacific this year, and I will canoe in the Boundary Waters in late September, which I absolutely want to do, because the country, so familiar and so special, draws me back every year.  That’s enough big trips.

For those who go to Glacier, I hope they have a great trip, the weather cooperates, the hikes go according to plan, the leaders better than I, and they return with wonderful memories of the northern Rockies.  

I’ll have my own memories made my own way.

Goat Lake, Ruby Mountains, Nevada, August 2016

Rainy Lake, below the 12 mile Maple Pass Loop, North Cascades, August 2017

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