I wrote this up when I got back from my trip to camp with the boys, but it’s been in my draft folder for a while since I kind of forgot about it… Anyway, here it is:
A brief review of my recent trip to Camp Sequassen, a Boy Scout Camp in New Hartford, CT. I was accompanied by my two sons: Noah, 16, and Ethan, 11. Noah has been to camp three times before, I have been twice – Ethan only just became a Boy Scout earlier this year (May, after receiving his Arrow of Light, like his brother 5 years earlier), but it’s not his first camp out with the Troop, which he has become a very active member of.
Sunday: We arrived at camp around 1:30, a little later than I had planned, but just in time to score a ride down to the campsite for our gear – saving me and the boys from more than a little labor, since our campsite (International) is one of the furthest points from the parking lot.
After dropping our gear off, I went to go turn in our medical paperwork and some medication while the boys, as a Troop, went with our site guide to get a tour of the camp and learn some of the procedures (mostly for the kids coming for the first time). We all got back to camp at about the same time, which meant we had some time before dinner to get our bunks ready (bedding and mosquito netting) and then change to our “Class A” uniforms for dinner. Dinner is the only time we have to wear the “A” uniforms, and for the most part, the boys seem ok with it. After dinner, a little free time to go back to camp, then off to the amphitheater for the opening Campfire – skits, songs and some watermelon word play.
Monday: Up at 6:00 and at the waterfront for Polar Bear – a quick dip in the lake at 6:30 am. If you participate for 3 days, you earn the Polar Bear “badge”, and we push the boys to participate since, for some, it seems to be the closest they choose to come to bathing during the week (to be fair, Wednesday night is shower night, and all the boys are strongly encouraged to shower at least twice while we’re there). In the three years I’ve gone, we’ve never had anyone fight too hard on showering at least once. It’s also a fun way to get the day started, and the adults usually end up doing it all 5 days that we can go.
After a quick dip, we went back to camp, got ready for breakfast and Ethan and I discussed his day so he knew what was coming up. We went to the amphitheater again, where Ethan and his Troop-mate met the other 55 boys in the “First Year Camper” program, aka “Wilderness Patrol”. They learn about the camp and then learn things that they will need to know, as Scouts, to earn their first 4 ranks (Scout, Tenderfoot, Second-Class and First-Class). I accompanied the boys to their campsite (“Roger Sherman”) and checked it out for a little bit, then left to go back to our campsite – I wanted Ethan and his patrol mates to be able to focus on what they were supposed to be learning.
After lunch is siesta, and then a merit badge class from 2:00 – 3:00. Ethan had signed up for the leatherwork merit badge, which it turns out was the same thing Noah did his first summer – guess maybe that runs in the family…. After the PM merit badge, there’s usually several programs, either structured or “drop in”, from 3:00 – 5:00. Ethan wanted to go check out the archery and rifle ranges, so I met him at Handicrafts and then we walked out to the ranges. It started to rain while we were on the trail, which was a nice change – it hadn’t been too hot, but it was pretty humid and the rain made a big difference. I had grabbed my raincoat when I came out, but couldn’t get Ethan’s because it was in his foot locker and the adults aren’t allowed in the boys lean-to’s (and vice versa) without permission, so I grabbed him a garbage bag to turn into a poncho. He elected to go without for most of the walk, but since we were in the woods, neither of us got too wet.
After a turn on the rifle range, we wandered over to the archery range and shot over there as well. Ethan wasn’t as fond of the archery range – despite being a fan of archery in general – so we went back to the rifle range and shot a couple more times before heading back to camp again to get ready for dinner.
After dinner, we went on a hike out to the Hermit Area. Legend has it that a hermit lived on the land, possible a descendent of one of the original families that tried to settle the area. There is a shack where he lived (rebuilt over time, including repairs over the winter that were required when a tree fell on it), a small creek and a small amphitheater where people gather to hear the story of the hermit and some of the history of the camp.
Tuesday: Ethan managed to skip Polar Bear somehow…. After my morning off while Ethan was at Wilderness Patrol, I joined up with him at the waterfront for the “free” time program – Wilderness Patrol was there to learn some waterfront based skills that will come in handy for his upcoming advancements. Ethan said that he already knew some of the skills, but I like to say: it can’t hurt to get a refresher every now and then. After they finished, Ethan and I went out on a rowboat to enjoy some time on the lake. As days at camp go, not a bad one! After dinner, Ethan attended the “Totin’ Chit” session – it verifies that he knows how to handle and use a knife, axe or saw. After the session he got signed off for his Chit by one of the older Scouts in our Troop, then the boys went off on a “silent walk” to reflect on what they are getting out of Scouting and what they hope to get out of it. When they returned, Ethan was presented with his Troop neckerchief and slide – something they give out after a Scouts first campout with the troop. It was kind of cool….
Wednesday: Another day, another Polar Bear. Ethan, having convinced me that he needed to buy a knife now that he had his Totin’ Chit, spent every free second whittling things out of pieces of wood. Well, just carving the bark off, really. But hey, he was careful…. meals, rifle range, no overnight,
Time lapse of some of the Scout master cook off.
Thursday: meals, rifle range, island overnight
Friday: meals, land & sea games, dessert, closing
Scout master sit off in action.
Our Tug-of-War team against our other Tug-of-War team.
Ethan and his “Dizzy Bat” team.
Dessert is served….
Dan Cooley, camp director, shows the kids how to make a little noise…
Saturday: I don’t have any photos from Saturday – we packed up the cars and headed up to the parking lot, then at “brunch” with the Troop. I had to be home before 11:30 to bring Abby somewhere, so the boys and I left a little before the end of the closing flagpole after we got our Troop photo (coming soon, needs to be scanned), Ethan got his First Year Camper hanging patch, and I got my Scoutmaster merit badge (for doing Scouter related things during my time there) and a challenge coin from the Camp Director (a fun tradition).
Post script: My target, shown above, was one I submitted to the shooting director for a shooting competition – it started just for scouts, but enough adults asked that the camp staff judged the targets for us. I found out Friday night that I had actually won the competition – which floored me! I was only aware of two other shooters – one a Scouter I know from our common Cub Scout unit, the other a Scouter I met at camp who, it turns out, shoots competitively. The rifles at the camp are adjustable, but you’d spend so much time trying to site one in that it’s easier and faster – and more realistic – to just shoot like you’re trying to get the bulls-eye, since if your aim in that area is true, you’ll have a good, tight grouping. Judging by grouping is, therefore, a better way to do judge, at least in this case – something recognized by the BSA since the merit badge for riflery is more about basics (safe handling and operation of the gun, proper use of it, etc). When it comes to the actual shooting, they require that the shots be grouped in various ways – but that they be judged on the grouping, not the accuracy.