Just another week where I have just no idea where to begin writing, and it was completely different from last week.
As I mentioned two weeks ago, for week 2 of Camp, I got to work a trip camp – Aqua Camp. For Aqua, the main event is whitewater rafting on the Lower Youghiogheny River in Ohiopyle, PA. [Really fun place to go rafting, especially for those newer to the whitewater game, but still looking for a little challenge.] Trip camps are special opportunity for our campers with special needs to get out and on to adventures in the real world, while still being under protective supervision and having the care and support that Camp offers. These camps are for the older kids who have done Traditional Camp multiple times already, and have demonstrated that they will be able to control themselves (through the meds they take, as well as practice) to participate in structured public events. Because of the whitewater rafting, Aqua camp is definitely one of the most popular trip camps, so we get some really great kids. Because they are all fairly normalized, writing mini bios about them isn’t as much fun, but I’ll try to point out some things.
AX’s hobbies primarily include picking up heavy things, like rocks and logs.
CR is a good ol’ country boy who knows the words to a ton of country songs and is really into the idea of street racing and the WWE. Making sure he didn’t practice those moves was a regular challenge.
MR has a ton of energy all of the time and could talk all day, every day if you let him. Unless he took time to read, which he eagerly does. He also started to shut down if you made anything mandatory that he believed he didn’t need to prove he could do (swim test, initiatives…).
TS was the youngest of the group and only got to go because his brother (who was supposed to go) became unavailable at the last minute. This made me a little nervous to take him, but he was mostly a good kid. Another talker who was also struggled with “fake” aggressive actions, such as pretending to hit people. He and MR were nearly constantly debating almost any topic one could think of, mostly science oriented though. Logic and facts were occasionally a little off, but hey, it kept them occupied.
JO was a large, sweet guy. Definitely a teddy bear type, fit with a tongue sharp with sarcasm. Really cooperative, most of the time.
JY was a quite kid most of the time, but always seemed to be rather happy. Unfortunately had a habit of winding up the butt of a few jokes.
And LG was another usually quiet kid who became friends with MR and TS, as well.
MR and LG had been on Aqua camp the previous year, together actually, and most of the guys had been on a trip camp before. Like I said, they were a really easy group to work with. My co-staff was another guy, and we had a male Jr. CIT, so we had ten dudes for the week, which played into a very chill time.
On Monday, all of our guys had arrived at Camp by 2:00p, even though trip camp kids were not supposed to arrive until 3:00p. Sigh. This just meant we had to get a little extra programming in. We went down to the beach, because we’re aqua camp, and hung out there for a while, playing some teambuilding/ice breaking games to help them learn names. Somehow, they were still unable to have everyone’s name by the end of the week… Anyway, around 4:30p, the first storm of the week rolled in and began the week the way that it would continue – very wet. Luckily, we had our van for the week down with us (we had been planning to camp out that night), so we hopped in and drove back on up to camp. We go ourselves moved into the cabin that we would get to use that night because of the threat of storms and did a get to know each other arts-n-crafts activity, in which they color in a crest with six things about themselves. After that it was dinner and, thankfully, the respite from rain. With clear skies for the time being, we returned to the beach, this time in swim trunks, to really get into the spirit of Aqua camp. We did a swim test to make sure they could keep themselves from dying if they fell in the water (which MR refused to do because he felt he did not need to prove to us that he could swim) and kayaked across the lake and back. The sun set while we were out, so it was really beautiful. Only JO accidentally rolled his kayak while we were out, and it was thankfully on the way back. I was next to him when he went over, so I helped him out with a T-rescue (much easier than the T-rescue I did back in OE season of a canoe from a kayak) and the rest of the tribe came to help get him back into his kayak. Back at the beach I got my first great quote from a camper – from JO. Most of the guys were rinsing off in the lake because they got some dirt on them walking the kayaks up the hill, but JO just wanted to wait until we got back to camp to take a shower. I asked him why. He replied that he “didn’t want to smell like fish. [pause] That’s a woman’s thing.” Jaw dropped, stunned, trying to control laughter. I managed to reply, “That’s not an appropriate thing to talking about.” “That’s what my mom and dad say,” was his response. So, I gave up with telling him to not bring it up again at camp. Back to camp for showers and bed, and for us staff members to get what we needed packed up to go, because we wait on that kind of stuff.
Tuesday morning we intended to get up early, make breakfast, and go for another paddle on the lake, but the first part did not happen, so we skipped the paddling. After getting moved out of the cabin around 9a, we made pancakes and sausage for breakfast, finished loading our van, and took off for Ohiopyle a little after 11a. They say that it takes 4 hours to drive from Camp to Ohiopyle, but my co-staff and myself do not see how that is possible. Stopping to eat some deli sandwiches we brought, we didn’t make it to our campsite until a little after 5p. (We didn’t stop extensively on the way back and made it in about 5 hours.) In camp, we got set up, just tents, but after a week like we had, I totally want a dining fly next week. After dinner of chicken alfredo and broccoli (learned that while, surprisingly, almost everyone was happy to eat broccoli, AX would not touch the stuff), we tried to take a visit to Cucumber Falls, a sweet waterfall on the way down to Ohiopyle. Well, when we got there, the wind started picking up and the clouds were really rolling in. We knew a storm was coming. Just as we started down the trail, the first drops started hitting us, and it felt like big one was brewing, so we scrapped that plan and loaded back into the van. Sure enough, it was a big one. We drove up to the top of the hill just in time to get under a pavilion to watch the storm roll through. Lightning definitely struck within a quarter mile of our location and the water was coming down in sheets. Waiting it out, we watched Mother Nature’s cinema and played some mind games to pass the time. It probably lasted 20-30 minutes, and once it started calming down, we piled back into the van and drove back to camp, as it was getting dark. After snack, it was into the tents for bed. I slept in a different place, under a different type of shelter, every night. Tuesday night, I tried to make a triangle shelter out of a tarp, a line, and some sticks, which worked pretty well, except that it wasn’t quite long enough for me and when it rained from 4-7 in the morning, and my shoulders rubbed on the tarp, my bag started getting a little wet, but I was better off than the kids in the tents…
Wednesday morning we woke up to learn that these kids did not know the rule about not having your stuff touch the walls of your tent because, while it may be water resistant, water is still polar and can seep through fabric walls with ease. We woke up to a lot of wet pillows, sleeping bags, and campers. But we’re Aqua camp, so obviously a little water isn’t going to stop us! However, sleep meds do a pretty good job of slowing us down in the mornings. A bunch of the guys take pretty good meds to help them sleep, which is great when we’re trying to get them to bed, but can make waking them up a little more challenging. Maybe a little more challenging than waking up normal teenagers. So, when we can, especially on a trip camp, we let these guys sleep in a little bit. Knowing Thursday and Friday mornings would be early mornings, we didn’t get Wednesday started until 9a. After a hearty breakfast of bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches, we returned to Cucumber Falls to actually get a chance to look at them. Boy, were those falls flowing after some heavy rains. It totally tripled in size overnight. We looked around the falls, and then followed the creek down to the river to look at one of the rapids that we would be paddling down the following day. While down at the river, we watched a group of kayakers and a group of rafters paddle on by and go down Cucumber Rapid. As teenage boys will do, we also spent a fair amount of time skipping rocks, searching for (and catching) crawfish and fish, picking up and throwing larger rocks, and just exploring the beach in general. It was a jolly good time. Once the rafters showed up, though, the beach started getting pretty crowded, so we headed out and rolled back to camp for lunch. Lunch was an idea that I saw on the internet – Hot Dog Octopuses (Octopi? I always forget… Octopus Pie?). The guys were a little unsure at first, but once the first one came off the fire beautifully, they were pumped to eat them. It was very pleased. (I’ll get pictures up on the Shutterfly next week.) After lunch, it was down the mountain to just outside of Ohiopyle for the Natural Waterslide, a really cool part of a creek off of the river. A narrow channel with a quick downhill has made some relatively slippery rocks (although bumpy) which you can go down on your tush much like a waterslide! Plus, at the bottom, there are some deeper pools which you can swim in. Of course, it was raining on and off again, which was helping the flow of the creek, but also making it rather chilly. The guys had a great time swimming and playing around the slide, and after a fun filled afternoon, we went back up the mountain to our campsite to make dinner – burritos. After burritos, we decided that it would be a really good idea to get some dry sleeping bags for the night, so we drove back down into town to some coin operated dryers. I took care of the really wet bags, while the rest of the group walked around Ohiopyle, checking out the Ohiopyle Falls and more of town, but I missed out. With dry bags to sleep in, it was back up to camp for some s’mores and campfire time. Like I said, the guys were really good at entertaining themselves in conversation, which made programming for them a little more difficult, it was just so easy to let them talk! Then, it was bedtime so that we could get up early the next day for rafting!
Thankfully, Thursday morning, it hadn’t rained by the time we woke up the next morning, but it was obviously on its way. We had oatmeal for breakfast so that we could get on our way quickly, and drove down into Ohiopyle to get to our guide’s station. We suited up in swimsuits, life vests, and helmets, and loaded the ten of us, two Boy Scout troops, and few others into a school bus, and head down to the river. Our tribe took up two rafts to ourselves, five in each, and had a great day out, despite the frequent rain. In fact, all of the rain (even when we were on the river) made the rafting even more fun. The water level was up a little higher, above two feet and rising, so there were fewer shallow rocks getting boats stuck and the rapids were a little more fun. The kids had an absolutely phenomenal time, and us counselors had a great time, too. For about four hours, we cruised down the river, rocking out through the rapids, having lunch, and getting wet. My favorite part, besides watching the guys work together and have a wonderful time, was the awesome views. The guys thought it looked like Jurassic Park or the Amazon. Mist rising up from the river, wooded hills descending into the fog, the river bending out of view… It was beautiful. Plus our guides were great, chatting with the kids, giving clear and explicit directions, plus telling jokes. After getting off of the river, we went into town to get the guys a little post-rafting ice cream! Then, it was back up to our campsite for a dinner of potatoes. Our plan was to make baked potatoes in the fire, but all of the wood was rather wet from the rain all day. Luckily, we had kept some under a tarp, so we had enough wood to get a fire going with a LOT of tender love and care. In the meantime, I also made some cheesy garlic mashed potatoes and broccoli (to AX’s delight). For dessert, we made banana boats, something I would absolutely suggest for home. Slice up a banana, mix with chocolate and marshmallows in aluminum foil, and toss in hot coals until all hot and mixed up. Kind of messy, but delicious. Then, it was into bed so we could get up early and get on the road to get back to camp Friday morning.
Up way earlier than the guys really wanted to be, they did a surprisingly good job getting packed up and moving and we managed to get on the road before 8a. Of course, the rains came again, very heavy this time. They were nice enough to hold off until we were out of the mountains, but they really limited visibility, which made my driving slightly stressful, but nothing I haven’t dealt with before. Back into camp by early afternoon, we got our gear and van cleaned up, and were supposed to go on the Ropes Course, but, of course, the rain and thunder rolled in. Because it is generally unsafe to be 40’ up in the air attached to metal cables in a thunderstorm, we elected to stay down and did some teambuilding initiatives instead. We built up to the “Up and Over Log”, 7’ off of the ground, 6” in diameter, the whole tribe has to work together to get over the log. Our guys actually did a really good job with the activity and completed fairly efficiently. After their challenges, we got the guys showered so we could go out for dinner. It is traditional for trip camps to go out for dinner Friday night after returning from their trips. We have a tendency to go out to Golden Corral (RIDICULOUS all-you-can-eat buffet), which I really have a desire to not go back to. Those kids go crazy eating there. Geez. At least it was an exciting people watching opportunity. Back to camp after dinner (and only one vomit in the bathroom), we watched a movie on property before bed and slept under a pavilion.
Saturday morning, was packing, breakfast, games in the field, and processing of the week before introductions, tribe awards, and the pot luck lunch. Processing went well, and there were actually some good things said. The parents of the kids this week were a lot less interested in talking to us counselors than last week, but I’m guessing that’s because these kids have all been here for a bit and they know how the week goes for their sons. Or maybe I wasn’t putting off a very talkative vibe. I hope it is less of the latter.
After lunch and camp clean-up it was time for counselor fun! This weekend in Columbus is ComFest – a big, free community festival with live music, craft and food vendors, and a generally good time. We drove there right after we were free to go because some of our staff really really wanted to see Mike Perkins, a local musical celebrity. It was a lot of fun – all different kinds of people there: hippies, hipsters, bros, families, … just all kinds. Rain swept in aggressively, again, which very effectively soaked us. After music at the festival, we went out for dinner, after stopping by a staff’s apartment to put some dry clothes on. Our plan, afterwards, was to see more of Mike Perkins at an after party in a bar, but there was a cover charge, so we just enjoyed the good, free, front band for an hour. Afterwards, we retired to the apartment for the evening to chat about our week and past camper stories, one of the best things about hanging out with staff. Appreciating campers. This morning, I drove back to Camp area with another staff member and then on to a different staff members house to eat, swim, and hang-out for the afternoon and night. More fun times with staff before having to get back into the swing of things 40 hours after wrapping up the last week.