Sunday, September 26, 2010

Down to the Sea in Ships - Come Sail Away

For me, there has always been something magical about the sea. The whole ships and sailing thing. The promise of going "Down to the Sea in Ships" appealed to me the first time I heard of it. In Alaska, we were close to the sea. My dad had a salmon net on Turn Again Arm and I remember sailing on great ships (one was call the Fungston) from Whitter, Alaska to Seattle, Washington and back. Almost the first scouting activity I ever went on was a boat ride to the islands off Seward, Alaska. How beautiful was that blue green sea.

I read Tolkien as a boy and was told that all elves fall in love with the sea. I read Moby Dick and became a whaler at heart. Not a slaughter man of fat, dumb right whales, but a Yank hunter, doing battle with mighty sperm whales, leviathan, the greatest carnivores to ever live on earth. Ahab is my hero. I read Melville's masterpiece again and again - nine times to date. Then there was all that dreaming about getting into the Navy.

As I began my work at summer camp, I continued to long for the sea. I had sung Six Pence with Winston and learned to sing Myra Myra and What Do You Do with a Drunken Sailor with Darell Budd. When I became the Camp Director at Loll, I enlisted first Leonard Hawkes and then Curtis Grow to help me collect a battery of sea shanties and we taught them to the staff. High in the mountains we sang of the sea, elves longing for the west. Our repertoire included Whaling songs, Eighteen Hundred and Fifty-three, My Father Was the Keeper of the Eddistone Light, Blow Ye Winds, and Tis Advertised in Boston. I carved wooden whales and told stories of fighting whales. Our dreams were down to the sea in ships.

Sailing is a challenging program to offer at a Boy Scout camp. A challenging program, and a challenge to program. I have never learned to sail. It came into my camps very slowly. Years ago, someone donated a catamaran to Camp Bartlett. We were never allowed to use it. The "powers" assured us that the Fife Lake was too small for the boat. I suggested that it be given to Loll, but they assured me that Lake of the Woods was also too small for sailing. Tom Bird traded that cat to the Great Salt Lake Council for a collating machine. We never got to take it out.

In the early 80's we had some little yellow Sunfish sailboats at Loll. We fussed around with them, but they were always getting broken, no one really knew what to do to keep them together or how to make them go. These boats spent the summers as heaps of mess on the beach. In 1985, when I was back at Bartlett, Loll traded those little Sun Fish to Bartlett for some surplus food. They actually worked pretty well on Fife Lake, but were a limited asset to the camp, mostly we just floated around in them. They were staff toys, but we didn't really know how to make them work.

The next summer we were back at Loll. The camp had acquired a very nice little sailboat, and once again there was no one who knew how to sail. We tried, but then one of the staff dropped the dagger board in the deep part of the lake. So much for sailing at camp; we were cut off even as we strove to learn.

I have a few pictures of some of the staff on a sailboard. But how do you share a sailboard with a camp full of scouts. It seemed like more wasted equipment. We went eight years at Loll without sailing. Then in 1995 much of the crew went to Cherry Valley.

We had been asked to come to check out CCV in September. I went down to the sea dreaming of whales and sails. Janice and I visited the camp over the UEA break. That first day, as we walked through CCV, we came across the boat yard. There were piles of rotting boats. The entire camp was a jumble of junk, but this particular mess held a pledge of something special we could do with the sea, some chance to resurrect what had once been Cherry Valley, to build it to what it could be. The boats, canoes, rowboats, sailboats and rubber rafts, were broken and jumbled, long unused, but full of promise. They looked good to me, and the Camp Ranger spoke glowingly of their wonder. There was an honest to goodness yacht there. I began to get excited, although a little nervous as well. The mess was still there in November when we went out again with Jody, Julie, and the kids. We started making plans for kayaks, war canoes, and sailboats. There had been a big motor boat and a glass bottomed double hulled motor driven catamaran tied to the peer.

This is what the camp Boat Yard looked like that September of 1994, when we visited CCV. I was particularly excited about that big sailing boat, and the fleet of canoes. Jody and I dreamed of all the great times our Staff and Campers would have mastering and using them. When we arrived in June, almost everything you see was gone: all the small white canoes, the big sail boat and all the other boats with the exception of the red canoes on the trailer, (the big red canoes in the back were gone!) the aluminum rowboats, the small motor boat – called the Squeaky Two – the Cat, which was not sea worthy, one barley serviceable sail boat, and the war canoes. We had to fight to keep most of the war canoes from being thrown away. I assured the resident ranger they could be repaired and then set our staff to work on it. By the 2000, Cherry Valley had three catamarans, five Leto Fourteen sailboats, several new fiberglass rowboats, and a fleet of ocean kayaks. We discovered that Cherry Valley was a camp on the sea that was afraid to use the sea. It was a bunch of “Little Rocky Mountain Boys” that taught the “Islanders” how to sail.

When we got there in June with our staff, all pumped up on promises of the sea, the boats from the boat yard were all but gone. There was a broken wreck of a Hobie Cat, two broken little sailboats, only one of which could be made to sail, and a few fiberglass canoes; CCV's Ranger had hauled all the rest to the dump. At least that is what he said, so he probably did something else with them. The motor boats tied to the peer the fall before were also gone, they had never belonged to CCV. They were the property of the Catalina Island Marine Institute (CIMI). The force of the frustration I felt at having been so deceived was tidal. After all, not telling the truth is by definition lying. Among the rationalizations for this dishonesty, it was explained that sailing on the open sea was too dangerous for scouts. I came to realize that for years the campers from CCV almost never got in the water, let alone went out on to the sea in boats. Our predecessors version of waterfront activity boiled down to lost bather drills. We sang “by the waters of Babylon” and I sat down and wept.

It would take a sea of words to explain the disaster we found upon our arrival at Cherry Valley that June. I will not embark into that tempest now. The state of the sailing program at CCV provides the perfect metaphor for the calamity we found there. Other than a dozen little fiberglass canoes and the six neglected war canoes, the only boat anywhere near sea worthy was that one broken little sailboat, so old that all the fittings were all made of wood.

Tyler Shaw, our sailing instructor, did his best with it, gluing the broken rudder and dagger board back together. Tyler struggled to learn his craft from a book and by trial and error. When Jason Jackson took the boat out without putting down the dagger board, ran afoul of some yacht lines and broke the rudder, Tyler almost killed him. Water, water, everywhere and not a chance to sail. However, in spite of the enormity of the obstacle - little Rocky Mountain Boys that we were - we were not to be kept from the sea.

We spent the summer repairing the war canoes. Our squadron grew from six to ten by the end of the season. The Ranger wanted to throw them away, we wanted to take them across the sea to Emerald Bay.

The next summer, we bought some new sailboats, Leto 14's. We also hired Jared, a young man who had learned to sail on Bear Lake. We also were blessed to find a true ally in Jim Alexander. An old Navy man, Jim taught Tyler and my son Bryon what Jared could not. If we were pilgrims lost in the wilderness, Jim was our Squanto. He was a demanding instructor, but the treasure of knowledge he had to share was worth the suffering. We also got our hands on a fine fifteen foot motorized whaler and a fleet of new double seated ocean kayaks. Jared, Tyler, Bryon, and Jim rebuilt the broken cat with the fiberglassing skills they had honed redoing the war canoes and we got a second hobie. Together with at least two new Letos we now had a fleet. We determined to add at least two new boats every season. By the end of our six years at Cherry we had three cats, five Letos and an entire waterfront staff of very fine sailors.

But seven years was all I could take away from Loll, so in 2001 we headed back to Lake of the Woods. Only now we knew how to sail, and we needed to get some sailboats. Bill Wangsgard was helpful. We landed the Blue Goose and put back together a little Sun Fish. We pretty much took any sail boat we could get our hands on. We lost some to the caprice of the Ashton winter, others to the fact that by the time someone donates a boat to the Boy Scouts it is already worn out. But through all the ups and downs we have never forgotten how to sail. Now each summer it is the primary charge of those who know to teach those who don't. It is our goal to fill our waterfront and Ranger staffs with sailors.

The sailing program goes hand in hand with climbing at Loll. This I had observed during my six years in sojourn on Catalina. There is a machine called a wave runner. A kind of a sea going snowmobile. A boy can learn everything there is to know about a wave runner in twenty minutes, then the only way to titillate his adrenalin is either to risk his life jumping the wakes of big ships or annoy others. It is not that way with a sailboat. I recognized long ago that the attraction of sailing and of climbing is that the challenge is never exhausted. The more you learn, the more you realize you have yet to master. As you grow stronger and more skillful you find new places to go both in the world and within your soul. A challenging wall can only be a few feet above the ground, its pleasures not derived from a momentary flush of adrenalin but from success in doing the difficult well. The lightest breeze can present challenges as intricate and as rewarding as the storm, endless variety, endless spice, in endless growth. For these reasons we climb and we sail at Loll. We are able to give our scouts the adventure of trying new things and the fun of doing things they enjoy again and again and the romance of feeling ones life change by universally applicable truths that make mere existence into good living. We are able to place before our staff and endless opportunity for growth and give them the the privilege of sharing with others the joy of living well.

This eager crew is about to embark on the Vital Spark, the flag ship of our fleet.

This is our current sun fish. Maintaining it is no less demanding that taking care of the Vital. Our waterfront directors and their teams are always nursing her along. So many little parts to keep track of. We are always ordering in new bits. Sails must be replaced regularly, and their care is a constant struggle

As of 2010, Loll also has two catamarans. Bill Wangsgard picked up the "blue goose" for Loll. For one summer we had used my son Bryon's Cat, but now Loll has a second of its own. More sail, more speed, and more little parts to keep track of.

We use the Cats as part of our advanced camping experience (ACE) program for campers over 14. The Sun Fish is for younger scouts who want to get a taste of sailing or are working on the merit badge.

My son Shaun found our second cat. We just call it the White Cat.

It needs the same constant maintenance. This past year it was rebuilt and reinforced by our present Waterfront Director, Mike Sutherland.

The Merit Badge classes and afternoon sailing program needed a bigger mono-hulled boat. Scott Hinrichs and the Camp Loll Alumni Association came to the rescue. The lion's share of the donation was from Scott's father. We had arranged to pay for a 14 foot Leto, like we had gotten for Cherry Valley. But at the last minute, Sid, of Sid's Sports in Salt Lake said he would sell us a 15 foot sailboat for the same price.

Now it is not uncommon to see different kinds of sailboats underway at once on Lake of the Woods.

One of the best things about sailing is the way it requires the staff to develop skill and take responsibility.

Master sailors don't need a strong wind, they just need to know what they are doing.

And great sailors are great teachers. They take the time to show the way, and to lay the foundation for great sailors to be.

Not that there isn't a chance to go for the thrills, to hike out on the harness and really fly.

Little boat or big, there must be skill and there is always a risk.

Do it right and you fly with the wind, the unharnessed might of the wind is suddenly yours to command, to force to your service, to fill your wings and sail away.

In an instant that power that one seems to wield can throw you down. The magic backfires and the strength of the sky throws you where it will, you will mean nothing.

Big boat or small, one must be master or be mastered. But the lessons never stop coming; that is the wonder of sailing at Boy Scout Camp. Fun, Adventure, and Romance all together and never ending. The perfect example of a life well lived.

One learns how to get up when one goes down. There is great power in knowing that you can fail but need not be defeated. Spread the wings of knowledge, practice, skill acquired by real effort, and self esteem earned by excellence and fly.

Really fly.

I never learned to love the sea. The words of a song from my youth have long run through my mind: "The streams of the mountains please me more than the sea." I never learned to love the sea, but I learned to love sailing. I never learned to sail, but I have learned the value of sailing to boys who need to learn that they can do hard things, that they can gain true self esteem by accepting challenges and through effort become masters.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dark Water and Cold Fire

If you refer to the post, "Buliding Bridges", you will recall we didn't get the poop pumped on Labor Day. So, taking advantage of my third four day week in a row, Thursday night found me on my way back to Loll

This time there was no army of helpers. Only Jody came with me, but all one really needs to succeed in camp is a Jody.

We arrived after dark and found that Clynn Josephson had already been at work. Bill Wangsgard and Junior Shupe had been in camp all day, and while Bill and Junior finished the roof on the Old Office and closed down the water system for the winter, Clynn had pumped the lodge septic.

Their work well done, Bill and Junior headed home, Jody and I passed them in Rexburg, and Clynn took his first truck load to Ashton. By the time we arrived he had already pumped the "High Seat" and cleaned the cans and such out of the Staff KYBO; ready to pump at first light.

Clynn is a miracle for Loll, no one has ever applied the dedication and craft to pumping poop the way Clynn does. Not only has he cleaned up our worst mess for years now, he has taught us how to make it less and manage well what is left.

He navigates his monster truck through the forest, entertains and educates with all sorts of interesting tales, and does so much hard work with amazing skill.

Here the pumper truck goes to work on the Gros Ventur KYBO.

Clynn approved of the condition of the tanks, our little friends the bactee had been hard at work. Here he inspects the summers product before the suction begins.

Clynn's energy and sense of humor make this otherwise horrible job an adventure. He is the most wonderful proof that doing any job well makes it a "good" job. As his pumper truck proclaims, there are plenty of challenges in life, but those who accept the challenge and do the work make the world go round. Thank you Clynn for whirling our problems away.

As our summer's waste disappeared into the belly of Clynn's truck, Jody faced our next big problem. In order to make pumping possible, the departing Camp Staff left the bear boxes out. Now they needed to be put in . I had planned on using the Labor Day crew for this chore, but it wasn't to be. Now all the work fell on Jody and me. Well, mostly on Jody.

At every KYBO there were four or five bear boxes and a pile of fire barrels. Jody muscled them all into place. I recorded the process; that's part of being a good supervisor.

Here, at the Shoshone Kybo, you can see the one Jody has already put inside and four more in view. There is a sixth behind the cabin. He got them all in. Eat your heart out Justin Hansen!

By 10:00 AM we had pumped four more KYBOs and the Whirlaway truck was full. Clynn and I walked back to check out the remaining three. Navajo had really digested well. There was almost nothing in it but a few gallons of water. We headed toward the Lemhi head.

On our way, we encountered our worst fear. The stream that runs by the trail to Sioux was still flowing. The road was blocked. This same stream feeds the little marshy spot, in which we have lost trucks before. Clynn said he would give it a try; "satisfaction guaranteed" is his motto. I remembered how it took three hundred scouts to pull out the truck that got stuck there in 1992, and how the one that got stuck down by Nez Perce cost us more for the semi wrecker hired to pull it out than the pumper-man charged for the pumping. Clynn had no such memories, but I could tell he had his doubts about our success. I suggested we check out the other two KYBOs. Neither were anywhere near half full. Lemhi's was in the best condition of all the heads in camp, and although the Ute KYBO suffers from lack of air, it was not near half full. We decided to put in some more bactee and leave our little pardners to do the work. Clynn was on the road to Ashton by 10:30 AM.

This is the stream between Navajo and Sioux. I have never seen it this high in September.

Jody and I had planned several hours of work to fill the time while Clynn was in Ashton. Now we didn't need to fill the time but "we" still had to do the work. We loaded all the bear boxes and barrel's. Jody put covers on all the KYOB vent tops.

Jody also mowed the grass at the Spring.

Here is the finished roof on the "Old Office". Thanks to Bill and Junior.

One might wonder why anyone would be willing to go to Loll at this time of year for this type of job. Well, if you had ever been there, once the leaves start to turn, you would know.

As the leaves start to turn it as if the forest were filled with a magic fire which illuminates without consuming; colors warm and bright.

The leaves were still days from their brightest blaze, but here you can see them begin to glow along Lake of the Woods.

They come in every hue of red, orange, and yellow. Like gold and jewels, like the dancing flames of the campfire that catch your eye and force you to stare into the coals. Huckleberries go purple, red, and gold.

Mountain ash take on every imaginable orange. This one blazes like a torch just below the Barlow/Wadman Lodge.

I could not resist enjoying the beauty which, more intense then flowers, a billions leaves provide. Beauty on the individual level that combines in an overwhelming wonder. Think America.

The old dining hall, closed for the winter, is warmed by a flash of mountain ash.

This mountain ash is a golden light on the trial to Nez Perce campsite.

This one, orange and green in perfect contrast, is down by camp Sagwitch.

Once we started home, the road we had passed in the dark the night before burst into wonderful light. Light is color; color is light.

I kept stopping to take pictures. Jody didn't mind; we were in no hurry to leave Loll behind.

No photograph can capture the wonder of the under-story throughout the entire forest. It has been changed into a carpet of color.

Mountain ash so hot it burns, not the physical body, but the soul. There are feelings and there are feelings.

Every look discovers a new wonder.

I wanted to run through the forest. I could hear the call of the Windigo, the call of the wild, the call of fall, the stored up energy of weeks of summer sun in one last farewell to summer joy.

The greens now frame the bright hot hues; the pines, spruce, and fir make ready for the long winter. They seem to warm themselves, one last time, with this magic fire.

Mountain ash, snow berry, and huckleberry splash orange, yellow, and red on the forest floor.

It is almost painful to realize that of all those who love Loll, who revel in the Yellowstone wilderness, and who delight in summer in the Tetons, only a few will ever see this beauty. Of all of our thousands of campers and staff, only those who go to pump the pooh.

The aspens have not gone fully golden yet. They line the road from Indian Lake to the wheat fields of Squirrel. But this "golden bough" was hung, as if set in the forest for Aeneas, a ticket to Paradise.

We took one last look back and there was a hawk. I would love to soar with him, above the gentle blaze of fall, and watch over Loll until the cold fires go to rest beneath the snow.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Almost More Than I Can Bear

At camp, I sleep on the third floor of the beautiful Barlow/Wadman Lodge. Almost everyone else sleeps in tents in the middle of situation one grizzly bear habitat. I feel safe myself, but spend a great deal of time worrying about all those folks in the woods.

I hate knocks on my door in the middle of the night. It always means trouble, a sick camper or staff member, some wrong to right, fights or hi jinks, perhaps a fire, and of course there are always bears.

It was 4:30 AM, Thursday morning, a week and days before the end of camp, when the knock came. I opened the door. It was Bryan Purdy. Bryan's door is closest to the stairs, when those who don't know where to go, come, they always go to his room first.
"You've got a bear." Bryan growled. Why is it always, you've got a bear, you've got this problem or that, you've got a disaster? I guess because I'm the Camp Director. I told him I'd be right down. Leonard was visiting that week, sleeping up in the loft, I called him down; misery loves company. Minutes later we met Bryan in the dark at the kitchen door.

"Where is it?" I asked.

"I forgot to ask." Bryan admitted. At the time, I was not amused. We started our search on the north loop. There were some fishermen heading out of Camp Apache. Leonard asked if they had seen the bear. "Is there a bear?" a leader demanded. "Don't worry." I assured him. Then I took Leonard aside and begged him to not mention bears.

It wasn't until we got to Hopi that we found the blazing campfire and the rattled group of adult leaders who had confronted the bear on their picnic table. We began our investigation.

At first they thought he might have gotten some cookies; maybe a hot dog had been left on the ground. As we pressed for details, I am sure they sensed my "urgency", they concluded that there hadn't been any food out, just an empty cookie wrapper left under the table. "I sure hope so," I said and prayed.

The table was covered with bear tracks; there was bear snot all over the bear boxes, and the Scoutmaster said he thought the bear had pissed on the table. We searched everywhere for the bear. Leonard, Bryan, and I visited every campsite, collecting any scented item we found. Fortunately there were very few. We poked about till first light.

As soon as possible, Bryan went down to Hopi and took some pictures. Here is the crime scene.

These bear boxes were our salvation. Years ago I listened as Doug Muir, Ashton District Forest Ranger, talked to our Scout Executive, Harvey Mortensen, about getting bear boxes for Camp Loll. Doug recommended heavy gage steel. Harvey worried they would be too expensive. Couldn't we use three-quarter inch marine plywood? "The bear would eat the boxes along with everything in them," Doug explained. "That seems like an awful big expense," Harvey lamented. "Well," said Doug, "you're the one who will have to call the kid's mom when he's killed by a bear." Loll got its bear boxes.

Perhaps there were food scents on the table. The bear had obviously walked all over it.

The dish pan got a special look.

You can see his palm print on these documents.

And here is one on the troop's fireguard chart

You can see how he tried to open the boxes with his muddy paws. Fortunately there was at least one clip in place.

The suspect cookie wrapper.

It was most gratifying to attend Jacob Mortensen's missionary farewell a few weeks after camp. Jacob is one of three of Harvey's grandsons who worked at Loll this summer. His assigned topic was obedience. He used, as one of his examples, the parable of the bear boxes. He explained how the scouts are taught to put every scented item into the bear box. Although the scouts almost never see a bear, they still obey the rule. "Then," Jacob explained, "when the bear came this summer, he could not get any food, so he went away. Had he gotten food, he could have caused a lot of trouble, hurt some scouts, maybe gotten someone or himself killed. As it was, because everyone obeyed the rules, everyone was safe." A pretty good lesson to be learned by a boy on his way to becoming a man.

This bear had very dirty feet.

He must also have been fairly persistent.

However, there was no way for him to get in.

Everyone was on the look out and during camp inspections some tracks were found. I had some pictures taken. I even took a few myself.

I called the Forest Service at 8:00 AM sharp, and Brandon Burke and Bill Davis asked for some of the pictures. I e-mailed Brandon a few.

We had clear front and back prints. From this front print we were able to determine it was a black bear. One cannot draw a line between the toes and the pad without nicking one or the other.

Brandon called back to request some reference to size. So I took some more pictures including a tape measure. By this time I was a little less concerned.

The hind footprint was shorter than my hand.

Brandon came to camp later in the day. He determined that our visitor had been a yearling cub.
We instituted a bear watch for the rest of the summer. The protocol is: 1) At the end of the day each camp friend will visit their troop, they always do anyway, and check for "bear violations". 2) Each Commissioner also visits each of their camp sits just before bed to make doubly sure. 3) At 4:00 AM, a bear patrol, made up of staff members with lights, walks the entire camp to make their presence known and to "scare away the bear". 4) Then at 5:00 AM Leonard, and I - or the next week, Jody and I - start the generator and walk the camp with lights. We followed this protocol for the rest of the summer, until the last scouts had left and the staff moved into the lodge. We saw no more signs of any bears, but I was still glad to do my sleeping on the third floor of the lodge.