Jason Goes To Camp

From July 11 to 18, Jason experienced his first Boy Scout summer camp at Camp Raven Knob, just outside Mt. Airy, NC (aka “Mayberry”).  Given his dietary and allergy issues, I opted to tag along to help out the leaders and prepare Jason’s meals.  It was a fun week, with tolerable temperatures, pretty scenery and interesting merit badge classes for Jason.

Here’s Jason at easily the most popular spot in camp, the Trading Post.  This is where scouts could supplement the less-than-inspiring cuisine of the dining hall with snacks, ice cream and “slush puppies,” and spend all that money from Mom and Dad on t-shirts, pocket knives, walking sticks and whatever they forgot to pack before leaving home.  Jason didn’t get to enjoy the snacks, obviously, but he did score a neat utility knife with about a dozen gadgets included.


Jason’s tentmate exhausted all his funds pretty much on Day One, and spent the next few days anxiously awaiting a care package from home (“I know I’m getting one because I sent it myself!”) so he could sell the contents for more spending money.

With 43 scouts and ten leaders, Troop 800 took up two adjacent campsites and, as always, made its presence known.


With canvas tarps strung over concrete or wooden floors, it wasn’t quite the Waldorf, but our accommodations did keep out most of the rain and bugs.  Except for a couple of storms (one big enough to see us evacuated to a permanent structure for an hour or so), the weather was sunny and pleasant, anyway.


There were lots of aquatic activities on the lake all week, including swimming, canoeing, sailing and paddle-boarding.  Jason’s a strong swimmer, but none of his classes involved the water, and I couldn’t talk him into taking a dip even during the Free Swim periods, but I’m pretty sure Scott will be all about the water when it’s his turn to go.



We went to three campfire ceremonies over the week, including a very impressive “Order of the Arrow” induction ceremony for the Old Hickory Council. The ampitheatre gave a great view of the lake and mountains, a view I tried to sketch at one point, with disappointing results (which I’ll spare you here).


There were numerous trails, but the only one we took was to the top of Raven’s Knob, which afforded a nice view of the camp.  (This is not my photo.  I took one, but my camera took a hit and I ended up losing a day’s worth of images.  All things considered, I opted not to climb the mountain again for another shot).


It’s not like we didn’t get in plenty of walking, anyway.  The building in the clearing in the upper right is where Jason had most of his classes. For his aviation class, he followed that road down past the aquatics area, past the ampitheater and on off to the left for what had to have been at least another 1/8th of a mile to a shelter on the edge of the “Cripple Creek” area where some scouts got to recreate pioneer life.  Since it was such a long trek, I usually walked with him to that class and  back.  By the way, now I know why Boy Scout socks are dark green; I ruined five pairs of white gym socks walking those dusty trails!

At week’s end, Jason had completed his requirements for his Photography and Movie-Making, Digital Technology, Metal Working, Leather Working and (nearly) Aviation merit badges, and acquired a new appreciation for air conditioning and indoor plumbing.  Still, he claims he slept better on his cot in the tent than he does at home on a mattress.

All told, a rewarding experience.


Fun At Grandma’s

Last week we made our first trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Ohio in over a year.  It was also our first real vacation in a long while.  The kids enjoyed time with cousins, a trip to Amish country and an endless supply of snacks.


Scott and Jason tried their hands at riding Cousin Alex’s longboard, with varying degrees of success, but no injuries, thankfully.


Grace put almost as many miles on Grandma’s pedal car as we did on the real one.


And we fit in a couple games of miniature golf, the first a lot of fun, the second one on a much more frustrating course in miserable heat.


All in all, a lot of fun.  You know it’s true when the question you get as you drive away is “When are we coming back?”

Dance Little Sister, Dance

Grace had her dance recital on Wednesday, and all the practice paid off; she did a great job.  Her old class, a couple years ago, was more just a case of “something to do once a week,” with not a lot of real progress.  At that recital, all the girls just watched the teacher and tried to mirror her movements.  This year, her teacher did a much better job and Grace was very much into it.


There was a fun moment after her tap routine; the dance ended with the girls’ hands up in the air in a “Ta-Da!” kind of pose and Grace held it for a long time, even after her partner Abby had gone back to her seat to make room for the next act.  You could tell she was really basking in the applause.  After the recital, the first thing she said was that she wanted to do it again next year.  Always a good sign.


April Adventures

Weekend before last, Jason, Scott and I traveled with Troop 800 to Sherando Lake park, near Waynesboro for a weekend of camping.  Jason’s chief goal was to fulfil his requirement to complete a 5-mile hike, which he did, in spades, since it turned into a little more than 8 miles by the time it was over.  We enjoyed a nice lunch by a waterfall and a couple evenings under beautiful, clear, starry skies (even if we were on high alert for bears the whole time).


As plans were shaping up for the trip, I let Scott know he had a rare chance to come along, even though he’s still in Webelos.  When I told him it would be over two nights and parts of three days, he said, “I don’t think I want to go camping more than one night.  What are we going to do?”  We’ll be hiking.  “I don’t like to hike.”  I told him if he doesn’t like camping and doesn’t like hiking, maybe he should re-think the whole scouting thing.  As it turned out, he had a great time, including learning the art of lashing.


On Sunday, it was back to Richmond for the PBS “Explore the Outdoors” event, where we caught up with Laura and Grace, who’d spent the day before shopping and watching the new “Cinderella” movie with Granny.  Before the rain came to spoil the fun, Grace got to catch up with an old friend.


Shipping Out (for the Weekend)

Jason and I had an adventure this past weekend as BSA Troop 800 made a weekend outing to Camp Pendleton in Virginia Beach.  Among the highlights was a day trip to the Norfolk Navy base for a guided tour of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.  It’s hard to say what left a bigger impression: how immense the ship seems on the outside, or how close and tight it feels on much of the inside.  Except for the hangar deck, where we entered, much of the vessel is tight quarters, indeed.



That row of windows towering above Jason is roughly ten stories up; on the other side of them is the ship’s bridge.  A little while before this picture was taken, we were on the other side of the windows looking out, and Jason got to sit in the Commanding Officer’s chair, if only briefly.  One neat and unexpected attraction was a small museum showcasing artifacts and personal items from the life and career of Teddy Roosevelt.

Other trips over the weekend included visits to the Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk and the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, as well as numerous shorter “trips” on the ice at Camp Pendleton; the base was covered with about 4 inches of snow, which in turn was topped with a layer of ice at least an inch thick.  Still, hanging out in a heated barracks with real beds beats sleeping on the ground in a tent any day, especially if that day is in late February.

I gather the Roosevelt will soon be leaving Norfolk for the Mediterranean, after which it will return to its new home port of San Diego, so I’m glad we got to visit while it was still here.  To the men and women of the Roosevelt, thanks for your service and your hospitality.  Jason and I wish you smooth sailing.