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Boy Scout Troop 485 Jax, FL -
"Delivering the Promise"

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   Camp Bob Hardin - Troop 485 - Summer Camp 2003

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Now that we are back, here is the complete camp diary. There was only one phone line at camp, and no payphone. We were only able to get to a phone line at the dining hall twice during the week. Sorry for the delays, but here is the news that is fit to print.

Sunday 6/29/03

The trip was uneventful. We did celebrate Joe's birthday with cupcakes at a rest stop outside Columbia.

We arrived at 3:30pm and had a lesson in what it means to be a mountain goat. This is a very nice camp with huge poplar trees growing on the slopes above the two lakes. From our three Adirondacks on the hillside, we can see over the tallest trees. It is over a 350' vertical climb from the main area of camp to our site. It is up a road that is too steep for San Francisco. The road has a sign at the bottom that says "cardiac hill"-- its a warning, not a joke.

Everyone in the Troop passed the swim test. The lake is about 70 degrees, but that kills the leeches. There are two free swims each day so everyone gets a chance for a dip.

We had lasagna, garlic bread, Jell-O, and salad for our first dinner.  

The boys were up until about 11pm burning of energy from sitting in the car all day.

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Monday 6/29/03

Breakfast - eggs, bacon, grits, and  biscuits.

Lunch - hotdogs, chili, beans, coleslaw

Dinner - turkey (we thought was pork chops until talking to the cook), mash potatoes, green beans, and rolls.

All kidding aside, the food is pretty good and the portions are generous. All the meals are served family style and there are seconds at all meals. If you push away from the table hungry, its your own fault. We haven't emptied the bowls at any meal yet -- although the leaders try. The older boys rate the food the best of the three camps they have attended.

Today we found two other trails that are alternatives to "cardiac hill".  Unfortunately due to the laws of physics, the trails have to cover the same vertical distance, but do it in half the horizontal distance -- read "steeper than stairs". 

A few scouts had problems getting to the right classes today, but just a few missed a complete class. There is a small group here this week (150 Scouts) so the classes are small. The Scouts are getting a lot of attention and may finish classes by Wednesday or Thursday and have some free time.

The troops most popular merit badge is Horsemanship MB. We have nine boys in horsemanship and they are doing a half-day trail ride on Wednesday. Eddie is providing transportation for our Scouts and several others from camp to and from the riding stables.

Aaron and Damon are the Troop fisherman -- they swear by Slim Jims as bait. Shane, Gabriel, and Ethan have the most time in the lake and have discovered the diving board on the floating dock. Their Swimming MB class is right before free swim, so the have two hours in the water. Damon, Aaron, and Billy are in the afternoon class.

Troy and Melnard are organizing a conservation project for the Troop for Soil and Water MB.

Michael Be. and Joe are buddies for Canoeing MB and have tested their life jackets already. For this merit badge you have to swamp the canoe in deep water, jump in the lake, empty the water out of the canoe and reenter. The leaders took some photos, but the Scouts were well out in the lake.

Michael C. and Michael Bu. were waiters today and made it to the mess hall early  for every meal. Yes Moms, even for breakfast. Melnard still doesn't believe the leaders that grits taste just like rice.

Tuesday 7/1/03

Breakfast - pancakes, sausage, cereal, milk, juice
Lunch - hoagies, chips, apples
Dinner - beef(?) stew, rice, apples or what might have been pears

We had an early wake up this morning when the Ranger forced his tractor up "cardiac hill" against a driving  rainstorm to deliver coffee to the leaders -- this is a daily service. The leaders have to get out of bed and down to the road -- no bedside service.

Three skunks showed up at the sixth graders Adirondack, but refused to enter. The skunks made it part way up the steps before turning away and running down the hill. I wonder why?

It has been raining since 9pm last night. The roads are like rivers, so expect muddy shoes and boots. It is great sleeping in the Adirondacks with the rain on the roof. The night temperatures are in the 60's. The boys aren't bothered by the rain. They were all out of camp by 8:30am heading for their 9am classes.

Wednesday 7/2/03

Breakfast - sausage, biscuits, gravy, grits, milk, juice
Lunch - Sloppy Joes, chips, apples
Dinner - Taco Salad, peaches

The boys in Horsemanship MB are on a half day trail ride. Eddie is transporting a group of 11 boys--Fran might notice the red clay when he gets back. Eddie does get a free ride and a tank of gas.

We are still experiencing the end of Tropical Storm Bill. There were high winds and 6" of rain last night, but we were high and dry.

The sixth graders Adirondack looks like an explosion at Goodwill -- with Pringles and ravioli thrown in for color and texture. They have been warned that the only camp scavengers are skunks. Parents -- please overlook the smell when they get home. Also, check for laundry tips on removing ground-in red clay. The older boys are giving a class today during the free (cleanup) period on the 11th point of the Scout Law - "A Scout is Clean".

Late tonight the ants moved into the sixth graders Adirondack. A second round of cleaning by the Scouts until 11pm removed the last of the Pringles and Nerds from the bedding and they are ready for morning inspection.

Still no signs of homesickness. The phone is far from our campsite. Not many boys are going to leave a warm sleeping bag on a rainy night to make a two mile round trip down a pitch black, muddy road to the phone.

Our first trip to the Health Lodge of camp was made today. Shane was bitten by something called a "Dobson Fly". It is about three inches long with an evil set of pinchers. When something that big bits, you go see a Doctor. By the end of the day there was just a bit of swelling.

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There were a few cuts in Wood Carving MB today, but none required more than a Band-Aid. 

It did stop raining late today, but there is a downside. If you turn on a light to read at night, your book becomes a landing strip for all types on insects. It is hard to read when a four inch moth is sitting on your open page. Also Mr. Bob found out tonight that the rain had been drowning our the sound of Ray's and Eddie's snoring.

Thursday 7/3/03

Breakfast - waffles, bacon, cereal, milk, juice
Lunch - fried chicken sandwich, chips, trail mix
Dinner - Scoutmaster Steak cook-out

This is the last day for most of the merit badges. The Scouts are doing great and I think that almost all of the badges will be completed at camp. The weather has been good the last couple of days, but with 85 temperatures and muddy ground, it feels like Jacksonville. It does cool off at night into the 60's.

Melnard and Troy finished their conservation project with the help of Michael, Michael, Michael, Joe, and Raymond. The instructor said is was the top project of the summer. As part of the project the boys panned gravel out of  a stream bed to cover the trail. Returning the next day, Eddie and Bob could see gold dust sprinkled among the gravel -- yes real gold! The camp may have to rename the trail from "Wilderness Trail" to "Gold Dust Trail".

Michael C. has completed Life Saving MB. With him life guarding at the lake, Shane, Ethan, Damon, Gabriel, and Billy passed drown proofing with flying colors (jumping in the lake in your clothes, undressing, and floating for five minutes). That should complete Swimming MB for them. Troy and Melnard are aces on the rifle range. Both can take five shots at the target and cover with a dime. Raymond is following right behind and has qualified with high enough scores to earn the badge as well. Damon, Gabriel, Aaron, and Billy will be cooking their own dinner tonight for Cooking MB.

Melnard and Michael Be. spent the night in a homemade shelter for Wilderness Survival MB. Actually they slept out under the stars after it was discovered that a large troop of wolf spiders had adopted their shelter.

Mr. Bob had to stand up on a chair and have everyone at camp sing happy birthday. The Scouts were excited to set him up. Mr. Bob is also teaching Forestry MB. Eddie and Ray worked most of the day to repair the camps PA system and install speakers in the Dinning Hall, so the leaders are busy too.

Friday 7/4/03

Breakfast - steak biscuits, gravy, grits, milk, juice
Lunch - Cheese burgers, fries, milk
Dinner - Pepperoni pizza, salad, peaches

The Troop did the flag raising for the Fourth. They had matching flag T-shirts for all the Scouts and Leaders. Melnard said the grace for breakfast for the entire camp and we managed to play a CD with John Wayne leading the Pledge of Allegiance over the new renovated speaker system. Shane, Ethan, and Joe raised the flag.

The morning was slow with both the swim area and the boating area closed for makeup work and most of the camp complete with classes as well. In the afternoon, all the troops competed in the "Palmetto Games" -- a series of games and contests between Troops. We did well in several of the games, but the contest was for a single prize at the end of the day. It was our first year at this camp, so the local troops had a big advantage. We still placed in the top third at the end of the day.

Some classes did meet on Friday. The three boys in Rifle MB got to shoot another 50 rounds and then shoot the shotguns. This badge was the highlight of camp for these three and the instructor "TC" has the reason. He was the best in camp in the opinion of the leaders and the boys in his class. For those not familiar with this badge, as part of the requirements, the Scout has to place five shots on a target from 50 feet, and the holes from the five shots must be able to be covered by a quarter. I think TC would have made the boys stay a second week if they didn't get their scores -- he didn't allow anyone to give up and everyone, from all troops in the class, qualified.

The second trip to the Health Lodge was by Gabriel, but he was feeling OK by noon and even was in the lake for the afternoon contests.

The leaders reviewed the report cards for the week and the Scouts had an outstanding week, earning over 70 merit badges with only about a dozen partially complete badges. In spite of the rain, some of the instructors worked at the end of the week to make up lost time.

The troop was one of three honor troops for the week for the Scouts outstanding attitude, and participation in classes and camp activities. We also won a first place ribbon for our camp site cleanliness. We were lucky that there was no inspection on Wednesday when the Dragons Adirondack had a dirty clothes and food crumb explosion. 

Troy and Raymond shared the Senior Patrol Leader role for the week and accepted the awards representing the Troop. Both boys did an outstanding job with a role generally filled by a Scout 16 years old or older. 

Damon got a special award from the aquatics staff for putting two hours of his free time into learning to dive for Swimming MB. Twenty-five scouts took swimming this week and only 9 earned the badge. Troop 485 had 5 of those that completed the badge.

All-in-all a fun but exhausting week at camp. This camp has great facilities, but is very spread out. The adult staff was top notch. However, the leaders were disappointed in many of the youth staff and felt the camp's program could use some major work. There were problems during the week with youth instructors but in spite of that, the boys had a good experience and are looking forward to next the summer camp. (A camp for 2004 will be chosen before the end of 2003).

Saturday 7/5/03

Breakfast - Cereal and fresh blueberries, milk
Lunch - on the river - cold cuts, chips, brownies
Dinner - Ryan's Family Steakhouse "eating pit"

We started the day with a hearty breakfast of cold cereal and fresh blueberries. Then is was into the cars and off for a one hour drive to Walnut, NC for an eight mile trip on the French Broad River. On  this trip the Troop leaders are part of the raft crew along with the Scouts. There is a trained guide in each boat and there is a lot of paddling. No one just sits and rides down the river. The guides give the crew instructions to paddle the raft into a position for a "big hit" that is still safe. 

The rain earlier in the week put the river above flood stage, so it was moving swiftly. The water was warmer than the lakes in camp, which was good because the rafts were swamped by large waves on a regular basis. There was steady work for the adults with five gallon buckets. We had about half of the Scout's -- and one of the leaders -- take unintentional swims. Everyone was pulled back in safely and had huge smiles at the end of the day. The leaders were proud to see several of scouts pulled back in the rafts by fellow scouts. Mr. Ray has a slight limp, but no other injuries.

We missed our hot shore lunch due to the chance of rain, but enjoyed the cold-cut sandwiches just the same. The river was rough enough that everyone had to wear helmets in addition to the usual life jackets. Afterwards we weren't sure if the helmets were for the boat ride or the bus trip to the drop off point. Mountain drivers consider the stripes in the center of the road merely suggestions.

Last year the Troop rafted the same 8 mile stretch of river at low water. It was a completely new experience this year. The French Broad Rafting company it a class act. The Troop received high marks from the guides on the boys politeness, cooperation, and several "rescues" that they performed. The guides had as much fun as the Troop and really made the trip one to remember with their professionalism and knowledge of the river, and local history.

After the trip we went window shopping at a huge outdoor store and then to Ryan's Family Steakhouse for the food bar. Every boy had three or four plates of food and at least two desserts. We stayed for over an hour. The leaders thought that the third serving of steak was the best -- so they didn't suffer either. Then it was back to camp.

The camp's Chaplin was a Priest and  returned to camp on Saturday to offer mass for our Troop. We were the only Troop in camp. At mass, Melnard and Michael Be. served, while Shane, Raymond, and Joe did readings. Several of the camp staff and the camp ranger attended as well. It was a very special service to cap the week.

Sunday 7/6/03

Breakfast - donuts in the Winn Dixie parking lot
Lunch - sandwiches at the Georgia visitor center
Dinner - at home with the family

"Red", the camp ranger, came up with the tractor to get the trailer full of gear at 6am He even brought a carafe of coffee for the leaders. The boys got moving early because any gear not on the trailer at 6am had to be carried the mile to the parking area.

We had a nutritious breakfast of Krispy Kream donuts in the parking lot if the Winn Dixie. Lunch was at the Georgia visitor center and we took one other restroom break.

The boys slept most of the way back. Some of the boys managed to put together 5 hours of sleep between meal stops. It was pretty quiet for the drivers. Bob had five of the boys and Eddie had nine. Ray braved it alone in the van packed full of dirty laundry. Ray had one near accident when he put on the recirculation for the air conditioning --with quick thinking and power windows he survived.

The boys are now home, the leaders back at work, and the dirty laundry burning in a pile in the backyard. We are all looking forward to next year!