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Deer Camp Whitewater WEDNESDAY
Each evening at camp, the patrols (or now the boys who are attending week 2) get together for an evening "debrief". These are truly an interesting part of Troop 8 culture, as they are an opportunity for guys to share some “peer feedback” in an environment that is kept safe for such discussion and sharing. Sometimes we call these “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” sessions, since we encourage guys to share good things that they saw and really appreciated, bad things that they want to admit to or call out for the group to improve, and the “ugly” tales that often make for the best stories years later. There’s a real charm to a friend telling Evan that he really appreciated his stepping forward to help with pot-cleaning, or telling Drew how cool it was that he got into caving even though he was a bit scared of it at the start. There’s also a real power to having a group of your peers call out your inappropriate use of four letter language, and tell you to knock it off. Both happened tonight, as this group of young up-and-coming scouts and leaders work out their group dynamics and the sort of people they want to be.
The second feature of the evening was the introduction of the “Bob Wind”. The Bob Wind is a strange meteorological phenomenon that crops up when scouts have been a bit too lackadaisical about camp cleanliness and securing the camp for the day or evening. A sudden storm and gust of wind crops up which seems to magically collect all of the items scattered about camp and deposits them in inconvenient places elsewhere. Far more effective than a lecture. As we say in Troop 8, it’s not really possible to teach anyone anything, all you can do is try to set up the circumstances to increase the likelihood that they will learn. The Bob Wind caught about 30 or so random pieces of gear and clothing tonight, though it was all retrieved from the nearby pile at the end of the evening.
Wednesday morning dawned clear and promising, despite the evening storms. The guys are getting it together and were on-time with breakfast and preparation, despite some truly amusing experimentation with the cooking of eggs. I’m not quite sure why “sunny side up” is a hard cooking trick, but Jack’s insistence on cracking eggs and dropping their contents into the pan from a height of 2 feet merited a bit of technique tweaking. While the first round ended in something that no decent human being would consider an egg, the second round were decidedly more tasty and recognizable. Breakfast prepared, the group donned river gear and life jackets and loaded up cars. A sudden Bob Wind lofted about six items into a nearby field, but otherwise camp was secure as we headed to kayaking.
The river level here was “up”, so the kayak clinic took a jaunt over the nearby mountain to the town of Confluence, and began on the Yough Lake behind the Dam. Our outfitter dutifully provided kayaks and paddles, however we had a bit of a time with the “skirts”. For those of you who aren’t familiar, kayak skirts are neoprene tubes that you pull up around your waist, that balloon out into a stretchy horizontal section which fits around the kayak cockpit, sealing the water (mostly) out of the boat. The problem is that too many of our guys are just too darned skinny compared to the average American youth, and the outfitter’s supply of skirts didn’t quite match the bill. The Troop 8 supply of skirts assisted, and then Scouter “Bill” Dunbar and “Vulture” Bob resorted to Duct Tape to improve the fit on the rest of the lads. Problem solved!
For Andrew, Noah, and Patrick this was their first ever round of whitewater kayaking, and all three took to it very well. The first task is to strap yourself into the boat, go out, and deliberately flip upside down. Then, while holding your breath and contemplating the relative absurdity of being upside down strapped into a boat, to pull your skirt’s emergency grab loop and somersault out of the boat underwater. All three handled this quite readily, one might say that their exit was even remarkably enthusiastic! Armed with the knowledge that everybody could safely get out of a boat, the guides then led the group on a series of paddling exercises on the lake and on the easy current of the Middle Yough river while the local Army Corps of Engineers took pictures for their Facebook wall. Watch for an addition at http://www.facebook.com/YoughioghenyUSACE.
Paddling a whitewater kayak is a very different beast from the recreational kayaks that you see rented on the Huron River. They behave more like a riding a very stubborn mule that wants to constantly wander off in different directions or turn around and go the other way for no apparent reason. Zak spent a bit of time paddling backwards down the river, while Mountain Drew appeared to be riding a drunken bronco with great enthusiasm. Jack and Patrick were showing good form and edge control, as were Evan and Indiana although sometimes on the wrong edge. Dawa and Kyle, veterans of last week’s kayaking MB work, were showing others how it is done. As the day progressed, though, all of the boys got control of their beasts, and when we reached the takeout all of them were begging to do more. We’re going to have quite a crew for future whitewater trips.
Back to camp for a quick dinner, and then out to do the food planning and purchase for the second half of the week. Remarkably, though the Bob Wind blew through camp it acquired ZERO items to deposit in random places this evening. As I’m finishing up typing, they are working their way through the grocery store without terrorizing too many locals, and from the look of things we might be out of here in only two and a half hours, with a full supply of tasty comestibles and within budget to boot, and after only a few rounds of explaining that a bag full of mini-muffins does not a breakfast make. All humor aside, they really are a bright and remarkable bunch, this crew, and it’s great to see them really starting to get all the pieces together.