Sunday, November 23, 2008

Webelos Woods-2008

I think I've been waiting for "Webelos Woods" my entire Scouting career! Err... I mean, my son's entire Scouting career. LOL.

He had no idea what was about to hit him! Well, maybe he did, judging by the results from his last multi-day camp!

Camping out for 3 days at Boy Scout Camp Mataguay east of Mt. Palomar about 50 miles out of San Diego is my idea of a good time. I'd taken Friday off to pack and get out there as early in the day as possible I wanted to stake out a good spot in our campsite for Etho and I and generally "fly the flag" of Pack 621 to guide others in. Everything went smoothly as I picked Ethan up from school at 1:45pm to begin the journey on a beautiful sunny day. I'd heard there might be some rain in the forecast, but since it was less than 10% county-wide, I felt pretty good about not wasting a lot of energy on rain protection. More on that later!

Webelos Woods is a Boy Scout-led camp, designed to introduce 4th and 5th grade boys all around San Diego to some of the activities they will be doing if they continue on to a Boy Scout Troop. Mataguay Scout Ranch has a long and storied history and is perfect for the mission. It lies on 840 acres which was deeded to the San Diego-Imperial Council Scouts back in the 1950's. There is evidence that prehistoric Indians made the land their home here, being indications of villages and grinding stones for the Cupeno Indians. Groups that use the facility besides the Scouts include YMCA, YWCA, the Royal Rangers, Sheriff's and FBI SWAT groups, and World War II and Civil War reenactment groups.

The campsite slowly filled up with members of Pack 621 as Friday afternoon turned into evening. The campsite itself was situated near the end of the one-way road that circled the entire camp. Cars were parked about 3/4 of a mile away and you had to either walk or get shuttled in to your camp after dropping off gear. We heard later there were over 1900 people at the camp that weekend - wow! There was a very large outcropping of rocks and a steep hill behind the camp that provided boys from all campsites in the surrounding area with a cool "Lord of the Flies" experience. We could have skipped everything planned for the weekend and let them all play King of the Hill and I think the boys would have been very happy. Sad commentary on our suburban society. Rush put it perfectly when they sang in their epic song "Subdivisions":

"Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth,
but the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth"


I was proud to see nearly all of the Webelos-age boys here on Friday, and knew that the balance would be coming in the morning. We were given colored wrist bands on check-in, which governed the activity areas of the Camp that we would be visiting on Saturday. After a quick night hike to check out the stars, folks began to disappear into their tents for a chilly but restful night of sleep.

"Artsy" morning Flag ceremony

Morning did come early though, and the parents got started on eggs and sausage breakfast, while the boys slowly emerged from their tents to search for sticks of war and begin patrolling the aforementioned rocks. A flag ceremony in full dress uniform awaited the boys bout about 8:30am, so we needed to hustle, and did barely make it on time.

The activity areas opened up at 8:45, so after a quick change into pack t-shirts everyone was off and running to the Fort. Highlights there were making rope and fire-building (a crowd favorite).

After the Fort, the Pack headed up to Mountain Man Meadow and sampled the rope bridges and trebuchet seige engines that the Boy Scouts built for our enjoyment. There was also a cool game where two Scouts were blindfolded and shot squirt-guns over the heads of the Cubs crawling under "razor wire" (well... ropes). There was wrist-rocket practice and more fire-building.

The boys pretty much scattered into all corners of the Meadow, none further than Etho and his buddy Sage who bounded into the woods to catch bugs and fill in gopher holes. Later on, they built fires and hot-footed it back to camp early.

We retired for a simple lunch back at camp, then several of us adults took off for some leader training whilst the boys went on a 2 mile group hike, which was activity #3 of a planned 4 activities.

When we returned, the boys had opted out of activity #4 in favor of more rock battles! That's cool because there was a terrific campfire program and show on Saturday night after our feast of a dinner. Many of the Boy Scouts put on skits and songs, as well as hosting a Flag Retirement ceremony. S'mores were on the menu after the campfire, then everyone started buckling in for the night.

*patter, patter, patter* Rain drops woke me up in the middle of the night. Glancing at my watch, 3:15am unemotionally stared back at me. I heard someone stirring out in the cooking area and I went out to help. Jeanette had also been awakened and we silently stashed everything that would "melt" if the rain continued. After falling back asleep, we woke early to a light rain, and the grim reality that it had actually rained continuously since we were out. Coffee tasted good and hot, but nobody was relishing the camp tear-down and subsequent clean-up. There was standing water in the lowest corner of my tent, soaking the foot of my sleeping bag. Several of the parents fixed breakfast and everyone started breaking their individual gear down and stacking it by the road.

Yummy S'mores!

By about 10am, most everyone was gone. It was still raining off and on, and folks like Joe McCaffrey, Ryan Omer, Dave Rose, Jeanette Candelaria, and Thuy Hunyh stayed 'til the end to make sure the camp was clean. I think the boys - especially the Webelos 1 (fourth graders) learned a lot, had a blast, and are looking forward to the next Webelos Woods in 2009. Only this time, they may actually elevate their re-enactment of Lord of Flies to the next level and take over Mataguay!

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