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Summer Camp Chronicles: Creeking

November 5, 2010

This weekend I’m visiting the summer camp I worked for throughout high school and college. It’s the first time I’ve been there in almost two and a half years, which is remarkable considering there was a time when I’d go there at least once a month. So I thought I’d regale you with another chapter of Summer Camp Chronicles.

Have you ever done something that seems incredibly fun and exciting in the midst of it, but later you think about it and feel the need to lie down and breath deep in order to keep from passing out? Is that the longest and most roundabout question you’ve ever read?

The waterfall at the end of the hike.

At summer camp, for many, many years, we did something every single week that probably should have ended in a lot more injuries than it did. Creeking. This activity is exactly how it sounds—you walk in a creek in the mountains. Sounds safe enough, right? But did I mention the waterfalls? And that there were weeks when more than 100 campers and staff did this at the same time? The waterfalls weren’t Niagara or anything, but you try shoving a middle schooler up a waterfall of any size and not have your life flash before your eyes.

The most traumatic experience I had while creeking didn’t involve waterfalls or injuries, but rather an elementary-age boy who couldn’t wait to use the bathroom. We used to take the younger kids just halfway up the creek before taking them back to camp. During the hike we had counselors positioned throughout the line of kids to make sure no one got lost in the woods. One counselor was always in the very back of the line holding a first aid kit and for this particular trip I had taken that enviable position. We were walking through the creek, admiring the view, when a pungent aroma found its way to my nose.

One of the several waterfalls/slippery slopes climbed during creeking.

While walking through the woods, it’s not entirely surprising to come across interesting smells. But this one was distinctly human and distinctly coming from the child in front of me. I don’t want to be too graphic, but it’s got to be said: He crapped his pants. And I was walking down-wind. I just feel sorry for his mom. Imagine unpacking your kid’s suitcase and finding that in the dirty laundry.

Most creeking trips were a lot less eventful and a lot less smelly. Something you learn during staff training is that the people in charge are less concerned about staff members who get hurt. It takes an injury to a camper for things to change. You might think this is insensitive, but staff members were usually a lot less careful than campers, and therefore more prone to accidents. So if they cancelled activities every time a rambunctious 16-year-old staff member got hurt, camp would consist of sitting in a room doing crossword puzzles and watching Jeopardy re-runs.

Even though creeking was a bit arduous and dangerous for some campers, it was still a great experience and I know some former staff members who are sad when they decided to stop taking campers creeking. The 50-foot waterfall at the end of the trail was worth the hike, and it was satisfying to know you had just hiked up a mountain and climbed waterfalls. Granted, it would probably be even more fun if you weren’t among 100 scrambling pre-teens and teens, but the fun was still there.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 5, 2010 8:24 am

    i like that brianne mohl, jim york are featured in that pic…. and yes, i zoomed in to see if i knew anyone else.

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