2015 Summer Camp Highlights
During the summer of 1919, Troop Three held its first troop camp on the Hughes River in the wilds of Wirt County, WV. The campsite, reached via a 23-mile canoe trip from Parkersburg, was called Beech Bottom. It was situated in a flat area between the road and river, across from, and slightly upriver of the old 1950’s Camp Kootaga swimming and waterfront area, opposite the Odd Fellows camp road.
Since then, for the past 97 years, Troop 3 has held its annual summer camp somewhere in Wirt County, West Virginia. Following their first three years at Beech Bottom, the troop held its annual summer outings at Camp Kootaga from 1922 to 1964. Then, in 1965, the annual encampment was moved a few miles up the road to the Turner property, Camp Smitty, because the boys and leaders wanted to “rough it”, with no modern conveniences, in a true wilderness setting.
This year, following almost four weeks of steady rain, the weather cleared just in time to allow the road to become passable enough to set up camp. The 51st summer camp at Camp Smitty opened on July 26th with sunny, and warm weather conditions.
After a day of setting up camp, splitting firewood, etc., the campers eagerly scoffed down a dinner of cheeseburgers, baked beans, corn-on the cob, potato chips, and dessert before retiring to the campfire circle for an evening of rousing cheers, songs, and skits. Following campfire it was off to bed and it wasn’t long before everyone was fast asleep!
This year, the troop was joined by Troop 41, from Brookfield, Missouri, who traveled by mini-bus, over 600 miles, to afford their members an opportunity to test their Scouting skills by “roughing it” at Camp Smitty. The troop, led by member #926, Scoutmaster Denzil Heaney and two other adult leaders, added a lot of excitement and fun to this year’s camp. Both troops got along well and quickly formed lasting friendships.
Prior to arriving in camp, Troop 41 spent two nights camping at the Base in Belpre, Ohio, and exploring the Greater Parkersburg area. Following summer camp they spent a third night at the Base before returning to Brookfield.
In addition to “roughing it” in a wilderness setting, one of the key reasons Troop 41 came to Camp Smitty was to afford their boys to an opportunity improve their cooking skills since it was revealed that only three Boy Scout camps in the entire United States still allow their campers to cook by patrol. It was reported by Troop 41 that today, cooking by patrol at these camps consists mainly of heating up foil packets of food to satisfy the temperature indicator on each package.
Before their first meal, Troop Committee Chairman Bill Peters strongly emphasized that “fire was King” and since the campers would be cooking over wood fires it was important to have a healthy supply of dry, split firewood on hand at all times.
Once their wood fires were burning brightly the Scouts cooked their breakfast each day, which consisted of eggs and bacon or sausage, with pancakes or French toast, orange juice, and cereal. Dinners were centered on cheeseburgers, spaghetti, fried chicken, pork chops, or kielbasa, along with one or more side items, all cooked over a bed of coals. As with all camps in the past, while the boy’s culinary skills left a little to be desired at first, their cooking improved by leaps and bounds as the week progressed.
Compared to last year’s extremely cool temperatures, the entire week was sunny and warm, and the river conditions were excellent. A Blue Moon that occurs when a full moon takes place twice in the same month, lit up this year’s camp on a nightly basis. The screech owls and night creatures welcomed the warm, balmy evenings with nightly serenades as everyone drifted off to sleep.
Thanks to the great river conditions, four canoes and six kayaks were deployed the first full day of camp at Deem’s Ford for a trip downriver enjoyed by one and all. Once in camp the boys spent hours at the waterfront honing their canoe and kayak skills under the watchful eye of instructor Paul Hoblitzell and various leaders trained in safe swimming and safety afloat. Later in the week boating skills were tested with a trip downriver to the old Beech Bottom campground.
One never ceases to be amazed at the transformation that takes place in young boys from one camp to the next. For example, last year we had two first year campers,, 11 year-old boys, who were very suspicious of being in anything that floated on water. Just merely casting off from shore caused one of the young campers to request to he be promptly returned to the safety of the riverbank. The other, while a little braver, was still quite apprehensive of even sitting in the middle of a canoe handled by two skilled paddlers.
However, this year was a completely different story. Before the week was over both boys couldn’t get enough of the canoes and kayaks, especially the kayaks that they commandeered with total confidence while paddling over the river surface like “skittering water bugs!” One even earned his canoeing merit badge!
Scoutmaster Tom Dukas got camp off to a quick start with a two-hour “First Year Camper’s Hike”, designed to familiarize everyone with the Camp Smitty landscape.
Based on feedback this year’s hike had to be one of the most comprehensive in modern day history.
On Wednesday, everyone completed a five-mile Orienteering course using their compass, map, and common sense to successfully negotiate their way to numerous checkpoints scattered throughout the wilderness.
As in the past, this year’s program was filled-to-the brim from morning ‘til night with an exciting program of outdoor activities truly unique to Troop 3 summer camps. Highlights, in addition to the Orienteering course competition included string burning, wrist rocket competition, archery, a water melon scramble, daily inspections, nightly campfire programs, and the chance to practice important outdoor Scouting skills that can best be taught in a true wilderness setting like Camp Smitty.
Later in the week, former Troop 3 bugler, Alexander “Great Leader” Gilbert, appeared in camp. On Wednesday as the campers circled up and the strains of the Scout Vesper Song quietly faded over the dying embers of the campfire, the lilting notes of “Tattoo” floated out of the nearby woods. As this beautiful bugle call was played, it brought back memories of the hundreds of troop members who came before us that had experienced similar unforgettable evenings around these amazing campfires.
For 51 consecutive years, Camp Smitty has been the wilderness destination for Troop 3’s annual summer camp. This year’s outing with Troop 41, from Brookfield, Missouri was especially memorable since life-long friendships were created and many fun-filled moments were experienced that’ll be fondly recalled for years to come.
We are especially indebted to Scoutmaster Tom Dukas, Troop Committee Chairman Bill Peters for all the great work they did to make this year’s outing such a success. In addition we’re grateful for those who served in leadership positions in addition to those previously mentioned.
We say it every year. Troop 3-summer camp always leaves us wanting one more day, one more night, in the wilderness at Camp Smitty. It does. We are grateful, and look forward with great anticipation!
Thanks to this year’s memorable summer camp experience the Scouts and leaders are of Troop 3 are already looking forward to their 52nd year at Camp Smitty in 2016.