2019 Troop 3 Summer Camp Highlights
During the summer of 1919, Troop Three held its first summer 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 Route 47 and the Hughes 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 101 years, Troop 3 has always held its annual summer camp somewhere in Wirt County, West Virginia. Following their first three years at Beech Bottom, the troop moved its annual summer outings to Camp Kootaga from 1922 to 1964. Then, in 1965, the annual encampment was relocated a few miles up Route 47 to the Turner property, Camp Smitty, because the boys and leaders wanted to camp in a true wilderness setting with no modern conveniences.
This year, following almost four weeks of steady rain, the weather cleared just in time to allow the 1 ½-mile camp road to become passable enough to set up camp. The 55st summer camp at Camp Smitty opened on Sunday, July 21th under hot, humid, and rain-laden skies that seemed ready to open up at any moment.
Following a brief shower the rain held off long enough to get the Patrol campsites set up and the Scouts belongings under cover. Then the skies opened up and quickly dumped over three inches of rain before the leader's tents could be set up. Fortunately, somewhere around 2:00 PM the rain let up and the leader's tents, officer's row, the campfire, and nearby latrines were quickly set up before another storm roared into the area.
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. Later, everyone convened in the campfire circle to enjoy the warmth of the evening campfire. Following an hour of rousing cheers, songs, and skits, Taps was sounded and everyone turned in for the night. After a full day of setting up camp and dodging two major rainstorms, it wasn't long before everyone was fast asleep!
This year, Troop 3 was again joined by Troop 41, from Brookfield, Missouri, who traveled by mini-bus, over 700 miles, to afford its members an opportunity to test their Scouting skills at Camp Smitty. The troop, led by member #926, Scoutmaster Denzil Heaney and one other adult leader, Rob Frock, 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 several days in eastern West Virginia canoeing and white-water rafting. During this white-water adventure two of Troop 3's Scouts, Enoch and Ivan Cornelison, joined Troop 41 for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. On their return to the Parkersburg area Troop 41 spent the night at the Sea Scout Base in Belpre, Ohio. Following summer camp they spent a second night at the Base before returning home.
In addition to camping in a true wilderness setting, one of the key reasons Troop 41 makes its annual trek to Camp Smitty is to afford their boys an opportunity to 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. Today, cooking by patrol at these three 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 all week, it was important to have a healthy supply of dry, split firewood on hand at all times.
Once the 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, fried chicken, and kielbasa, along with one or more side items, all cooked over a bed of coals. Since it has always been the rule that each boy has to cook at least one meal at camp this means that no first- year camper is ever denied the opportunity test his culinary skills over a wood fire. As with all camps in the past, while in the beginning each boy's culinary skills left a lot to be desired, his cooking improved by leaps and bounds as the week progressed.
From the very first day of our 2019 summer camp, the river was high and much too swift to allow for safe boating and swimming to take place. Consequently, the canoes and kayaks stayed on the boat trailer for the entire week.
After two days of very wet weather the rains went away and several days of sunshine and low humidity were enjoyed by one and all.
A true test of Scouting skills was staged on Tuesday with a string burning contest between the patrols. This year's contest was made more difficult because the boys were trying to light the damp natural material they had gathered from the nearby woods. After several tries everyone decided it best to wait for better weather before making another attempt to gather drier material.
A highlight of this year's camp was the intense competition between patrols to win the daily inspection award. For those who are not familiar with this contest, a daily inspection of each patrol is conducted by the senior staff. The inspection includes a close look at the dishes, cooking utensils, etc., for cleanliness. Then the inspectors move on to assess the orderliness of the kitchen area, the inside of the patrol tent, and the surrounding camp grounds. Before the daily visit is concluded the inspection team checks the status of the split firewood to be sure there is plenty of dry material on hand to cook several meals.
As the week wore on the daily inspections got so close that one was finally decided when the inspectors could only locate a dime size piece of paper on the ground under a dining table. Since the tent was orderly, all the personal gear neatly displayed, the bunks made up, the dishes were clean and dry, and adequate split firewood was on hand, nothing else was found to cause any further demerits. Over in the competing patrol the only thing amiss was the end of a cot strap that was barely touching the ground.
If only their mothers could have observed how neat and tidy the boys maintained their campsites on a daily basis, they would have truly been amazed!
Wednesday, in addition to the regular advancement classes, 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. In addition to providing stiff competition, the event afforded the Scouts an opportunity to become more familiar with the varied topography of Camp Smitty.
Later in the day the annual Camp Smitty Athletic Event was held. This popular contest brought out the best in each Scout since everyone was involved in several events that ranged from knot tying and a coiled rope throw to the usual tests of athletic skills. The event culminated with a mighty tug of war that helped determine this year's camp champions. Needless to say, the winner's will certainly enjoy their bragging rights until the 2020 camp rolls around next July.
Thursday, the annual Camp Smitty treasure hunt was held. This event, one of highpoints of summer camp, challenges the Scouts, who travel in teams, to decipher clues hidden throughout six miles of rugged terrain so that they might be the first to find the buried treasure.
Unlike past years, each team managed to complete the treasure hunt trail that led to a compass course back in camp. The purpose of the compass course was to award the Scouts who did the best compass work to have a first crack at trying to dig up the buried treasure. Once the first team to arrive back in camp started trying to locate the buried treasure, it wasn't long before the other three teams joined them. After an hour of frantic digging in every imaginable spot within a twelve-foot radius in a failed attempt to locate the buried treasure the event was finally called. Then Ron Taylor walked to a small untouched spot, in the center of all the digging activity, stuck a shovel in the ground, and to the dismay of the assembled and sweaty treasure hunters, promptly dug up the treasure.
After three marvelous days of sunshine, the river finally calmed down and receded to pool stage, which allowed the Scouts to get in a nice swim immediately after the treasure hunt. When the swim was over, the annual watermelon scramble took place. After a good bit of competitive thrashing about in the water, one of the contestants picked up the greased watermelon and raced for shore. However, before he could reach the beach, someone managed to grab his ankles, causing him to lose grasp of the watermelon, which promptly smashed into several pieces on the ground.
Fortunately, all was not lost. Thinking ahead, the leaders had set a second watermelon aside so everyone could enjoy a juicy morsel before retiring back their campsites to prepare for dinner.
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 and annual treasure hunt, included string burning, an athletic meet, 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.
Despite what one might think, once the young campers got over the shock of having to leave their cell phones at home (there's no cell phone reception at Camp Smitty), and provide for themselves, they quickly learned to "survive and thrive" at summer camp. It's simply amazing to see what young boys can achieve when they are given the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities on the field of Scouting.
For 55 consecutive years, Camp Smitty has been the wilderness destination for Troop 3's annual summer camp. This year's outing with Troop 41, was especially memorable since life-long friendships were created and many fun-filled moments were experienced between the two troops that'll be fondly recalled for years to come.
We are especially indebted to Scoutmaster Tom Dukas and Troop Committee Chairman Bill Peters for all the great work they did to make this year's outing such a success.
In the sixty-seven years I've served on the staff at Troop 3 summer camp if there's one thing I've learned, it is that no two boys are the same. It's amazing to see how each boy increases his confidence as he learns to live with in, and compete with, his patrol. While each year brings a new surprise, or two, the look of satisfaction on a boy's face, when he has surprised himself and exceeded in being able to do something he never thought possible; it's all the reward one needs. Said another way, it makes all the hard work of serving on staff at summer camp worthwhile.
As the tents were being taken down and the Scouts were preparing to return home after a week of "roughing it" in the wilderness, one first year camper commented, "Thanks for everything. This has been the best week of my life!!!" For those who wonder about the impact that our annual Troop 3 summer camp has on each of the Scouts, the above statement says it all.
We say it every year. It never changes...it just keeps getting better. 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 to returning for the 56th summer camp at Camp Smitty in 2020.