Five Mile Friday

Of all the days at camp, Friday is the most difficult. It is the last day of camp and the last chance to finish advancement or merit badge requirements. It is the last day to see a favorite camp counselor, or go for a swim with friends they’ve made through the troop or camp, or both.

The day began at 6:30 AM with a ‘Chilly Willy’ or a camp counselor vs. camper competition. The competition consists of five gallon cube of ice, the shallow end of the lake, and two teams trying to land the ice block on shore. In the three years I have come to camp, I had not watched the competition, nor had Troop 35 had any competitors, either. This year, though Trevor and Steven joined the camper team and Davis represented the staff team. I stopped to watch the game for a moment and headed off to the program center. Several of our scouts and leaders were among the spectators and they cheered the campers on to victory! 8 to 6, way to go campers.

A day at camp is full of routines – getting up, flag ceremony, breakfast, classes, lunch, classes, free time, dinner, and free time or camp time – depending on the evening. Each of these has their own unique routine, as well. At mealtime, we sit as a troop. We have four tables with 44 seats – ample room for our 37 scouts and scout leaders with few extra seats for camp counselors or guests at our tables. Camp counselors are ‘super heroes’ to our scouts and they look forward to seeing them when they come to camp at Tesomas.

Every meal begins with grace followed by raucous screaming and yelling as each table is called, by number, until all tables have been called. Then seconds, and a final call for food. The scouts should not have gone hungry! After the food has been served and most of the campers have finished eating, announcements follow and in the morning, a camp counselor provides a ‘thought for the day.’ Tesomas calls this the ‘BIG IDEA!’ Friday morning the announcer called up Sam for the BIG IDEA!

Sam strode to the microphone as the scouts hooted, hollered, and chanted his name he raised the scout sign and the dining hall became quiet, not silent, but quiet enough for the BIG IDEA!

Sam shared the metaphor ‘that escalators never really break down, they temporarily become stairs.’ He asked us on our final day to look at things differently, ‘to look at something old, in a new way. He wanted us to understand that sometimes we let obstacles get in the way of our dreams; and we allow ourselves to become distracted and lose focus. He wanted us to look Friday not as our last day at camp, but a way we could make the most of the day.

After the BIG IDEA, we sang a song, the ‘Llama song’ and we took off for our final day of camp charged and ready to go. I took off to write Thursday’s post and to live the scout law, do a daily turn and pay it forward.

I have a few personal goals this summer and one of them was to swim the mile at Tesomas. I swam it last year and when I was a scout 38 years ago. When my son, William, came to Tesomas for his second year in 2010, I mentioned I earned the swimming merit badge when we were planning his camp schedule and urged him to take swimming. He was hesitant to take it and I urged him that with five days at camp swimming each day he could earn it and be done with an Eagle required merit badge. I also, casually mentioned I swam the mile at camp when I was his age. When we got to camp, he stayed after class each day and it wasn’t until Wednesday he shared that he wanted to swim the mile. On Friday, two years ago, he jumped into the water and swam the mile. Steven, the SPL, and I paddled a canoe beside him the entire way.  He made it in 2010 and when we planned to come back last year, he mentioned to me he wanted to swim the mile again and I told him I’d swim with him and we both finished.

As we began planning our trip this year, William asked if I planned to swim again and instead of answering, I asked if he was. He shared that it was his goal to swim the mile every year he came to camp asked, as long as he came to scout camp. So, I was in, again. This year we were joined by three more swimmers from Troop 35: two scouts, Mark and Steven, and an Assistant Scoutmaster, Carl. Mark had swum the mile last summer at Rice Pool in Wheaton and Steven and Carl would be swimming their first mile.

The mile swim was set for 3:30 at the waterfront and we met with our paddlers. Each swimmer had to be accompanied by an observer and a paddler the entire way.

Swimmer             paddlers
Carl                        Don and Gus
William                 Will B. and Jacob
Mark                     Sebastian and Adam
Clay                        John C. and Kevin
Steven                  Noah and Brandon
in order of finish and time……

Davis gave the instructions – swim across the lake, around the orange buoy, then around another orange buoy, then swim back. Carl started first, then William, Mark, Steven, and I jumped in and started swimming.

It took less than an hour and we were all out of the water and successful. I was exhausted, but excited and I watched from shore as William and Carl went back in the water to play the last bit of free time! I suspect Carl, William, Mark, and Steven were exhausted, too, but it didn’t show. It was a great day.

Friday night is our last dinner and according to tradition, the Friday night camp song is the Mountain Dew song. It is a boisterous song and many scouts joined in the fun. When the song ended, we spilled out into the camp area before walking to the Friday night closing campfire at the fire ring.

The campfire is fun with skits and awards for a week loaded with fun and excitement. Awards are given for the various camp completions – the Monday night patrol activity and the adult leaders are recognized for their role in scouting and the senior patrol leader receives a special camp patch. It is a lot of fun and it ends with the camp staff signing the Tesomas hymn:

High above Lake Crystal’s Waters, In among the trees, Flows the banner of Tesomas, Waving in the breeze, Hail Tesomas, Hail Tesomas, With your Scouts so true, With the spirit of good Scouting, Hail, O Hail to you!

When the staff finished signing, Sam (from the BIG IDEA!) came out to address us all. He explained we have all had a great week of camping; it was now our duty to take our Tesomas camping experience with us and look at things in a different way, as he had challenged us with his BIG IDEA! in the morning.

We sang another verse of the Tesomas hymn and we walked back to the trading post and a few made final purchases. A few scouts purchased treats and before long, we were back at camp packing to head home tomorrow.

Tomorrow will come quickly, much too quickly for me. I have enjoyed sharing my perspective of camp and I hope you have enjoyed reading as much as I have enjoyed writing. Tesomas is a special place and while listening to your sons talk about their week here, I know the troop chose the right place to spend summer camp. I am grateful to all the adult leaders who took time away from their jobs and families to spend a week or half week at camp. Just as the scouts worked together, we worked together to make the week go smoothly.

It was a great week of camp, but it doesn’t have to end with camp. Scouts can call each other when they get back home and meet at the pool, or go biking, or many other possible ways of getting together and having fun. Of course, they’ll see each other at scout meetings and our next campout, but it doesn’t have to – take your scouting spirit with you! Making the days Count, one last chance, on the final full day of camp.