Camp means sliding down a glacier in July … wading in a beaver pond … dodging mosquitoes … hiking up a trail and watching the clouds of rust-tinted dust whirl around hiking boots … swatting mosquitoes … eating blackened ham … carrying water in a barrel … slapping mosquitoes … telling ghost stories, laughing, and crying … smashing mosquitoes. These things and more—eating mosquitoes?—that’s what camp is made of.
During their vacation months thousands of MIA girls enthusiastically direct their energies to camping. Camp is work; camp is exciting; camp is fun. Let’s visit the Edgemont Stake Camp and see just what goes on.
What comes after Christmas? For girls with at least three years of camping experience it’s weekly meetings as they train to become junior and senior camp counselors. They participate in a rigorous preparation program and go over all the skills they’ve learned during their years of camp. The final test of the counselors’ training comes when they have their special pre-camp overnight hike. With thirty-pound packs on their backs, these girls hike into the mountains, pitching shelters, cooking, and really testing their skills.
Finally the frightening day arrives: the counselors are assigned to the girls for whom they will be responsible. Then another two-month program begins. This time the counselors instruct the girls in their own wards, with the support and advice of assigned ward camp directors. The counselors thus take the ward groups through all the necessary training steps to prepare them for camp. Mixed with the training is a lot of fun. Each ward prepares a skit for presentation at camp. Most wards choose a mascot and a motto. Many make insignias or decorate T-shirts or buy matching hats to help identify their group.
Besides the meetings and the preparation, there are many other matters to involve the would-be campers—money-making projects for camp are part of the fun. Ask any MIA girl who has washed cars in someone’s private driveway or on the church parking lot. There’s no better way to clean—car and girl. And, of course, no young woman has really lived until she has baked cookies, candy, or cake and tried to convince her friends that they would actually like to eat them. Or perhaps a ward’s talent lends itself to washing house windows or mowing lawns. There really is no limit when a group of determined young women get together.
Surprisingly, a week at camp doesn’t cost too much. The Edgemont Stake Camp figured it costs the girls $17 apiece to spend five days in the mountains. What more could anyone ask?
Eventually all the preliminaries are over and the big day finally comes. Loaded down with older brother’s sleeping bags, several extra blankets, knives, hatchets, winter coats, cosmetic bags full of candy, suntan lotion, and earrings (for girls will be girls), the campers kiss their families good-bye and head for the buses.
Two hundred and fifty-some-odd girls require several buses. And buses require decorating. Departure is set for 8:00 A.M. Carloads of sleepy-eyed girls and blinking mothers are still arriving at 8:05.
Nothing could be more pleasant than a day in June—unless it’s a day in July in the mountains of Utah. Camp Shalom (“Peace comes from the Lord”) is located southeast of Provo, Utah, some seventy miles as the bus winds. The road climbs up and up into the mountains. Redrock and pine grace the roadsides. Gradually, mountain meadows replace the brush in some areas. Here, it is quite ordinary to see a herd of sheep grazing or to drive along beside a herd that is moving to greener pastures.
At the camp cutoff, the road hides itself in reddish ruts and snakes down through a mountain meadow and into Upper Huntington Canyon. One of life’s more exciting moments comes as the bus fords the bubbling stream, bouncing over the large stones in the stream bed.
Finally, the swirling dust settles and the buses line up. The sign at the gate says WELCOME TO CAMP, EDGEMONT STAKE!
Camp Shalom is used by more than one stake. With over 480 acres of beautiful forest land, it is shared by eleven stakes. Schedules vary from camp to camp and stake to stake, but this first day’s schedule represents an average day of camp life.
7:00 A.M. The Bugle. Anyone who has ever been awakened to a mountain morning realizes what an exhilarating experience it is.
8:00 Flag Ceremony. Perhaps there is nothing quite so satisfying as standing at attention in the crisp morning air and watching the flag wave in the breeze.
8:30–9:00 Breakfast. A typical camp breakfast consists of pancakes, juice, bacon or sausage, and milk. The odor of frying bacon mixed with pine smells is quite an unbeatable combination. Sometimes, however, plans do go awry. Annette Keller lamented that fact: “I burned the pancakes; they stuck to the pan, and I couldn’t get them turned over.”
9:30 Cleanup. There is no escape from one of the necessities of life—cleaning up after humanity. Breakfast has to make way for lunch. According to Reatha Brereton, “Dishes aren’t fun, even at camp.”
10:30–11:30 Camp Cleanup. One of the important points made at camp by the leaders and girls alike was that nature should be left as beautiful and uncluttered as originally found. Many girls who have difficulty keeping their rooms clean at home find that there is no escape at camp. Tents, yards, cooking and storage areas—all are inspected daily.
12:00 Lunch. All that cleaning takes energy, and lunch time arrives none too soon. One of the things girls in the outdoors learn to appreciate is that call to chow.
1:00 Free Time. Free time finds the girls doing almost anything—from wading in the creek to hiking in the mountains to reading to beauty care to just plain goofing around. The only condition—have a responsible leader with the group.
2:00 Rest. Rest time is spent in the tents. Between whispers and jokes and dreaming, the time goes fast.
3:00–5:30 Crafts and Certification. For many of the girls, this constitutes prime camp time. Crafts consists of anything from wood carving to flower making. Belts made out of rope twine are a favorite. During this time the girls also attend the various certification sections held at camp. They learn naturelore, first aid, and many outdoor skills to prepare them for times when they must have good practical know-how in order to take care of themselves.
There are four levels of camp-crafter training; each level handles specialized skills. First year girls are called Yearlings; second year girls, Mountaineers; third year girls, Inspirators; and fourth year girls, Adventurers (these girls can also serve as junior camp counselors). An additional activity for those who have achieved the Adventurer level is the Summiteer camping program. One of the exciting projects the Summiteers of the Edgemont Stake have planned is a winter camp, where they’ll pack into the mountains on snowshoes.
5:30 Flag Ceremony. The flag is retired for the night, and the moment is reflective. Another day is coming to a close.
6:00 Dinner. Thank goodness the girls are allowed three meals. It really is puzzling how girls who eat next to nothing at home develop giant appetites at camp.
7:00 Special Program Time. The girls meet at the very top of the mountain around big pit fires, sitting on fallen logs and on the ground. There might be any kind of evening planned. Skit night is one of the favorites. Each ward is responsible for putting on an original production, and some of them are quite astounding. Another special evening is the camp MIA. Bishoprics and MIA presidencies are special guests this evening, and the feeling that is generated under the soft evening sky is warm and loving.
10:30 Lights Out. What an end to a busy day! Back to the tents, last minute preparations accomplished, prayers, and BED. Even sleeping bags feel great after a day of exercise, fun, and fresh air.
No one can describe camp better than the girls and leaders who participate in it.
Annette Keller is a Yearling, a bright, alert young lady. She likes “wading in the creek and sleeping in the fresh air.” But Annette had nothing good to say about the rain-soaked bed she had to sleep in one night, one of the more unpleasant things that happens when you don’t properly pitch your tent.
Pretty Reatha Brereton, a Mountaineer, says, “It’s fun to get away from city life for a while, just to look at the flowers and the trees.” She finds more in camp, however: Reatha enjoys the clinics where the girls learn their skills for certification. Her complaint? “Well, the dirt isn’t too neat.” One of the best experiences that comes from camp life, according to Reatha, is learning to live with others.
Nancy Davis, an Inspirator, is a lovely blonde, relaxed and reflective. To Nancy, living in the wilds is quite a rewarding experience where you really learn to appreciate your home and its conveniences. Nancy feels that the girls who stay home from camp miss a lot. She laughs and says, “It’s fun to get dirty once in a while.”
The leaders find camp a challenging experience. One ward leader, Susan Chappel, is not far removed from girlhood herself. Twenty-four years old, Susan found herself in the position of ward camp director because “the leaders talked me into trying it.” Her eyes flash: “I’m sort of a mother-away-from-home;” then she adds, “It’s been great.”
Camp life is more than just work. One morning the camp awoke to find tents, trees, and eating facilities covered in bright orange toilet tissue. Another girl found a friendly frog in her bedding. It’s part of the fun.
No other experience is quite like camp. The love and friendships that grow out of the camp experience last many years past the dividing line between adolescence and womanhood. In testimony meeting under the stars, the girls themselves recognize what they have gained. Some are grateful to have acquired skills that they have never had before—cooking, cleaning, being responsible for self and others. Some have learned what it is like to share—really share—with another person; some have learned that there is more than self, that life really takes on a new meaning when one cares for the well-being of others. Others have learned that there is a peace and calm to be found out in the beauty of nature, that a flower nodding from green grass can be exquisitely beautiful, that water rushing down a mountainside has a song all its own, that each plant and animal has a place and purpose, and that surely no such magnificent creation could exist without a loving Creator to shape it. Girls learn to listen to their own thoughts—something that is often not “scheduled” in the busy life of the modern young woman.
They learn to smell, to see, to touch, to listen, to taste, and to feel. Camp opens many doors and establishes lifelong friendships. Melba Carter, Edgemont Stake camp director, sums up the whole experience: “Camp builds friendships, strengthens testimonies, and trains the girls in many types of skills. There’s no other experience quite like it.”