Skating the Lake

As much as there are some paddlers who will seek and find whatever liquid surface remains on the lake through the winter, there is the flip side.... people who relish the frozen surface, maybe hiking to alpine ponds in search of skateable ice in October.

We just had a few days of cold weather, one morning clocking in at minus 20 to 30 F depending on where in the state.  I asked Phelps to let me know when there was some skateable ice in the islands, and the answer was now.

On the way I saw that there were already some ice fishing shacks out.

I was picturing putting on the hockey skates and whizzing around some area on the scale of an ice rink, or maybe a football field.  Things were mostly a little rough for that, plus why confine yourself?  We ended up using nordic skates, which are essentially speed skates with XC ski bindings and a bevel on the front to go over bumps.  They were the inspiration for the clapper skates now popular in long track speed skating.  I've used them once before, but only on a groomed oval.  I recall in that setting one good stride could take you a hundred yards.

It seemed like I was just here for a barbecue and it was 80 degrees.

First thing is getting down to lake level, then walking out to where the surface is a little smoother.

The horizontal dowel hanging from his neck is really 2 nested ice picks, which you use to haul yourself back on the ice in case you fall through a thin spot.

Much of the ice looked like this.  A couple of days ago these were loose floating chunks of ice, now encased in new clear ice.  I saw a fish swim by one of these "holes."

From Other2011

You  need to occasionally whack the clear sections with a pole to check the thickness.  Those familiar with the local tectonics know where the plates of ice are pulling apart (causing thin ice or open water) due to wind and the configuration of shore line.

The temperature is in the teens, but with the wind it feels like I'll be at that distant island (2.5 miles)  in about 5 minutes.  Seriously, just standing there the wind will blow you to some real speed, and we used a lot of the space visible here.

Unlike ski poles, these poles have no baskets, and have hard conical points that reliably grip the ice.

Final Words

When we train new staff members at Camp Parsons about their effect on scouts and on the camp, we use an analogy; this is something that is not unique to Camp Parsons as I have seen it in other venues, but it gets the point across.  You take a large rock and drop it off the end of the pier.  When it hits the water, it makes a big splash, and depending on how big the rock was (and how high the tide is), you may get some water back up on the pier.  As the water settles and the displacement of the water resolves, many ripples/waves begin extending out from the point of impact.  The analogy to the staff is that they make a big impact when they are here, in front of scouts and being on stage.  That impact is as large as one's talent whether it is being an outstanding instructor, hard worker, actor, singer, etc......or some or maybe all of the above.  For that brief shining moment you are the center of the world to those scouts and staff around you.  When you move on though and the seasons pass, your effect is no longer there in the present day.  However the ripples you created will continue to spread in the memories of those who experienced you.  We all have encountered this; almost all scouts, young and old, can remember that one or two staff members that mean so much to them even if the staff member never knew that scout existed.

When you read some of the comments that have been sent to me, or phone calls to camp, or reading numerous posts on Facebook, you can see the ripple effect from Pat's presence.  Although future staff members and scouts will never know him, many from the past will always recall him.  A memory is not a bad legacy.

Life does not stop for these tragic events and we need to keep moving forward, perhaps glancing back every now and then.  Camp Brinkley has many Cub Scouts scheduled to attend camp this summer, none of whom know who Pat was, but they do know they are looking forward to an experience (which they probably cannot even imagine).  We need to make sure these young cubs have the time of their lives and I hope the Brinkley staff will honor Pat by putting on an outstanding program for those boys.

The family has posted that they are having a memorial service for Pat on Saturday, June 9th in Bremerton to be held at Miller-Woodlawn (I do not have the address) at 2:00 PM.  I have no doubt many of Pat's family and friends will be there.  As for many of us in the Camp Parsons world, we will be remembering Pat on the job that day as we have our last major AWP to finish up key projects for summer; the beginning of National Camp School which many of us are teaching at and finally, several staff members are graduating High School that day.  So, for those of you (and us) who will not be able to make it to the family memorial, we will have a celebration of Pat's life here at Camp Parsons sometime this summer for anyone who wishes to attend.  For almost eight years Pat called this home and we want rejoice on his time here on the Hood Canal.

More information in the future. 

The Journey's End

"Cowards die many times before their deaths
The Valiant never taste of death but once"

It has been said many times in the past that the day we are born is the day we start dying.  Cynical as that may be it is true; the question is how long the journey will be and what will we do on our way.  I don't think anyone has uttered "I wish I could have worked more" as their last words before they pass but many I believe feel that there was so much left for them to do.

As we reported, Pat Lundemo passed away yesterday afternoon due to complications of a Carcinoid tumor that had metastasized to his liver and affected other organs, particular the valves of his heart.  Pat was diagnosed with this disease many years ago and had undergone many therapeutic interventions through the years, but kept working as that is what he wanted to do.  Many of you may have known that Pat underwent surgery recently in an attempt to have these valvular abnormalities repaired mainly for symptomatic improvement of his remaining life.  By all accounts, the surgery went well but his disease was too advanced for it to have much benefit.  Pat spent his last few days at his daughter's home and from what I understand he was surrounded by members of his family when he passed.  I was told that he appeared to be at peace.

I first met Pat when he was an adult leader bringing scouts up to camp from Bremerton where he lived and owned a plumbing business.  As the years passed, Pat would come up to our adult work parties and bring along not only his van, but some of his employees as well.  They were a great help in some of the construction projects we had at the time.  During the summer months if we had a plumbing issue, Pat would hop into his van and come right over and help out.  When Bob Enzler retired as Camp Director and Ken took over that position, Pat was Ken's first choice to be Ranger.  However that position was given to another individual.  Two years later however, the position opened up once again and Pat began working as the full time Ranger in 2003.  He continued in that position until 2010 when he was promoted to oversee the Camp Brinkley property and help with its renovation as well as eventually taking on the responsibility to run the Cub Scout program.  Unfortunately as Pat's disease progressed it ultimately affected his ability to work as he was constantly tired and drained of energy.  I give credit to his professional supervisors who did everything in their power to get Pat the help he needed but as many of you know, Pat can be stubborn.  The last time I saw Pat was just a little less than a month ago at the downtown breakfast when I sat and talked to him.....I should have just put him in my car and taken him to the hospital that day as his disease was obviously taking a toll on his body.

I was never close to Pat but we worked together for many years.  He had a love for Scouting that was quite obvious and he was a friend to all.  Many staff members have looked upon him as a mentor and have a deep respect for him as he treated all of them like equals.  This is one of the reasons the staff selected him as Staff Member of the Year a few years ago.  He cared about his community and participated in many activities including being a volunteer firefighter and EMT.  When Pat received his promotion, he was reluctant to leave Camp Parsons as he had such a love for the property, the people and the program.

For the camp and the program, the journey will continue on.  Over the past year we have lost many camp icons from the old days; Loody Christoferro, Bob Lamm, Jim Nussbaum to name a few.  We are coming up on the second anniversary of the tragic death of Ed Dayton whose life ended unexpected and unfairly.  Today, we mourn Pat, who brought joy and happiness to many scouts and staff members who came to Camp Parsons during the years he was there and will live forever in their hearts and memories.

...softly falls the light of day, until our campfire fades away.......  Goodnight and good bye Pat Lundemo, may you rest in peace. 

We will post any information regarding services in Bremerton or at camp here as well as the website.

Farewell Pat Lundemo...The Camp Is A Little Quiter Tonight Without You

We learned this afternoon that Patrick Lundemo succumbed to his battle with carcinoid that began in his colon.  Pat had been diagnosed with this disease some time ago but underwent therapy as well as surgeries to battle this illness and still keep working as Camp Ranger at Camp Parsons.  For a period of time, it appeared that he had the upper hand on this disease but over the past year it raised it's ugly head and affected not only his liver but his heart as well.  Pat fought hard but was unable to beat this insidious disease and finally came to peace today.

Pat has been involved in Scouting for most of his life.  He had been a Scoutmaster and Venture Crew leader in Bremerton long before he came to Camp Parsons.  He owned his own plumbing business for years and donated countless hours of his time (and equipment) to Camp Parsons to keep our facilities running.  In 2003 he (what I believe was his goal) became the full time Ranger at Camp Parsons.  During his time at Camp Parsons he was selected as Staff Member of the Year and was promoted to Marmot in the OSM.  He served in this position until 2010 when he received a promotion to run Camp Brinkley.  Pat was often referred to as the "Program Ranger" as he had his hand in program as much as the camp facilities.  Indeed, during one National Camp School that we attended together in California he showed more program enthusiasm than some of the program directors in the course.....much to the chagrin of his fellow rangers.  Pat was a community man, serving an active role as a volunteer firefighter in Brinnon.  His humor, his hard work and his love for scouting will be missed.

Rest in peace Pat will never be forgotten.

Long In The Tooth

I was talking to an old time scouter the other day about summer camp and other scouting programs.  He made a remark in passing that started me thinking about this subject.  He said that most of his contemporaries do not know much more about Boy Scout summer camping other than Camp Parsons as they have never gone to any other camp for a comparison.  He went on to mention the differences in other camps up and down the west coast as well as the differences in program styles found at each site.  That got me thinking about whether or not we have become somewhat "tunnel visioned"; in other words have we become ordinary, natural and comfortable?  Is this good, bad or does it really matter?

I have been to numerous camps throughout the years and also have trained numerous directors of a wide variety of camps these past four years.  The camps I have been to have been Back Mountain and Fire Mountain of the Mt. Baker Council; Merriwether, Baldwin and Pioneer of the CP Council;  Camp Cowles and Easton of the Inland NW council; Fife and Bonaparte of Grand Columbia and numerous more in Utah and California, of course I also worked at Philmont for a season as well.  Now granted, most of these camps I visited was during the off season so I really didn't see all the programs in action, but I did see the facilities, the pictures of the scouts enjoying those facilities and of course the descriptions that their staff give of the various camps.  There were many of these facilities that were beautiful and had outstanding locations; Merriwether and Easton to name a few.  Not only that but many camps were situated to be a "theme" type of camp.  Camp Baldwin has a huge emphasis on horses and if you have been to that camp, it fits well.  Other camps have emphasis on shooting sports others on camping and hiking.  There is a wide a variety amongst many of the camps I have seen and they are limited only by their location (can only be used in the summer) or maintenance.  I have listened to some of the program offerings that people who are from those camps and attend camp school tell me.  Interactive archery ranges, aquatics gear such as inflatable slides and trampolines, COPE courses, extensive climbing facilities, state of the art dining halls; it goes on and on.

So is sticking with one thing good or bad?  I suppose it is different from a troop's perspective as opposed to those of us who run the program from year to year at one camp.  Many Scoutmasters tell me that although they love coming to Camp Parsons they wish to rotate around to different camps  "so that the boys get a different experience".  Although I agree with the sentiment, I am not sure if I agree with the reality.  Young scouts have an attention span that can be measured in seconds.  A scout can come to the same camp over and over again (regardless of which one) and will be amused again and again, just like it was the first time they went to camp.  As they grow older (14 and up) they may begin to appreciate the differences in activities but really, I think it is the adults who want more of the variety than the scouts.  "No Mike, seriously, the troop leadership council chooses where we go to camp."  Yeah, forget, I was a Scoutmaster once as well, I know how the "choosing" goes.  Give the three options that you like so it doesn't matter which one they pick as any one would be OK.  The main purpose of summer camp is making sure that the troop and the scouts get out of it what is important.....making the troop stronger AND having a good time.  Where you do it is secondary.

Don't get me wrong.....I encourage troops to travel around, particularly to more "themed" camps such as patrol cooking as opposed to dining halls and programs that we will never offer such as horses.  There is also an element of ego in there as well as I think when you compare us to other camps, for the most part people appreciate our continuity of program.  You know what you are going to get and you kow the quality (I believe) remains high.  For other camps, not so much.  Through my experiences most camps cycle through senior leadership on a yearly basis....hard to develop continuity doing that.  Most camps are run by professional boy scouts, many of which look upon it as a rite-of-passage for their career and something to get done quickly and move on.  Yes, I am being harsh, but why would a camp be great one year then two years later be termed as one of the "worst" camps, speaks mainly to poor and inconsistant leadership.

So being comfortable and predictable as far as our leadership goes is not a bad thing as long as it doesn't spill into the enthusiasm of our staff or our commitment to provide the best week of a troops scouting year and the quality of the product we deliver.  I remember one Scoutmaster in a meeting said that he liked Camp Parsons for many reasons but the main reason was that you knew what you were going to get when it came to customer service as well as the caliber of the staff.  If that is true, then I don't mind being long in the tooth for that.

May Ruminations

It was beautiful on the Hood Canal this past weekend with temperatures hitting over 80 degrees.  We had a fine turnout of staff members who will be working the 2012 season; most of the twenty or so that showed up were returning staff but we had several new staff members that rolled up their sleeves and went to work helping get camp ready for the summer.  The boys did some tent platform work, spread gravel in front of the new TP and SMG, built a burn pile with scrap wood from the year's projects and helped clean up some of the program areas by removing downed limbs, etc.  It was nice having them show up and nice to know that they understand what loyalty to their camp means.  We got them all out early the next morning so that they could enjoy their Mother's day with their moms.  Perhaps the only draw back for the staff this weekend was when we lit the burn pile for a big campfire, none of the boys wanted to sing.  I think that is the first time that has ever happened.  Perhaps they will find their voices come this June.

The Eagle Scout Banquet held a few days ago was enjoyable as well.  The two scouts I sponsored were quiet but I think they found the whole program a little overwhelming.  The guest speaker was a gentleman who has circumnavigated the globe twice, single handily.  He also led a crew that sailed all the way around the Americas.  That means through the Northwest Passage as well as the southern cape.  Although his talk was more like a lecture, I found it very interesting but it may have been too long for the boys.  I noticed two of the guys at my table falling asleep during the presentation (luckily they weren't my guys).  This past weekend, Roland was awarded his Eagle Scout award by the Jefferson County Sheriff, Tony Hernandez.  The ceremony was held at the campfire point and well attended.

As far as summer camp goes, we are five weeks away from staff report day.  We have had a few of the selected staff decline their contracts for whatever reason.  It is a shame as some of them were excellent staff members.  However, we have also had some new ones join us as well and it just goes to show that we can usually fill in the positions that we are lacking as we make our way towards the season.  The facility looks great but then having all that sun this weekend helped quite a bit.  The SMG field is beginning to fill in nicely and already needs to be mowed, and once we get the new TP painted in CP Brown it will look like nothing has changed. of those pesky methods we use.

How Many?

Recently I received an e-mail with numerous questions regarding camp operations, programs, etc from a troop that is from out of council.  One of the questions asked was how many adults they could bring up.  Apparently they have many "engaged" parents who want to see Camp Parsons and the troop was inquiring about the ability to add them to their current number and how that would work with the dining hall and their campsite.  The question was worded as "what would you recommend as the maximum number of adults" and I had to chuckle as the first thing that came to mind was "Two".

We are very happy that we have so many engaged adult leaders and parents and of course we are always proud to show off our facility and program, particular to those troops who travel from far distances to attend summer camp.  However there is a fine line between "engagement" and "interference".  During our back and forth e-mails, this particular adult leader was quite sensitive to our concerns about the number of adults (pretty much at parity with the number of scouts) and assured me that the parents from their troop will be way in the background.  I have no doubt that would be their intention, but much like young scouts, adults can be categorized into the saying....."Idle hands are the Devil's workshop."  This usually manifests itself by adults being overly critical about certain merit badges or programs.

All adult leaders and parents want the best for their charges and that is expected.  They want their children or their scouts to have the best possible experience they can as well as participate with their son or scouts in that experience.  However what is lost sight of is the fact that is a Boy Scout program is run by older Boy Scouts; not educators with teaching certificates (although the vast majority of our staff go to college).  Teaching plans and programs are built around the fact that the scout has an attention span of about 3 seconds.  The point behind most of our activities is trying to keep the scouts engaged and moving....somewhat difficult when there is some "lecture" aspects as part of the teaching plan or safety instructions.  There is another rule to my expanding theory of scout physics; the number of "constructive" comments I receive from adults is directly proportional to the number of adults present.  We do our best to provide an outstanding experience for scouts and yes, occasionally we will have a bad instructor or something will not "gel" right with a class and we do our best to fix those deficiencies.  However, the scouts always seem to have a good time regardless of the concerns of their parents.  I had one parent who followed his son around to every merit badge class he took and that parent told me he was concerned that his son was getting the merit badge without completing all of the requirements.  I was glad he told me that as then we could take a look and see if something was amiss (which it really wasn't.  What the issue was is that the parent wanted to add more to the requirements so that the parent could feel that his son really knew his stuff....that is not the way it works).  However as I told that parent, as I have many Scoutmasters, if you don't think a scout completed the requirements, you don't have to give him the merit badge until it meets those requirements to your satisfaction.  At the end of the week we give you the blue cards, we do not give them to the scouts.  So you always have the final say.

Finally, the food........jeez, if I could go one summer without the usual comments.  There are many good suggestions that Scoutmasters and parents have given us and many of those constructive suggestions have been implemented............but c'mon folks; can we do without the sarcastic, derogatory, back-handed comments?  Again, the amount of complaints we receive is directly proportional to the number of adults we have attending.  Yes, we serve a lot of processed foods; Yes, the food could be hotter; Yes, we could have more selections for vegetarians; Yes, the dining hall is cramped/tight/warm........benches that seat four scouts can seat only two adults, but four are there regardless.  Yes.....we have heard this over and over and over again.  This is the reason for the new dining hall which would be built now if I received $5 for each complaint I had to listen to over the past five years.  You may be surprised to hear this; not one scout has ever....ever died of starvation or malnutrition during their week at Camp Parsons.  You would be surprised how many fruits and vegetables we throw away each day.  Bottom line, most adults are complaining because the food is not what they would want and I understand.......but the camp is designed for Boy Scouts, not adult leaders.  That being said, salad bars are planned in the new dining hall as are more meals from scratch and we always have fruit available at each meal if you want to encourage your scouts to eat them.  We want the kids to have nutritious meals (and that is a big definition), be happy and full without having to jack up the cost of camp fees only to find that most of it heads towards the dumpsters.

I don't mean to be too harsh as we depend on adult volunteers to power this program.  If adult leaders did not take vacation time to be with their troops then there would be no Camp Parsons.....just a bunch of us old cynical folks sitting on the shores of Jackson Cove (hey, wait a minute....).  However, when I am asked how many adults should a troop come will always be "two" as my first thought.

Ramping Up

We are a little over four weeks from NCS and five weeks until the 94th seasonal staff reports to Camp Parsons for the summer program.  It seems like we dismissed them just last week.  Preparations continue as summer camp grows near; as mentioned before the SMG parade field and parking lot are graded and look good; the TP is coming along and the SMG fireplace has a new medallion hanging over the fireplace as you can see here.  I think it looks good.  We have a few work parties between now and opening, but most of the "heavy" lifting has been done and we really don't have a major project we are trying to finish.  The MBC renovation is moving along and I suspect it will be complete the week before the staff arrive.

Our contracts for the staff have gone out and I know there are a number of you who are interested in who is doing what.  Andy Hoyle is moving into Anthony Johnson's previous position as Asst. Program Director with Matt Swanson as our Head Commissioner.  Derek Hayes did a great job of stepping up last season to fill in some of the Business Manager responsibilities and although coming into his second year of staff, he has been selected as the CIT Director.  Curtiss Lyman will be Aquatics Director and at the time of this writing will have one of the biggest Aquatics Crew that CP has seen in decades (if ever).  No worries.....the time of this writing will pass and so will the number of aquatic crew members.  Nick Pickard returns to camp staff after being gone for awhile to become the Climbing Director.  Sean Mobley is taking over the Head Cook position and is excited to take on this new challenge; I have no doubt it will be computerized by the end of staff week.  Jake Dahlberg will be the Scoutcraft Director and Ian Engelbeck has been tapped as Eco/Con Director.  Unfortunately we have lost David Ritzenthaller as Shooting Sports Director but we have some potential replacements for that position.  Those are some of the positions folks ask about the most......there are other key positions as well, but I am not going on to list every ones name here.  Come to camp and see.

Each summer is unique and that uniqueness is brought by the current summer staff.  Whether it is a slight change in an old program, a new activity, a new song, a new skit......whatever, camp will be strong as a reflection to the talent we have.  The job does not make the person (though may influence them as the summer goes by) the person makes the job.  There are defined duties to be undertaken but the individual brings their personality to the performance of their duty.  Many veteran staff members falsely believe that there are prerequisites to being selected for a leadership position and although there are certain talents, skills and experience that we desire for certain positions, the only prerequisite is that Ken and I think they can do the job because at the end of the day, we pay the price (well Ken more than me.......but I take it personally).  I have never settled for anything and if I have a concern, I will have that concern shadowed by someone I know will never let the quality or customer service of our camp fail.  Yes, I may be vague on my thoughts but I don't like making specific examples that will do nothing more than embarrass some people.  I have hired staff leaders in the past that gave me some concern  but then go on and shine in the performance of their job.  Then,  I have had staff members with unbelievable talent take on leadership roles and fail.  There is no true formula but one thing is will go on.

I am looking forward to our upcoming season; I am happy that we have many returning staff and I am happy that we have so many older first year staff as well.  We still have much to do in these next four to five weeks but the summer will be here before you know it.

Feet On The Ground

Since the US Government has released some of the documents seized during the raid on Usama Bin Laden, I have been reading a fair amount of the analysis that the intelligence agencies have come up with.  It was interesting (and satifsyfing) to see that his ruminations dealt with his perception of a crumbling terrorist network as well as having grandiose schemes of attacking Americans that were far from reality, or at least what could be done with a decimated organization.  It was also interesting to note that all the analysts agree; Bin Laden was out of touch with the realities of his organization as he was so removed from the day to day activities of that group.

Given his circumstances, it is easy to see why this would happen; he was so insulated that his only communications came through a small number of channels (individuals).  If you have ever been in charge of anything, you will find quickly that if you limit the flow of incoming information you also limit the depth of that information.  An example would be if you were a CEO and you depend on a small number of assistants to keep you "up to date" on the happenings of the company.  You have just limited your information to a level of what your assistants think you should know and may leave out something that you may have found important had you known.  You see this on an individual basis when a Scoutmaster would come to me and make an accusation about an event or an individual based on what a 11 year/old scout would tell him/her.  The information passed to the Scoutmaster was formed on the scout's perception and not reality.  Once the flow of information was opened and the facts come to light, then the reality comes out and the Scoutmaster has that "aha" moment (though seldom to I ever hear an apology for the false accusation that was made....perhaps that is because the Scoutmaster felt duped as well).

I find this issue with my work as well as with the Boy Scouts.  At work, there are many departments that have control over various services.  Unfortunately some of the managers or directors of those departments depend on a small group of people to "keep them informed".  If an issue develops that is not important to any one of that small group; the manager or director will never hear it as it was nothing to be "kept informed" of.  Once it becomes a major issue it becomes apparent to the manager or director that they are not in control of something they are supposed to be in control of.  This is how military officers or government officials lose their job.  They may not have been the cause of an issue, but they are held responsible as they should know what is going on.  At work, small things become big things and then blow up.  In the aftermath the powers that be find out that it could have all been easily taken care of if the ones in charge just paid attention to what was in their control and utilized the resources that were easily available to them.

For the BSA the same is true.  I have lamented many times about changes in uniforms, rules, NCS requirements and the such.  It is my opinion that the decisions made affecting certain aspects of the national scouting program are made by individuals that do not have "feet on the ground".  I think if you got a large group of current Scoutmasters (and by Scoutmasters I mean people aged 30-50 with children currently in the program and have gone through adult leader training) from across the nation into a (very large) room and asked them what they needed in a scout would get a practical uniform.  If you put their spouses in another room, you would get a good idea of what that uniform should cost and how often it should be changed.  The same thing goes for summer camping program and regulations.  Put a large group of camp leaders (and by camp leaders I mean individuals who have had leadership roles in resident camps for over ten years AND they still are actively providing program AND living on the facility during operations) into a (very small) room and you will have a practical program outline, standards and requirements for certified leaders.  People on the ground know what they need and yes, they need to be tempered by federal/state/county regulations as well as the limitation of resources and finances.  None the less, it makes no sense for a bunch of "suits" who have memories of camp staff from years past to decide what should be done.  It is grandiose, somewhat unattainable and very much out of touch with reality.  Keep your feet on the ground and focus on substance.

Show Me The Money

Every year I receive an inquiry from either a parent or a new staff member " this seriously my salary?"  I usually respond by going through the reasons for our pay structure, the nature of partial volunteerism and the scouting program and of course the added benefits such as opportunities for merit badges, life skills, etc.  Of course this is usually countered with, "Well I (he) could make more money if just stayed and worked at home."  My response is (he) could, what were you expecting?  If pay was a key factor, why I am I hearing about it now?  We usually tell all our new, young, staff candidates during their interviews that the pay is not doesn't seem to be an issue with them.  Then again, most of them are so nervous it probably doesn't come up or if it does, they may have been too intimidated to say anything.

For those of you who have not worked at CP in the past, let me tell you how we roughly stage the pay schedule.  You become salaried if you are selected for the staff and are 16 years of age or older.  We have 15 year olds work for us, we do not pay them except, of course, room and board and maybe a few other things.  First year 16 y/o staff members are at the bottom of the pay scale and to be blunt, they will not break 3 figures by the end of the season; the same could be said for returning second year staff members although they will see a modest increase in their salary.  Outside of that, the decision for pay comes down to a) Age, b) Experience on staff, c) Position on staff, d) Professional qualifications for their positions and, e)  How much we really need or want a particular individual.  We try to be fair and uniform in our process and for the most part we are.  Still, it usually is far less than what one would desire and certainly less than if a staff member spent the summer bagging groceries at QFC.

I am very sensitive to this fact and we constantly look at ways we can increase our pay for our younger staff.  The council is slowly getting it as we have seen a slight upward tic with regards to our budgeted salaries.  However regardless what happens, everyone who works at Camp Parsons must realize that they are here for more than just the pay.  Ask most of our veteran staff members (seven years plus on staff) and they will tell you that it is the place where they love to work even despite the "crappy" pay.  Of course to be honest, we have been diligent to increase some of our senior staff pay to a point where it is substantial when you take several things into consideration.  Some of these considerations are also the hidden benefits that all staff members and their parents may share in.

There are many "hidden" benefits about working at camp other than being able to earn merit badges if you are still under 18.  The monetary benefits include less gas money as staff members seldom wander far during the week and spend less on personal items like going out with friends to a fast food joint, movies, etc.  If you do work at home and your parents are not subsidizing you, how much does a teenager spend during a week?  I can tell you it is lot less at camp than at home.  For parents; your car stays in the garage, safe and sound.  Your gas bills will go down and you will not be feeding your son's friends as much as you do the rest of the year.  One dad told me that the biggest shock was how little he and his wife would have to go to the store once their son starting working at camp.  Alluding to some of the above benefits....parents, if you do subsidize your teenage scout son (allowing him to use the car, gas, spending money, etc.) you need to subtract that from the money he would be pulling in from QFC to make a fair comparison to camp.  All these benefits are different from the obvious ones; learning of life skills, living independently, being held to a schedule where mom and dad aren't the ones keeping them on the schedule.  There are a lot of personal benefits which I have touted in numerous previous posts.

So yes, the pay is not great and I for one keep trying to do something about it.  However, don't toss minimum wage around......if that is the case, then I will toss room and board around, put electric meters on each cabin and charge for usage (and you really, really, really don't want to see what our staff uses.  Middle of the day; lights on, heater on, radio on, little refrigerator on....and no one is home).  We could charge for merit badges as we would have to supply the counselors just like we do for scouts who pay to come to camp.  I can nickel and dime this but I said before, scouts do not sign up to be on staff for the money.  I respect my staff and Ken and I as well others go out of our way to make sure that our staff have an enjoyable time at camp by having special meals, taking them water skiing or inner tubing, protecting their free time and will always be there to write a letter of recommendation or give a good word for other employers.  I could show you the money, but it won't be a lot. 

It's The Program

I was forwarded the new Garrigan/Lyman promo video which focuses on the summer camping program at Camp Parsons.  As usual, it was well done though I probably would have picked some different scenes than the ones that are shown.  I initially thought that Tim Garrigan put this together because of my mini-rant about how Camp Parsons was seemingly down played in the council camp video that was shown at the downtown breakfast about a month ago.  Then again, I think he is doing promos for all the camps, so it couldn't be due to that.  As I watched the video something stood adults.  Well, not completely true; they had a shot of the Scoutmaster belly-flop where adults knowingly injure themselves for the scouts amusement and another shot where a bunch of adult leaders jumped in to help their respective troops in a tug-of-war.  That was it though, only our staff members and scouts running and participating in the program and having fun doing it.

This stood out to me as adults seem to dominate most other scout videos that I have seen.  Through our interactions with other camps and spending a lot of time at NCS, I have seen numerous promo videos of other camps both at the council and national levels.  Sure it shows scouts (always in they really participate in mountain biking, fifty milers, etc in full class "A" uniforms) having fun, but it also shows the staff leader of a particularly area being a 40, 50 or 60 year old man.  There is nothing wrong with us old folks directing programs but I think there is something really wrong when we inject ourselves into the program.  In these videos the "old" guys are telling scouts what they will be doing in the program area and being their teacher/instructor/educator for the particular area while the younger staff seem to stand back.  Wrong!  That is not the program folks.  Baden-Powell was right "Scouting is a game for boys under the leadership of boys under the direction of a man."  Direction does not mean "hands-on".  Baden-Powell made this clear; "When you want a thing done, 'Don't do it yourself' is a good motto for Scoutmasters.  If you have ever been to Camp Parsons, you will see Ken and I scramble to get away from the program and observe it from afar.  When I talk, I talk to adult leaders, parents; I never talk to the scouts unless it something like "How are you Scout"...."How's it going sport" as I quickly pass them.  That is why I hire a young staff, they are the face of the program in action.......and I direct the staff.  Now I understand the challenges.  Many camps cannot recruit people who are 21 to be Aquatic Directors or Shooting Sports Directors or any other position that mandates an adult and so they have to rely on volunteers who are usually retired folks who love scouting.  Sometimes this is necessary and we have been in that position at various times in the past.  However what we try to do is minimize the interaction with the adult and focus the presentation and education of the scouts by our younger staff.  They don't need an old guy to be a role model; the scout needs to see someone several years older than they are and want to be like them.

The vast majority of adult leaders get this as the vast majority of adult leaders are part of the overall program because their son is in the program.  Once the son moves on, so do they.  However there are a number of us who stick around because we believe in the program and want to continue to give back to the program what we got from it.  I think that is great, but we must never forget that the focus is on the scout, not our desires or wants.  We have no business being in front of scouts other than to give direction then stand back and let the young leaders do their jobs.  Scouting is a game with a purpose; one that builds character in a boy that will help him make moral decisions for the rest of his life.  Let's stand back and let the program work, and if you need me......I will be in my cabin.

Improvise, Adapt, Overcome......

As usual (and expected) there is increasing chatter amongst the veteran staff about camp operations as we ramp up to our 94th continuous season.  I am not involved in these discussions, I just hear about them through second, third and fourth hand accounts.  They usually center around a change in the way we run camp or the processes and procedures that we normally do that are done as a result of a lack of personnel resources.  In other words, at times we are forced to improvise.  As a result, many veteran staff members don't understand the reasoning behind a decision as in their minds...."We have never done that before..."

"We have never done that before....."  I think most veteran staff who have been around for some time know how I would react to that statement.  Seriously?  You don't think in 94 seasons we haven't "shook it up" a little?  We have had one campwide campfire, two campfires even three campfires each week during different season; we have used all three beaches for active program and we have used only one at various times through the decades.  We have had a staff of 65 and a staff of 45; we have had three rangers and we have had no ranger.......I can go on an on.  We have done most things before in some shape or form.  What drives changes is either society, technology or the BSA program emphasis (tent or cabin, etc.).  How we do things is not as important as getting it done.  Decades ago we had our Aquatics Director resign do to personal issues during the last week of May.  Have you ever tried to recruit a qualified Aquatics Director in that short of a time?  An old college friend of mine had signed up to work for that summer and although he was a Boy Scout that was raised in the mid-west, he had no experience as an Aquatics Director.  I moved him in to that slot because I had no other choice and he was an intelligent young man that could adapt to that challenge.  "You can't do that" I heard from some of my colleagues; "He has no experience on that beach" said another; "We never have had a rookie Aquatics Director before" was another response (sound familiar).  For those of you who remember, it was Jim Gotch and he has been one of the best Aquatics Director that I have had the pleasure to work with and we had a great crew of experienced staff and a great program that summer.  I have no intention of hiring a rookie Aquatics Director now or in the future but if I had to, I would........what would be the alternative?  Shut the beach down?  Regardless, I am sure if I did I would hear...."well, that's never been done before".

I have had Head Cooks walk out on me more than once in the middle of the summer.  We don't shut the doors, we adapt and we overcome........we complete the mission.  I may have to replace someone with another who may not know exactly what they are doing, but they have the talents to make it work.  It may be painful for myself (and Ken) but luckily the scouts can't really tell.  Oh sure, the Scoutmasters might pick up that we may be piece mealing something together but at the end of the day, it serves our purpose.  I have created jobs just to bring back talented people or to keep talented people at camp and I have combined jobs and responsibilities as I am not going to hire someone to "fill a slot".......we hire to fit and we hire quality.  We have several key positions at camp to make the program a success and at times we are flush with more qualified and talented individuals than there are slots; then we have seasons where we have more slots than experienced staff members.  We have and we will always make it work.  Even if Ken and I were suddenly removed from the camp.......the 94th season would still be on.

I have the perfect staff all selected in my head, but they are not from the same season, they span many.  If I had that available to me every season then camp life would be easy and we would have a six year waiting list.  We have never done that before........

Is It Safe?

Perhaps it is the sign of the times or perhaps it is because of the publicised lawsuits that the BSA have gone through (and probably will go through) but I have received more than ten e-mails this past month asking questions about the safety of the camp and its program.  One person wrote us and said that she was considering sending her sons to Camp Parsons with their troop and wanted to know what background checks we did with our staff.  Another person inquired about whether we have had any youth protection "issues" in the past.  Several wanted to be assured of our kayak treks and hiking treks....did our staff know what they are doing.

I must admit that I was taken aback a little by some of these questions as they are ones we really have never had asked before.  Then again, I can understand in this day and age about a parent's concern about leaving their child at a "foreign" place for a period of time that they cannot readily get to.  I also understand a leader's concern about the training of a trek leader as well.  Although the canal or the Olympic Mountains are a tranquil place, given the right weather conditions they can be down right nasty and dangerous.  Although our trek leaders or staff are experienced, there have been times I have questioned some of their judgement.  This does not take away from the overall safety, it just adds more to what I have to remind our trek leaders what to do and what not to do.  One of the hardest things to get into a twenty-two year old's head is that they level of activity must be at the level of the weakest member of the group.....frustrating at times but necessary.   However, it is the question about the background checks that got me thinking.

Currently, if you are an adult (which is defined as eighteen or older) you must first pass youth protection training prior to applying to be a registered adult leader.  When you register, you must supply a social security number so that a criminal background check can be done.  Are these absolute protective measures?  No, but it is a good start.  The key element in assuring the safety of the scout is the adult leader that the parent's trust to manage their children.....the Scoutmaster.  As an extension of that, the Scoutmaster must approve of the adult leaders that help with the management of the troop and of course is overseen by the Troop Committee.  This is why we defer to the Scoutmaster when it comes down to individual scout behavior.  If a scout cannot follow the rules or is a danger to camp property, we can deny the scout the use of that program area or equipment, but we cannot punish the scout for what he did, that is the role of the Scoutmaster in conjunction with the parents (whom he/she should know well).  The youth protection guidelines are not suggestions....they are the rule and if followed should assure the personal safety of any scouting minor.  It is when the guidelines are not followed that you have the unfortunate circumstances that occurred in the 60's and 70's and if they are occurring now, then it is my personal opinion that the troop adult leadership and parents be held responsible.  It is each registered adults duty to assure that they and other adults adhere to the guidelines....we do.

How do you do a background check on a sixteen year old?  For me I usually listen to their parents, adult leaders and their young colleagues that may know of that individual outside of camp.  I answered the question that the inquiring parent put forward much like my discussion above.  Our adult staff go through the same process and are held strictly to the youth protection guidelines.  We have released several staff members through the years for violations (albeit stupid but innocent actions on their part) of the guidelines.  We had a seventeen year old staff member jokingly demonstrate a strangle hold on a young scout.  Unacceptable....and the staff member was extremely apologetic but that may not mean anything to the scout he was joking around with (and possibly ones in the future).  I can go on and on about different examples, but luckily each one was not a malicious event, just stupid decision making by teenagers (please refer to the Guide to Scout Physics)....gee, have we seen this before?  I feel bad for the staff members that I have had to let go for these things, but we never waver away from those guidelines and as a result, we do not have any "issues."

Is it safe? is very, very safe.

A Green Future?

The picture you see here is one that I "stole" from Andy Briggs as I have not taken a picture of the new TP, SMG parade field and parking lot for some time.  As I mentioned in my previous posts there are changes afoot.  One of the biggest ones that will be noticeable perhaps more so for veteran Scoutmasters than scouts is the re-modeling of the parking lot and the SMG parade field.  Due to years and years of mole attacks, the field is uneven as untreated wood left to the elements.  The field looked like it was subject to mortar attacks but by the end of the summer season, everything is usually pounded into submission....the moles, the mole hills and what little grass we have.  As the Trading Post neared completion, the parade field was graded in order for us to move the parking lot further east.  It is difficult to see in this picture, but the far eastern concrete bumpers are pretty much where the old "hill" that led up to the old Program Office was.  This will not offer us much more parking, but it will make the parking far more efficient as there will be an actual lane going down the lot so you are not worried about taking your sideview mirrors off or taking out a scout that you couldn't see as he was smaller than the truck that was hiding him as you drove down the lane.  One tree has been removed (gasp) which now allows  us to keep a straight line for we probably will gain some more space to fit vehicles.  This will help with the flow of vehicles into and out of camp during the summer months.

If you look closely at the field, you will see tape going around it so as to keep people off the main part of the parade field.  We are attempting to re-seed this area so that we have grass by the time summer comes about.  A little ambitious, but it is a start and if it takes, it will look great.  Regardless, in a year or two, this will be the norm.  Gravel has been placed around the new TP as well as the SMG.  There is a path of gravel extending from the parking lot to the base of the Burma Road (where the staff kybos are).  This is done not for aesthetics, it is done as it will keep the dust down during the summer with over 300 scouts tramping on it each week.  The question now is, how further do we go with landscaping?

We hear as many suggestions from about as many different people regarding this.  It usually falls in somewhere between two extremes; one side being that we should take out everything except trees of a certain height to the other side where we should not touch anything....let it be natural.  Of course there are a lot of things in between and of course there are some pros and cons with each school of thought but the bottom line is that we are already interfering with what is going on just by our presence.  We tramp three thousand people through our facility each season and although we try to keep them on the trails, it is always a challenge.  My goal is that we rid ourselves of the "weed-like" plants that we have around camp (Scottish Broom comes to mind) and plant indigenous species to the peninsula/state in choosen areas; areas that will be aesthetic and will also serve a purpose for program (plant identification) or for camp operations (giving campsites and areas some privacy).  When we thinned a few trees last year it was interesting to see how much it opened up the camp, yet still made it feel part of the forest.  There is some art to domesticating a wild setting but still keep it "wild".  Indeed, looking at the parade field and out to the parking lot or down to the boat house seemed to be natural.  It gave both the feeling of an expansive property but still retain the natural and "home-like" feeling. 

This regrade of the parade field is a good start and I look forward to see how it turns out, both aesthetically and practically as we move into our 94th season.


It was a beautiful weekend at Camp Parsons with a mild north wind (making the cove very still) and scattered clouds with temperatures in the low to mid 60's.  We had several activities at camp this weekend; the first of course being our monthly work party and the second being the Pre-Camp Adult Leaders meeting.  We had a good turn out for both the work party and the meeting.  I would say we had about 25-30 folks show up for the leader's meeting, most of which were from outside councils that had not been to camp before.  We went over the usual preparation items and had some of our staff who attended the work party take them on a tour.  A tour that apparently lasted close to two hours but the leaders all seemed engaged.  After all, it was a great day to walk around camp.  The meeting to me however, was the first "shot across the bow" for the summer season.  We had the power point going with some of the key take home points for camp preparation, we had scout leaders listening intently and asking questions about specific points of information and of course we had the usual banter that only coffee-carrying, red coated scouters can have.  I even got a few jokes in as well though not as good as my summer material.  To me, the 2012 season has started.

One of the interesting things about being around the camp facility all year long is you see the steady transition from the end of a season into the projects that are undertaken throughout the winter months and then the "re-birth" of the facility as we get closer to the season.  When we did the SMG re-model we had things dismantled, torn up and wiring hanging from everywhere.  Each time you went in to work on something it looked like nothing was getting done.  You would stand back and wonder how are we going to get this all back together prior to the season......but we do.  The same thing happened this past year.  The trading post frame work had been complete by the beginning of last season, but the real work didn't take place until this past winter.  We burned down the old program office and cleared out a few trees that were in the way of expanding parts of the field and parking lot.  As you all know, we have had a cold and wet winter so the SMG parade field was nothing but one big mud swamp.  This was even further exacerbated by having heavy equipment, trucks and people moving all around it.  However, this past weekend as Ken was taking a large straight-edge and dragging it across the parade field to flatten and grade the entire area it was beginning to look good.  The TP is all but done and the material has been removed from around the building.  Meredith Daniels and her crew were in staining the concrete floor (and it looks good).  The staff moved all the concrete parking bumpers back into place (it is great to see young backs ruined at an early age), and the field tapered down to the parking lot.  It looks so natural and I know that by the time camp starts, it will have a very "lived in" feel.  We made the first attempt at seeding the field, but it is going to take much more than what we did, however it is a start.

We had folks working on the floats, anchors and other aquatics equipment and the re-model of  MBC is continuing on.  It will be nice to see a great cabin re-born.  The main kitchen has been re-opened in anticipation for our next AWP which will see the 2012 staff swing by for a day or two and the parade field was mowed.  Perhaps even more tangible for us is that we began finalizing some of our contracts for the 2012 staff in hopes that we will get them out next week.

So here we are on the figurative eve of the 2012 season.  Of course this eve will extend for the next month or so as we head towards ordering equipment, housing assignments, camp school invitations and the such.  We still may have a few key positions that need to be filled as well if some of my boys decide at the last minute not to return, but as I have mentioned in the past, that is part of the dance.  For now, I will be happy with the anticipation.

It's The Program, Stupid!

I will apologize in advance as I have a tendency to harp back to topics that I have brought up before, however I think it is important to constantly hammer into people the reason for a summer camp's existence.  It seems that some folks develop tunnel vision when looking at a pet project or a passion they have and then lose track of what we are about.  It really is about losing sight of the forest because the trees get in the way.

The basis of looking at the program is best spelled out by Lord Baden-Powell from his "Aids to Scouting" handbook:

The Patrol is the unit of Scouting always, whether for work or for play, for discipline or for duty.  An invaluable step in character training is to put responsibility on to the individual. This is immediately gained in appointing a Patrol Leader to responsible command of his Patrol. It is up to him to take hold of and to develop the qualities of each boy in his Patrol. It sounds a big order, but in practice it works. Then, through emulation and competition between Patrols, you produce a Patrol spirit which is eminently satisfactory, since it raises the tone among the boys and develops a higher standard of efficiency all round. Each boy in the Patrol realises that he is in himself a responsible unit and that the honour of his group depends in some degree on his own ability in playing the game.

This is not what I think, this is what it is all about.  The patrol method sets Scouting apart from all other youth organizations.  Is it the only way, or the right way?  Who knows.....but it is our way and it seems to have worked quite well when you see the end product.  It is not just about meetings, it is not just about hiking/camping, it is not just about activities that are done during the winter season or summer season; it is the operation of the group within the larger group (the troop) that matters.  The activities are opportunities for experience and practical application of this prime method.  It is this method that forms the foundation of the summer camp program and experience.

Their are several goals of the summer camp program.  The first and foremost is to help the troop become stronger using the patrol method as this is the only time in the entire scouting year that everyone in the troop can participate.  The brand new scout, the "crusty" SPL and the adult leadership.....for an entire week.  You can implement the patrol method in everything you do; camping, cooking, participating in the area activities to name a few.  It is also a chance to exercise other aspects of the scouting methods; opportunities for advancement, wearing the uniform, being friendly and making new friends, learning to be courteous when sharing a meal with your patrol in the dining hall.  I could go on and on about all the opportunities to put this grand experiment to the test every day during your only week at scout camp.  Last but not least, we have the opportunity for scouts to try new experiences either by themselves, with a buddy or with the patrol.  These experiences may be ones that spark an idea for a career or a lifelong hobby.  These are found in our various areas; Aquatics, Shooting Sports, Climbing Tower, Scoutcraft, Eco/Con and Craft Lodge......again to name a few.  These experiences are meant to spark an interest or perhaps hone a specific skill........what the are not meant to do is usurp the purpose of the program.

Every scout who uses the Aquatics is not expected to be or want to be a BSA Lifeguard; every scout that shoots doesn't want to be a NRA qualified sharpshooter; not every scout who uses the climbing tower intends to scale Mt. Everest and so on.  Yet, that is the way some leaders of these various program believe, or at least that is the way I perceive this to be as I read what others want to do with these programs.  I guess what upsets me the most is that adults want to force their passion or love for a particular activity on these scouts.  "If a scout cannot hit a target when shooting a rifle then he has no business being on the rifle range"....yes, I actually heard someone say that and that someone is in a position of influence (not in our council luckily).  All of our area programs are designed to give scouts a "taste" of that activity and if the scout wants to do more, we gladly support and encourage his interest.  If a scout develops a passion, we want to do everything we can to foster that interest......but NEVER at the cost of the overall program which is far more encompassing than only one aspect.

Here is my goal when it comes down to the program activities at a summer camp.  The scout must have fun...period, end of story.  I want him to sample everything the program has to offer.  I want him to understand water safety, I want him to be comfortable in and about the water and if we can send a scout home as a swimmer when he wasn't one before that would be a job well done.  Being able to swim is a life skill that everyone may use at some point in their life.  I want a scout to learn how to act around a firearm and have respect for it and how to use it safely.  I want the scout to be able to shoot a rifle for the experience....if he hits the target once out of 100 tries, I would consider it to be a success.  I want a scout to try and overcome his fear of heights by rappelling down the climbing tower as facing a fear is one of the bravest thing a young scout can do.  I want a scout to be able to tie basic knots, another skill that is practical for life.  I want a scout to understand the environment we live in.  All of these plus many more are additive and not one is greater than the other within the scope of the scouting program.

Regardless, nothing is more important than what our mission is; to develop desirable characteristics in young men that will help them make ethical and moral decisions during their life and thereby be better citizens (a paraphrase).  It is our job (my job) to develop these characteristics in youth.  We are to find the good in each scout and try to develop that to the exclusion of the bad.  Lord Baden-Powell says that there is 5% good even in the worst character and it is the Scoutmaster job (or sport as he calls it) to develop that to be 80% of the man that youth is to become.  The activities we do are nothing more than to support the methods by which we use and the values which we support and found within the scout law.

I respect the work that other organizations do to help support our program; the NRA, the American Red Cross, the various climbing associations as well as many other professional organizations.  I have and will always welcome their support, their experience and their direct or indirect financial support.  However it is the needs and purpose of the Scouting program that will drive what we do; not personal or organizational mandates.  It is all about the program. 

As personal opinion. 

The Microcosm Of Camp

I have touched on this subject before but I was reading a staff member's personal blog the other day in which he was commenting on his personal experiences regarding friends and relationships that he has gathered during his time growing up and how they related to his experiences at camp.  What I found interesting was that his take on things is not much different than those who are decades older than him which just tells me that there is a very real "affect" that spending time at camp can have.  It is more than just a common community or the fact that you have a group living together engaged in a common goal; no, it is more than just that and I believe it has to do with the "type" of people who are there.

I have routinely extolled the values of scouting that the Boy Scout program promotes.  These are found in the Scout Oath and Law and as our current ad campaign states, these are words to live by.  Maybe not everyone does live by them due to personal frailty and weakness but most people would want to surround themselves with people do live by them.  That, I believe, is the basic attraction that brings people to the program, particularly parents.  When it comes to personalities which in many ways is governed by personal traits and values, people have the tendency to be drawn to others that share the same thing.  These values are not just words; former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told myself and others while sitting in the dining hall at Camp Parsons that he truly believes that the scouting program is one of the most valuable youth programs as it is based on the characteristics that we believe are necessary for good citizens.  Simply put, who wouldn't want a friend or a neighbor who wasn't a "Boy Scout"?

Camp is a microcosm of society, albeit a well controlled one.  It is a structured environment with rules and regulations; there are elements of citizenship as noted within the troops and a corporate element when looking at the staff.  There are elements of social services (medics, mentors), municipal services (garbage, water, etc.) and so on.  There is a social hierarchy (the "jocks" the "cool guys") and yes, although not allowed and dealt with severely, there is a degree of same age hazing that takes place as it does with most male teenagers.  All that being said, things run extremely smoothly.  So smoothly in fact that you wished this would be the way the rest of the world would work.  You have staff members become good if not close friends with other staff members who, if they had been living at home and met them socially, would not have given them the time of day due to social casting.  They are not forced to become friends at camp, it is the environment which they live in and the common value system by which they adhere to (or at least understand) that overcomes whatever social "caste" stands in the way in "real" life.  During my years on staff as a teenager I had friends in just about every other high school in Seattle which was neat as during the off season when we played sports, I knew someone on the opposing team to the point where my teammates were wondering if I was a "ringer".  As a freshman in high school there were staff members who were seniors and played varsity sports who would generally ignore other freshman but would always stop and chat with me or invite me over to their table during lunch.  That was a bit of a social boost in high school.

Being at camp is unique.  I come across many older people in downtown Seattle who may see a sweatshirt with the camp name on it and say "Is that Camp Parsons?" and go on to regale me with their experience as a scout in the 1950's, just like it was yesterday.  I have posted several times about other blogs and speeches I have heard talk about the life changing experiences a hike from Camp Parsons or summers spent at camp have made for some people.  As simple as this place matters.  For staff......well they are thrown into a nine week adventure; living with roommates, working side by side with peers, teaching, being a role model, staying clean, etc.  How many teenagers do that years before college?  No wonder the bond is great and lasting.....the values and experiences are the same.  Whether you were a staff member in the 1940's or of the 2011 season......the stories and experiences are remarkably similar.  Then again, the caliber of those individuals are remarkably similar.

I have camp "friends" who are thirty years older than me and thirty years younger than me.  Surprisingly there is not much difference other than the age and length of life experiences (and a little maturity).  I have a smattering of high school friends, more from college and some from the rest of my life.  It is not surprising that my non-scout friends all blend in with all my scout friends.  I have had several staff members comment to me after a weekend or a tailgate when one of my longtime friends from work or college have come by on how "great" they were.  My response is, "why would I spend my time with fools?"  Being a friend of mine is more than location, a job or an is the character of the individual that matters and anyone who has met my closest friends know that.

My Dad was right.  When I flew back to Seattle after my first quarter of my freshman year at college I told him of all the great friends I had made at school and how they will be lifelong.  He said to me that I would hardly know most of them by the time I graduated.  Except for one, he was absolutely right.  We all make acquaintances as we go through life, some last longer than others, but that is a far cry from being a close friend.  Then again, life is not the microcosm that camp is.

A former staff member got it right when he said to me sometime during his third year on staff, "When I am here at camp, I wonder what the rest of the world is doing because oddly enough, it just doesn't matter to me."  I want to go back.

Yours, Mine, Ours....

There is not a week that goes by without receiving a request about the use of the camp property for both season and off season use.  For the most part it is a Pack or a Troop or maybe even a Crew that requests a weekend so that they can come up, use a campsite and have a weekend together.  Then there are district events such as camporees that wish to use the entire facility for the district.  This is followed by council events such Woodbadge or training conferences.  Then we have a number of outside folks who wish to use the facilities for family reunions, weddings, work events (outdoor training) and things like that.  It is this latter group which is interesting because they usually find out about our facility through numerous listings on the Internet; none of which we actively participate in yet still are listed.  Many of these folks don't understand the concept of our "seasonal" work; in other words, they want to rent a part of the camp during summer camp.  That of course brings a chuckle from us, however it is understandable that people outside the program wouldn't know how this works.  We have been able to do some things though.  A school district contacted us and wanted to know if we could put on some challenges or leadership "games" that their teachers who were going to be on a training retreat could use.  We were able to accommodate that by sending our COPE/Tower folks to do team training at the arboretum.  The boys enjoyed it and the camp made a little extra cash for its effort.  Of course, we were dealing with another not-for-profit organization and we were able to align our schedules so that this did not interfere with the camp program.

However I am more interested in discussing the interactions we have with people within the program.  Although I amongst others feel the affinity and ownership of that facility on the Hood Canal, it is part of the Chief Seattle Council and has a purpose within the framework of the program presented by the council.  It has always been the goal to provide low cost, outdoor experiences for scouting youth and having several beautiful facilities within the Pacific Northwest, there are plenty of opportunities for that.  You have Camp Parsons on the Hood Canal, you have Camp Brinkley and Camp Pigott at the foothills of the Cascades and you have Camp Sheppard on the side of Mt. Rainier.  All of these offer opportunities for great experiences for a great price.....and as far as Camp Parsons goes, if you do a planned work project, it is "free".  Well, not really free as we take your work in return for your stay.....but a good scout would do that anyway.

Then we have a group of people who think that the facilities come part and parcel with their registration fee.  If they are a registered scout in the council, then they can go and use any of the facilities at any time and at no cost.  By extension, they truly feel it belongs to them.  Although we go out of our way to make everyone feel welcome and part of the camp at any given time during the year; part of being a good citizen is contributing your share to the group, in this manner there is a nominal fee mainly as a token and realization that there are resources spent in the maintenance and operation of the facility.  The more you use it, the greater the fee as there is a greater burden on resources.  Membership in the Chief Seattle Council gives you opportunity...not full access.  Many people falsely believe that Camp Parsons operates on the income it brings in.  They don't understand that the net gain that we bring in each year goes to the council as income and from that, a budget is generated (of which Camp Parsons is a part of) that we must live by.  So we just can't charge for something you use.....what resource is used must be part of the yearly budget from which operate from.  That is one of the reasons why we don't let people use some of the equipment (boats, guns, etc.) or facilities (cabins, kitchens, etc.) unless this is already taken in as a consideration of our budget.  Then again, why should we?   The facility is there for outdoor experiences; if you want to canoe, go to a canoe outfitter that will rent you the boat based on their usage, supply training and supervision as well.  We had one group that wanted to use Ken's office; they wanted him to move everything out except for the computers and printers so that they could use it for a weekend.  What they didn't understand was that it is a year round working office, not part of the facility or other words, it is not theirs, it is ours.

Ownership in the boy scouting program is a fickle thing.  Many people become attached to a facility due to experiences, time, etc and truly believe it belongs to them.  I can closely relate to those sentiments, however they are misguided.  You can probably go to any council in the US and you will find that this is a basis of division between professional scouting and volunteers.  You will have a property that is no longer serving a purpose and costing money, yet it has been a part of the council (and those "vested" volunteers) since the beginning of time.  What many of these volunteers fail to see is that ownership in this setting really means having pride in your work to make that facility the best it can be; physically AND financially so that it can serve scouting youth for years to come.  You may have influence on certain things but ultimately it is not yours to have.  Too many people think that they are entitled to certain things or the facility belongs to them when in reality, they are really leasing "space" and not things (like offices, backhoes, boats, etc.).  It is simply yours when you are looking for a beautiful place to spend some scouting time at; it is mine when I think of the years I spent there and it is ours in the sense that we all benefit from a little piece of heaven at the feet of the Olympic Mountains.

Buy Now!!

One of the good things about maintaining a website for the camp is that you are able to have a presence on the Internet if someone is searching for "Northwest Boy Scouts" or "High Adventure" as well as having a good resource to be able to make information available for troops that are coming to camp.  Despite that, a good portion of the e-mails that I respond to are questions of which the answers could be found if someone took the time looking at the website.  Of course, that is probably a good indication that we are not making it easy enough to navigate around the web page so that may be an improvement we should undertake soon.  Having the website has been good for us, but there are some drawbacks.  The first one is you really have to make sure you keep it up to date.  We add and subtract information such as summer camp availability, staff interviews, etc. but we usually do not "officially" update our program material until we get closer to camp.  This is the second most asked question that I get; "Your advancement roster says 2011, is it the same for 2012?"  A valid question of which the answer I always give them is "the program that is posted currently is the program we have currently.  If we update anything it will be posted first on the website, so keep checking."  For the most part, the structure of our program has not changed much over the years as we have found it to be a successful undertaking.  Some folks would say change is good; I say most scouts and scoutmaster come back enough to notice the difference......and the few of you ancient scoutmasters that do, well I think you know that it works well....otherwise, why do you keep coming back?  The advancement schedule does not change much unless we add or subtract a merit badge, but the times and offerings are pretty stable.  What I try to impart to the scoutmasters that do ask me whether or not we can offer a badge that is not on the list is that we certainly support anything they want us to do.  Merit badge classes are not required to obtain the merit badge; successfully completing the requirements is what is required to earn the merit badge.  Classes only build skill and time for the scout to pass certain requirements.  If you want, we can offer you a counselor to sit down with your scout and assure that they are able to demonstrate each requirement, just as if they had made an appointment with a counselor at home and went for the evening to do that.

The other main drawback is that we receive a lot of e-mail from either individuals or companies trying to sell us software products to help manage our camp.  Some of these "companies" are designed for any type of summer camp operation, for profit or not-for-profit and some are designed specifically for Boy Scout camps.  The pitch is always the same and somewhat generic; "Are you tired of all the hassle........", "Do you wonder how your money is accounted for............", "Are you tired of having to keep inventory and would rather be prompted on when to order..........".  We probably have had about 10 different vendors try to sell us their wares in order to make our summer lives more manageable and therefore more enjoyable.  Buy now so we can save later and have a more efficient system which will actually earn us money.  Sounds like a winner, eh?  It may make sense to look at a system if we truly ran a day to day business year round, but it would have to be in conjunction with the council's financial tracking system.  Right now, I would be just as happy to have them open a "deposit only" account at our local bank instead of having to hand cart cash and checks to Seattle.  It would be efficient, safe, accountable and less possibility of misplacement or loss.

This is not the first time modern technology with associated software has darkened our doors.  There have been talks about having online merit badge sign ups.......folks, that really doesn't help you and it really does not help us.  Scouts change their minds when they arrive to camp or you might come to camp and say...uh oh....little Johnny shouldn't be taking that merit badge.  If you want, you have the advancement sheet readily available, write out who you want taking what and hand it to us when you arrive.....what is the difference?  We do not shut down classes so nothing really "fills up".  Do you want to help yourself AND the camp?  Push for electronic rosters; an online form that you can log on to, populate with the scouts and adults attending camp, the dates the adults will be there (rotating) and then the program automatically fills in your insurance number and calculates how many scouts and adults will be there on a day to day, meal to meal basis so you know that you are going to be a few extra at one meal and WE will be prepared for that one or two extra persons.  With a click of a button you can add or take off scouts that either come at the last minute or don't show up instead of trying to cross them off or fit them on the roster.  Going even further, a program that will automatically tell me that all adults are registered scouters with the BSA.  Now that is a program I would buy and would buy now!!

Stolen Identity?

One of our former staff members forwarded me the e-bay listing of this particular patch which he saw a few days ago.  I don't think I am violating any rules or laws by displaying it here, but we will see.  The question he had was "Is this really one of ours?"  The answer I had was that I didn't know, but I don't think it is.

For years (up to the 50's, even the 60's) Camp Parsons has had a yearly patch; far much better than the little segments that we hand out weekly.  The patches usually contained aspects of Camp Parsons such as the mountains, the hood canal or the signal tower......never a canoe and tent.  The CP has also been somewhat unique in its design as well and never like this one depicted here.  I have seen just about every variation of this patch from the beginning of camp to present and I can safely say that I have never seen this rendition above.  Now that being said, this may have been made by a troop that wore it when they came to camp sometime in the past and has nothing to do with the summer program.  We see that today with t-shirts.  Many troops have a "summer camp" t-shirt that they design specifically for being at Camp Parsons that week.  One troop asked permission to use our Thunderbird design for their shirts and did a very nice job of it so as not to have anyone confuse it to be a staff t-shirt.  I guess I could e-mail the gentleman (or woman) who has this for sale on e-bay and find out the story, but it really is not that big of a deal for me....after all, it is just a patch.

A year or two ago, a Timberline award went up for sale on e-bay which caught my attention.  Apparently the story behind it was that the woman who put it up for auction got it from her husband, who went on a trek in the early 80's.  He was having some health issues so they were selling a number of items in order to raise money to pay their bills.  Of course this story came out after she received scorching e-mails from numerous members of the OSM asking why and how this came up for sale and did she know what she was doing.  I was a little annoyed at first, but after she gave her explanation, I could understand the reasoning behind it and again, it is a symbol of an achievement and only as good as the person who wears it.  If someone wishes to collect that award, fine.  If someone wants to wear it, well they will know that they didn't earn it, and that is all that matters to me.  The interesting thing about this particular rank is that the year it was awarded was one of the years that I was running the ceremony and handing out awards.  So I am sure I have seen that Timberline before.

Every year we admonish the staff about selling staff gear, particularly the staff patch let alone their marmot.  I must admit, I am surprised I haven't seen more pop up on e-bay in the past.  I know through the years we have had a number of staff members who don't really care about camp or the traditions that come with it.  I would imagine it would be easy for anyone of those people to give or sell something away.  Then again, maybe it means a little something to them after all......or maybe it is buried underneath a bunch of other junk; out of sight, out of mind.

A question came up about yesterday's post.  My ruminations were exactly that; an observation that I noticed as I began piecing the staff together.  Every year we have returning directors that come back to do their job for a second year, this year was just one of those years where I am going to get a lot of "new" directors even though they are veteran staff members.  Selection letters have gone out for the most part, a few will be going out later.  As usual, we have more applicants than positions.  If someone has not received a letter, either selection or non-selection by the end of the week then they should call camp.  As we get closer to camp, we may need to pick up more staff as at times, a few folks have to drop out for different reasons, so if someone is not selected now, we may be calling later.  Scouts applying for CIT positons will be contacted in May to schedule a week, so don't worry about those.