Monday, June 15, 2009

Adventures at Magness

Well it is Monday and I am now just getting around to posting a blog entry about our adventures at the Boy Scouts’ Magness Adventure Camp. I should have written and posted this yesterday, but it kind of felt nice not having a lot of Internet activity for a couple of days. Sometimes it just feels good to take a break from the ordinary and do something different.
We left on our trip to Magness on Thursday afternoon around 1PM. We needed to make a few quick stops before we got on the road as I needed to get gas in the Explorer and we needed to get Zack new raingear as he had out grown his old jacket. After all was said and done we were ready to go around 1:30PM. Unfortunately the weather was not to cooperate. As we left the parking of REI where we got Zack his raingear – the heavens opened up on us. The rain and the hail fell like there was no tomorrow. On top of that I was on the phone with a friend in Aurora who told me that the local news was reporting a tornado with a funnel being spotted in Parker, Colorado which was right along our route. So I decided it would be better to go back home and wait until the weather calmed down a bit. The decision was a good one as when we headed back out 40 minutes later we found I-25 to the south of us littered with at least 2 – 3 inches of hail! We arrived at Magness around 3:30PM and got checked in. We were assigned to the Eagles Nest campground. Each campground is 30 or so army surplus tents from the 1950’s that have been erected on a series of either wooden platforms or concrete slabs. The tents are set up around a central “shelter” that is a strong concrete and wooden structure. The shelter is where the bathrooms are located and has numerous picnic tables in it on which you eat your meals. (Meals are prepared at the camp HQ and then sent out to each of the shelters in industrial grade food warmers and then are served in the shelters.) Once we arrived at Eagles Nest we found an empty tent and deposited our packs and sleeping bags there. Most of these tents to put it bluntly are NOT in good shape. They have numerous holes and the effort that has been put into setting the tents up isn’t that great. I tried to shore the tent up as best as I could but, it was still lacking.
(Zack after our arrival at Magness)
(View from the fire tower at Magness.)
After we got situated with our tent it was free time so Zack wanted to head out and hit the obstacle course. To reach the obstacle course we had to walk pretty much the whole way across camp but it was an enjoyable walk. Zack had a lot of fun on the obstacle course and just was having a lot of fun. After the obstacle course we headed to an area near the HQ where there is a man-made stream that flows into the lake located at the center of camp. The kids like to throw pine cones, leaves, branches, etc into the stream and then race the objects down to the lake. We probably spent another 30 minutes there before heading back to the shelter for the kick-off meeting and dinner. After dinner and the retirement of the flag for the day, we headed back over to the HQ area where they were having ice cream for everyone. We ate our ice cream and Zack and many other kids played in the stream and did lots of races. After that we journeyed to the campfire circle for the “big” campfire. Now I have a problem with their campfire. Here in Colorado we have to deal with extreme fire conditions but I just can’t imagine why they can’t do more than they do. I say that because the fire is just a propane fire underneath a bunch of concrete “logs”. It doesn’t do much in terms of feeling like a real campfire.
(The weak campfire!)
The “campfire” program was a number of songs and skits by the camp staff. The kids loved it and the staff did a good job with it. The funny thing for me is that I worked at my local Boy Scout camp when I was kid and most of the songs and skits are the same as when I was a kid. It made me laugh thinking back all those years to me running out and leading the skits and songs at Camp Conestoga. When the campfire concluded Zack and I went back to our tent and got everything set up for the night. The night itself was pretty good as we both feel asleep quickly and slept soundly. I was awoken at 1:30AM to a chorus of coyote yips and howls. They were so loud! But it was just so amazing and wonderful to lie there and listen. It brought shivers of joy to my spine. (Coyotes are not dangerous to people. They might try and look you down and there have been incidents where they have attacked people, but for the most part they are terrified of people.)
(Zack going to sleep in the tent for the first night.)
Friday morning dawned cold but bright. We had a full day of activities scheduled. After breakfast and the raising of the flag we headed out to our “rotation” of activities for the day. You go out to the activities in groups based around other kids who are at the same level in Cub Scouts. The group is lead around the camp by a camp staff member who is in charge of getting you where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there. We were in a group of about 12 boys and their parents. There was one other Cub Scout – Aaron from Zack’s pack and den in the group. Our first activity of the morning was BB gun shooting. I wasn’t sure whether or not Zack would be willing to do it or not. In the past he had wanted nothing to do with guns. I am not a gun person per se, but I strongly believe in my son knowing how to handle a gun and shoot a gun. (When I was a kid we had several guns around our house and I feel pretty comfortable with guns and relatively speaking I am a decent shot.)
(Zack taking a shot with the BB Gun.)
I was pleased that Zack eagerly went and did the BB gun shooting. He did OK with hitting the target and I think he actually enjoyed it. He still has a little bit of difficulty in holding the gun right but it is something that we will continue to work on. (I take him to Bass Pro Shops and their shooting arcade to teach him the basics.) After BB gun shooting we headed to the lake to do some swimming. It was cool and windy but Zack and the other boys were determined to go swimming. They had fun and there were lots of water battles. Our final activity for the morning was handicrafts back at the Eagles Nest Shelter. The craft this year was to have the boys make a little replica catapult. It wasn’t too hard to make but I think most parents ended up helping their kids as some of the handiwork was delicate. We had lunch at the shelter which was a meatball sandwich, pasta and vegetables. We then headed back to HQ to assemble our dinners for that night. As a Webelos II Cub Scout one of the highlights of Magness is the second day hike and overnight camping at the “Second Mesa”. To prepare for this hike and overnight camping you first have to bring your own tent and day packs to the Magness. Additionally, you are then responsible for building your own “foil dinner” from the ingredients the camp provides. The ingredients that we had available to use were chicken, potatoes, green beans, corn, onions and green peppers. You take want you want and place it on a big sheet of foil. Spices and Tabasco sauce can also be added before you fold the whole thing up and turn it into a giant easy to cook meal. After assembling our dinners we headed out on our hike to “Second Mesa”. While we hiked the skies grew ominously dark. There were lightning strikes all around in the distance. Needless to say I was not particularly pleased with the situation. But we soldiered onward. The hike offered the boys a lot of different opportunities to play various games along the way. The hike itself was only about 1.5 miles or so but it took a long time because of the frequent stops to explore and play games.
(On the hike to "Second Mesa")
(Our smiling faces)
By the time we arrived at “Second Mesa” the worse of the storm had passed. Thankfully it had stayed several miles to the south of us and though we had to face the prospect of lightning, none struck near us and we avoided the rain. Once we got to “Second Mesa” Zack and I quickly set about setting up our tent. Given the status of the weather there was no way I was going to set the tent up in the middle of the field where most people were setting up. Being out in the open like that makes you much more of a target for lightning. Instead Zack and I walked a good way from where most people were camping and set the tent up a little ways into the trees. We kept ourselves away from any tall trees and positioned the tent to have maximum cover but little direct contact with any trees. My tent is a relatively good one from North Face. But it had been a while since I set it up and it took me a few minutes of scratching my head to figure it out. Additionally, in the couple of years since I have used it I have lent it to several people and it came back with out the stakes. That was not fun, but I managed to improvise with branches from a pine tree.
(Our tent on "Second Mesa")
Once the tent was set up Zack ran off to play in the woods I took some time just wandering around. The “Second Mesa” is a plateau to the east of the main camp area. The terrain is not too rugged but there are numerous areas of boulders and rock walls. It was fun for me just to take some time and be by myself walking and exploring. We all headed back to the central area of the mesa around 5:30PM or so when the camp staff arrived with the food. They were going to cook the food in these giant charcoal grills that they have there. So we watched them start the charcoal on fire with the equivalent of a blow torch! (They used a propose tank from a grill with a special attachment to it that basically created a giant blow torch.) We were able to identify our dinners because we wrote our names on the foil with a Sharpie. They were actually really tasty. After dinner most of us walked back down to the main camp area for “free activities”. Zack and I went to the archery range and shot a bunch of arrows. After that we walked to the Camp HQ where they were doing tie dye shirts. We got two shirts and tie dyed them. Since I didn’t want to take them back to our tent on “Second Mesa” we walked them back to our car by Eagles Nest. The walk back to “Second Mesa” seemed pretty long to us by this point as my GPS was telling me that we had already walked almost 8 miles that day. Once we got back to “Second Mesa” we decided not to take part in the planned night hike as Zack was too tired. As everyone was heading out on the night hike we were settling down into the tent for the night. About 2 or 3 minutes after everyone left on the hike we started to hear the pittle pattle of rain on the fly of the tent. Before long it was more a roar then a pittle pattle and we heard the people out on the hike running back to camp.
(Zack falling asleep in out tent.)
Despite the rain our night was very comfortable, dry and warm. It was so warm that I actually slept part of the night outside of my sleeping bag. I cannot imagine how miserable we would have been had we spent the night in the tent from our first day! The rain continued to fall for at least 3 or 4 hours. I don’t know how long it fell as I was sound asleep. When my alarm went off at 6:40AM I woke up feeling pretty rested. (I had my cell phone with me and use it as my alarm.) Stepping outside of the tent I was amazed at how wet it was. The only thing worse then packing up a wet tent is putting one up in the rain. Once we got up we headed to the center of the camp and waited for breakfast. Our breakfast was just a small doughnut and bagel and cream cheese. After that we did our best to pack up the wet tent and get ready to get off of “Second Mesa”. Saturday morning at Magness was COLD! Unfortunately our first activity of the morning was boating! Yikes – that offered the great potential to get wet and even colder. Thankfully we found a boat that was dry and we were able to stay dry while we paddled around the lake.
(Zack paddling around the lake in a paddle boat.)
The second activity of the day was catapults. The camp staff have erected these 2 giant catapults on the edge of the camp. The kids get to use the pulleys and rope to pull them back and launch tennis balls and other assorted objects. As part of this activity they also learn a lot about using lashing to build objects. They learn all the basic elements that are needed to construct a strong lash between 2 pieces of wood. Our last activity for the morning was slingshot shooting. They have a high-powered slingshot range where the kids get to use slingshots and fire paint balls with them. It took Zack a little while to pick up the basics of how it worked, but he still had a ton of fun doing it. After that we had lunch and though we could have stayed for longer we got packed up and headed out. We spent some time playing around near the camp HQ but we were on the road back to civilization by 2:30PM. Unfortunately for me I decided to explore the little town of Kiowa on the way home. It was unfortunate because I managed to get nabbed for a $163 speeding ticket! Not fun! Long story short, the police officer was still right at the edge of town about 100 yards before the speed limit jumps up to 55mpg from 35mph. Given that the way out of town is up a hill, I was pushing down on the gas pedal to get up some speed to make it up the hill. BAD MOVE! He busted he doing 47 mph in the 35 mph zone. Ugh – is all I can say! Anyway – sorry it has taken me a couple of days to post this. Things have been busy, busy for me and I just haven’t had the time to sit down and write. I will be working hard to give myself more time to write. We hope that everyone has had a great Monday! Thanks and peace to all – J.

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