Monday, September 10, 2012

My Latter Two Days at Camp Lake Stephens

"Editor's" note: Excuse the present tense; this was written contemporaneously with and describes Thursday-Friday of last week.

After an eminently memorable first day, the second two days of our Camp Lake Stephens were… decent. It’s kind of odd. After a day clearing underbrush, I found myself really really wanting to write about them and tell the story of that day, because it was a profoundly unique feeling, a real NCCC memory. What we did yesterday and today was fun and dynamic and unique in its own right, but it didn’t leave me thinking “Wow! That was amazing, I have to tell everyone I know!” in the same way that Day One did. Maybe that’s my standards being unrealistically high, I don’t know.

In any case, Day Two would’ve been called fun by even the stingiest summer-camp participant. We did a low-ropes course and a high-ropes course. The low-ropes courses focused on teamwork; you had to fit everybody through the (rather small) holes in a man-made spiderweb of ropes, or get everyone to swing on a rope swing across an (imaginary) highway and land safely on the other side. It was okay, I guess. This connects to the Myers-Briggs personality tests we just took, I suppose, but I would’ve welcomed a little less standing and talking about the course and more “Let’s do something and see if it works!”. Perhaps correspondingly, my favorite of the four was when we were all mute, standing on a log, and had to arrange ourselves in a specific order (our birthdays, Jan-Dec).

The high-ropes courses, on the other hand, were all about individual achievement. We did a “flying squirrel”, in which—through the magic of lines and pulleys—one person (the squirrel) stood on one end of a rope, five strong team members were clipped to the other end of the rope, and the point was for the Five to run and yank the rope as hard as they could and send the squirrel flying as high as possible. That was terrific fun; I was one of the Five for about seven squirrels before getting my turn, and it’s like a giant eagle just picks you up and yanks you into the air. There was also a rock wall with a wicked incline at the top (I couldn’t quite make it, failing two handholds from the top, to my immense irritation) and The Pole, a highlight to end all highlights.

The Pole is simple in design, difficult in execution. The chosen one is equipped with helmet, harness and safety line and made to climb up a thirty-foot pole (handholds and footholds provided. Once at the top of the pole, they will see a trapeze suspended in the air about 5-6 feet in front of them. The objective, of course, is to jump and grab the trapeze.

Plenty of people were scared; perhaps two-thirds of my team required some sort of coaxing from the ground before making their attempt. I wasn’t scared at the top, at least not of falling; I just remember thinking “Okay, I have one shot, so I better not miss.” Didn’t help all that much.  I did not make it. After a sort of swimmer’s dive off the top of the pole, I fell about a foot short by my estimate, never touching the confounded thing. A very, very few people Corps-wide made it; I would guess about 20-30 out of 240. My teammate Joe actually touched the bar with both hands (he’s 6’4”, which helps a lot) but slipped off because his hands were sweaty—it’s unbelievably hot on top of the Pole. That was easily the high point, figuratively and literally, of yesterday.

Today was the “Amerilympics”, a unit-wide competition in all sorts of things. We had a punt-pass-and-kick with a football, a water balloon toss and subsequent free rein to just go nuts with water balloons, a trivia competition (apparently Ben Franklin died on 4/17/1790), a competition to kick the most soccer balls in a net, a Frisbee accuracy competition (I hit three of five cones myself; no TEAM of 8-12 people totaled more than four), “Dragon tails” (break into two lines of five, last person in line has a tail, get the other guy’s tail before he gets yours) and a three-legged race (Joe and I won within my team, but lost by eight seconds unit-wide). Like I said, it’s all fun enough, but none of it is particularly extraordinary. And perhaps that is an unfair standard, but many of the Corps’s activities have been extraordinary (using it correctly, i.e. much better than ordinary); this was just ordinary.

I’m definitely glad we did it, though. After shepherding each other through various impossible obstacles—and more to the point, just hanging out, living together, swapping music preferences and inside jokes and having long conversations—I definitely feel a lot closer to my teammates now than I did at the start of the weekend. That was the entire point of the exercise, after all, and I’m glad of it.

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