The 2005 Camporee

Thoughts From Dr. Joe by Dr. Joe Puglia

I had this crazy idea four years ago.  "Let's organize a camp trip for the girls and the neighborhood kids," I said to Kaitzer. "Great idea," she remarked, "But we have to do it in the back yard, the children are too young for the mountains."  "Back yard!!! 'Gees Zoë Wiz,' there ain't no adventure in that," I thought.

Well let me tell you, it worked, it was one fun campout, and we never looked back. We called it the Camporee and I guess you'd say it's become a tradition. This year is the fourth annual, the kids are older and it's time to push the envelope so we're heading to the Sierras, The Range of Light.

As I packed the truck with provisions and every 'dohickey' imaginable, I chuckled as I remembered my first Camporee with Scout Troop 136. It was in '59. I took three cans of Chef Boyardee Ravioli, a canteen and a bayonet, all wrapped in a blanket. 

I think that all ideas originate not from some specific past experience, but from the subliminal feelings that radiate from the experience. These feelings create synapses to a euphoric past and we are thus prompted to relive that which was once most fulfilling. 

I remember the feelings of excitement and sublime adventure as departure for the '59 Camporee grew nearer. It was at that point that I understood the definition of sheer pageantry.  Anticipation is a cathartic event for children. As parents, it's essential that we structure experiences that evoke such feelings. By doing so our children will eventually become less dependent upon us and will self initiate their own memories.

We arrived at Sequoia National Park, 28 strong with 14 kids and 14 parents. En route to our campsite, we saw numerous groves of stately sequoias and after seeing their majestic beauty there would be no going back to the backyard. The envelope was pushed.

As John Muir advised, the children walked the giant sequoias and felt dwarfed amidst the gargantuan trees. They had difficulty comprehending that the General Sherman Tree was approximately 2,700 years old. The younger ones finally understood when I remarked that the tree was even older than I. They hiked, crossed streams, swam in a freezing river, gazed at giant sequoia trees, played a myriad of games, toasted marshmallows, saw deer, roasted hotdogs, star gazed, built and tended the fire, saw bear tracks, stayed up late, ate a million s'mores, listened to poetry, saw a full moon, and asked a billion questions.

We need to shake kids out of the various vacuous enchantments of our culture and introduce them to the deeper enchantments of our world. When we connect to the earth we touch that which is deepest within us.  Children need to be exposed to more than the miracles of technology.  Give them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning.

The kids faired far better that I did on the '59 Camporee. I recall that things went south right after I duked it out with a kid from our rival troop, 118.  And then, to make matters worse, Mr. Gerard, our Scoutmaster, went ballistic when the can of tomato soup that I placed in the fire exploded in his face. He sure couldn't take a joke.

That was a different time and I would not be exaggerating if I were to say that the kids on the 2005 Camporee did a fabulous job. 

During my years of voyaging in the woods I discovered the meaning of open horizons. I learned that life is a series of horizons with one no sooner completed than another looms ahead. More than physical features, they become horizons of mind and spirit and when we look back we find that they have blended into the panorama of our life.

Open horizons for children show the dawning awareness of beauty, the impact of knowledge, reverence to the living world, and relationships to others and to the earth itself. They also show the euphoric result of memories. 

What our children finally become and how they adjust to their world is a composite of all the horizons they've explored. Horizons leave indelible imprints on attitudes and convictions and give their lives direction and meaning.

Ultimately, what one remembers of any camp trip are not the details but the broad montage of fun for the sake of fun. Those are the memories that keep me coming back. 

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