Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I Went, But I Didn't Stay

Camp sucked. That's the easiest way to put it. The natural surroundings were beautiful, the scent of pine filled the car as I climbed in altitude, but the unnatural surroundings fell far short of what the brochure promised. The lesson learned: visit any place we plan to send out kids, especially for an overnight trip.

To begin with, I should state, I have a severe phobia about bears. When I am feeling stressed in my life, I have nightmares about bears. Right before I left for camp, in my dream, a bear got me for the first time. I could feel his hot body and fur pressing into my face even in my dream. So, that being said, when I found out that the camp counselors were aware of at least three bears that visit the grounds at night, I was not a happy camper. Add to that the fact that the bathrooms are outside, about 50 feet away from the cabins, I was definitely getting concerned. Then, at the staff cook-out, the head counselor announces we need to be extra aware of our surroundings during hikes due a mountain lion stalking the area during the day. She described this animal as "very aggressive and bold". Apparently it had attacked some man's goat right in front of a group of people during the day a couple weeks ago. This issue was never indicated in the brochure, or anywhere on their website. Now, yes, my dh did point out to me that the bears at least should be common sense. Yes, I agree. BUT, is it still common sense to assume that my child will have to venture out, in the dark, just to pee or brush his teeth when these bears may be prowling the site? Or, that I would have to accompany the group of 2nd grade girls I was in charge of, putting myself in the role of protector, into the darkness so they can shower or brush? No. Indoor bathrooms in the cabins, that's common sense when there is a bear issue outside.

My next issue with this camp is that the activities offered in the brochure do not state any age requirement. However, upon arriving at camp, I realized that archery and canoeing, two things my son was extremely excited to do, would not be available to him since he is not 12 years old. Not that I wanted him canoeing anyway when I found out that the lake they go canoeing is too polluted for swimming. I was in total disbelief that this camp would take kids out onto a polluted body of water, especially considering the rates they charge!

If those reasons aren't enough, here is another one. This camp is open all summer. They do not restock much, intending to use up the supplies by the end of summer. The week my son was going was the last week. Camp ended on Thursday, the camp had to be closed by Saturday. When I saw the empty shelves and junky offerings in the camp store, I was appalled. When I heard that the only craft being offered was wood painting, I was disappointed. The only two activities my son would have been allowed to do were craft and swim lessons. He can paint wood at home. All the really great crafts were already all used up. They were at the end of the food supply. The menu was hodge-podge leftovers and just-use-it stuff.

When I was in my bunk Saturday night, I was so angry. Angry at my church for promoting this camp when obviously no one has really been there. Angry at the camp for being so shoddy. Angry at myself for not praying about it enough, or really thinking it through enough, before committing myself and my son, and the rest of my family, to a week of upheaval. I wrestled, I cried, I came to the conclusion I was NOT going to stay. I was NOT going to expose my son to his first camp experience at this place. So, I set my alarm for as early as I could, stayed a restless night tossing in and out of sleep, then awoke, packed my things, and got the heck out of there.

Of course I told the head counselor I was leaving. I blamed it on my mother being too ill to watch my children all week. I found out later that my mother did feel stressed and overwhelmed by having to work VBS and watch the kids all week. So, maybe it wasn't such a bad lie, although I know all lies are bad. There were more than enough people to cover my absence. I felt guilty, then I felt angry, then I felt such relief. 

I keep waiting to hear something terrible happened up there this week. Of course there was the earthquake. And my daughter has been diagnosed with a serious bladder infection. She has been vomiting and running a fever since Tuesday morning. So, I was needed here more than there. Thankfully, our check still hadn't cleared, so we put a stop payment on it. Yes!

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