Monday, August 8, 2016

Going Ga-Ga!

The roaring opening campfire that greeted us to Camp Oest.
Our last Cub Scout Resident Summer Camp. As I type these words the realization is just starting to settle in. My son has completed his last summer camp as a Cub Scout. He is now preparing to enter 5th grade. This time next year he will have completed his first Boy Scout summer camp experience and will be preparing for Middle School. Just yesterday he was a cute little Tiger and now he is a handsome young scout working on his Arrow of Light Award. It all goes by so quickly.

Ryley earning beginner swimmer at the pool.
Luckily for us though, our week didn’t go by that quickly. We had just enough activities to keep us busy with enough free time sprinkled in to keep Ryley happy. This year we decided to attend a week long camp, just for Webelos Scouts, at Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation which is located outside of our National Capital Area Council. This would not only be our first year at Camp Oest, but also our first year attending any camp at Broad Creek. But this wasn’t the first time I had heard about Broad Creek. No, Broad Creek is actually the Scout Camp for the Baltimore Area Council, which I attended in my youth. Even though I stopped going to scouts before I could attend summer camp it was kind of a home coming of sorts.

Ryley and Kane catching catfish
But before we checked into camp Ryley and I decided to head up to my sister’s house to make good on a promise we made earlier this summer. My sister lives about 20 minutes from Broad Creek versus a 2 hour drive from our house. So we headed up on Saturday and spent some time with our favorite 7 yr old, Kane. As I previously wrote about, we had a less than stellar experience fishing in the Outer Banks this year while on vacation. So Ryley and I promised to take Kane fishing before summer camp. We grabbed our rods and headed to Bynum Run Park, located near Bel Air, MD to do a little pond fishing. The skies were growing dark and we didn’t have time to stop for bait, so I decided to use the only thing we had on hand; slim jims. I was expecting to hook a few sunfish on the Slim Jims but to my surprise the only fish the kids caught all afternoon were catfish. Now these were not your average sized catfish, they were all on the small side, less than a pound. But what they lacked in size was made up by the sheer number of fish nibbling at the end of the line. We spent about 30 minutes there and managed to pull in 5 fish and loosing so many others as we were reeling them in. Then the storm rolled in so we headed back to my sister’s house for some pizza. The funny thing about summer thunderstorms is as quickly as they roll in, they roll out. So after pizza the kids still wanted to go fishing. We hopped in the truck and headed back to the pond where we fished until it got dark and they caught way too many catfish for me to count.

Our home away from home for the week.

Once we completed the tour and our swim check we headed back to camp to set up our tent and unpack. This was going to be my big chance to test out a bunch of gear we had purchased specifically for summer camp as well as some other things we would be able to use year round. I quickly pulled out our Outdoor Research Bug Bivies and Ryley and I set them up on our cots. Next we got out our sleeping pads and sleeping bags and made our bivies as comfortable as we could. This year I thought I was going to be ahead of the game by having these bivies on hand to keep the bugs out once and for all. Things didn’t go as planned but you can read the full write up on the bug bivy here. After unpacking we set off for Ryley get meet some of his fellow campers for what would prove to be the activity of the week; Ga-Ga ball.

Ryley playing Ga-Ga ball.
Now if you don’t know what Ga-Ga ball is, you aren’t alone. I had no clue what it was until we got to camp and I saw all the kids playing it, as often as they could, in between activities, in place of activities, in the heat, in the rain; it didn’t matter when, they just wanted to play Ga-Ga ball. For an in depth explanation of what Ga-Ga ball is you can visit Wikipedia here. But essentially it is a variant of dodgeball which some believe is kinder and gentler. They must not have watched 9 and 10 year old scouts play Ga-Ga ball because there is nothing kind and gentle about it. It is quite vicious. But it is a load of fun and keeps the kids exercising without even knowing it. You basically try and hit the ball with your hands into other peoples legs (below the knee) to get them out. It is a pretty fast paces game and it done within 5 minutes or so, then the kids jump back in and play again. Ryley loved it so much he never even made it to the BB or Archery range all week. He cannot wait to get back to school so that he can suggest that they construct a Ga-Ga ball pit on his playground!

Ryley completed several activities towards his advancement during the week but I think he learned the most on his overnight camp out under the stars.... without Dad. This was his big chance to start acting like a Boy Scout. We packed up the minimal equipment he would be taking with him which was basically a sleeping bag, pillow and water bottle (More on how his water bottle performed all week here). Ryley spent that evening bonding with newly made friends around a campfire roasting apples, marshmallows and making memories. 

Ryley and Matt returning from the M.O.O.S.E. Overnighter
(Moving Onward and Outward Scouting Experience)
When I saw him the next morning I swear he had grown an inch overnight. Suddenly my little boy wasn't so little anymore.; he now walked taller and seemed more mature. He also sported somewhat of a "scar" from his overnight experience. He had been branded. Yes the hot-iron-in-the-fire kind of branding. Luckily for me, as my wife would have killed me, it was his hat that was purposefully branded with the Camp Oest brand, OTM (Oest the Most). 

The OTM Brand.

Hopefully he will follow in his older brother's footsteps and find himself receiving another brands in the not-so-distant future; the coveted PS (Philmont Scout Ranch). Although I do not know all of the details of that night, those are memories for him to cherish. I only hope that his first night alone in the woods was a formative experience in his life. One which he will hopefully repeat in the years to come on his trail to Eagle. 

As the week began to wrap up the weather started to take a slight turn for the better. While the week started off sunny and humid it was ending with some cloud cover and rain which made the humidity drop. So too did the scouts start to wrap up their activities, whether it be Ga-Ga ball or earning a STEM award. But the camp staff at Oest had one last trick up their sleeve. Instead of doing the traditional "closing campfire" program on the last night at camp, they opted to hold a "Songfest" celebration the night before we were about to leave. Staff dressed up in costumes and pretended to play fake instruments in front of the kids, all while signing and dancing to music that spanned classic rock (YMCA) to modern pop (Shut up and Dance with Me) and a few songs in between. They staff ended the night by singing the always emotional Good Riddance (Time of Your Life) by Green Day. I could definitely tell Ryley grew over that week at Scout Camp when he commented to me that hearing that song made him feel happy and sad all at the same time. Happy because he was going to be going home to see his Mom and brother and sad because he was going to miss the new friends he had just made and probably would never see them again. He said that's how it must feel when you graduate from High School. What a wise young man he has become indeed. On that note what better way to end my blog by sharing that song one more time. Until then keep taking your kids outdoors...

Some other pictures and videos of us from camp...

Pool party was where it was at!
Ryley with the special necklace he earned at Project M.O.O.S.E.

Ryley with our Den Chief Nealan.

A little sing-along fun.

A STEM project; Egg drop.

Mail Call!

Slip & Slide Fun!

Closing Skit

Pucker Up!

Dad's turn!


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