In our troop's junior year we learned about an opportunity for a Wyoming camping experience that was being offered to all girl scouts. Our council had decided to participate and sponsor three patrols. Did we want to be a part of this Wyoming Trek to be held near Ten Sleep, WY? Does the sun rise in the East? Excitement reigned. Not every girl scout loves camping, especially for two weeks but we soon had a patrol of seven of the most adventurous ones and the training began.
Before long, Council suggested we add a girl from another troop so we agreed rather reluctantly, and before long it again was suggested that a visiting scout from Germany also be allowed to join our patrol, making it a group of nine.
Another leader and I trained with the girls and competed for the chance to be patrol leader for the Trek and I won that honor. To this day I do not understand why we did not somehow scrape together enough money to pay the expenses for the two of us but we got negative vibes all around. Even from the girls who I expect felt they would appear as overly protected. True enough, I suppose,. No other troop had two leaders.Nevertheless, I have never, before or after, felt so inadequate for carrying out my responsibilities.Camping skills were okay. There had been plenty of training and after all, I was a country girl, and wasn’t entirely ignorant of primitive living. It was the unexpected, the unpredictable, that convinced me that my coping abilities were far from adequate. From the first hundred miles, to the last, the entire three weeks was an activity that can only be described as an Experience! I am glad that I went.
No more than 100 miles down the road,, an infected cut (the rule that no preexisting medical problems were allowed, was ignored by this scout) needed treatment. Where was the first aid kit? Packed away in the bus’s storage compartment, of course, so a stop had to be made at a service station/food store to get medication. Blow number one to this leader’s confidence that she was prepared.
Soon, cars full of boys were playing tag with the bus, honking and yelling at the girls, who were delighted at the attention they were attracting. Our overnight stopover in Fort. Collins, CO was dreaded because of a car full of followers. One leader wisely made the police aware of our position and requested an occasional drive-by. This was long before cell phones were in every pocket, always available. I was thankful for a resourceful leader.
Next came the midnight rattling and banging of the doors of the gym-like building in which we were spending the night. The noise echoed and bounced from wall to wall as noises do in an empty gym. The girls slept on as did the leader of one other patrol. Only I and the leader who had asked for an occasionally police patrol were awake and wondering what would come next. We were a bit nervous; those doors sounded very loose!
All became quiet and we finally slept...as well as adults can sleep in a sleeping bag on a hard floor. And again I wondered about my ability to cope with the unexpected, the untrained for occasions.
The following day the terrain began to change. Mountains caused the bus to strain with it's load and finally it's overheated brakes brought us to a stop. Although we were sure we were going uphill at the time, naturally it wasn't true. That well known optical illusion had us fooled and we had been on a long desent. It was a welcome stop beside a cool stream with banks of ferns and huge mushrooms, The girls played in the cold water fell in and had a wonderful time. We would have enjoyed camping there!
A few more steep climbs and a few more descents and the Girl Scout Center was in sight...but sadly out of reach.
The bus stalled. It had had enough and would go no farther. Perhaps the driver had a CB or perhaps the personnel at the Center could see us miles away. Regardless, rescue vehicles were sent out to transfer the gear of the three patrols of twenty-three girls and their leaders, for the remainder of the trip.It was not an impressive arrival.
Campsite for our patrol was near the edge of a deep canyon and it’beckoning depths had the girls quickly setting up camp and ready to embark on the trail leading down into the unknown.Having had no instructions about the proper way to accompany nine girls downward into a canyon, I placed myself about midway in the group and away we went, a group of happy chattering girls. Somewhere along the way, I turned and asked some of the following girls where my daughter and two others were. “Oh, they decided to go down the canyon wall.” Was the heart-stopping answer.
“They did WHAT?” was the brave leader’s response. What to do? To go after them was out of the question; the remaining girls couldn't’t be left without their leader. To send for help didn't seem plausible, as by the time someone reached the top of the trail and hiked to the headquarters. The renegade threesome would hopefully reached the bottom or be stranded and then we would send for help.
We proceeded to the bottom of the canyon. I called for the climbers. We whistled. We worried. And we followed a extremely noisy stream along the floor of the canyon, hoping to intersect the approximate arrival location of the descending group. That location was yet to be determined; the echo of the canyon walls and the noise of the wind and the rushing stream, smothered any answers we may have had to my frantic calls. I could visualize the evening news: Girl Scout members under the leadership of…… lost, stranded or injured…..My imagination ran wild.
Finally there was an answer! What relief! Then there was a shout and the sound of something tumbling. A reassuring call that the noise was only a camera. Finally, they appeared, stepped down onto the canyon floor and joined their buddies and a very irate leader who immediately issued instructions to sit on a nearby log and listen closely what you are about to hear. They sat and they listened and I believe my point of view was quite clear.
Returning to the campsite and level ground, all went as it should. Our meal
was prepared, Clean-up was efficient, bedrolls were unrolled and the procession to the showers began. These were board enclosed areas with a full view of the night time stars if one waited politely for the others to finish. Waiting also assured the last person in line to have unheated water. Of course, as a primitive campsite, there were no water heaters, but only water piped from across the canyon into the shower area. As this was quite a distance, wonderfully warm water, heated by the sun as it flowed through the pipe, was the luxury the early arrivals enjoyed. The last person discovered what melted snow felt like. I was last and I learned.
There were organized activities exploring the rugged area and one hike was in an archaeologically interesting area that was being mapped according to the types of Indian artifacts found in the area. A detailed record of what was found to assist in identifying the tribes that had either lived or passed through the area was being developed. Many flint chips littered the path and my antenna went on alert, for my dad was an avid hunter of these artifacts and I was familiar with the signs. While the girls took a rest break I was prowling near-by when my attention was caught by a unusual object under a low juniper bush. Looking closer, I was elated to see that it was a perfect corner-tanged knife in an unusual tortoiseshell appearing flint. I yelled, I was so excited. Oh, how I wanted to keep that piece but the rule was that every thing had to be turned in to be cataloged. After the cataloging process, it was to be placed in the Ten Sleep museum under my name. I'll never know.
Each night there was a campfire program and ceremony and of course, the daily flag raising and lowering, with each troop taking turns being responsible. Council's early instructions had informed us that each patrol must have a name and uniform and plan to be responsible for one night program while attending the Trek. The girls gave all this careful thought and then announced that they had chosen their name: The Purple Pansies! We leaders were a bit startled at the choice but we only looked at one another with raised eyebrows. We never asked what thought process brought this about. We did not want to know!
Most of our troop had participated in forming a Girl Scout Chorus the year before, again managing to be the first one in the nation. Singing was their strength so naturally they planned to sing for their campfire entertainment; their choice of a song was Folson Prison Blues. They spent many afternoons listening to Johnny Cash's rendition until they were satisfied with their version.
The flag ceremonies were formal ones and the Purple Pansies had to leave those jeans and hats in their duffel's and attend in their official uniforms. The lived through it okay and then donned their short shorts and hiking boots and met the day head-on, ready for adventure.
The girls made the most of the
opportunities to get a great tan. Here, in the camp's large refrigerator the conditions were not ideal! On the day we broke camp, a cool front had moved through and while we waited on the hill top for our bus to arrive, we found that the refrigerator was the warmest place around.
They kept a neat campsite, but this picture of their leave taking looks rather chaotic. Even with the cold wind blowing, they didn't give up their favorite attire...short shorts and a great tan! We arrived home August 16, thirty-nine years ago. It was a memorable trip for all, and some of the "girls", now career women of fifty plus, have stated that it was much more than sightseeing and camping skills; it achieved what camping is all about: discovering your inner resources and weaknesses.
In June of 2009, the troop had their first reunion and it was a great get-together. Unfortunately the entire troop could not attend but these are now planned on a yearly basis. Although they are now teachers, nurses, business owners and much more, they generally are also involved in various forms of community service. Some have been scout leaders; one is active in animal rescue and boarding. They are busy women with grown children of their own...they are even grandmothers! How can a leader adjust to her girls being grandmothers!