Rabbitbrush Rambler: Off to summer camp

Campfires and singing “Down in the Valley,” story time, awards ceremonies, marshmallows on sticks, poison ivy — anyone who ever attended a summer camp will have indelible memories. Happily, there still are camps for Scouts, 4-H, YMCAs, church groups, health problems, behavior problems, upscale kids, inner-city kids, and so on, despite all the competition from entertainment and social media.

Summer camps first caught on in the late 1800s and became more popular when cars made transportation easier. The main attraction for most was being outdoors, in fresh air and close to nature, whether for a summer-long camp, a day camp, or something in between, but the campers usually learned quite a lot as well.

Besides enjoying camps when a young girl, I was a counselor for four summers in a camp for inner-city girls. They stayed for two weeks or longer in a few instances and were there long enough to overcome fears that all the things that went bump in the night were bears.

Along with other activities, there were swim classes, and if they passed swim tests, the girls could be in the boating program if they chose to do that. Boating was my job, and I enjoyed teaching it, while they were teaching me things about inner-city lives.

That camp no longer exists in its former guise, which I regret, because I loved the camp and the campers loved it too. Besides being great outdoors, bonding and trust were part of the experience.

Times and needs change, and different regions offer different opportunities. One will be the annual Beaver Creek Youth Conservation Camp, to be held in woodsy cabins near South Fork on June 20-22. It is for kids ages 8-13. Hurry to get registered because the deadline is today, June 6.

Campers choose a track, with the activities being be hunting safety, soil and water, range forestry, or wildlife. All of these subjects have special interest for our area and they are led by people who really know their stuff.

Lives in the San Luis Valley in the San Luis Valley and in an inner city might seem too different for a comparison, but campers in both and in other types of camps make choices and set goals. And, of course, the kids have fun, too.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service provides the Beaver Creek this camp session and attracts the area’s rural community. It is an activity of NRCS’s Rio Grande Watershed Conservation and Education Initiative, with partners and funding for the camp being Colorado Parks & Wildlife, U.S. Forest Service, Saguache County, and the Trinchera Blanca Foundation. Generous corporate sponsors are Southern Colorado Farms, Mountain Valley Agribusiness, Monte Vista Co-op, WintaNip & Sanitizing, Agro Engineering, SLV Garden Center, and Jack’s Market in Del Norte.

Some other summer experiences do not involve overnight stays, and one such is the Junior Archaeologists Camp for junior and senior high school ages. During its program in mid-July, they will visit Fort Massachusetts, Fort Garland, Great Sand Dunes, and the Scott Miller Site. The deadline for signing up has passed, but it might be worth a try to see if there is an opening for this outstanding opportunity. It is being organized by the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

Early August will see the ever-popular Junior Ranger Day that always brings a happy crowd of youngsters for learning and fun. Friends of the Dunes sponsors and helps with this free event.

And Fort Garland State Museum will continue its free Fun Fridays at the Fort with special activities all summer. The Anschutz Family Foundation is its sponsor.

Watch for information about these and many other great opportunities for children and youth this summer. And a big round of applause to all the generous sponsors.