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Camp director, Part 2: Promotion

Camp director, Part 2: Promotion

by Wolf Pascoe on November 16, 2011

I like the mountains,
I like the rolling hills,
I like the flowers,
I like the daffodils,
I like the fireside,
When all the lights are low,
Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada
Boom-de-yada, boom-de-yada

— camp song


In the days that followed my assuming the post of assistant organizer for the Fern Hill spring camping trip, here is what happened:


I didn’t run into my boss, Don, at Fern Hill, so I called him and left a message on his voice mail.

I didn’t hear back.

I wasn’t worried. Liar. I’m always worried. The trip was nearly eight months away. But I knew sometime soon we would have to reserve the campsites at the chosen state park, or there would be no camping trip.

The reservation process was murky. It was done by computer. There was something called a “site rush.” On a given day, all the sites for the month you were going camping suddenly became available. You had to book the sites you wanted in competition with everyone else in the state who wanted them.

In the early days, the Fern Hill trip had attracted only a small group of campers, and booking enough sites was no problem. But every year more and more families wanted to go. Last year 160 people went camping. Don couldn’t get enough sites at the park he wanted, so we ended up staying at the second choice, a place called Frog Creek.

“Dada,” Nick said, “Where are we going camping this year?”

“I’m just the assistant,” I said.




I got an email from Don.

“I put an announcement in the Fern Hill Bulletin asking for more help,” he said.

One person had volunteered, a mother whose son was in the Nursery Yard. Her name was Trixie. She had already begun an email exchange with Don, who forwarded the thread to me:

Trixie: Hey– I’ll help you with the camping trip . . . What do you think about getting Snake Rock?

Don: That’s a better place . . .  we tried it last year.  I had three computers set up in front of me and another person had a few too . . .  I had each one logged in as a different user on Reserve America and within 5 minutes Snake Rock was sold out. Ouch.

Trixie: Do you think it’s so difficult because it’s Memorial Day Weekend?  What do you think about a different weekend that isn’t a popular holiday? Just throwing it out there . . .

Trixie was a geyser of information on state parks. She hadn’t liked Frog Creek. But she mentioned a location on the coast that she remembered as particularly beautiful, called El Capitan. The conversation trailed off without our deciding anything.




I still had no idea how we were going to go about getting a campsite, and all the discussion was making me queasy. I knew situations like this were not good for my brain. Self soothe, I thought, as in Get a life. You’re not in charge.

Don had mentioned that he had booked around 20 campsites at Frog Creek last year (each site held eight campers). When he showed up to claim them early Friday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, a kindly ranger gave him all the sites, but warned him that one person reserving so many was against the rules. She told him that rangers could cancel such reservations any time at their discretion.

“You mean everyone might have arrived at Frog Creek for the trip last year and there might not have been any campsites?” I said.

“That’s what I mean,” said Don.




I had thought we would be moving into high gear. I took a look at the Reserve America website to learn its mechanics. I found the whole thing bewildering. It looked like each person making a reservation was limited to two sites. How were we going to reserve sites for 160 people?

I phoned Don to ask about it, and got his voice mail again. I heard from him the next day.

“Wolf, I need to tell you something in confidence.”

“Is something wrong?”

“My life is total chaos right now. I’m changing jobs. It’s a huge opportunity.”

“Oh,” I said. “Congratulations.”

“It’ll all be sorted out by next week.”

That still left two weeks before the site rush to figure out where we were going, and how we were going to book all the sites we needed. Piece of cake.

“Okay,” I said.




A week went by. I didn’t hear from Don. When I finally reached him he sounded distracted.

“How’s the new job going?” I said.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “It’s the ideal job. But it’s taking all my time now.”

The queasiness returned, licking my throat.

“Don,” I said, “What’s your fantasy about how the spring camping trip is going to happen?”

“At this point, Wolf, my fantasy would be that someone else would step in and organize the trip.”

Neither of us spoke. Suddenly I was very thirsty. Something weird happened in my stomach.

“I suppose,” I said, “That would be me.”



Camp director continues next time with And now my troubles begin. What’s a Wolf to do?

The greatest show on earth



Reserve America — Step right up and get your spot!



Take my camping trip. Please! Any advice for me? (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Sirena November 16, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Wow! I had no idea the camp site reservation process was so cut throat. Sounds like it might be easier for you to just buy a house or something and pitch some tents in the living room and pretend (might be a good “learning” experience for adults and children alike). You are a better person than I. I would have said something like, “well, I guess we just might not have a camping trip this year” and gone shopping. I’m hoping against hope that you braved the broadband highway and got enough sites! Please finish the story soon…


Wolf Pascoe November 16, 2011 at 10:51 pm

All in good time, my dear. I do like the living room idea.


David November 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Is this how Dickens’ readers felt each week having to wait for the next installment?!


Wolf Pascoe November 16, 2011 at 10:52 pm

The difference is that Dickens was paid to draw things out. I do it for love.


Privilege of Parenting November 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm

I learned that camp song from my younger son when he was in preschool, but I learned it as “…I love the mountains, I love the rolling hills.”

I love camping, and the daffodils but I’m just not in love with camping.


Wolf Pascoe November 16, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Ah, but the fireside!


Alameda November 17, 2011 at 1:52 am

aaah all the fun and excitement of anticipation and preparation! thinking of what to pack, what to wear. will it rain, will it be cold. imagine the little guys with their eyes wide open, running in the fields, going up an down rocks a million times…priceless!


Wolf Pascoe November 17, 2011 at 8:10 am

I had not, until this moment, appreciated what a truly twisted individual you are, Alameda.


Jim Parkevich November 17, 2011 at 7:59 pm

Ok Wolf…the solution…get your boy into the Boy Scouts of America. If he is 11 years of age, he can join at Boy Scout level..Look around, visit any number of Troops..Ask HOW MANY adult volunteers are in service at any one time..My Troop had a core group of 10/12 adults constantly monitoring the Troop for awards (Merit Badges, honorable awards, etc.) We had an additional 25/30 adult men and women to call upon for transportation, merit badge work and all other types of Troop activity. Other adults kept in constant contact with other adults in our counsel.. Simon Kenton Counsel..adding up to several HUNDRED adults planning, organizing, structuring programs within our Counsel.. And we camped twelve (12) months a year. I especially looked forward to Christmas Campout.. The boys all brought little battery operated light sets to decorate their encampment. Individual “Patrols” planned elaborate Christmas dinners. We adults cooked a Pork Crown roast in a “dutch oven” with kraut, fire roasted/baked potatoes and “dump cake”for dessert. We sang carols, each boy (sometimes 50) would make a Christmas wish. NEVER for themselves,….. for moms and dads, brothers and sisters and GRAND PARENTS,
this was truly a Holy Christmas. Spend the money for a set of adult uniform as well as Nick…Maybe become the Troop Doctor..or join “District” and teach your skills and healing heart of the doctor…Who knows how many boys Nick and you might influence on their journey to manhood.


Wolf Pascoe November 17, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Plus there’s no site rush for camp outs, right?


Barbara S. November 17, 2011 at 10:28 pm

I love how you’re dragging this out! It reminds me of all my volunteering days 🙂 I like Jim’s suggestion about Boy Scouts, but that won’t guarantee that you aren’t in charge. That’s how I became in charge.


Wolf Pascoe November 17, 2011 at 10:48 pm

It’s a sort of This American Life episode, isn’t it?


Jim Parkevich November 18, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Wolf and Barbara….
When it comes to Boy Scouts, the situation is the same as any type of job or profession. If “boundaries” are not set, other people will take advantage of you.
My troop Scout Master” was a pharmacist at a local hospital. His job was very demanding, yet he scheduled as much time as possible to Scouting as he believed totally in the program.. During an adult training program, called “BlackFoot” in our district, we had a Physician who was deeply involved in the new area of pain control. He sat at his table with his lap top, in constant contact with other physicians serving his critically ill patients. YET, he won the award for “Most Inspired” adult Scouter.
Wolf, two fathers in my troop were Physicians. One summer, with much advanced planning, we held a “First Aid” campout. Our two father/Physicians recruited three (3) other Physician friends for the campout. The location was only an hour from the limits of the city. Our “senior scouts” procured holly wood make-up to replicate gruesome accidents at five stations. All of our junior scouts, working on their “First Aid” merit badges, went to each station, having to use their training to assist the “patient(s)” The five (5) Physicians, each overseeing a station, offered fantastic help to the scouts, teaching and guiding each boy to gain exacting skills in emergency situations. Later, troop adults cooked a gourmet dinner for our visiting Physicians, who did have to return to service later that evening. Of course, the younger scouts were so excited, I couldn’t get them to sleep until very late in the morning. But all in all, a MOST rewarding week-end…….!!


Wolf Pascoe November 19, 2011 at 3:01 am

Boy, I wish I’d been in that troop.


Jennifer Hayes November 19, 2011 at 11:32 am

look into private cabins and tent sites. No way you can reserve for that many in a state park.


Wolf Pascoe November 19, 2011 at 11:41 am

Ah, but read on, Jennifer.


Jim Parkevich November 19, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Me again, Wolf..
Maybe I am being long winded about all of this, but I must interject to Jennifer Hayes, and all others who seem to think that all this camp planning is just such a fearsome task. My BSA troop was fortunate to have to have several people who served in multi-year assignments as “core center” researchers to contact state and private facilities to inquire about camping areas. Many of the troops in Simon Kenton Counsel spent great nights in Ohio’s state parks. Our responsibility was to help Park Rangers with clean-up in certain parts of the park: clearing out bramble thickets, picking up dead wood to be piled in trailers,
digging pathways later to be converted to permanent walkways. It is a great relationship to this day…One of our adult leaders had a cousin who owned a farm several counties distant. Usually (2) troops would go together 60/80 boys,
for the Rifle/Shotgun campout. There, adult members of the NRA would teach firearm safety…firearm mechanics..and then let the boys fire .12/.16/.20 gauge
shotguns at “clay pigeons’..A few of our boys were crack shots who could blast three (3) at a time , out of the air.
The key to all of this is finding adults who truly care to help young people.
P.S. At the Rifle/Shotgun, safety and respect were Ultimate Responsibilities by all scouts. Any misbehavior and two ( 2) adults would transport the offending scout to a small town to await his pick-up and removal by a parent !!


Wolf Pascoe November 19, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Ah, Jim. Those core people! Where can I find them!
Stay tuned . . .


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