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Camp director, Part 7: Slingshot

Camp director, Part 7: Slingshot

by Wolf Pascoe on December 11, 2011

Little David the shepherd boy went out to fight Goliath.
Little David the shepherd boy went out to fight the giant in his land.
— Camp song

slingshotI am one second into an alternate universe, a fictive existence dissolved in metaphor. I am racing electrons. A million years of human evolution have delivered us into a virtual future.

The story is I’m chasing after campsites. A team of two hundred fingers is doing the running, with adrenalin enough to kill a wooly mammoth.

On my computer screen, I’ve clicked on my first target, the Portola group site at El Capitan state park.

Instantly the screen says, Unavailable.

Nothing to do. Navigate to my second target. Maybe someone else had better luck.

Grunts and clicks from the team on the phone.

“Damn,” Jennifer says.

The screen shows my second target. Click.


Not going well. Time to focus on the alternates.

“Damn,” someone else says.




I’m improvising now. I navigate to a block of sites. Every one says unavailable.

Click on “next page.” All unavailable. Except one.



Maybe this isn’t so bad. Maybe the sites are unavailable because some people on our team got them. But I won’t know that until the tally.

“Stay focused,” I say into the phone. “We have another minute. Everyone keep trying. Then go to the Survey Monkey page and report in.”

“Got one!” says LuAnn, my rock star.

“I’ve got one too,” says Jennifer. “No! It’s gone! Damn!”




Each site holds eight people. We need nineteen sites to accommodate the 150 campers who signed up. Survey Monkey tabulates its results instantly.

Field and StreamWhen I get to the tally page, a miracle. Nine sites! Someone is doing something right. Half way there.

Refresh. Twelve sites!

But what if twelve is all we get? We’d have to cancel them all and go for Frog Creek, our backup campground. Except the cancellation fees will kill us financially.

What to do?

In for a penny, in for a pound. I type a message to the group:

Purchase all reserved sites. Then log into the conference call.

Buy everything you land on. Just like Monopoly.

I take a last look at the survey results. Fourteen sites.





Voices on the phone. The rest of the team are logging in.

“Okay,” I say. “I’m going to call roll. Answer with the number of sites you got.”

I go down my list of names, keeping a hashmark tally.

Thirteen sites. Fourteen. Fifteen.

Not enough. Not enough. All this and not enough.

“Did anyone get a group site?” I say.

Not much chance of that. I know from experience the Portola group site was impossible, gone the first second. Snatched by one of the probably hundreds in the state who had targeted it.


“I got de Anza,” a voice says.

Campsite map“You got de Anza?” I say. “Who said that?”


“Sam, you paid for it? You have the receipt?”

“Yes,” says Sam.

De Anza is the equivalent of four sites.

“Wolf,” someone says. “Do we have enough?”

I count again. Not everyone has called in, but with de Anza we’re up to nineteen sites. We need nineteen. We have nineteen. Say it again.


I can’t read my monitor. My eyes have gone blurry for some reason. I will myself to speak the words:

We’re going to El Capitan.




We get twenty-four sites, when everyone reports. I end up returning a couple, but the cost is not enough to break us.

El Capitan In the week that follows, there are bills to pay, checks to deposit, spreadsheets to conjure. Emails to write, the camp website to update, latecomers who want in. There is my life on hold, now to be picked up again.

I am going to write this story down, I resolve. From first to last, as post-traumatic therapy.

I have a telephone conversation with one of the rangers to clear up some questions about the park.

“How many in your party,” she says.

“About a hundred and fifty,” I say.

“You’re bringing a group of 150 to El Capitan on Memorial Day weekend?” she says.


She doesn’t believe me.




A weekday night. Another parent teacher meeting at Fern Hill. Barely a month since the last meeting, when I became the assistant organizer for the camping trip. It seems years.

“I want to acknowledge Wolf,” Don says to the group. “For an incredible job.”

Applause. There is never applause at a parent meeting.

“Everyone on the team stand up,” I say.

They do.

David's slingshot“How are you?” Don says afterward.

“I’m not sure,” I say. “I mean no disrespect, but I think I know how David felt when he slew Goliath.”

This is the day the Lord hath made.

We’re going to El Capitan. We’re going to El Capitan.



This is the last in a series of, unbelievably, seven posts. Here are the first six:

Assistant, Promotion, And now my troubles begin, Team, Sign-up, Rush



Good Scouts: Donald takes Huey, Dewey, and Louie camping


Image Credit: Osmar Schindler, “David und Goliat”



Anything unbelievable ever happen to you?  (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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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Pauline Gaines December 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm

I’m exhausted just reading this. I tried to book a spot for just my family to El Capitan and couldn’t get in. I hear it’s great, though. Congratulations for fighting your way in!


Wolf Pascoe December 11, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Fight is the word. It’s every writer’s dream to exhaust his readers. Not.


Mitchell December 11, 2011 at 2:43 pm

*standing and cheering*
Sir, that was outstanding – the whole story. I am thrilled for you that it all worked out as it did and selfishly thrilled that you shared it with us (I seriously almost teared up in the end of this one).
Great story, beautifully written. Thank you so much.


Wolf Pascoe December 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm

I almost didn’t write it because I thought, “Who could possibly be interested?” There’s a lesson in here somewhere. Thanks, Mitchell.


Bruce Miller December 11, 2011 at 3:23 pm

You are amazing. I can’t wait to hear about the trip. El Capitan on Memorial Day Weekend..150 kids! Holy moly.
Should be memorialable.


Wolf Pascoe December 11, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Thanks, Bruce. Hear about it you will, but not, I hope, at such length.


Privilege of Parenting December 12, 2011 at 11:33 am

David? Sounds more like Moses questing after the promised land—only I hope you get to fully partake of milk and honey with your Fern Hill tribe.


Wolf Pascoe December 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Milk and honey or watery coffee and charred burgers, as the case may be. I should go camping with Moses.


Barbara December 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Whew! I suspected you were successful, but I admit having some doubts along the way. You’re not just a great organizer but a wonderful storyteller! Oh, and congratulations!! Whoo-hoo!!!! (You know you’ve just ensured this responsibility for the next decade, don’t you? lol)


Wolf Pascoe December 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Thanks, Barbara. The first 150 campers are always the hardest.


Sirena December 12, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I’m exhausted, but it was worth it because we got all sites. I was working very hard with you although you may not have kown this and I feel like I can finally relax. I knew you could do it!!!! Camping with Moses, hmmmm?!? Sounds like a wonderful place, El Capitan, with or without Moses. I can’t wait to hear about the camping trip in May. And by the way, I love the snow falling on your blog, once I figured out I wasn’t having floaters (seriously!).


Wolf Pascoe December 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm

What snow?


Robin December 14, 2011 at 6:56 pm

I see snow sometimes, and sometimes I don’t. It might depend on which computer I’m using (home PC or work Mac), but I’m not sure. I hate it. I find it distracting. Right now there’s snow falling across the top two pictures, but not across the text or across the other pictures.


Wolf Pascoe December 14, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Oh, that snow. Yeah, I put it there. You can only see it against the pictures because it’s the same white color as the background. You hate it? Really? It’s supposed to be, you know, Christmasy.


Robin December 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I am so totally NOT the Grinch type, but, sorry to say, I do hate the snow. I love everything you write. Hate the snow. And it’s falling across this dialog box as I write. The white snowballs (round snowflakes?) are outlined in black. Distracting from pondering the prose and reflecting on the images. Now the snow isn’t falling here. Why a minute ago and not now? Perhaps because I was scrolling up and down, checking things out . . . . Oops. Here comes the errant snow again . . . .


Planner2015 December 12, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Most excellent. You ARE the Captain now, mon capitaine.


Wolf Pascoe December 12, 2011 at 11:33 pm

My five-year mission: to explore strange new campsites, to seek out new stuff, to go boldly where no camper has gone before . . .


Jane December 16, 2011 at 10:32 pm

This is great. I followed it from beginning to end…the fabulous END!! How exciting. You beat the system!! 150 campers going to El Capitan. I am so proud of all of you. I look forward to hearing the follow up on what an amazing fabulous Memorial Day Weekend you had memorializing your foray into the accomplishments of parenthood!! Would that we all could get how capable we all are of going beyond ourselves when we care about the outcome. Cares little what the outcome is, what matters is that we care.


Wolf Pascoe December 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Thank you, Jane. Now that you mention, I do sort of feel like that guy who beat the dealer in Vegas.


pamela December 20, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Holy Cow. I had no idea it was that competitive. Nice work my friend. Those are some lucky kids!


Wolf Pascoe December 20, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Unless it rains.


Kelly December 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Awesome ending! I had no clue that El Capitan was such a big deal, but I’m sure that’s all about location.


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