By Kevin Hunt
Jul 18, 2017

Homeless Thunder Ridge Takes Road Trip to Tushar Lakeside

Yes, it’s true!  The Thunder Ridge Scout Camp is homeless this season – but the show must go on!  And what a show it has been.  And though homeless, the Thunder Ridge staff staged a great adventure at a new home.  Home for our fourth week of camp became the Tushar Lakeside Campground located about twelve miles east of Beaver, Utah.   I have been going to Scout camps for nearly fifty years, but never in that expanse of time have I ever seen a council Scout camp become homeless and take to the road.  So, this Thunder Ridge homeless adventure truly became a great adventure.

A country song says “Nothing but a smile!”  That is about what we had to take with us as we began our Thunder Ridge homeless road trip adventure.  The fabulous staff … and their smiles and energy!  That was us!   That was indeed our greatest asset – the staff and their love for Thunder Ridge and their desires to serve the Scouts who would come.

Camp Director, Nick Hutchinson and Thunder Ridge Camp Staff at Tushar Lakeside Campground

The week following the Brian Head fire, the camp was cancelled.  Many troops went to other camps of the Utah National Parks Council.  Four troops joined me, Jason and Michael at the Scofield Scout Camp near Price, Utah.  Some went elsewhere.  Some dropped out of the game completely.  Others rescheduled their camp experience to be later in the summer.  Then the second week following the fire, we teleported our whole operation into the Beaver High Adventure Base.  See a previous blog: http://blog.utahscouts.org/camping/thunder-ridge-scout-adventures-beaver-high-adventure/ And that was an adventure as we operated two different camp operations simultaneously within one great facility.

But, wo is us!  The following week we got kicked out of the Beaver High Adventure Base because a stake of LDS girls had long ago reserved the entire camp for their use.  And admittedly so, the combination of Scouts and girls probably would have been too much of an adventure.  So, once again, we were homeless.  Camp leaders were kind of desperate.  A trip to the Beaver office of the Fishlake National Forest brought suggestion that the camp use their Tushar Lakeside Campground as base for Thunder Ridge operations.  A visit to the campground confirmed that the location would be perfect.  And what a miracle and great blessing.

The Tushar Lakeside campground is a rather obscure campground hidden away in a very beautiful and pristine piece of woods about twelve miles east of Beaver, Utah.  It seemed to have everything we needed – a lake with canoes, plenty of beautiful campgrounds for troops and a large group pavilion for headquarters – the hub of the camp.

Then came the logistical nightmare of totally starting from ground up to create a facility that could be home to all who had signed up for the week at Thunder Ridge.  Bathrooms … showers … programs and where to stage them … communications with leaders (and convincing them that the spirit of Thunder Ridge could and would live on) … and much more.   But, to their credit, the Camp Director, Nick Hutchinson, Ranger Dave Merrill and Camping Director, Bob Gowans … did their work and by many miracles, were able to pull it off.  Thanks, guys!  Amazing!

The staff were all notified by e-mail of the location for our fourth week Thunder Ridge homeless adventure.  There was some skepticism and wonder as we moved into the unknown, but we all ready for a new road trip adventure.  So, with nothing but our smiles (and a Reader’s Digest version of camp and personal gear,) we reported Sunday evening for duty at the Tushar Lakeside Campground.  And talk about beautiful!  Wow!

Tushar Lakeside Campground became home to the homeless Thunder Ridge Scout Camp

Our first order of business was to set up our staff tents for the third time this season.  This time, however, we left our spacious and wonderful “Bare Bones Tents” basking in the sun at both Thunder Ridge and the Beaver High Adventure Base.  We borrowed some spring-bar tents and got these set up in a big compressed mass at campsite #6.  My wife and I had – “just to be prepared” brought up our own large family tent.  We set this up and made our new home comfortable with our chairs, table, air mattress, and all the comforts of home in the woods.  We all unloaded trucks and trailers of program “stuff” and piled it around the large group pavilion.

And were we excited when we saw the BSA “shower trailer” that had arrived on the scene.  I know that I had kind of resigned myself to being a true “man of the woods” without a shower for the week.  And these hot showers – proved a great blessing and joy to Scouts, leaders and staffers (many but not all … since some of the staff wanted to prove their woodsy manliness by not showering – and testing the rest of us with their woodsy and manly smells).  Hmmm …   And there were even toilets – with running water for flushing.  Oh, my!  This was beyond our wildest imaginations!

And a major challenge was the food:  Troops were told they would have to bring and cook their own food.  And Roland and his cooking staff at Beaver High Adventure ultimately also became the Thunder-Tushar cooks and had to drive down the mountain 12 or miles (each way and twice a day) to bring food to the staff.

Chef Roland (right) brings Thunder Ridge staff food from Beaver High Adventure to Tushar Campground

Monday morning I arose and assigned incoming troops to the available campsites.  (We did not have use of every campsite since many of the campsites had been reserved already by other non-Scout campers.)  We staged our usual staff greeting team at the front gate of the campground.  And with our own Thunder Ridge radios, we were able to dispatch our Troop Friends to the campsites to greet the troops as they arrived.  The operation came off smoothly – even without the use of electronics and the internet (of which there was none).  And that brings up another humorous scenario – all of those desperate Scout leaders trying spots and contorted physical challenges in an effort to get cell phone coverage.   Some even made their own road trips in search of such – but most just settled in for a great week without outside distractions.

Troops, Scouts and leaders all came with the same staff wonder – all wondering how this homeless experience might come off.  But, the staff had their Thunder Ridge smiles and energy and so the spirit of Thunder Ridge lived on – even in this new situation.  Camp was camp and everyone was ready to hit the ground running.  And it only took a few minutes – literally – for everyone to realize that we were going to have a great Scout camp.  And so it began!

Thunder Ridge Program Track on location at Tushar Lakeside Campground

The program “tracks” (with like badges grouped together for fun and adventure) began with full force at 2:00 Pm.  Of course there had to be some modification.  And again, our Thunder Ridge 2017 theme of MARF came through strong.  As Camp Director, Nick, reminded us …  “Maintain Absolute Rigid Flexibility”.  The nature adventure programs (Wilderness survival, overnight camping, etc.) could be staged in any natural habitat.  And there was plenty of beautiful and spectacular country for this.  Scouting Basics (taught by my wife, Lou, me, Grayson and Michael could be staged anywhere).  We were able to set up an archery range (in such a beautiful mountain setting) and we added a new feature – a “Laport thrower”.  This thrower threw out sponge disks which Scouts were able to shoot at.

We had some really great troops at camp – Like Troop 336 of St. George (and many others).  Troop 336 was amazing in their full Class A uniforms – and they were honored as an “Honor Troop” and a “Baden Powell Patrol” for the week.

Troop 336 of St. George, Utah at Thunder Ridge/Tusher Camp

Thunder Ridge Camp moves to Tushar Lakeside Campground near Beaver, Utah

Only the rifle ranges took a major hit.  Sadly, we had “none upon thars!”)  (Dr. Seuss – “Sneetches”)  But, in their place, the ever prepared and spectacular Larry Hall (Shooting Director) came with the answer.  He staged the Chess and Game Design merit badges.  And what a hit these activities were.  At all hours of the day and night the pavilion was filled with Scouts and leaders who really got into – and absolutely loved – the game playing.  (He also had a trunk full of other games – many of the traditional oldies – and these games were a great hit too!)

There was a beautiful little lake at the campground.  The dilemma, however, was that Thunder Ridge did not have an aquatics director.  But, all was not lost … troops were given the opportunity to stage their own event to use the campground canoes (and life jackets) according to their certifications in “Safe Swim Defenses” and “Safety Afloat”.  So, boating became a great pastime – as did fishing.

Canoeing on the lake at Tushar Lakeside Campground

There was also a beautiful little green meadow – even sprinkler irrigated to make lush green grass.  This too, became a great center for games, activities, and even our usual flag ceremonies with the staff and troops.  Camp Director, Nick, was still able to show off his theatrical prowess with the troops!

Thunder Ridge flag and parade grounds at Tushar Lakeside Campground

The opening campfire was moved to the pavilion – because of the evening rain – but the show did go on – and it was great.  The Thunder Ridge spirit lived on!

Thunder Ridge story teller, Larry Hall at the campfire in the large Tushar group pavilion

The program tracks continued Monday and Tuesday (session 1) and Wednesday-Thursday (session 2) and these worked well for everyone as staff strutted their smiles and the planned programs.  The Tuesday overnight experience around the lake proved a great adventure as rain added some new challenges for all.  Wednesday and Friday morning “free time” slots featured a great many program areas – and of course more games (both in the pavilion and out on the grass).

And then came the campwide games on Friday.  The Amoeba Game was a great hit as Scouts ran around and tried to make their groups bigger.  And the leg wrestling was a major hit.  I really enjoyed staging this event.  Staffers Michael and Breydan took top staff honors (though haply, I still was pleased that the old guy – me – could still beat all of those young bucks!)  And Scouts Vince, Zach, Dallin, Carson, Connoly and others were great champs.  I had to laugh as the Beaver High Adventure Base camp Director, Lee, Ferrin came for a brief visit.  She looked at the leg wrestling activity and voiced the question, “So, what is the point?”  She wouldn’t understand … it was a “guy thing”.

We had some unique guests that we shared the campground with.  This was a ward of LDS girls from Cedar City.  For the most part, we just kind of watched each other from a distance.  But on Friday afternoon, the girls were playing volleyball and the Thunder Ridge staff mozied over there and soon we had a girls vs. Scouts (staff and Scouts) game going.   The girls had a great repertoire of fun songs and they sang a great many of them.  Not to be outdone, the Thunder Ridge staff sang their limited songs “a whole lot louder and a whole lot worse!”  (Thanks, Jay!)  I had never heard so much singing by the Thunder Ridge staff.  Later, one of the lady leaders said of the game, “It was priceless” – and it truly way.  A great unplanned adventure!

Thunder Ridge staff and scouts take on some LDS girls in a great volleyball game.

The Friday night campfire was able to be staged at a mountain campfire bowl – though without fires – as we had been all week (and the rain had hit earlier on this day).  Again, Nick and staff were their theatrical best.  Any Lou was hilarious in her Grandma act.  (And in this same role, her morning flag commercial helped the makeshift trading post sell out completely of Grandma’s pink sugar cookies.)  And of course, I was excited as I led the adults in the grand rendition of “Alice the Camel”.

Commissioner Lou Hunt as Grandma peddling Grandma’s Cookies at the camp trading post

And all too soon, our Thunder Ridge homeless adventure at Tushar Lakeside came to a close.  And the troops, leaders, and Scouts cleaned up their camps – even Troop 585 and their plethora of pioneering fort masterpieces – and headed off down the mountain for home.

Troop 585 pioneering fort builders at Thunder Ridge-Tushar Camp

And I loved the comments.  All were lush with praise for the fantastic week.  The fact that we were not at Thunder Ridge was not at all an issue.  All had plenty of FUN and adventure and some even said that it was the best Scout camp they had ever experienced.  Wow!  (For more photos of the Thunder Ridge – Tushar week, check out this link:  With “Nothing but a smile” – and a lot of staff energy – and a big dose of MARF … we did it.  Another grand Thunder Ridge experience … even on the road!  Truly amazing … and FUN! Thunder Ridge lives on!zBest wishes along your Scouting Trails …  Kevinthescoutblogger

See this link for an introduction to Kevin the Scouting Trails Blogger.  Blogging articles have excerpts taken from Kevin’s many personal journals and Scouting Trails books including “MR. Scoutmaster!”, “Keys to Scouting Leadership,” “Gnubie to Eagle Scout”,  and others at his Scoutingtrails website.  Connect with Kevin and read his articles on Scouting blogsites such as The Boy ScoutThe Scouting Trail and the Voice of Scouting.  Feel free to comment on anything you read!  Find Kevin on Facebook at:  Scouting Trails Books and Blogs.

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