Thunder Ridge Scout Camp – located in Southern Utah – south of Parowan, Utah and just below the Brian Head Ski Resort, has been in existence since 1975. The first Scouts arrived in 1976. I had the privilege of serving as the first Program Director of the camp in 1977.
Lou and I both took Youth Leadership classes at BYU (where we met and courted). One of our professors was the great Rulon Skinner. He taught us that in Scouting (and maybe everything) there is opportunity for “fun, adventure, and romance”. I have blogged on this subject before, but adventure comes as you do something for the first time. Fun comes as you do it again. And Romance keeps you coming for more. Each summer and each Scout camp has been an adventure – and we have had fun doing these each year. And we admit that we have felt the romance – the awe – of it all as we have served.
This year at Thunder Ridge, we have literally had one adventure after the other. The adventures just kept coming! When we signed on, we knew that we would have fun but we had no idea of the new adventures that would come our way. But, it didn’t take long before we realized that this would truly be a summer to remember.
And along the way, I have enjoyed blogging about the fun times at Thunder Ridge. I love blogging but somehow through my articles this summer, I seemed to become the voice of Thunder Ridge. Thanks to all of you who read and kept reading my articles. It was fun at camp to talk to Scout leaders. Many said that they were searching the web for anything at all – any news – of the camp and its current condition. One leader said, “Then I found this guy who blogged about the fire and the activities of the camp. I loved reading his articles.” (And “This guy” just smiled!) That scenario happened a few more times. And a couple of guys recognized me by mug shots in articles.
Then one time, Lou and I were dining “in” at the Beaver Taco. (Any break from camp food is fabulous – and this was a really great break! Great food!) Anyway, as ever, I was wearing my Scout uniform. And this unknown stranger in line began to talk to me. He asked me what camp I worked at. I hesitated a moment before saying, “Well, we are from Thunder Ridge but at the moment, we are kind of moving around the country …” He then looked at me and said, “I have enjoyed reading your blogs. We are glad you are safe.”
As in the past, I could have provided journal entries with a lot of gory details, but this summer, I have chronicled our summer in various blog articles. And being a historian, I thought that it might be good to tie all of these blogs together for a better chronological narrative. (Not that any of it fits together … but here goes …)
As we began the summer, I reminisced about my days “way back then” when I worked 40 years ago at Thunder Ridge. This blog tells that story and includes actual journal entries from that period:
Then, as Lou and I began our 2017 Adventure I wrote these lines:
I note that in previous years of camp administration, we had always lived in a cabin. Not so, this year. This summer we agreed to be satisfied to be in a tent – one of the 10 x 12’ “Bare Bones” tents used nowadays by the Scouts. This, in itself, would prove to be a big adventure.
Lou should have been a Boy Scout. She took us to camp prepared. And her preparations meant that our tent was made to look like the Taj Mahal. With a “current bush” to the trading post, we were big time. Lou could blow up our air mattress, curl her hair, light the tent, and we could even watch an occasional “oldies” movie on our antiquated VCR player. Wow! But we soon learned that this luxury would not continue through the summer.
We began the summer with a week of staff training and camp set-up. An adventure of that week was a staff trip to the scenic Thunder Lake (located a mile down the canyon and – as we found out – five miles back up. An adventure of that trip was witnessing the stocking of the lake with 500 fish. We didn’t know then that we would have fried fish (en masse) before summer’s end. Anyway, here is our Big Fish Story at The Thunder Ridge Scout Camp:
Also, during the staff week, our Camp Director, Nick Hutchinson introduced us to his camp philosophy. He called it “MARF” (which means “Maintain Absolute Rigid Flexibility”). Little did he know then how much MARFing we would be doing over the summer. That became our new watchword!
The Camp Staff at any Scout camp makes the program and is the energy and excitement for the great things in camp. We soon learned that we had one of the greatest of camp staff. And could they ever MARF! This article is a tribute to those young staffers:
For several days before our first Scouts arrived – and it continued their first day – we were hit with horrific winds that were 60-70 miles per hour in strength. We thought that we would be blown off of the mountain. Good thing that the winds happened the weekend that they did – and not the next. A photo of Lou in the wind tells all:
It was a great day when we welcomed our first Scouts to Thunder Ridge. They came with energy and anticipation of their week ahead. We were ready for them and felt that we had a super program for their enjoyment. During that first week, we had a really great troop come to our camp. They were the Warriors of Troop 26 (Logandale, Nevada) and they really knew how to do Scouting correlated with the Priesthood. They were magnificent.
I interviewed Camp Director, Nick, about our unique program “tracks” which Nick had personally developed a year or two before. Here is what he said:
Saturday morning was beautiful. I went out of the tent and looked to the gorgeous sunrise to the east. I was in awe of the beauty of the moment around me. The camp looked so grand in the sunrise.
The Scouts all left camp and were gone that first Saturday by about 10:00 AM. And all of the staff except Lou and I (who being from Arizona did not plan to leave). The last staff members left the camp about 11:30 AM. Within moments, our whole Thunder Ridge experience and summer changed. Life would never be the same again this summer. The great Brian Head fire broke out within just a mile or so of our camp. We went outside and found two Sheriff guys there. They pointed to the fire – visible just over our staff tents. We were told that the fire was a mile away but that it could reach us in fifteen minutes.
So, we had just that long to get our just a bit of our stuff and to get out of camp. This blog tells that story:
Following the fire, Thunder Ridge was thrown into a major dither. What to do and where to go? Some troops went into a panic and canceled out completely. Others transferred to other camps of the Council. And still, others transferred to other weeks of camp. And the staff was notified by the Camp Director about 11 PM on Sunday night that if desired, we could work for Camp Maple Del or at the Scofield Scout Camp. And we were told that if we chose to work, we would have to be there the next morning. Yeah, okay …! Hmmm!
Larry – our rifle range director, went to work at the Beaver High Adventure Base. Some staffers headed to Maple Dell. Two Thunder Ridge staffers – Michael and Jason – opted to go with me up to the Scofield Scout camp. We headed out early the next morning for the long trip. Lou opted to remain that week with our son and family in Washington (near St. George) and she was a major help to them. Other staffers opted to “sit this one out” and got back into their own things at home. Michael, Jason and I had our own new adventure at Scofield:
On our way home from the Scofield Scout Camp, I was anxious to try to get up into camp Thunder Ridge so we stopped in Parowan en route to Washington. The fire officials would not let us go into the camp. However, we did connect with council officials whom the Sheriff had escorted into the camp (for the first time since the fire). In our rush to evacuate from the fire, we had not given much thought to what should go and what could remain. We just grabbed what we could. And after the rush of the moment, I realized with horror that my prized collection of 20 or so Scout bolo ties (by artists Bill Burch and others) had been left behind. And my wife discovered that she had left her purse in our tent. Knowing that guys were going back into the camp, we said, “We can live without everything else, but if you can nothing else, we would like to have my bolo ties and Lou’s purse.” So, I was very pleased when the guys showed up with these items. A while later, I greeted my wife at our son’s place holding just those items. She said, “That is exactly how I pictured you coming home”. A blessing and a miracle … our prayers were answered!
I am sure that Camp Director, Nick, and other council leaders, Dave Merrill and Bob Gowans – and others – had to really scramble to figure out a place to hold our Thunder Ridge camp the following week. But, they pulled off a miracle. We were informed (as a staff) that we would conduct our camp within the Beaver High Adventure Base. So, per our usual Sunday night report back, we all gathered to the Beaver High Adventure Base – located in the Tushar mountains high in Beaver Canyon. And that was truly an adventure operating two camps separately within just one camp. This blog tells how our entire Thunder Ridge operation including troops, Scouts, and staff were teleported to the Beaver High Adventure Base:
While at Beaver HAB that week, I had the opportunity to return to Thunder Ridge for the first time since the fire. Previously fire officials had contacted us and had given us specific but very limited times that we could get up to the camp. On this occasion, however, we contacted them and made an appointment – to be escorted by Forest Service personnel. This was my report following that experience – and this also shows photos of the camp and how it survived or was damaged by the fire.
The next week included the 4th of July. And unlike other camps where we have worked, the council opted to have no camp that week – because of the slim troop sign-ups of the past. So, having the week off, Lou and I opted to trek north to Idaho Falls to visit our daughter and family there. They had assured us that Idaho Falls had the greatest of fireworks displays so we decided to take up their offer to be there with them for the fireworks. And we were not disappointed. The fireworks were absolutely breathtaking and outstanding. And while we were there, we went to the Idaho Falls zoo and other fun things. Lou made doughnuts for the grandkids, helped them paint and made clay dough for them. I played many games of UNO with my five and two and half-year-old grandsons. And I read all of the grandsons stories from my new big Dr. Seuss book. And we watched a lot of Hallmark movies late at night. We spent a couple of nights with Lou’s sister and husband in Sandy, Utah.
The next week we really had an adventure. There were girls – a bunch of them – at the Beaver High Adventure Base so our Thunder Ridge Scout Camp Staff found themselves displaced to the Tushar Lakeside Campground. This actually turned out to be really excellent. I had my doubts at first, but the location was great. The facility was super. There was even a small lake – equipped with canoes and life jackets. Scouts and leaders could hardly tell that they were not at a Scout camp. Everyone said that they had a grand time. Leaders were gushing in praise for staging this camp opportunity. This blog tells of our adventures there:
We were back to the Beaver High Adventure Base for our next week of camp. This worked pretty well. We worked well with the BHAB staff and of course, the Thunder Ridge staff did a great MARFing job – AGAIN!
For this week, I wrote a blog about the great cooks that we’ve had this summer at the Thunder Ridge Scout Camp. The article featured Roland and his team who cooked for us at the Beaver High Adventure Base:
We had a unique Scoutmaster come to our Thunder Ridge Scout Camp.
Army veteran, Travis Wood, came despite major physical challenges. Read his story here:
Our next week was actually a week off. This was because of the 24th of July celebration. Lou and I went to Washington/St. George and were privileged to spend the full week with our son and family. We went to the grand 24th of July parade in Washington. The rest of the week was spent helping to refinish a cabinet and we helped them get a home ready for sale. Our babysitting helped them out a lot. These weeks off gave us time to hang out with family but they were a challenge since the “no work … no pay” scenario existed. This was not a good situation for us but somehow we survived this excitement.
And then came our final week of our Thunder Ridge Scout Camp. This week was a bit unusual in that we had the Beaver High Adventure Base camp to ourselves. The Beaver group had their final week the week before and they were all gone.
We had another really fabulous Troop in Troop 605 from Richfield, Utah. They were in complete Class A uniform and they were spectacular. I wrote a blog about them:
A couple of other notes. I have written about our fancy tent which we had at Thunder Ridge. At the Beaver High Adventure Base, we had the same kind of tent – but much of our personal items were still at Thunder Ridge. So, we kind of had the minimum of stuff at Beaver. And for the week at Tushar Lakeside, we did not have the “Bare Bones” tents. We were glad that Lou had come prepared with our own large family tent. (Which we brought with the hope that we might have some of our children or grandchildren come to visit. But, they never did …)
Also … Lou is one of those people who is very cold-blooded. I think she has lizard in her genes. She freezes when the weather gets below 92 degrees and then she burns up if it gets over 93 degrees. So, this makes life interesting. (Me on the other hand … I only needed three or so blankets through the camp nights when the temperatures were in the mid 40’s.) It was funny to watch Lou. I think that she must have had about 22 blankets on top of her – on her side of the bed. I joked that she needed a heavy duty car jack just to lift the covers so that she could get under them. But, with all of these covers, she survived the “winter” through our summer.
Our Thunder Ridge Scout Camp ended with a bit of drama and more excitement than we wanted or needed. Our final night in camp featured a massive thunder storm followed by hail. So, I say we ended with “thunder on the ridge and a hail of a time”
In this blog, I also detail our final day of camp for the summer. That was actually one of my favorite days and it kind of made the summer worth our sacrifice and effort.
On that day, I worked with three Scouts to help them complete badges. Aidan got to finish up more of his 1st Class requirements. I worked with Landon and he completed nearly everything for his 1st Class Rank. And I was able to teach and pass Devaun on his Woodcarving merit badge. What a special opportunity to work with these young men!
And I was really pleased that I finally had time to complete another of my carved sticks – this one for Thunder Ridge 2017. I did the carving – with the fire and thunder – and Lou graciously painted it for me. But that is stuff for yet another blog. I promise to get it to you soon.
And after the storm, we worked together as a staff to close out the camp. And then suddenly it was all over. Where did the summer go?
But, there is one more memory that kind of moved front and center in our mind as it came time to leave camp. After all of the staff closing work was done, Lou and I got our mini-van packed up tightly with all of our stuff. (And we enjoyed a photo posted on our family “Group Me” site by a son-in-law – of a mini-van on vacation. How did they find our photo? (Not really ours … but we felt as if it were!)
We changed out of our Scout uniforms and headed off toward our Mesa, Arizona home. And five miles out of camp, our car’s serpentine belt broke. (Just what we needed … don’t know if that was thunder, hail or fire!)
We had to call a tow truck from Beaver to come for us – and so we got towed as we headed out of camp. We then spent the afternoon waiting patiently in Beaver for the car repairs to be completed. (But we had a fabulous mechanic and were very pleased with Anytime Towing and Repairs. What a great company and mechanic. We were very pleased.) It was now late (on that Saturday afternoon) so we headed to Washington (Utah) to be with our son and family – with the Arizona trip still future. Thunder Ridge 2017 adventures … Ahhh … The memories!
This was not our first time down this race track so this underscored the fact that it was not the greatest way to end camp. Finances and changed plans. So, exciting!
I had to laugh at a comment from our long-time neighbor and friend, Richard Hale. He wrote in an e-mail message to us: “I heard about your car troubles coming back from scout camp. I think you guys should just start the trip next year with a tow truck towing your car… “ Hey, that’s an idea! Maybe we should go for it. There might be one added benefit. The truck lift might be able to get Lou’s quilts lifted for her.
Yes, the summer is now over but the memories of the many adventures linger and will be with us forever. In spite of our evacuation, fire, and being nomads, we had a truly great summer. It was the greatest of adventures. (And thanks to all of you who have faithfully read my blogs. And I would love to have your comments occasionally! And now that you are in the habit of reading, I hope that you’ll join me for future blogs – here on the Utah National Parks website – as well as thescoutingtrail.org (for the Trapper Trails Council).
I figure that over the summer, Lou and I put right at 4,000 miles on our car. We covered the length of Utah several times. From my records, I note that we hosted a total of 86 troops. These were led by 172 leaders – not counting replacement leaders (of which there was a steady stream). Lou and I had very direct responsibility for each of these leaders and in our roles as commissioners, we very much enjoyed the opportunity to get to know and serve each one. These men – and one lady – who was assistant Scoutmaster with her Scoutmaster son – were fabulous! Such great people for their sacrifice for their Scouts. And we had 532 Scouts. They were the important guys! And we got to associate with about 25 really great young staff guys (and three ladies). We loved these young people as if they were our own sons (or grandsons). I tried to be friends with each – and Lou was “mom” to many with her listening ear. So, I think that we touched the lives of each of these leaders and Scouts – directly or indirectly. This all makes for a wonderful summer and we feel great gratitude for the blessing that was ours. And I say again, Ahhh… the memories!
And now, with this blog, the summer is complete. Done … we have the patches and the T-shirts. It’s over. Sad day!
Lou and I headed home and we were blessed with a safe trip the rest of the way back to our Mesa, Arizona. I had to chuckle at one point. We drove through beautiful mountains and green valleys. It was all wonderful and grand. I turned to Lou and said, “Hey, Lou …!” “Yeah, Kev …” “I think that we ought to go camping sometime.” Then she looked at me with stunned shock as that thought tried to register. “Camping … yeah! What have we been doing all summer?” I was serious but she thought I was joking. It truly was a fun adventure together!
Then I took a moment to thank Lou for her sacrifices and support for me and for the Scouts. She was a true “trooper”. I know that she would have preferred being home with our nine children and our 33 grandchildren (while she was out of school and had time) – but she went with me and was fabulous! And all of her leader, staff and Scout friends loved her. Thanks, Lou! (I guess with no summer income, and with no school, I could go to work at Taco Bell – but I would sure rather spend the time with Boy Scouts and their leaders and great camp staff men.)
It really was a great summer. And what an adventure together! We (Lou and I – and all of the staff) MARFed together and we made it through in a grand way. Thunder Ridge 2017 … Ahhh the memories! Yes, truly our Thunder Ridge Scout Camp became one adventure after another.
It was great to be home – but Lou and I both started school just a couple of days later. Our home (be it ever so humble) felt like a palatial mansion after our 10×12″ Bare Bones summer. And a read toilet instead of the port-a-potty. And the shower … At camp, we worried about not having enough hot water. Here in Arizona as someone heads to the shower, we ask them not take all of the COLD water. Lou went back to her special needs Autism classroom. And I went back to driving a school bus. We soon wished that we were back in camp. That 115 degree weather in a non-air conditioned school bus was just a bit much for me. And going from about 75 degrees each day – to 115 degrees all at once was a bit of a jolt for both of us. (It’s even hard to MARF at that temperature … but somehow we’ll survive this next adventure!) And now, I’ll start another countdown for camp again in 2018! I can’t wait for that adventure!
Best 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 blog sites such as The Boy Scout, The 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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