July 12, 2013

My Stress Free Sleepover Under The Stars

I went to Girl's Camp (again!) but not as a director, I was a visitor. I stayed for the last night and camped under the stars on the grassy knoll.  It was a slumber party reunion with the girls, leaders and the new camp directors.  It was so FUN and the best part was that I was RELAXED and enjoyed every bit of it.

At sunrise on Saturday morning, I took this picture and thought about the events of last year's camp and how this "Sleepover under the Stars" tradition came to be.   The story goes like this:
For the past three years (2010-2012) I was a camp director for these young women.   It was a huge responsibility and it took an enormous amount of time for me and my assistant directors to plan.  Our efforts paid off and we had a blast all three years although the real anxiety excitement happened during our last year as directors for Girl's Camp 2012.

During the week before camp, I was informed that bears were frequenting the area but were more pesky than they were problematic.  We were camping at the edge of a national forest and it was wild berry season after all.  As a director it was my responsibility to make sure the 40 staff members were aware of the situation, that all of the candy, food and hygiene items from each campsite were to be stored in bear box containers at one central location.  It was not easy but we did it without unnecessary alarm and without frightening the girls.  That, my friends, was no easy task!

From day one of camp we experienced some minor problems.  The bears got into the trash enclosures  and then started visiting the pavilion in the middle of the night trying to open the commercial refrigerators.  I reported the problems to the offsite camp operator and the Department of Fish and Game sent a trapper and dogs to keep the bears away, not only because we are youth camp but also because we had special needs girls that had unpredictable behavior.
I took this photo in the middle of the night with a flash - I wondered if the bears found me would they eat my toes first?

The bears continued to come back to camp each night and on Thursday night  one bear successfully broke open a locked commercial refrigerator eating the food and stealing a bag of insulin that was needed for several campers.  As the summer heat escalated, the dogs were at risk of heat exhaustion and could only be used in emergency situations. A bear trap was brought in but those pesky bears knew how to evade it.

On Friday night the tracker noticed that one bear exhibited escalating behaviors and for the safety of everyone in camp, we slept on the grass knoll, gathered together as closely as possible with staff around the outside perimeter.  We called it a "Sleepover under the Stars". The dogs were sent out that night and during the wee hours of Saturday morning the bear was trapped just 30 feet from our dining area.  It was a night full of anxiety and I did not sleep.  My assistants and the staff managed to keep the girls occupied and safe.  It was such a fun night (for them - not me!) and they requested it become an annual tradition. 

So this year I went back to Girls Camp 2013 as a visitor and I slept under the stars with a bunch of girls and it was awesomely STRESS FREE (for me).  And there were no bears in sight.  The end.