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Girls camp: First-timer’s experience filled with food, crafts and the venerated snipe hunt

By Mark Saal, Standard-Examiner Staff - | Aug 8, 2017
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Members of the Orchards LDS Ward from Farmington, photographed Aug. 2, prepare for their first snipe hunt at the Farmington North Stake Girls Camp in the mountains above Heber City, Utah. The first-year campers were armed with pillowcases to catch a snipe, and they smeared toothpaste on their faces to attract the critters — as everyone knows they’re attracted to minty-fresh smells.

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Three months of summer, three summer camps.

I just finished volunteering at my personal-best third youth camp this summer for our local Mormon congregation, and I don't even have any children in the program.

Basically? This is me, trying to buy my way into heaven.

Back in June, I found myself camping out in 60-mile-per-hour winds in the tick-infested wilds of Wyoming for "youth conference," a pioneer trek re-enactment at Martin's Cove. Then, in July, we took a group of older Boy Scouts to the outskirts of Jackson, Wyoming, for a "high adventure" involving whitewater rafting and mountain biking.

And last week, I accompanied our LDS ward young women to "stake girls camp" in the mountains above Heber City.

It feels like I've spent half this summer sleeping outdoors.

I must say that, of the three multiday events, girls camp was the most unique. Although I'd spent a day here and a night there helping out at these girls camps over the years, this was my first experience volunteering the entire week.

Although such camps are run entirely by women, they do ask for a few male volunteers to be there -- to kill spiders and such, I suppose. And it's nothing like any the Scout camps I'd been involved with over the years.

A few general observations about the differences between girls camps and boys camps:

1. Boys do a better job at flag ceremonies, girls do a better job at just about everything else. Indeed, watching the young participants at girls camp trying to figure out how to properly fold the American flag into a triangle provided daily patriotic comic relief.

2. Girls camp is much cleaner. And it smells a lot better. All of the girls camps I've ever seen had flush toilets and showers, and there's more of an emphasis on personal hygiene. Some girls would change outfits two or three times a day.

Whereas, with boys camps it's a major accomplishment if you can get the kids to change their underwear at least once during the week. Provided they even bothered to bring a spare pair.

3. There's a lot more wildlife at a girls camp. I saw more deer, squirrels and chipmunks in one week of girls camp than I had in all my previous decades of Scout camps combined. And these animals seemed genuinely carefree in roaming throughout the girls camp.

By comparison, at last month's Scout camp near the base of the Tetons, we saw nary a woodland creature.

Why the difference? Well, when a grazing doe and her fawn saunter by a bunch of girls sitting around camp, they all shush one another and watch in quiet awe. Boys? They immediately arm themselves with rocks and sticks and give chase.

4. The food is better at girls camp. One night last week we had Cafe Rio sweet pork barbacoa salads, complete with a specialty soda-pop wet bar featuring mixed soft drinks. At Scout camp, you're lucky if the bread on your peanut butter sandwich is somewhat mold-free.

5. They bring more stuff to girls camp. Boys camp is about surviving; girls camp is about thriving. Females cover the picnic tables with fresh butcher paper and place flower centerpieces on them. They leave mints and other treats on the girls' pillows at night. And they keep busy with all sorts of organized arts and crafts.

Without the organized crafts and activities, boys camps are much more dangerous -- what with all the free time to get into trouble with knives, hatchets, fires and the like. The worst injury I've seen at a boys camp? Stitches in the back of one boy's head from throwing rocks into a lake. The worst injury at last week's girls camp? One of the young women burned a spot on her hand with a hot glue gun while making necklaces during craft time.

6. Of course, there is something that boys and girls camps have in common: the snipe hunt. One night last week, after dark, the leaders and older girls from our LDS ward took the first-year campers out on their inaugural snipe hunt. They had these first-time hunters smear toothpaste on their faces -- as everyone knows, the critters are attracted to minty-fresh smells. And the girls who'd brought pillowcases were snipe catchers, while the others were snipe herders to chase the animal toward the girls with pillowcases.

After several fruitless attempts, one of the leaders finally managed to trap a snipe by clapping a red plastic bucket over it. They then had the girls with the pillowcases ring the bucket to catch it when the bucket was removed.

However, in the darkness the crafty little snipe somehow managed to slip away from the pillowcase perimeter, and the toothpaste-smeared girls came home empty-handed.

I'm not really sure what they would have done if they'd caught a snipe anyway. I mean, these aren't boys we're talking about here. Girls probably would simply shush each other and quietly let the snipe go -- apologizing for having hunted it in the first place.

And maybe let it lick the toothpaste off their faces.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Friend him on Facebook at facebook.com/MarkSaal.


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