Historically, we have always had our fall work retreat over the Labor Day weekend.
But for several years now, the increased fire danger in our area means that we cannot operate chain saws in late summer. The burn ban doesn’t lift until October and one of our main projects during the fall work retreat is to fell trees, split rounds, and stack firewood so that campers are toasty warm during the long, cold winter nights.
After several years of hoping that the fire danger would be better and we would be able to keep our Labor Day date, after attempting to have two fall work retreats one for wood and one for other projects, Scruffy finally chose an October date for the fall work retreat.
It was so wonderful to have the camp full of workers again!
There was a lot of work to do and God provided the hands to get it done.
The camp woodshed was almost totally empty.
Campers love to sit by the wood stove on chilly nights, chatting and drinking cocoa. This can’t happen without a dedicated wood crew toiling away to fill up that woodshed before the snow flies.
Everyone worked so hard.
From the people who felled the dead trees that had been killed by a pine beetle infestation, to those cutting rounds, hauling rounds, driving the camp truck, splitting rounds, and stacking wood, our crew got grubby and tired but accomplished so much.
Some of the rounds they hauled were so big that it took three people to carry just one.
Just getting them into and out of the truck was hard.
And it is a good thing our wood splitters had young backs.
Thankfully, Ragnar, our cook kept everyone well fed.
In the end, they got that woodshed filled up! We are now ready to host campers this winter. It’s a good thing too, we got over fourteen inches of snow all at once in November!
Thanks to all of these hard workers, when a camper comes in after tubing The Hill and grabs a cup of hot cocoa, there will be a warm fire for them to sit beside as they unthaw. Thank you!
People often tell me they wish there were camps for adults at Camas Meadows Bible Camp. Well, I have good news. There are! The Mountain Muse is one of those camps and I am happy to report that instead of getting dunked in the dunk tank or throwing mayo-drenched cheese at each other (please volunteer this summer if you are interested in these things) this camp involves sitting by a warm fire and creating worlds and words that honor our Creator!
We are writers and this camp is all about writing!
The goal of this retreat is to Escape, Renew, and Create. When writers can escape the pressures of everyday life that so often squelch the creative process, when we can be refreshed and renewed in God’s glorious outdoors, when we can learn new techniques and tools of the trade, when we can simply take some time to rest, then that is the perfect recipe for getting some amazing creative work done!
This year, we were incredibly blessed to be taught by award-winning Christian fantasy author Morgan L. Busse!
This is my favorite of her books, but I enjoyed them all!
For The Mountain Muse, we have just a small taste of teaching. At each meal, Morgan gave us about fifteen minutes of info on how to improve our writing craft. Then it was off to the races! Or rather, the chairs and couches. In the main lodge we enjoyed hours of silent writing time and in the small lodge we had space for those who love to listen to music or chat.
We got so much done and yet were also able to connect in deep ways about our writing craft and the God who gave us the ability and desire to write in the first place.
There was even time to sit and read quietly by the fire.
But lest you think that the entire weekend was a sedentary affair … behold! Proof that we went outside. In fact, this was a late night hike to Inspiration Point when the moon was so big that it made shadows and lit up the night so brightly that we could actually see pretty well even in the dark.
One of the best ways to help writers get more creative work done is to feed them! It is so wonderful not to have to worry about meals. Ragnar, Mithril, and Prism did all the work for us, leaving mealtime as a delightful opportunity to connect.
Then it was time to get back to work!
On Saturday afternoon, we took some time for creation appreciation. Princess Leia Freyja led the way as we took a short hike into the beautiful world God made. Mountains, meadows, and forests are all part of the environment at Camas Meadows and we got to see all three on our short, two-mile walk.
After a short break enjoying the autumn colors, you guessed it, we went back to writing!
And finally, after a full weekend of escaping, renewing, and creating … it was time to head home. Princess Leia Freyja sent us on our way with a bark and a wag. It was hard to say goodbye, but with any time of refreshment comes the strength to move forward with new energy and thoughtfulness. We made new writer friends, gained new writing tools, got down a bunch of new words, and are already looking forward to next year. Thank you so much, writer friends, each of you was a delight. I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things that you write in the year to come!
This was our biggest Jr. High Winter Blast yet with 49 campers, 15 counselors, a big kitchen crew, and several hundred snow ducks! (Yes, this was before concern about the corona virus increased. I know you were worried about all those ducks, clearly not practicing social distancing!!!)
Parents and youth leaders urged weary vehicles up the snowy camp road and into the parking lot where the rowdy fun immediately commenced.
What was the very first game of the weekend?
The chair game, of course!
The goal is to keep the person in your chair from escaping when the person with the empty chair calls their name. This allows staff and campers to learn each others names.
It is also more than a little bit entertaining to watch.
Of course it isn’t camp if you are not outside. So Scruffy took the campers who were bold, brave, and had two working legs, on an amazing hike into Poison Canyon. Down, down, down … and then ALL the way back up!
Poison Canyon is just a wee bit steep. Hiking here causes Princess Leia Freyja to whine with concern and give everyone revitalizing slurps.
Here she is, looking worried for the health and safety of others. Which is actually a fairly common expression for our sweet camp dog.
During the amazing hike, some campers played board games in the lodge or worked on crafts.
Others built a tower of Kapla blocks that rose all the way up to the second story! Campers reached through the rails on the second story balcony to place the final block, until I got out my camera and the invisible power of its nearness seemed to cause the tower to fall right as I snapped a photo!
On the first evening, Scruffy dusted off that Watchamabob favorite of old, the Chocolate Marshmallow Drop.
The participants were ready and eager to go.
The chocolate was gooey and drizzly!
The results: stickiness overload!
The benefits: eating a marshmallow if you actually succeeded and of course the pure and unadulterated joy of having chocolate on your face!
Of course, Watchamabob naturally morphs straight into–all the camp people know the answer–worship!
Hand motion songs first, then quiet worship, and then the lesson.
Our speaker this week was Faramir, and he spoke about turning points.
Of course, he told an amazing story about the time that (although he is terrified of roller coasters) he let his youth kids talk him into riding a super scary roller coaster since he was trying to impress them. Then the operator saw that no one else was in line, gave them a cheery smile, and sent them around the track a second time! The point of no return. That moment that the front car on the coaster (yes, his youth group kids talked him into sitting in the very front) is hanging over the edge of the precipice and it is only a matter of time before the other cars follow. Sometimes we come to a point of not return in life. A time where we must decide the course that we will follow. Faramir did a wonderful job of urging kids to make a decision to follow Jesus when they come to these important turning points in their lives.
On Saturday, every cabin participated in an epic broom hockey match-up!
An afternoon well spent.
Although Princess Leia Freyja was quite dissapointed that Scruffy wouldn’t let her play. She totally understands the game. The first person to run through the gauntlet of smacking sticks, grab the puck, and wildly charge between people’s legs with it in their mouth as their tail wags happily … is the winner!
After hockey, snow duck production went into overdrive!
Sweet Tea, our wonderful camp cook, let campers use her new snow duck makers. They look like salad tongs with half a duck on each side. When you pack them with snow and squeeze the duck halves together, voila, a snow duck! It started with just a few ducks watching the hockey game.
Then two stern leaders in parlay were discovered having a serious discussion in the middle of the ping pong table.
But what is a king without his army? So, two opposing armies of ducks were born.
One side consisted of bald ducks and one side was made up of ducks with charming hair made of lichen. There was also a spy in the midst of one army and a few ducks who really loved Legend of Zelda and created this iconic monument.
Of course, after all of this hearty snow duck creation, it’s also nice to just sit on the couch with friends. A whole lot of friends! Which inevitably turns into a competition. Exactly how many campers and counselors can fit on these particular couches. And a dog … there should definitely be a dog on the couch. Don’t worry, Princess Leia Freyja was happy to help out.
We didn’t let them sit too long. There were still more strange and baffling games that absolutely needed to be played!
OK, these two sisters are ready to go!
What is this? Obviously, some kind of face off between two determined campers. But why?
Hmmm … not sure that this makes things any clearer.
Well, balloons are always fun.
OK, more balloons more fun.
Aha! A chase, a mighty battle!
The goal of this game was to hop after your opponent and pop their balloon without allowing them to stomp on yours.
Princess Leia Freyja seemed concerned.
But the campers had a great time!
Finally, it was Sunday and time to clean up the camp and present cabin awards. No, we do not normally ask the campers to mop with their cute toesies. But when presented with a mop, this cabin of girls begged for permission to mop their own way. They also charged out of the bathroom and seized the camp photographer so that their triumph could be captured on film!
While the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place cabins received bags of candy in various yummy sizes, the staff team got something even better.
A bag of russet potatoes!!!
Little did they know that in a few short weeks Scruffy would walk into Costco to find every single bag of potatoes gone!
Or perhaps they did know, deep down inside. Either way, the potatoes were received with great joy and were distributed among the staff while the candy was distributed among the winning cabins.
It was such an amazing weekend. Not only were many snow ducks created, wild games played, God’s beautiful forest enjoyed, and songs sung at a tremendous volume … but several campers raised their hands to follow Jesus for the very first time. And please do not discount the vital role that a weekend of camp plays in the life of a young Christian who already knows the Lord. Without the encouragement of fellowship, teaching, and the fun of being with a whole herd of rowdy young believers, their Christian walk would be much more difficult. Through the grace of God, we were able to provide a safe place for these 49 children to learn about their Lord and rejoice in the beauty of following Him.
Ephesians 2:4-5–“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved.”
For the first time since Scruffy’s worked at Camas, we offered a Camas-Run, Sr. High Snow Camp! Yes, here they are, Sr. High campers … who are sometimes quite tall, as demonstrated by this photo. One of these rowdy boys is actually the camp speaker, though. Can you pick him out?
Yep, this is our speaker. The one and only Van Helsing, who for some very important Biblical reason, was impersonating a T-Rex during his chapel session. Thankfully, I am quick to photograph these amazing moments and so we can revisit this Bible lesson again and again.
As you can imagine, there is plenty of silliness at Sr. High Winter Camp. Does this camper actually have a pet spoon?!?
And of course much Ukulele playing!
The occasional epic tube hill run
Yep, you can tell how much fun they are having by how much snow they track into the lodge!
But a few snowballs brought inside are not sufficient. At Sr. High Winter Camp we get outside every chance we can get!
And that means giant snowballs
And snowball fights!
There’s nothing like blue sky, fresh snow, and an enthusiastic snowball fight opponent.
Like your father … or the camp intern.
This is Inspiration Point. A great place for both quietly viewing the mountains and an epic battle.
Teen campers are great. They can go from thoughtful contemplation to crazed attack and back again in an instant.
That is the beautiful thing about camp. All the rowdiness and fun seems to actually make the quiet times of camp all the more lovely. I think that the very act of having a snowball fight, insane hockey match-up, and super-tense game of grog with a group of people makes you more likely to be honest and open to God’s word with them, when it is time to worship and study.
There is nothing quite like worshiping beside the person who just chased you up the tube hill, in the dark, through three feet of snow, as you both strove mightily to win the game of Mission Impossible.
Camp is my favorite place in the world to worship. Add an acoustic guitar and it feels like Heaven. Surely, there will be acoustic guitar, warm wood tones, a crackling fire, gorgeous views, and good friends in heaven?
This weekend, Van Helsing spoke on Christmas. Which unfortunately meant that he brought a terrifying dancing Santa!
This camper is clearly concerned about the presence of dancing Santa at camp! Don’t worry, he requires electricity. We can always unplug him, or perhaps the generator will break at just the opportune moment.
Thankfully, the creepyness of dancing Santa was offset by this small but significant Christmas tree. As we stepped into the new year, with everyone around us making resolutions all willy nilly, Van Helsing challenged us to pray and ask God what He wanted us to concentrate on this year. The Year of Awesome.
Whether it was anger, self-control, balance, friendship, forgiveness, or “Claws Out!” at the end of the weekend, we wrote our word on a paper, stood up among Christian friends, and placed it on the Christmas tree.
Finding Salvation in Jesus Christ is not the only step on our journey of faith. Living a life for God is a long and at times weary journey. We need to have moments of connection with other believers. Each of us lacks the courage and resilience to go forward at times. Winter teen camp provides a moment along the journey for rest, fun, and encouragement among other young believers. Such moments are vital to being a teen of faith. It is such an honor to be a part of providing such moments for these amazing and wonderful teen campers!
Galatians 6:2–“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”