Monday, August 12, 2013

Denali High Adventure Boy Scout Camp

The Great Alaska Council bought some property a couple hours north of Anchorage ten years ago to develop a new Boy Scout camp.  All these years later, the camp finally opened.  Denver got in as a work crew helping develop the trail, and in return he got a very reduced rate for the second week of fun at the camp.  Last week I ran up the road to pick him up from his 2-week adventure.  Of course "run up the road" cannot be less than a 2-day expedition since the camp is about 8 hours north of Homer!  Here's the story of my adventure!

Thursday night saw me heading up to Ninilchik to pick up my aunt, who was going to be the official "keep-Michelle-awake" person, as well as my berry-picking companion.  Friday morning the plan was to drive one of the Lindeman's summer visitor's neighbors to the airport.  When I introduced myself to the man before we loaded his stuff he said, "Are you Michelle from Homer, the blogger?"  He'd told his wife that a Michelle was going to be driving him to the airport and she said, "Michelle from Homer?"  Apparently she is a faithful blog reader of everything Ninilchik, and that occasionally includes mine!  So that was a fun time and I got promised a blackberry pie when Cam comes up to visit next summer in thanks for the ride.

Heading up the road we scoped out berry patches and have discovered that the watermelon berries and raspberries are ripe on the Kenai Peninsula, and north of there we discovered ripe blueberries (Yes, I am being vague on purpose.  I wouldn't share my coveted berry patches with the whole world!), the bushes which were about three-fourths ripe.  In Palmer we scored in my cousin's raspberry patch:  one gallon in less than an hour from a patch that produces that much every couple days.  I want a patch like that!

Lost in a berry patch!  Look at those luscious raspberries!!
Saturday morning we headed north in pouring rain, standing water on the road but thankfully light traffic.  Two hours got us to the McKinley Princess Lodge, which the Denali Boy Scout camp is near.  A two mile gravel road greeted us.  It was one of those roads that you're wondering if you're really going in the right direction, is it going to go anywhere at all, and when is it finally going to get there?  It went up steep hills, down steep hills, over a single-lane bridge, past trees hanging with moss.  The work to develop that road was quite extensive as there were numerous areas where the hills were cut down to make the grade less steep. At some random spot, there were a bunch of cars parked so we figured we'd arrived.  Of course there were no signs or anything!

The warehouse
The warehouse is one of two buildings.  It has picnic tables inside that the kids ate at, 4 showers and an office.  Behind it was what was called "tent city" by the boys where the staff (which they were the first week) had tents with cots for sleeping quarters.  There is no kitchen (except a 4-burner stove for staff) so food is cooked outside as if they were camping, which they were.  The boys only used the warehouse at mealtime and besides that were out and about.

Only 6 kids did the work week, most from the Kenai Peninsula, while about 60 did the camp week.  We arrived at the beginning of pick-up time so there were masses of kids at the picnic tables, a typical buzz of movement and voices of young, energetic boys.  After chatting with the counselors, camp director and scoutmaster, we headed to the camp tent area to pick up the gear.  

The camp area was a quarter mile further up the gravel road.  There was room for plenty of tents, and there were probably 30 or more tents set up that second week.  We got to see the other building at this camp:  the very nice 4-stall outhouse.

The only problem with the outhouse is there were no skylights nor electricity so they were pitch black inside!
Near the outhouses we saw the trail that leads to Blair Lake, where the kids paddleboarded, kayaked, swam and did trail work.  Apparently it is a warm lake, which Denver thought was so neat because he hasn't been able to swim in lakes in Alaska because they're so cold.  He said he only had to come out once in 2 weeks because his feet were frozen, but otherwise he was in the water for up to an hour at a time.  There were beaver in the lake, which was the main wildlife they saw in their 2 weeks there.

As we headed back up the road to the Parks Highway the boys pointed out flagpoles they'd put up (birch trees planted in the ground), the archery range (some brush was cut), a trail (I couldn't see it), and the shooting range (rock-free with a more sophisticated flagpole that had a rope to raise a flag).  It all seemed one step away from Leave No Trace, which totally cracked my aunt and I up.  "Rough" and "primitive" are two words that came to mind.  

Despite that they had great experiences white-water kayaking, pistol shooting, paddleboarding and more.  They said the work week was as good as or more fun than the camp week despite the work being very physically demanding.  They were up at 6 am each day and bedtime was at 10 pm though apparently it ended up being later than that.  Only a few black bear were seen both weeks (they were smart enough to stay away!), though the 2+ people together at all times rule was enforced and the counselors were trained in the use of bear spray.  Both boys want to go back next year, for sure.

Denver's duct tape bowl
One entertaining sidelight:  Denver didn't realize he needed his mess kid (bowl, spoon, cup) so the first day of the camp (not the workweek) someone said to bring your mess kit to breakfast.  Denver didn't have one so he ran back to his tent and grabbed his trusty duct tape and made himself a bowl which he ate out of all week (luckily he won a spork from his award-winning dessert in the Dutch oven cookoff).  He also made himself a cup, but when he put hot liquid in it the cup started leaking so he had to make another one.  His bowl was ingenious though, and lots of other boys came up and checked it out.  It was collapseable and lightweight, and he just rinsed it out after each meal (scrubbed after the meal of spaghetti).

So that's the new Denali Boy Scout camp and some adventures at it this year!  And yes, there is an amazing view of Denali from parts of it, which they were able to see the first hot, sunny week but didn't see at all the rainy, foggy second week.


Lorraine said...

Wish I could have been your side-kick on this trip! Sounds like a neat camp and great experience for Denver (and you!)

Denver's Eagle Scout project - lights in the outhouses. OK - just an idea.

Michelle Waclawski said...

Eight hours is a long haul for an Eagle Scout project!!