Friday, January 9, 2009

Epic Alaska, Part 3

Outside of Delta

Camp Baldwin, Delta Junction, AK

Mark asked if I'd ride down to Delta to with him since we really hadn't talked and he was taking it on David's good recommendation that I wasn't just some random serial killer coming up North for grins and giggles. I'd been told the ride would be nothing short of a tear of inducing interrogation, and that Mark would really put the questions to me. Seems as if I'd been led into the lion's den. However, I found Mark to be as gentle as they come...questioning, yes, but in a good way. He's the type that makes you examine yourself, your motives, your reasons...and really, everyone needs that from time to time. The ride was pleasant and it was good getting to know each other. I was also constantly staring out the window and ooooing and aaaaahing at all the beautiful scenery on the drive. Once we made it to Delta, I was rather surprised that it was larger than Salcha...which isn't saying much.

There were gas stations, a hardware store, a family restaurant and the promise of a tractor pull AND lumberjack contest come Sunday! If there's anything I love, it's tractor pulling and lumberjackery...but alas, I'd be gone by then. (I'm 100% serious about loving to see that.)

Me at the gates to Camp.

The luxurious "Mark's Palace" where Mark, (the awesome Mark) the camp leader stays.

My bunk at camp. Throw a sleeping bag on top and you stayed warm and comfortable.

Part of the rec house and the field of play at camp. It was rainy a fair you can see from the puddles.

Anyway, we head down the road to the camp and entered through the Jurassic Park style main gates...and there she was, Camp Baldwin. Now, Camp Baldwin consisted of 4 small cabins out back, "Mark's Palace”-a somewhat dilapidated trailer, a rec shed, chow hall/bathhouse, and chapel. Of course there were also the outdoor areas, an archery range, the swamp-which transforms itself into one heckuva paintball field, a Frisbee golf course through the woods, and a large open field where many epic games of ultimate Frisbee, trashcan, and dodge ball would take place.

Enter the campers...

Councilors and camper sit around the benches at "snack shop" and chat...

Everyone loved snack shop...because that's what it was, soda and candy and chips.

This would be the smallest group the camp hosted for the year...which could have gone either way, good or bad. Fortunately, it was good, very good.
The kids started showing up and it was obvious that this was going to be an interesting group. I'd actually met one of the girls, Laura, the night before
when Risk attempted to destroy her place of employment...long story, blockbuster, falling movies, multiple incidents...good times! Anyway,
they all arrived and the fun began. I’ll spare the moment by moment details and get to the nitty gritty of all the shenanigans.

Game time…
What greater moments are there at camp than the various games we kids play? It’s a time for bonding, for teamwork, for new friendships, and for grand and multiple injuries.

Pain in a box!

Prepping the swamp for play.

Enter paintball…imagine, if you will, your field of play…there’s a chill in the air, the clouds are low, dark, and heavy, set before you is a swamp, littered with deep, hidden holes filled with freezing, stagnating water, scrubby evergreens, shrubs, and quickly constructed battlements rising haphazardly here and there. In the distance, you hear the sound of bombs exploding on the testing range at nearby fort Greely; massive C-17s are flying touch and goes directly overhead at an extremely low altitude. You feel the wind pick up as you depress the safety on your hear the rustling of feet moving around you when suddenly a shot rings out from behind and nails you in the back of the head from point blank range! You’re in considerable pain and absolute disbelief considering the game hasn’t started yet…and then you hear...”hey, did I just like shoot you in the back of the head?” Now, it’s not often I feel genuine rage rise in my heart, but my friends, I did…and let me tell you, it was Jesus that kept my trigger finger straight and rigid because the sincere desire of my heart was to open fire directly into this dear child’s face. (If you’re reading this, you know who you are and all is good, this is simply for the dramatic retelling of the story…although yeah, in that moment I did kind of want to shoot you…a lot.) So instead of getting myself evicted from camp for paint related atrocities against a child; I did a little good natured yelling and walked away for a moment to…”think.”

Lena post "kill" (She is not the point blank sniper I spoke of earlier!)
Other than that, the paintball game(s) were fine, excellent adventures had by all. I discovered I'm really not that bad a shot...however, some of these kids were certified shooting champs, capital marksmen, dead aims to be sure and we all have the bruises to prove it. It was like watching a small, well- trained militia getting ready for the take over. Still, I didn’t take the injury trophy that day…Alex, you know exactly what I’m talking about, bless your heart…and other…areas.

Other games of epicness included:

Councilors in a cage...basically, the councilors were put in a mesh cage and the campers threw water balloons at them. Normally, no big deal for July...but this year was Alaska's "year without a summer" and that water was well water...deep Alaskan, COLD well water.

Frisbee Golf in the woods which displayed Dave-O’s uncanny ability to hit every player with a single sling of the disk.

Ultimate Frisbee a game everyone decided it should become a full contact sport…and so it did.

Dodge Ball standard game, standard play, fun for anyone who doesn’t need to call a lawyer when they get a booboo.

Trash Can an interesting little game where if you touch the trash can, you are out. Everyone gathers in a ring and you push and pull…sometimes as a team, sometimes as a free for all to smash someone into the trashcan…the game often ends in blood and bruises…general camp fun.

Carpet Ball is an offbeat interpretation of billiards…you have a long canal covered in some horrific oriental rug remnants, two sets of pool balls and a well at each end to catch them. The players stand opposite each other and launch the cue ball at the opponent’s set up. This game is all about accuracy and force…and taunting…half the fun is demoralizing your enem…er opponent!

Honey if You Love Me Will You Please, Please Smile and Four on a Couch are both indoor games…Luke will be the all time champion of Honey (in which you must make your opponent smile and laugh) with his introduction of “This may be stalkerish of me but…” Four on the couch, (a complete mind game involving gender, seating arrangements, and anger management) on the other hand has the possibility of leading to an out and out riot…and yes Lena, I did see you go all grape nuts crazy on that chair out in the field after we lost that round.

Capture the Flag
This game ended up forging a friendship that I'm pretty sure will last the rest of my life. C.T.F takes place in the woods and due to our unusual lack of flags, it became "capture the rubber chicken"due to our even more unusual abundance of those. Our teams were split up and we all went to hiding the chickens, setting up guard stations, and deploying "runners."

Same here "gurk" same here.

Through the course of the game, one camper in particular, Lena, seemed to have it out for me...yet, whenever she was around me, she had the often hilarious habit of tripping and falling down. During one game in which the competition had become quite heated, she began to taunt me..." gonna try to catch me 'Mousetrap'?" she said to me with a rye smile. "You really think you can catch me?" she quipped again. I just looked at her and said "Oh...I'm not worried about catching you" and with that she took off...and promptly tripped over a large root in her path. As she crumpled to the ground in a mix of incredulity and pain, I reached down to see if she was alright, but not before grabbing the tag off her belt to show she'd been caught. At this, she balked, one, because she couldn't believe I'd taken her tag and then asked if she was OK, two because she simply couldn't accept that she'd fallen...again (and after such boasting!) and three, because it's exactly what she would have done. Since that day, Lena and I have been fast friends separated by thousands of miles, but as close as home.

The amazing tower bonfire

Lena and I heading to the swamp at dawn to watch the sunrise.

One of my most treasured memories.

Camp also consisted of food, skits, worship time, and bonfires. We ate, we laughed, we sang, we prayed and praised, we burned gigantic bonfires and stayed up late talking, goofing off, and sharing burdens. Camp was more than a group of strangers getting together in the middle of a swampy ground, it was a group of people that impacted each other's lives. When the week was over, it didn't seem fair. It didn't seem possible to have to leave when we'd really just gotten started. Most of these kids lived within a reasonable distance from each other, some even went to school together, but some came from as far out as Kotzebue. They all came from different walks of life, each had a different outlook on life, a different joy, a different burden, yet none were outcasts. It was as it should least for a short while. There will always be a very special place in my heart for that small camp in the middle of the vast Alaskan landscape.

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