Rain at camp

Rain at camp is always a mixed blessing. It cools things off but you have to find safe places for the kids and sometimes you have to dig out.

At Tahquitz Meadows my first paid camp, rain tended to come in torrents and somehow always on a change day. That meant unloading buses and steering bewildered new campers around. Since most of our campers were inner city kids who often had never really seen rain and thunder and lightning or been out of the city, this could turn into rather dark comedy.

One rainy change day I got fed up with my muddy and soggy heavy shoes and rolled up my overalls and went barefoot out of sheer frustration. Some camps that wouldn’t be safe but Tahquitz was fairly hazard free in main camp and it was sure a lot easier. I ended up in a tank top and overalls and nothing else because it was so hot and wet and pretty soon I started a fashion trend. I think it took all of an hour for the other staff to divest themselves of the trash bag ponchos and just strip. The Camp Director was horrified that we were running around without gear but she finally agreed that since it was so warm we weren’t going to get sick and it was easier to dry off and change than the alternative. If you are going to look like a drowned rat, you might as well go all the way.

It also helped that Tahquitz even though high in the San Bernardino Mts was built in a flat spot and there was no real change in elevation throughout the camp. So we didn’t have floods running through camp, other camps we had to watch for flash flooding.

Camp Osito when it rained there was almost always thunder and lightning along with pouring rain. And it was where I got struck by lightning. Mostly the kids got stuck in the large dining hall and left to play games. That lodge was built with a high roof because of snow and echoed so you could usually find the staff in the staff house or outside on the porch to keep from going deaf.

One year, we got the remnants of a hurricane and we had kids out on a major backpack trip up Greyback (Mt San Gorgonio) and the rangers flat out refused to see if the were okay or try to rescue them. So of course we sent staff out to get the kid. They found them after a long search. (No cell phones in those days) They had to really look for them. They finally found them using a picnic bench and tarps and to make a makeshift tent. Because rain is fairly rare kids aren’t set out with tents because it’s excess weight that isn’t usually needed. But it was Girl Scouts to the rescue when they found them and stuffed the muddy and cold campers into the camp station wagon.

Camp Singing Pines was the best for rain. I don’t ever remember a really hard rain in the four years I was there. It was always either slow and steady or a 4pm cloudburst and done. The first two years I worked there we didn’t have a totally covered lodge. It was a small lodge that barely held the whole camp sitting and a tarp covered dining hall and then the kitchen on the other side. If it rained we had to put kids in the two unit houses, Arts & Crafts and stick some in the lodge and the counselors out under the tarps. That could be a bit iffy. You had to periodically empty the tarps by pushing the water off with a broom. If you pushed the wrong way and you got a very large dump of cold water on you. If you didn’t need a shower you got one anyway and we didn’t have hot water showers so you couldn’t go warm up that way. And you better not goof and send the water onto your unsuspecting friend standing at the opposite end of where the water was supposed to go. Usually, someone did get dumped on but took it in good spirits.

Sleeping on the concrete pad did make kitchen raids a lot easier. I can remember being sound asleep and having a fudgesicle stuck hurriedly into my sleeping bag and a harsh whisper, “Eat fast! Carrot’s coming!” (Carrot was the cook and hated the kitchen raids unless she had planned for it.) A sleeping bag is not the ideal place to eat a fudgesicle.

Rain at Pines meant Tajar Tales and popcorn. Afternoons of Winnie the Pooh and Rice Krispie Treats. Anything to keep the kids occupied and having a good time and if there was no threat of lightning or thunder you could still go in the pool and play rain games. Couldn’t go horseback riding because it was too hard on the leather.

Teresita Pines was more prone to huge downpours and flash floods. It was built on a mountain side on Wrightwood and slowly felt like it was slipping into the San Andreas fault that was out the back of camp and straight down. I can remember one afternoon rain that moved 3 feet of mud from the top of camp to the bottom. Some stellar brilliant soul had put the chapel at the downhill side for the awe inspiring view. This was good in theory and not so good in practice because the chapel filled with mud and had to be dug out and Mary and Bloody Sacred Heart Jesus rescued from their perches in the Chapel.

Rain at camp can be fun, it can be an adventure and it can be downright scary. You just have to be prepared.