My son and I recently returned from a week at the Boy Scouts of America’s Camp Raymond in northern Arizona. Located in a Ponderosa pine forest at an elevation of 6,700 feet above sea level, it’s about a 45-minute drive west and south of Flagstaff. 160-acre Camp Raymond is on the edge of Sycamore Canyon Wilderness.
What Are Boy Scouts?
In case you’re not familiar with BSA, here’s their mission statement:
The mission of the Boy Scouts of America is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.
The Scout Oath:
On my honor I will do my best
To do my duty to God and my country
and to obey the Scout Law;
To help other people at all times;
To keep myself physically strong,
mentally awake, and morally straight.
The Scout Law:
A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.
I highly recommend Scouting for boys, who can join at age 11. BSA is a great organization.
What Was It Like?
Ten scouts and six adults from Scottsdale, Arizona’s Troop 131 camped in tents for six nights. The campsite had running water, a latrine, and no electricity. Fires were forbidden due the the extreme risk of forest fires: there hasn’t been much rain lately. Meals were prepared by professional staff and eaten in a dining hall. Scouts and attending adults did nearly all the food serving and meal cleanup for 400 people on-site. Our troop did KP duty (kitchen patrol) for two lunches, requiring two hours’ work each time.
Coyotes howling woke us up twice one night. We saw a deer bouncing through the camp one morning. I bet he’d been eating the lush grass growing on the septic tank field. Smelled one skunk and saw another.
Temperatures were perfect, between 50 and 86° F. No rain except a brief light sprinkle one night. I had a little trouble falling asleep, I think because of the altitude. Few bugs.
I’d heard stories about the infamous and pervasive Camp Raymond dust. This was indeed the dustiest place I’d ever camped. It’s not a problem, just…remarkable. You can wash and dry your feet, then don sandals and walk 50 feet: you’re dirty again!
We were there over the Independence Day holiday, explaining why camp was only 60% full. A side benefit is that the boys had much less waiting in line to use the popular facilities, such as the dining room and archery, rifle, and shotgun ranges.
Camp has a heated pool, which our troop didn’t use much. Nor did we avail ourselves of the canoeing and rowing opportunities on the small lake. We should have taken a hike down into Sycamore canyon, but never got around to it. We did a nighttime orienteering course. Three other adults and I took a three-mile hike trying to find Lone Elk Point but lost the trail.
My personal trip highlights:
- Skeet shooting with a 20 gauge shotgun. I hadn’t fired a shotgun in over 40 years. Somehow I hit 46 of 50 clay pigeons.
- The Order of the Arrow call-out ceremony. OA is an honor society for scouts; I was a member over 40 years ago. The ceremony starts with a silent nocturnal single-file walk through the forest, involving about 200 individuals. Three of our troop’s scouts were called-out.
- My son Paul was publicly recognized (with totems) by two of the Archery staffers as being the most polite scout they’d ever worked with.
The Scouts spent most of the day working on merit badges and, to a lesser extent, rank advancement. Popular badges were environmental science, leatherwork, woodcarving, geology, archery, rifle (.22 caliber), shotgun, mammal study, basketry, soil and water, and first aid. The environmental science badge was particularly popular because it’s difficult to achieve in other settings and it’s required for Eagle rank, the pinnacle of the scouting experience.
No one got seriously hurt, and all had a splendid time!
We were in campsite 5a, a good one. It’s close to all the activities, and has good tent sites. Campsite 6a looks just as good. Some of the campsites are as much as a half mile away from the dining hall.
Attending adults were Scott H, Gary F, Mark Z, Dave K, John U (from nearby Troop 15), and me. Scott F came up for the final 24 hours.
The scouts were Christian R, Jacob M, Jacob F, Kyle K, Reid F, Nathan H, JD H, Matthew Z, John U (from Troop 15), and my son.
I was the “adult lead” for the trip while Scott H was the scoutmaster. Adult leading was fairly easy, mainly involving paperwork, attending a few meetings, and being familiar with all aspects of the program. I could have done a better job if I’d:
- Had a parents/scouts meeting about a month prior to departure for camp.
- Run across an online document called “merit badges at a glance.” The merit badge program is somewhat confusing. For example, 1) several scouts attended duplicate presentations for the same merit badge, a waste of time, and 2) working on one badge can easily conflict with work on another if you’re not careful. The experienced scouts, especially Nathan H, were quite helpful explaining this to the newbies.
The online published document called Adult Leaders Packet was not entirely accurate. For instance, I eventually saw three discordant schedules for the first evening’s activities. The most accurate schedule was the pocket-sized Adult Leaders Handbook I was given soon after arrival. All the adults and the lead scouts needed this.
Camp Raymond is well-organized and well-run. Staff and progams exemplify the 12 points of the Scout Law.