PYC 2016: Our (Non)Camping Trip
Pouring rain doesn’t dampen campers’ enthusiasm on off-campus excursion

Twenty girls and four counselors/assistant counselors filled the overhang at the John Amos Field House, talking and laughing despite the early hour of the morning. Green-shirted 3G (my dorm), and our sister dorm, dark gray 4G, eagerly awaited our departure for two fun-filled days at one of Oklahoma’s precious few large lakes.

For the off-campus excursion this year, two dorms at a time took a two-hour road trip to Skiatook Lake, a large, man-made lake near Tulsa, for an overnight camping trip filled with canoeing, swimming, tubing, wakeboarding and water skiing. The girls’ dorms went on the excursion the first week of camp, and the boys’ dorms went during the second week. My brother, James Brandon, and his wife, Alisha, were the staff over the off-campus activity this year, assisted by Gino Chi and Doug Culpepper.

I had the opportunity to be the assistant counselor of dorm 3G this year, and our turn for the trip fell on Thursday and Friday during the first full week of camp. We arrived at the John Amos Field House at 7 a.m., and after last-minute bathroom trips, packing food and our belongings into the vans, making sure everyone had a place to sit, and grabbing the homemade breakfast burritos and muffins that the kitchen had provided for our sustenance on the drive, we departed campus with high hopes for the next two days.

After we arrived at the campsite, we unpacked everything from the vans and put our sleeping bags and backpacks into our respective tents. Then we grabbed sunscreen and towels and piled back into the vans to drive over to the lake. Dark clouds menaced the horizon when we arrived, but the sun was still shining on our side of the lake. We hoped that the storm would hold off long enough for us to finish the activities that were planned that day.

Over the two days of the trip, both dorms would have the chance to practice their canoeing skills and to go tubing, wakeboarding or water skiing on the boat. 4G was scheduled to do canoeing on Thursday, so my dorm headed toward the beach to get ready to tube. Half of the dorm went on the boat with Mr. Culpepper at a time; I stayed with five girls on the beach with Mr. Chi while we awaited our turn. We amused ourselves by swimming and building sandcastles while we waited for the girls and our counselor, Kaitlin Eames, to return.

As I sat on the beach and relaxed with Mr. Chi, we discussed the looming thunderclouds as they swiftly covered the sky. The storm was forecasted to come in later in the afternoon, but it was quickly becoming apparent that we would probably have to deal with it much sooner than anticipated.

When it was our turn to go out in the boat, the sky had turned a menacing gray color. Mr. Culpepper warned that we might have to turn back to the marina if there was lightning, but we headed out to deeper water anyway so we could get as many girls as possible on the tube. We were only out for about twenty minutes when bright flashes of lightning began to appear, so we tied up the tube and headed toward the marina just as the first raindrops began to fall.

None of us had been prepared for this situation; my girls and I hadn’t brought anything more substantial than our swimsuits. As the rain began to pour harder, we huddled under an overhang on one of the marina buildings and waited for my brother to pick us up and take us back to the campground. It was absolutely bucketing by this time, and the rain was mixed with quarter-sized pieces of hail. We heard later that the other girls barely had time to tie up the canoes and grab everyone’s towels, shoes and other belongings from the beach before it started to rain. They were waiting for us back in the tents. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, however, I was glad to see that the inclement weather hadn’t dampened any of my campers’ enthusiasm; everyone was laughing and smiling as we huddled together for warmth.

When we arrived back at the campsite, we sprinted to our tent and hopped in as quickly as possible, trying to avoid flooding the tent in the process. Our stuff had mingled with 4G’s in the chaos, so we just used whoever’s towels were available and tried to make sure that we had all of our other belongings from the beach.

The instructors decided that we would try to wait out the rain in our tents, so the girls all changed into dry clothes and tried to organize the chaos in the tent. I remained in my swimsuit and shorts, since I had to keep going outside to get things and was practically swimming in the rain anyway.

As the rain poured harder and harder and the high winds whistled around our tents, we began to fear that we wouldn’t be able to wait out the storm during the night. 4G’s tent kept coming unpegged, and the roof of the tent was collapsing from the sheer volume of water. I went to report this to Mr. Brandon, and assistant camp director Eric Burns (who accompanied us on the trip) told me that they had decided we would head back to campus instead of trying to wait out the storm, which was forecasted to continue for many more hours. I hustled back to the tent and had all my girls pack up their things. We put everything into trash bags to try to keep it dry, and then we counselors took innumerable trips from the tents to the vans, loading up everyone’s belongings.

You might think that this kind of situation would have been rather upsetting, but every time I passed my counselor in the rain, we were grinning at each other. It was such an adventure—such an unexpected turn of events—that we were having a ridiculous amount of fun. At least, I was. I think the others were as well.

Once the vans were packed, twenty girls sprinted from their tents to the vans, trying to avoid getting soaked. I was Mr. Chi’s copilot on the way back to campus, so once I splashed into the big 16-passenger van, we all headed out.

It had been a very eventful morning. I was shocked when I looked at the clock in the van and realized that it was only about noon—lunchtime. Some conscientious worker had made sure that each van had loaves of sandwich bread and a packet of lunchmeat, so I grabbed that to make sandwiches—only to discover that the lunchmeat was frozen solid. For the next thirty minutes or so, we worked on defrosting it while listening to music in the van. Then I made sandwiches for a seemingly endless number of ravenous girls, chiseling out slices of meat from the still-frozen stack. Just one more adventure to add to the day.

We got back to campus at around 2 p.m., unloading the vans and sorting out our belongings from 4G’s. Then we relaxed for the next couple hours until dinner time at 5. We were informed that we would be going back to the lake the following morning so we could finish our excursion, so the girls went to bed excited to continue our activities at the lake.

Friday was about as different weather-wise from Thursday as two summer days could be. Where Thursday had been cloudy and volatile, we were greeted Friday morning with beautifully clear skies and the typical Oklahoma heat.

The girls of 3G had canoeing first on Friday while 4G went out on the boat. After a lunch of sandwiches, chips, and watermelon, the girls from my dorm had a chance to go tubing again, since they had only had an abbreviated experience the day before. Then, we packed up everything for the umpteenth time, made sure everyone was in their respective vans, and started the two-hour drive again, for the fourth time in two days. Most of the girls slept until we arrived back at campus just as the other dorms were finishing dinner. We grabbed paper plates of food and went back to our dorms to shower and change before Bible study that evening.

By the time our brother dorm came to pick us up, you would have never known (aside from a few sunburns and the sheer volume of wet items hanging on our porch to dry in the sun) that we had experienced such an eventful couple of days—but we still had the stories to show for it.