Cub World Comes Alive
By Kathy Vilim DaGroomes
Set in a scenic mountain locale, Jack Nicol Cub Scout Family Camp offers adventure camping in a Cub World with programs that appeal not only to young frontiersmen, knights, and seafarers but also to moms, dads, and leaders.
The last Sunday afternoon in June a year ago brought invigorating 50-degree temperatures to Cub World at the Jack Nicol Cub Scout Family Camp at Red Feather Lakes, Colo. On that weekend, seven sizable groups of Cub Scouts—including dens, packs, and individual Scouts—plus leaders and parents, were attending resident camp, spending either two or three nights at Cub World.
The fresh mountain air, cloud-filled azure-blue sky, and low humidity provided an inviting welcome mat.
Surrounded by forests of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, the camp is part of the 3,400-acre Ben Delatour Scout Ranch. The Greeley, Colo.-based Longs Peak Council operates the ranch and camp, which lie about an hour’s drive northwest of Fort Collins, Colo.
The Scouting facility is located on the Front Range of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains on the east slope of the Continental Divide at an altitude of 7,500 feet. The 500-acre Jack Nicol Cub Scout Family Camp opened in 2001. The camp boasts three themed areas at its Cub World—a frontier fort (Fort Unfug), castle (Castle Walker), and seaport (Everitt Seaport).
Only two months earlier, the Longs Peak Council had registered an 8.5 percent increase in Cub Scout membership over the previous 12 months. That meant healthy attendance at summer resident camp. But the Jack Nicol Cub Scout Family Camp is known for much more than the goodly number of Cub Scouts who use its vacation-time program.
Thriving in the outdoors
But before fall comes summer. Last June 25, the Cub Scout resident campers were thriving from the tonic of a facility built especially for them. Their spirited participation and lively conversations demonstrated enthusiastic appreciation of their surroundings.
Near the frontier fort, four 10-year-old Webelos Scouts from Pack 191 (chartered to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Parish) in Fort Collins took a few minutes before a shooting sports program session to react to their experiences.
“My favorite thing is archery,” said Reid Urlocker, who mentioned that some nearby orange-hued trees had also impressed him. The trees have “smells like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and other flavors—like banana splits,” attested the Webelos Scout in describing a ponderosa pine tree.
“It’s a fun [place]” where “they help you and teach you at the same time,” said Collin Ochwat.
Daniel Morse said he appreciated being able to stay up “playing cards with my dad” and having “free time because I get to whittle a whole bunch.…It’s really fantastic to get outside, smell the pine trees, and just look at nature.”
“Here you can [shoot at targets] with BB guns,” said first-time resident camper Conor Meersman.
The low hills of ponderosa pine also got a thumbs-up from Conor. “I like it because I used to live in New Hampshire,” he explained. “There are wild pine trees [there], but not as much as this.”
An unanticipated adventure
To aid in their acclimation, parents had been given a special orientation on their arrival.
“We try to do a really good orientation when they first get to camp on what to expect and how to have a good time while they are here,” said Leslie Thibodeaux, camping director for the Longs Peak Council. “It’s really important for them to be participating in everything right along with the boys.
“I think for the parents just as much as for the kids, walking into this camp is an adventure that they never anticipated,” added Thibodeaux.
Scouter Terry Martin, who serves as the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch committee chairman, agreed.
“It’s so rewarding to see parents and kids doing things together,” said Martin. At the closing campfires, “I tell the parents to thank the kids for bringing them to camp.”
Terry Dunn, the longtime director of support services for the Longs Peak Council (who recently retired), enumerated the hoped-for outcomes in building the Jack Nicol Cub Scout Family Camp.
“The camp was constructed to foster play, to allow boys and parents to do things together, to reduce the pressure of competition, to exert physical effort to accomplish goals, to put boys face-to-face with nature, and to do things to develop firsthand knowledge of the outdoors through experience,” said Dunn.
Developing quality programs
Developing quality programs for the three themed Cub World areas is a priority.
“Professional staff and volunteers are constantly being creative to think of new programs for Cub Scouts and how to make the program bigger and better for them without compromising the outdoor experience,” said Terry Dunn.
Terry Martin, previously program chairman for five years at the Jack Nicol camp, explained that much thought and discussion was, and continues to be, behind the Cub Scout activities.
“One thing we struggled with was: How much program is advancement, and how much program is just being outdoors and having fun with adults and with the parents and the Scouts? And we tried to find a balance to that,” said Martin.
That last weekend of June saw the groups of camping Cub Scouts and accompanying adults spread out from daybreak to nightfall on the Camp Jack Nicol property.
Boys and parents were based at the castle, fort, or seaport and housed in tents on platforms at each site. There, trained youth staff in costumes conducted such program activities as painting coats of arms, making sundials, and mastering knot tricks. Campers also kept busy elsewhere: at the nature center, in the handicrafts area, and on the archery, wrist-rocket, and BB-gun ranges. Participants also sat around campfires, climbed Spy Glass Hill to view constellations, or joined the two-hour hike to visit the adjacent Boy Scout camp.
Intensive training for youth staff
Cheri Fruits, program director at the Jack Nicol Cub Scout Family Camp for summer 2006, mentioned that the mountain locale, with its wildlife, woods, rocks, and hills, enhanced outdoor and program activities. “We created some of our programs to fit our location, whether it be our nature-based program or obstacle course,” she said.
Fruits worked to help train all Jack Nicol summer youth staff in 2006. They were given intensive preparation that included all the standard training required at BSA camps, including youth protection.
That staff included Harry Aungst, 16, of Loveland, Colo. Aungst, a Boy Scout, was spending his seventh summer at the Ben Delatour Scout Ranch but his first on youth staff at Camp Jack Nicol. He was enthusiastic about playing his role as an “Irish wanderer” attached to Castle Walker.
“It’s something fun that we can do, and it’s good that we can help young people grow up in a safe and mature way, plus it is really a good experience for all of the staff,” said Aungst.
A ‘full-scale play area’
Terry Rudd, a Scouter who is the chartered organization representative for Pack 192 (chartered to the Traut Core Knowledge School Parent Advisory Board) in Fort Collins, watched his two sons grow in Scouting after each joined as a Wolf Cub Scout. He has attended Jack Nicol Cub Scout Family Camp with them several times.
“We are lucky we have a wonderful setting for Camp Jack Nicol, but it’s also both the paid staff and volunteer staff that make this camp…special,” Rudd said. “They work very hard to make the programs fun and interesting, and they work hard to make it safe but still let Scouts be Scouts; and I think that’s a tremendous balance that they’ve achieved.”
Michael Ellenberger, whose son, Buck, is a second-year Webelos Scout in Pack 159 (chartered to Friends of the Town of Mead) in Mead, Colo., spoke about the relationships that flourish during summer resident camp, which he and his son have attended several times at Camp Jack Nicol.
“It’s a chance for us to get together with the kids and the parents from the pack,” Ellenberger said. “We can do the events…but it’s fun to be with the same people for so many days because you really get to know them and you get to know the staff, and it’s just a big family here.”
Judi Urlocker, a longtime Scouter with Pack 191 in Fort Collins, has attended the camp with one or the other of her two sons every year since it opened.
“One of the appeals of coming to Camp Nicol is just being up in the mountains,” Urlocker said. “For a lot of the boys, their families don’t camp, and so this is an experience that they don’t get anywhere else….But the appeal for all boys…is the three themed areas.…It’s just a wonderful, full-scale play area for them.”
Productive, creative use of time
As Scouter Terry Dunn likes to say: “The outdoors is life itself, and camping is the outdoor experience where every day is different in that each brings new wonders of personal development, experience, and growth.”
Kathy Vilim DaGroomes is associate editor of Scouting magazine.
ON THE WEB: Read Kathy Vilim DaGroomes’ account of other Cub Scouts enjoying outdoor activities and camping at a Cub World in www.scoutingmagazine.org/issues/0105/a-csrc.html.
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