I visited my former Boy Scout camp, Yawgoog Scout Reservation, last week with two friends from childhood who love the place as much as me.
Danny and I visited camp together last year, and a few years ago, before the birth of my first child, I took my wife to Yawgoog for a day so she could see the place that still holds so much of my heart.
This yearly visit has become a bit of a tradition. We hope to bring even more former boyhood friends with us next year.
Danny’s son is spending his first week at Yawgoog, and Dave brought his three boys to show them the place where so many of our childhood memories were made.
The best thing about Yawgoog is how little changes. Almost twenty-five years since I last spent my last summer day at camp as a boy, it is nearly identical today. The trading posts take credit cards now, the challenge course has added more high wire, they’ve added paddle boards and shotgun shooting to the endless array of activities for Scouts to choose, but the camp is essentially unchanged.
While standing on the edge of Yawgoog Pond, on the edge of our old campsite, Dave said that he could still see our old friend, Jeff Durand, standing on the last of the an assemblage of rocks jutting into the pond, fishing pole in hand.
He’s right. The rocks are the same. The pond is the same. The sounds and smells are the same. And yes, I, too, could see Jeff standing there, balanced on a glacial stone, casting and reeling, casting and reeling,
As we walked and talked, we recalled many fond memories from camp. Dave recalled my frequent hunger strikes and the battles with a troop from Long Island. We talked about the inordinate amount of time that Danny spent at the rifle range. We laughed about my continued hatred for the craft center. We crossed the field where our troop had won many a tug-o-war contest.
The only real thing that’s changes in twenty-five years is us, though even when I look at this photograph, taken at the end of the day, I can still the young, wide-eyed boys hiding behind the faces of these men.
If given the chance, we would spend another week at camp in a heartbeat. Yawgoog is a bittersweet reminder of the joys of boyhood and how much it is missed.
A World War II video went viral last week. It featured the citizen’s of Warsaw, Poland and their yearly tradition of coming to a complete stop for one minute every year in honor of the Warsaw Uprising, an attempt to liberate the capital from Nazi Germany in 1944.
While not as large-scale as this Warsaw’s tradition, a bell is rung at noon every day at Yawgoog in honor of Scouts who have lost their lives in service to their country. As the bell rings out twelve times to mark the hour, every person in camp comes to an immediate halt and stands in silence.
It’s a remarkable thing. It rang while we were walking down to our former campsite. Even though twenty-five years had passed since we had heard that bell ring, all three of us came to a stop instantly, our childhood programming still running just fine.
Whether they are under the supervision of adults, paddling a canoe in the middle of the pond or hiking alone in the woods, every boy at camp without exception stops until the bell is finished ringing.
I remember being engaged in a massive water bucket fight one year with members of my troop. When the bell began ringing, hostilities ceased for the thirty seconds it takes to ring the bell. Boys armed with water buckets, poised to drench their friends, frozen in place until the twelfth and final ring.
Yawgoog is a special place indeed.