Recently we had our annual ward Father and Sons Outing. This year the camp site was the Ghost Town of Iosepa, Utah. It is located in Skull Valley, and is about an hour’s drive from our home.
The land is very barren and desolate in Skull Valley. Not much water. Just a lot of sage brush and jack rabbits. – And I would be remiss if I didn’t duly acknowledge the gnats and mosquitoes too!
The cemetery is the only thing that remains of the town. Truly this is a ghost town – in more ways than one! It was here, next to the cemetery where our fathers and sons camp was located.
My son, Bryan, has been hoping that I would join him on some of his scout camps this year. Due to health problems, I have not been able to go camping. However, I have been feeling well enough to go lately, so I agreed to take him to the ward Father and Sons camp out.
We were in the foothills of the mountains that line the Eastern edge of Skull Valley (The Stansbury Mountains, I believe.) There were no trees at the campsite, so we were fully exposed to the sun, and 90 + degree temperatures. Needless to say, it wasn’t very comfortable.
We began setting up our tent first thing. We unfolded it, got out the tent pegs and the hammer, and tried to drive the tent pegs into the ground. To our dismay, the ground was compacted gravel. The flimsy aluminum tent pegs that came with the tent (which was brand new a couple of months ago) just buckled when we tried to drive them into the ground. So we set up the tent without tent pegs. We put some heavy items on the floor of the tent to keep it from blowing away.
After wrestling with and setting up the tent, and getting our camp site ready, the heat was getting to us. I made sure both Bryan and I kept drinking plenty of liquids to keep hydrated. Earlier I had purchased some fruit cups from the grocery store. We ate one of them for a cold treat.
(Photo courtesy of michellej on Flickr)
Mmmmmmm! Ice cold fresh fruit! We had watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, fresh pineapple, and grapes. Oh, they tasted so good. I don’t know when fruit has tasted any better. It really hit the spot!
After getting camp set up, I let Bryan go play with the other boys.
I remember sitting on the tailgate of the truck, looking out at the desolate valley below, and the treeless sun-bleached campsite. I was miserable with the heat, and wondered what in the heck I was doing there. I was nearly ready to pull up stakes (figuratively, of course – since we couldn’t drive a tent peg into the ground there to save our lives!) and go find a nicer place to camp. I envisioned somewhere up on a mountain, with trees, shade, and 20 degree cooler temperatures! Then I remembered my commitment to my son – and decided to stick it out.
Meanwhile, Bryan was having a blast. As it turned out, there were only two other Young Men at the camp. All the other boys were 11 and younger. Bryan, being older, became a ring-leader. I teased him about having his own posse – about 8-10 boys in all. They spent a lot of time at the fire pit Since it was still over 90 degrees, I had no desire to cozy up to the fire. However, young boys, being the natural-born pyromaniacs that they are, had fun being around the fire. Later, one of the boys caught a little gopher snake. The boys had fun passing the snake around, and scaring one another with it. Then Bryan caught a frog. Eventually he traded the frog for the snake. He had a great time!
As the sun went down, the mosquitoes came out. I sprayed Bryan with insect repellent. We covered him pretty good – we thought. However, later we would learn that the mosquitoes crawled under the cuff of his pants, and he had several bites on both of his lower legs. Bryan is allergic to mosquito bites, and he swells up pretty badly. When he scratches them, they swell up even worse. Later, on Saturday and Sunday he was pretty miserable. By Monday he was doing much better – thanks to calamine lotion. Fortunately, the mosquito bites didn’t deter him from having fun while we were on the outing.
Several of the dads brought their toys to the camp out. There were trailers, campers, and several ATV’s. One of the dads, a former Young Men’s president, agreed to give Bryan a ride (after Bryan asked him about 10 times!). At sundown, they went for a little 5-10 minute ride, reaching a top speed of 39 mph! Bryan had a blast, and wondered when we were getting our own ATV’s. I would like to have a couple of ATV’s too. However, owning ATV’s just isn’t foreseeable in our financial future. (Although I wouldn’t mind renting them from time to time!)
With the long daylight hours time of year, Bryan and his Posse kept on playing and running around until late into the evening. Finally at about 11:00 pm, I reeled-in Bryan to get settled in for the evening.
As the skies darkened, the stars came out. I found that perhaps one of Skull Valley’s most redeeming features is the ability to star-gaze there. It is far enough from the city, that there is no light pollution there. There was no moonlight during the hours we were looking at the skies – a perfect night to look at the heavens. First the planets appeared. We saw Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and Mercury. Then came the constellations. Bryan was the first to spot the Big dipper. I showed him how to find the North Star from the pointer stars of the Big Dipper. Finally the Milky Way appeared over the Eastern horizon. Bryan was thrilled (so was I, for that matter) to see the Milky Way – only the second time in his life that he could remember seeing it.
When I was his age, I spent my summers out in the country on my grandpa’s cattle ranch. I was able to see the Milky Way any night I wanted to. Now, living in the city, to behold the Milky Way is a rare privilege.
At about midnight, we retired to the tent. It was finally starting to cool off a bit. After we had lain down on top of our sleeping bags, I read some stories to Bryan that I have stored on my palm pilot. At age 13, he still loves to have some one read to him. I read for almost an hour or so, while we waited for it to cool off a bit more. Toward the end of the reading time, he reached out his hand to mine. My heart just melted. What a sweet boy.
In some ways, he is still our little boy. In other ways, he is beginning to be a teenager. Such moments as these are rare treasures. Memories of being close together. Now I’m so glad that I came on this camp out. Even if it was hot. Even if it wasn’t an ideal camp site. I have made wonderful memories with my son. Memories that we can both treasure up for the rest of our lives – and beyond.