On July 5, 2012, three leaders and five Timber Wolves from our 1st North Star Group left the Philadelphia area for summer camp with our Canadian brothers at Camp Endobanah in Ontario, Canada. We left Philadelphia proper at about 8:00 am with a daunting 11-hour drive in front of us.
The drive itself passed uneventfully. Our route took us north through Pennsylvania and New York to the border crossing at Thousand Islands. We stopped only once in the U.S. to gas up and use the washroom (as they call it in Canada). Before we went through customs, we stopped at the duty-free store to exchange a few of our American dollars for Canadian, but the exchange counter was unmanned. We passed through customs with minimal inconvenience (the Canadian border guard was very courteous), and stopped at another store at the foot of the Canadian observation tower in order to exchange. Once on our way again, we crossed a very fragile-looking bridge onto the Canadian mainland for our last leg of the trip.
Even this last part of the drive was uneventful; the highlight was a stop at the ubiquitous Tim Horton’s for coffee and TimBits. We finally rolled into camp at 6:49 pm.
Our first task was to get our Timber Wolves situated in their cabin (they were all in the same cabin and joined the Canadians’ Brown Six for the duration of camp), and changed into their uniforms for the Howl, Promise, and Pledge. One of our Wolves was so fascinated by the things he saw at camp (he caught a snake within an hour of our arrival) that he didn’t hear the call to get changed and so missed the opening ceremonies, but he made up for it by changing quickly and joining the rest of us in the boathouse for evening prayers.
Before we began evening prayers proper, Akela Paul held a brief discussion about some of the challenges faced by young Timber Wolves and the necessity of remembering that all of us in the FNE movement are brothers and need to be supported in both our strengths and our weaknesses. It is the Enemy who seeks to divide us, while Our Lord seeks to unite us under His Banner. We then prayed the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy for the second time as brothers (the first time was at Camp Turner in New York), but for the first time on Canadian soil!
Prayers having been said, the boys had some free time (Bagheera helped illuminate a nighttime ping-pong match) before “mug up” (snacks) in the Lodge (dining hall). It was very late before we finally got our very excited Timber Wolves into their pajamas and into their cabins for stories. (No showers tonight, though they would have been welcome after the long drive — there was a minor plumbing issue that was soon fixed.) The Brown Six was treated to the first part of the story “Rikki-tikki-tavi” from The Jungle Book.
But no rest for the weary! Once the Timber Wolves were safe in their cabins, Akela Paul called the leaders to the Lodge for a meeting. All the Timber Wolf leaders present took part, including the junior leaders, seminarians, and young men from Toronto’s Totus Tuus organization.
The sun rose early on Friday, July 6 – and so did our leaders and Timber Wolves. We gathered in uniform once more for morning prayers and Holy Mass. We prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, then heard Mass offered by one of our visiting priests (Fr. graciously heard confessions before Mass). Two Explorers in full uniform served. This was a new experience for some of our Timber Wolves, as they are accustomed to hearing Mass in the old rite and don’t often assist at Mass in the vernacular. Nevertheless they took a cue from their Canadian brothers and conducted themselves with reverence and decorum.
Soon after Mass came breakfast, a very important part of the day for growing Timber Wolves (as well as those leaders who have to keep up with them!). Pancakes, waffles, and sausages were on the menu this morning and were quickly consumed. The Brown Six got first dibs on breakfast, perhaps because they were the quietest table, or perhaps because fully 1/2 of the Wolves in that Six were guests in Canada! After breakfast, the Timber Wolves changed out of their uniforms and into their swim gear.
Swimming took place under the watchful eye of Keego — each of the boys was tested for swimming ability and given a bead, or bead(s), corresponding to his skill level. Keego regaled the boys with stories of his youth and his career as a lifeguard, and started teaching them about water safety and life-saving techniques. Of course, he did not talk long, and there was plenty of time for swimming afterwards.
The boys left the lake only reluctantly, but we had quite a day planned for them! After swimming, we had our Timber Wolf Olympics, complete with tightrope walking, a balance “beam” (actually a very wobbly square), accuracy toss, and lasso. The Olympic games complete, we started working on other programs. Two of our Timber Wolves opted to work on the “Good Camper” badge, while the other three opted for the “Artist/Decorator” badge (they could also have opted for the Swimming or “Kim” badges). Leaders either assisted with the Decorator badge or helped the newest Timber Wolves work on their promise badges. Lunch fell in here somewhere, then our star program (our American Timber Wolves worked on attaining their first star for their berets, while the Canadian Timber Wolves were spread throughout all the star programs — promise badge, first star, and second star).
More swimming, dinner, and finally showers capped the day. Keego kindly took over storytelling duties for the Brown Six in their cabin, allowing the North Star leaders to get a measure of rest for the busy days to come.