At Camp Evergreen on Saturday, 16-year-old Emily Flemings of Kelso was trying to build a fire in the rain as a group of fifth- and sixth-grade Girl Scouts in galoshes watched.
It wasn’t going well. It had rained all night and all morning, and the logs were wet. A flame flickered and died, and a coil of smoke rose from the fire pit. They would need a fire to make their dessert — caramel baked apples wrapped in foil.
Camp leader Kim Combs grabbed a small hatchet and went to work splitting the logs, crumpling newspaper and piling up kindling.
“Go look for sticks. You’re going to need lots,” Combs ordered.
Since officially reopening in May, the Girl Scout camp west of Longview has been hopping. This weekend, two dozen Girl Scouts attended a camping skills program while 22 adults took outdoor leader training in the camp lodge. Meanwhile, a group of younger girls participated in an outdoor fun program at the 47-acre wooded camp 2 miles up Mill Creek Road.
Just a few months ago, the Seattle-based Girl Scouts of Western Washington had planned to shutter Camp Evergreen’s buildings and turn off the electricity and water to cut costs. Only primitive camping would be allowed at the camp, which is the only such camp in the region and has hosted generations of Girl Scouts since 1947. But after local Girl Scouts protested, the GSWW agreed to keep the camp open if a variety of repairs and safety improvements were made.
This spring, volunteers used $1,600 in community donations to buy wood and materials for repairs, which included replacing the floor and stairs of a large covered shelter, rebuilding the A-frame cabin porches and redecking the flood-damaged “bouncy bridge” across Mill Creek.
Even though it was a soggy weekend to be outdoors, “I’m just glad we’re all standing here,” Christine Grubbs of Longview, leader of Girl Scout troop 40202, said Saturday. “We’ve got a full program and a building that was supposed to be closed.”
Now, scout leaders are trying to boost usage of the camp, which can house up to 120 campers. It’s booked every weekend, Grubbs said, and next month will host a five-day Day Camp for girls. (See breakout for details.)
Grubbs said the camp is a great place to be social and active outdoors without the distraction of modern-day technology.
“Every Daisy comes home exhausted, and they sleep,” she said, referring to the scout name for Kindergarten and first-grade girls. “It’s like taking a dog to doggie daycare. They come home and sack out.”
Under the roof of an open-sided shelter, girls from towns all over Western Washington cooked their lunch — hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls — on long forks over a fireplace. Later that day, they would learn knot-tying, go on a nature scavenger hunt, do arts and crafts and hike on the hilly trails in the forest.
Lily Engeset, 10, of Sequim, said she enjoyed learning skills such as making firestarters with melted crayons and newspaper.
“I love it here because we’re away from all the screens and stuff that’s in houses. That kind of stuff gives me a headache,” Lily said. “It’s nice to get fresh air and a lot of fun activities I wouldn’t be able to do at home.”