One week ago today, I was pulling out of the church parking lot, in a five car caravan, heading for Idaho and the annual middle school "Bike Hike 2012" as the lead cook, a role I had about three days to prepare for! Fortunately, Kailyn was my able assistant - a veteran Bike Hiker, and she was up for the job.
|Kids milling around the loaded bike trailer, waiting for the signal to "load up".|
|The "Llama" trailer, filled with stoves, cooking utensils and food, aka - my kitchen!|
|Loading the kids sleeping bags and clothing in the trailer.|
|One side of my car, courtesy of the kids.|
|The passenger side of my van . . .|
|The back of my van, and the reason for about 50 honks on our 1,038 miles, |
something I never quite got used to!
We headed straight for the car wash Saturday night after unloading!
|What our tables looked like before we got to the store to purchase cleaner! |
We spent one afternoon cleaning our four large tables and the sink.
We have no idea the last time that chore was done, but certainly not before camp!
|The kids, just behind the kitchen area, getting ready to leave for one of their bike hikes.|
|This little guy hung out in our kitchen area! He was fun to watch!|
|Volunteer kitchen crew, flipping tortillas for taco/burrito lunch.|
|Frequent helpers in the kitchen. They made kitchen duty a lot of fun, |
and I was grateful for their willingness to help at nearly every meal!
There were others as well that I unfortunately didn't get photos of.
The kitchen work was never ending. When I first looked at our schedule I thought we'd have a fair amount of time to take in a hike or relax with a book. It never happened! We were kept busy from about 6:45 am until after the evening program and snack at 10:00 pm. Middle schoolers are like the Energizer Bunny ~ they keep going and going and going! They usually were forced to their tents around 11 pm. After the first night, Kailyn volunteered to stay up and put away the food after their snacks, and sent me off to bed around 10:30, which I greatly appreciated!
|My girl, cleaning the sink after dish washing duty! |
While we had "running" cold water, it drained into a large bucket
that needed to be emptied numerous times a day.
Thank goodness for middle school boys!
A typical day for Kailyn and I began with a 6 am drive to the showers (about 10 minutes away) and starting our three big pots of water heating by 6:45. We used the heated water in three warming pans, to keep food hot as we cooked for each meal. We also heated water for the kids to have hot cocoa in the morning and evening. The water was usually still hot enough to use for washing and rinsing the pots and pans during clean up.
We cooked! We made sausage, bacon, pancakes, breakfast burritos, oatmeal, and scrambled eggs for breakfasts. After breakfast clean up (there was always a crew of kids assigned to help, which was wonderful) we'd set out all the lunch makings: meats, cheeses, fruit, peanut butter/jelly, chips, cookies, etc. The kids would pack their own lunches most days, although twice we cooked hot lunches for them in camp.
Once the kids left camp for the day, Kailyn and I would finish clean up, do the prep for the next meal, and then drive to the nearest grocery store (20+ miles) or Costco (25 miles), shop, then back. Our shopping trips usually took up most of our "free time". :-)
Prior to cooking each meal, we would heat water in the three big pots, as we did for breakfast. We got into the habit of filling them with water whenever we weren't using them to cook in. After the first couple days, we figured out we could use the largest of the warming tray bottoms to do our dishes. The kids dried.
We fed them lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and needed ice daily. It seemed like we were either cooking, prepping, cleaning, driving or grocery shopping all day long! We cooked chicken teriyaki, with rice and tons of stir fried vegetables, spaghetti and meatballs, hamburgers & hotdogs. It was a continual challenge to cook for 35, trying to anticipate servings, and plan so that everyone was satisfied, but not much was left over. Over all, we did a pretty good job for our first time as camp cooks. We left Vancouver with four huge coolers packed with perishable food, and at least 15 big green crates filled with cooking pots and pans, utensils and non perishable food. We returned on Sunday with one cooler full of water bottles on ice (for the ride home) and one cooler with the perishables. We had 4 crates of leftovers, mostly snacks and paper products, and two crates with kitchen utensils, etc.
Two of the afternoons Kailyn and I met up with the kids and went to Sandpoint, Idaho. We visited an airplane factory, which was very interesting. They built small planes that were able to land and take off in small areas, and they were gorgeous! It was fascinating to see the process from start to finish, all in one large building. The guide told us it takes about 90 days to complete an airplane.
Two of the very classy finished planes.
On Thursday, the kids biked to Sandpoint, and we met them at a park. There was a miniature Statue of Liberty on a pier. One of the leaders offered to take our picture!
|Kailyn and I went ahead and held the table while the adult and student leaders |
walked the students from the park into town and gave them directions
on where they were allowed to explore! (And where and when we would meet!)
|Our view on the restaurant terrace.|
|Kailyn snapped this sunset photo on our drive back to camp that evening.|
Over the course of the week, I got to know many of the kids through their willingness to volunteer in the kitchen, and listening to them share about their lives during the evening program time. Over and over I was reminded of how unique each individual is, kids and adults, and how important connections are for us in our daily lives. There were some broken and troubled kids, who stood out, and my heart swelled as I watched from the sidelines as my daughter sought to connect with those kids, not to preach or teach, but just sit next to them while they made a friendship bracelet or some other craft. She was never "off duty". Although it wasn't expected of her to participate, she knew several kids from when she was an intern when they were younger. It was obvious that they loved her and wanted to be around her.
My role was chief cook and nourisher ~ I wasn't a teacher, or a leader ~ which allowed me to be an observer (when I wasn't sweating over a hot pot!) something I rarely get the opportunity to do. I thought a lot about past students, and future students, and building relationships. I thought about trust, and acceptance, and tolerance. I was moved to tears numerous times over the course of the week.
Despite the dirt, the heavy lifting, the work, the miserable sleeping conditions, (the air mattress didn't help, and it was quite cold at night!) the aches and pains and discomfort . . . I loved the camp and truly felt God's presence in that place. It was breathtakingly beautiful. Each night when I'd wearily climb the short slope to my van at the end of the day, I'd look up at the vastness of the open sky, and the millions of stars and be humbled, yet grateful to be there.
I wish I'd taken more pictures. We had this huge group camping area to ourselves and it was heavenly. There was plenty of room for the kids to spread out and explore.
It was a fulfilling way to spend a week of my summer vacation. I wouldn't have necessarily wanted to do this, and probably wouldn't have volunteered previously, except I felt called to this emergency (and Kailyn keeps saying it would be fun to do it again!)
Everyone was so grateful! Kids and adults thanked us after every meal, and would randomly drop by and tell us "Thanks for cooking for us!" We felt needed, wanted and appreciated.
Would I do this again? Maybe . . .