Girls Camp, Diet Coke, & Satan

lostlakedock_ssRecently a friend asked me if I wanted to contribute an essay to a book she’s compiling about LDS Girls Camp. I’ve attended Camp as a leader on and off for 15 years and have lots of unforgettable memories. Unfortunately, the ones that stand out most in my mind would not be welcome in a family friendly collection. Here are a few of the camp stories least likely to impress Deseret Book:

-The time the power went out and it was 100 degrees and humid. I was helping in the kitchen and it was so hot we hid in the small bedroom sized fridge and drank several 6 packs of Diet Coke, ate left over strawberry shortcake with our hands, and talked about which of the men over 60 in our stake were most likely hotties back in the day. Mitt Romney came in first.

-The time one of the JC leaders was possessed by Satan. Or at least, to quote Michael Scott, “that’s what she said.” Seriously the weirdest camp experience ever. The Exorcist meets Princess Pat.

-The following year the former Stake President came to keep demons at bay and turned out to be my new BFF. We spent our afternoons planning pranks and going to Walmart to buy fans for the kitchen staff and giant plastic spiders. I’d always thought he was a nice guy, but when your SP “shakes his booty” (a practice now banned) at dinner, buys you Diet Cokes, and gets the really shy girls out of their shells, it makes you not resentful that a dude is around. Maybe even grateful.

-The time I hid the Camp Director’s garments in my pocket so the Assistant Director wouldn’t know we’d been skinny-dipping. One afternoon, the CD confessed to me that she’d always longed to skinny-dip, but had been too shy as a girl to do it. So a few of us leaders arranged to take her one night. I even made sure we had a certified lifeguard with us. We get out and hear the AD calling for us so we don’t have time to get fully dry, just enough to toss on our clothes sans underwear. The AD catches up to us and the CD slips her G’s to me as she had no pockets. Never got caught.

-The time I got caught skinny-dipping and bonded with a nurse. Sande was the nurse, I was the craft lady, and we both love water. So one night we sneak down to the dock for a dip. One of the counselors hears us and is MAD so she steals our clothes to teach us a lesson. And drops my new sneaker into the non-bathing side of the dock, the part filled with leeches and snakes and piranhas. Ok so lots of gross reeds and frog or two. We climb out of the water and I try to retrieve my shoe. I lie on the dock and stretch my arm but the shoe just keeps drifting. So Sande tries while I get an oar from the boathouse. BTW we are buck-naked. And I am a thousand months pregnant. Sande takes the oar but can’t lean far enough out, so I LAY across her thighs and butt to keep her from falling in as she whacks the oar repeatedly, trying to create a current that will push the shoe to us. It looked like she was having sex with the dock whilst being humped by a pregnant lady. Finally Sande dives into the Black Lagoon and brings back my shoe. We are now bonded for life. Sole mates. Ha ha ha. Cause of the shoe.

-The time I learned to fill up water balloons using the toilet. If you straddle the bowl and take the lid off the tank, you can use one of the valves that fills up the tank to fill up balloons. But better than that was the conversation I overheard while attaching, filling, tying, repeat. Two women had clearly grown up in the same small neighborhood because they kept saying stuff like, “remember when we used to go to church in that old school house?” or “remember when my uncle had that old pick up?” Then they shifted to talking about how their kids were doing at BYU Idaho. And one of them said, “Remember when only sluts went to college?” I was so taken aback that I forgot the balloon growing bigger and bigger on the valve until it exploded in my face. I’m still gnawing on that one.

I’m making myself sound like a troublemaker but I swear I am mostly really obedient and helpful while at Camp. The truth is I love the magic that happens there. The crazy pranks and silly skits and undercooked hobo dinners are as essential to bonding as the devotionals and testimony meetings. And I love the bonding that goes on with the leaders too. When you are tired and out of your element there’s potential for meltdowns but there is also potential for transformation. When we are vulnerable and let our walls down, that is when we let others in. Some of the sweetest friendships I have were forged while making s’mores over campfires. And sometimes it’s the messy things that are the most satisfying.




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31 Responses

  1. anita says:

    I highly recommend the Once I was a Beehive movie for anyone contemplating Girls Camp memories. But some of my own that won’t make any memoirs are the time we took our perfectly coifed leader’s makeup suitcase (seriously, like an entire luggage piece) to see what would happen, and she didn’t come out of her tent all day, and the time when I was a new beehive at camp and got tied to a tree by the older girls during a snipe hunt.

    • Heather says:

      It is darling. It’s coming here to Boston this next week and I’m taking my Activity Day girls. That make up story is hilarious!

  2. Elle says:

    These are great!! I want to know what happened after you got your shoe out of the lake–and what was wrong with that other counselor??

    One year at girls camp, we put each other in “trances” in our tents and asked questions about what they saw behind doors in their minds. It didn’t work on me, and I always felt like we were messing with something we shouldn’t be.

    Another year, this girl in my ward bullied me. It was terribly painful and awkward. But the younger girls I was sharing a tent with stayed up late with me, and we heard this girl start spraying shaving cream on our tent. It felt pretty sweet to hear her swear when I calmly told her to stop or I’d tell the leaders.

    One year I stood in the middle of a field with a paper bag over my head while trying to figure out directions for compass readings during orienteering certification. I didn’t understand how the hell it all worked, and I cried under my bag in the rain.

    But every year during solo time, I hiked farther up the mountain than anyone else and belted out hymns at the top of my lungs. It was awesome.

    • Heather says:

      Don’t you wish you could rescue your younger self from some of the crap we went through? That paper bag image is so sad. Then other times I think surviving the tough stuff is worth the growth.

  3. Patty says:

    It made my day!!! Thanks for sharing!!

  4. Liz says:

    The very first time I went to Girls’ Camp, they sent the Beehives all out on a hike while the Laurels did a “team-building exercise.” Apparently their “exercise” was to find all of the Beehives’ underwear and hang it high in a tree. When we got back, we were all mortified to see the newly-crowned Panty Tree, but then a Laurel came up to me, threw her arm over my shoulder and said, “You must’ve hidden your underwear so well, because we couldn’t find it. Bravo!”

    It was then that I realized that I had totally forgotten to pack underwear.

  5. KLC says:

    Even though I’m a guy and have never been to girls camp I enjoyed this. I’m also struck by the hazing mentality that existed in much of our society decades ago that was also found in the church as evidenced in some of the comments. I experienced it as a young scout in an LDS troop and as a new Deacon on Tuesday night at MIA. With two boys out of HS and my youngest just starting this year, my experience with all of them is that we have been pretty successful in rooting out the hazing culture, both in church and at school.

  6. Lisa says:

    What? No more shake your booty? That was the most shocking thing you wrote! I wish we would have over lapped at camp more while I was in Belmont! I have been to other YW camps and nothing even compared to the Csmbridge Stake. Always love your stories but especially the naughty ones!!

  7. Heather says:

    Fabulous memories, Heather!! I’ve never really been to girls camp–never as a girl, and only a night here and there as a leader. I wish I could have gone with you!!

  8. Carrie Ann says:

    I would sooooo read the book of stories you shared. This was the best laugh I have had all week!

  9. Kristine A says:

    I really feel like I missed out by only having a 5-foot wide mud pond at Girls Camp in SE Idaho. I thought mormon valley was supposed to get all the good stuff. Obviously not 🙂

    • Heather says:

      Mud pond?! That’s nuts. I’ve heard of Girls Camps in Utah where they aren’t even allowed to swim. It’s all about the water for me.

  10. Julia says:

    These are awesome – and your real submission is seriously the best one we have for the book! Thank you Heather.

  11. Caroline says:

    ” It looked like she was having sex with the dock whilst being humped by a pregnant lady.”

    Best. Story. Ever.

  12. Barbara says:

    I laughed until I cried at the sole mate story. HILARIOUS.

  13. Johnna says:

    Love these stories Heather! That’s the book I want to read. I’ve never volunteered to help run camp, and you’re showing me a side I never suspected. (Remember when only sluts went to college?!!)

    As a young woman, I went to camp with my best friend in a neighboring stake where I wouldn’t get bullied, and my first year (1979) our counselor Leigh introduced us to Lord of the Rings and gave us hobbit names. It was glorious heaven to find my people.

    • Heather says:

      I love that counselor!!! As a leader it is so fun to watch girls find their own. Our stake is big enough that it seems like everyone can find what they need. I only went to Camp once as a YW. We went to Leo Corillo and it was very free form and kinda wacky. Not scarred. But not inspired either.

  14. Joni says:

    My most vivid memory from Girls Camp was a girl sharing a long, sobbingly dramatic testimony about how she had somehow been cursed to be able to see evil spirits, and talking about how she would raise her arm to the square and cast them out. That was the first time I’d ever heard of such a thing, and I’ve secretly always wanted to try it.

    …Looking back, I’m pretty sure she was trolling us.

  15. Marjie says:

    Heather! you are giving up all of our secrets!! I got to admit I was not part of any of those shenanigans but you know what I have done at Girls Camp! Wait didn’t Travis teach you how to blow up balloons with the toilet? An you forgot about eating Texas Sheet Cake that had double the butter in it late at night.Are you coming next year?

  16. Elissa says:

    My YW camps were all in tents, most near water and flushing toilets but my last one was very deserted with no flushing toilets.

    My memories of that last camp were very different. A short distance away was a group of late teen boys who got stoned/drunk and attacked our tents that night. As one of the oldest girls and very few brethern we sat up guarding the camp all night. Any time they got close to a tent we yelled and screamed to chase them away. Was fairly stressful at the time but we laught about it now. One of my friends slept through the whole thing. Policy in that stake changed about amount of Brethern suppervising after that incident.

  17. M2theH says:

    At camp this year the older girls took our newest Beehive snipe hunting. It has gotten more complex than when I was at camp and now involves spreading toothpaste on your face. The next morning they swore her to secrecy about it and told her that next year she gets to help with the new beehives. I had warned them that if they made her cry they were going to fix it. Then I supplied them with silly string.

    The final night they plotted to prank our bishopric and ran around their tent making dinosaur noises to wake them up. It was the best girls camp I’ve ever been to.

  18. ellen patton says:

    All great stories. Maybe I need to get back to Girls Camp.

  19. Beelee says:

    We always stayed at fancy girls camp with cabins, addies, and a lodge, bathrooms, and showers. One night I happened to be awake but everyone else in the bunks was asleep. The most unholy mooing sound went around our addy and, through the canvas, the stuffed and mounted deer head from the lodge was thrust in to take a look around. No one woke up! I was frozen and didn’t make a peep. Poor little pranksters – they’d probably expected a bit more excitement there! I’ll never forget that awful deer head though…

  1. October 19, 2015

    […] of Young Women’s camp from multiple memories (I snorted laughing with this piece!) titled “Girls camp, diet coke, & Satan” and a piece on creativity, mothering and being a […]

  2. January 3, 2016

    […] Liz, commenting on Heather’s post “Girls Camp, Diet Coke, & Satan” at the Exponent: […]

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