The camp experience from Hell
An experience that I don't wish on any one.
I very much wish this story was a fictional tale, but sadly this is all taken from my experience. Due to many other subjects, the Summer of 2001, for me, was extremely difficult. One of the several was surviving Camp Flaming Arrow. Everyone in our friends and family circle swore it was the best camp ever. From their reliable and caring staff, to their educational and safe environment. It was a haven for all children.
When my mother and I got there, yes, we arrived late but we still had enough time to see the last part of the tour. After my mom had left, I was placed in the Blackfoot Bear Cabin. However, since I got there late, I had the last pick of the bunk beds. I got the one that was on the top which had a low leveled ceiling. Not only that my bed was closest to the wall alarm. So three guesses what happened to me every morning? Yes, I would wake up to the horrible sound of a screeching alarm, thus hitting my head on the ceiling every morning for the next 6 weeks.
My first week was really bad. I remember we had a sock and shoe thief in our cabin. My mother had to send me an extra care package every two weeks because of this sock stealer. I also recall trying to hide my care packages of socks under my mattress and inside my pillowcase. It was difficult, but I had to do what I had to do.
When I would write to my mother about how our cabin staff called us out, not by our names but by a number, she thought I was joking. I was not. I specifically remember Mrs. Martha and Ms. Sarah giving all us a number to memorize. At that moment I felt like I was in some sort of prison camp. In a lot of ways I was.
That second Friday, all of us Blackfoot Bear girls were excited about learning how to paddle in a canoe. I was very ecstatic myself. As we all headed down to the docks, everyone was grabbing life jackets. I picked the one that had the butterfly sticker. I loved butterflies back then, and I pretty much still do. Immediately I was stopped by Martha who told me in front of several cabin peers that I was too large for the girls' canoes, and I was to walk over to the boys side and join them instead. I was appalled by what Martha had said to me. I really wanted to say something back, but the last time someone spoke their mind to a cabin counselor they got horse stable duty. Emphasis on the duty… So, I kept my mouth shut and went over to the boy's side.
Ms. Sarah accompanied me over and told the White Eagle Boys Cabin director that since I was the size of a boy, Martha thought it was a good idea to temporarily place me on the boys canoe team until I lose enough weight to be on the girls. That same day, I was verbally bullied by adults and younger men, but that wasn't the worst part.
As I carefully entered one of the boy canoes, I could tell from afar the difference between how the males acted and the girls. Basically the boys were horsing around chanting, "don't rock the boat, rock the boat," while trying to tip the canoes over. The girls who were just a few feet away were acting the way your supposed to act in a canoe. Before I knew it, all three of the boys canoes flipped over, along with me. I was trying to swim for the docks, but my life jacket kept coming loose. I was then hit in the head by one of the heavy boats. I fell unconscious and went under.
I was really grateful that in the past I was one to practice holding my breath underwater for long periods. I think that's what saved me. I do remember having an out of body experience. I could see myself in the river, floating overhead. The wind slowly bellowed against the trees as a bright white light shined over me. I could see that my safety jacket was floating on the water and I could hear the lifeguard, Mr. Peters calling out everyone's numbers.
When he got to number 46, after awhile of repeating Peters started to get frustrated. My good friend, Tiffany screamed, "Oh my god! Juli's in the river drowning!" After witnessing that I looked back at the white light. Everything felt so peaceful. There was no pain and no worry. When I started to reach out for it, I was immediately pulled back into my body. Mr. Peter's had dived in, rescued me and brought me back to life using CPR. My body felt like it had been hit by multiple eighteen wheeler trucks. I also recall coughing up a lot of water and river seaweed. That, and a massive migraine I had for several hours and into the next day.
All my cabin director said to me was, "go to the nurse, and walk it off. You'll be fine." Any other medical professional would have rushed me to the nearest emergency room. I could have easily had a concussion and or brain damage. My friend Tiffany helped me to the nurses station where Sharon, the camp nurse, gave me two Tylenol and let me lie down for about 30 minutes before she rudely kicked me out. I was really grateful for Tiffany. If it wasn't for her i would be dead. She was such an awesome friend, bunk buddy and also my first camp kiss. Tiffany was extremely allergic to bees and was later stung by one on her eyelid during the fourth week of camp in the lunch hall. Our wonderful cabin staff waited too long before calling the ambulance. She was taken to the local ER thereafter. We later heard she had lost her eyesight in that same eye.
Martha and Sarah informed all of us Blackfoot Bear girls that Tiffany was not going to return due to this unforeseen accident. I remember Rebecca, the bully of our cabin, started sarcastically clapping and said, "Leave it to Martha and her Imp to make such a spur of the moment pun on words." It's pretty bad when even the cabin bully hates the guts of the councilors. That's telling something right there.
The beginning of the 2nd week I got my tennis shoes stolen from the sock thief. I had to wear my fancy cowgirl boots that I later found were way too fancy because I tripped in them going up the stone stairs almost breaking my front tooth. I didn't break anything, I don't think, I just had a few bruises and deep cuts. Enough to go back to the nurses station, again, for some band-aids and more Tylenol.
So yeah, I was late to my first horse riding lesson, and of course, I got the last pick. In which case I got the horse that had a mood disorder and was named Diablo. We all carefully took it easy with our steeds, until Rebecca started to pull a prank with a rubber snake. Out of the whole herd of horses, Diablo was the only one who got horribly spooked to the 110th degree. With me on his back, we both sped off and I couldn't control him. Mr. Tony the horse whisperer caught up to me and carefully tried to calm Diablo down.
This only led to falling off the horse and almost into a giant bush of cactus. I was grateful it was my left hand and wrist that got the majority of the long, sharp needles pierced through. Not my head or any other body part. Of course, I was sent to the nurses station and was treated like a toddler during the whole removal of the needles process.
Being that it was my second week there at this camp. In my head I thought what else could go wrong at this wonderful haven? I should have never said that. For in the third week I got shot with an arrow, I was happy it grazed me by a half inch but it left a good mark on my left rib though. Spent a few days at the nurses office that week. The fourth week I came very close to getting stung by a poisonous centipede. The reason why was because of the stupid camp counselors of beaver cabin kept messing with its nest and eventually it started to attack everyone who got near. Poor thing was only trying to protect himself and his family from those delinquent kids. The fifth week I constantly got defecated on by humongous vultures and other flying fouls. If things weren't bad enough that second to the last Friday during the marshmallow cookout and awards ceremony, I was given an awards shirt for record breaking outdoor cooking. It was the only reward i got at camp and it broke my heart that someone threw their flaming marshmallow at it. I only wore that shirt for less than an hour. I was really grateful i had a regular shirt and bathing suit under it. That would have been one nasty second degree burn. Yes, i lost the shirt and yes, I was laughed at by the entire camp that night.
The day before parent pick-up, our lovely cabin directors decided for all of the Blackfoot Bears to take a hike up onto the mountain to sleep under the stars. "One last camp flaming arrow hurrah," as Martha and Sarah said. Packing up everything that I would need for the experience, I was just so ecstatic that I got to go home the next morning. What I wasn't thrilled about is that our cabin sock thief had stolen my last pair of socks but had given back my tennis shoes. I remember hiding them under my mattress two nights before, but at that moment they were gone. I was looking everywhere for them. I even asked the other girls if I could borrow one of their pairs. Of course, all of them said no.
Mrs. Martha was becoming very impatient with me because I was taking so long to pack. She kept rushing me saying, "are you done yet? We have to go to number 46, now!" She then finally took me by the arm, with my hiking stuff in her other hand. Martha led me to the other girls outside and then locked our cabin. I looked at her in shock and said, "I need to find my socks, I'll get blisters." Martha rolled her eyes and said, "tough it out, 46. All you did was complain and whine during your whole experience here at our wonderful camp." At that moment, I did say something under my breath to Martha with a slight sarcastic scoff, "wonderful? Really?" We all walked about 7 miles up that mountain, by the time we reached the camping grounds I had bleeding blisters on top of bleeding blisters.
I remember asking the girls if anyone had a first aid kit on them, even a band-aid or two. All the girls ignored me, they seemed like they didn't care. At that time I really wished Tiffany was there with me. I prayed that she was doing well wherever she was. Before the sun set, I had to use the bathroom. It was my first time using the bushes. I thought I had gone far enough out but apparently it wasn't. I remember the girls pointing and saying, "Ew, gross! Look at Julianne!"
It was one of the most embarrassing things that ever happened to me. All night they called me JuliBooty. It sucked but I put up with it. In the morning we all walked back down the mountain to be greeted by our family members. I was hobbling in so much pain that I was the last to be greeted by my mom. My tennis shoes were soaked in blood due to the blisters.
My mother noticed this right off, and we left immediately to the local hospital. At the ER, I had told this same story to the medical professionals. The doctors thoroughly examined me. I was okay besides the massive infected blisters, a severe ear infection and a few other injuries. The doctor there gave me a couple of prescribed medicines, including a heavy talk about the rapes and other horrible incidents that happened at this same camp.
The main doctor asked my mother if she wanted to press charges. Even though I had gone through a lot of trauma, it still was a good case, and with the other campers who came to this hospital that year due to Flaming Arrow's gross negligence, there was an extremely good chance that they would be sued and possibly shut down. My mother discussed it with me that we really didn't have the money to sue them. It was so expensive to pay for this six week adventure we couldn't pay for a lawyer too. So we both had to say no, and hoped that the other families would take them to court. Here we are two decades later, and I kind of wished we had said yes at that time.
Camp Flaming Arrow was the worst camping experience I have ever gone through. In my honest opinion, if you want your kids to grow from outdoor recreational activities, don't take them to this camp. I know they are part of the YMCA but still, it is definitely not a safe haven for any soul. I wouldn't even take my worst enemy here. It astounds me that this place is still up and running. Makes me really wonder how many of those reviews from Google are actually from real campers and their families. Probably from the staff and directors, i would not be surprised.
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