Memoirs of a Camping Trip, By Phyllis Jones

It is not often that a routine LISC site visit results in an overnight camping trip in a neighboring state – in fact, it has never happened. But this past August I found myself wrapping up a standard site visit at Life Pieces to Masterpieces with a commitment to take 19 Washington DC youth on a camping trip.

Life Pieces to Masterpieces (LPTMP) is a non profit after-school and summer youth program that mentors boys in leadership skills, using art as a medium for expression and personal/ developmental growth.

Exemplary youth who had regularly participated in the summer program had been promised a camping trip, but no one on the staff knew how to plan such an endeavor. I mentioned that I had once been a backcountry ranger in the National Park Service and loved to camp.

For many, this would be their first camping trip. After several weeks of strategic planning and accumulation of gear, (tents, sleeping bags, flashlights, food, etc.) sixteen junior apprentices, three senior apprentices, three LPTMP staff members and I, along with my family set out to brave the great outdoors.

We ended up camping in Gettysburg, PA on an island in the middle of a pond, surrounded by numerous acres of trees and open fields. It was perfect for the group. As with any outdoor adventure there were unexpected glitches, such as broken tents, which provided exercises in cooperation and problem solving.

After setting up the tents, some boys played football in the waning sunlight while others gathered wood for the fire. They explored the fields and looked for fish in the pond. Spirits were high.

Although we had tents to accommodate every one, some of the boys opted to spend the entire night under the starlight, next to the tended fire. The following day was spent canoeing, fishing in the pond and visiting some of the battlegrounds in Gettysburg for a history lesson. Shortly thereafter, we headed back to Washington, DC.

LPTMP first camping trip was a big success the only question remaining is when will they go again. Whenever that is, I will be there.