Tomahawk 2007

August 4 - August 10
(I attended as a chaperone from Aug 4 - August 7)

Jonathan is our first Boy Scout. He “crossed over” to Boy Scouts from Weblos last winter, and has been pretty involved in the “Boy Scouts” since.T

he highlight of the year is the week long camping trip to “Tomahawk Scout Camp”. I have discussed the planning of this event a bit in prior posts, but the date finally arrived.

Here is a pic from one of the preliminary meetings. (Jonathan is the one with the teeth and the sunburn.)

Throughout the planning process I discovered, fretted, and realized a few things that made me a bit apprehensive about attending this “vacation”.

#1 - Discovery - I was under the impression that all first year parents were going to be spending time with seasoned scouts, and all first time scouts were going to be spending time with seasoned parents. This was the most disappointing of all. You see, we did not take a “vacation” this year so that I would be able to use my vacation days to attend “Tomahawk”. When I heard that I would not even be spending time with Jonathan - well, that truly disappointed me.

#2 - Fret - Bathrooms. My bathroom phobias are a post for another time, but needless to say any time I am away from home for more than two or three days (my “holding it“ limit), bathroom layouts, locations, and conditions are frequently in the forefront of my mind.

#3 -Realized - I doubted the reliability of my 1994 Teal colored Ford Escort 4-door with 1.9l engine and a 5-speed transmission, with over 193,000 miles on it, a cracked windshield, broken struts, strut supports, one broken leaf spring, and (at the time) a significant vacuum leak that killed the engine at idle (the vacuum leak has been discovered and temporarily repaired since returning). Nope, I was not about to take other peoples children in my car (and I use the term “car” loosely). Folks, the darn thing is paid for, and gets between 33-35 mph. I am planning on driving this car until there is NOTHING left of it. But, regardless of the positive aspects of this vehicle, it is not something to transport Boy Scouts on a 300 mile journey in... Period.


Solution #1 - Solution to #1 came when (as I was unable to attend) I sent my #1 secretary wife to the final meeting, and had her ask why I would even want to (let alone “have to”) attend if I was not spending time with Jonathan. I am happy to report that I was mistaken, and it was made clear to me (via my wife), how I misunderstood the whole notion. I was indeed able to spend time with Jonathan! I could have even shared a tent with him, but he was interested in tenting with his friends (and I thought the peer socialization would do him some good!)

Solution #2 - Did not occur to me until day two of the trip. You will just have to read more to find out more. (or skip over that portion of this post and "use your imagination"!)

Solution #3 - My father was happy to lend a hand here, and volunteered the use of his 2003 Hyundai Sonata. This car made the trip so much less stressful. Thanks Mom & Dad (if you are reading this). It was greatly appreciated.Well, with most (except #2) of my discoveries, fretts, and realizations cleared up, it was time to go.

Most of my regular readers will be expecting a boring detailed minute by minute, blow by blow itinerary of what happened. I could do that, but it would take me a week to write the darn thing, and it would take most readers about 32 seconds before dismissing it as garbage. So, I’m not going down that road. Instead, I am going to share a few basic observations, and a couple of tid-bit highlights for you.

After an (about) two week drought, it is inevitable that the day we leave (and need to be standing in a parking lot – transferring backpacks, sleeping bags, pillows, and other miscelanious camping gear, is the first day (and the exact hour we are to be meeting) we get a significant rainfall. (But, at this point I could not have cared any less about the rain – it was needed!)

Three 11 year old boys sitting in a car with a parent who seemed to be engrossed in driving, and listing to Blue October’s Foiled CD, seemingly are oblivious that there may be adult ears that (although appear to not be listing) can hear EVERYTHING that is being said.

I was able to determine that it is around age 11 (somewere between fifth and six grades) that boys are beginning to notice girls, and are beginning to brag about who “liked” them and just how significant of a “liking” it really was. (No way, she told me that she REALLY, REALLY liked me – and that was after she said she liked you!)

Even when his friends are talking freely about girls (oblivious to my presence), I believe a son will always be more careful when his own father is within ear shot. Not one word of girls from my boy. I don’t know if this is good or bad – but with all the other talk, I find it odd.

Three eleven-year-old boys in the car (plus) nothing to do for nearly three hours (minus) anyone who cared enough to quiet them down (divided by) running out of girls to talk about (equals) an hour of hysterical pre-pubescent laughter brought on by a barrage of “fart noises” blown into their hands (which were cupped over their mouths).

Other than an uneventful stop for lunch at a Perkins, being served by a young waitress with “way too white teeth to be real” (that looked like they cost WAY too much to be bought on a Perkins waitress’ income), the remainder of the trip to Tomahawk was routine.

Upon arrival, (and about 3/4 of a mile hike from the parking lot) we located the Oak Campsite (our campsite), and started establishing a “base camp”. Some tents were already set up. Tent sites are on small wooden decks, with two or three tents to a grouping. There were about twenty tent sites in all in Oak Camp. Some Scouts brought their own tents to be put on an empty deck, some scouts brought their own tents to set up inside the canvas tents, but most of the scouts just used the canvas tents.

The tents were canvas, with no netting. They had a left and right side, a tie-able flap on the front and back, and a roof. Each site was provided two cots. Thankfully my neighbor provided me some mosquito netting to surround my cot with (which, by the way worked perfectly!).

All of our “Smell-ables” (soap, deodorant, toothpaste, snacks, munchies, bug spray, or anything that “smelled”) were put into Rubbermaid containers, and the containers were stacked in the “Bear Box”. The “Bear Box” is an old electrical transformer box that was hollowed out of all it’s electrical equipment, and had a couple of shelves installed.

The bathrooms were “latrines” style toilets. Each campsite had two (back to back) in an outhouse style structure. One of the two had a rudimentary urinal in it. Next to each latrine was a basin style sink. Across the top length of the basin (about 4 feet long) was a pipe with holes drilled in it. At the end of the pipe was a ball valve. Turn the ball valve, and pressurized water filled the pipe (drilled with holes) and voila – you have a four foot long faucet (not that a bunch of pre-teen and teenaged boys would even use a sink for anything….)

The campsite also had two fire-rings, a couple of picnic tables, and a bulletin board, and because Oak was so close to the lake, we had our own private little floating dock.

The beach held both the swimming and boating recreational facilities. There were three swimming sections. The “Non-Swimmer” where you could go about knee deep, the “Beginner” that went from knee to about 6’ depth, and the “Swimmer” area that went from 6’ to ??. The “Swimmer” area had a pontoon platform, and an inflatable trampoline. The Beginner area had water polo nets at each end. The “Non-Swimmer” area had… Lots of… Sand? The boat docks had several sailboards, several small sailboats, a catamaran, and a larger “cabin” style sailboat. (Not really all that big though).

The next area we experienced was the Weeks Dining shelter and the “Moo Shack”. Weeks was a humongous cement slab – with a timber style roof support system and a roof over the slab. (No walls). There were dozens of picnic tables, and a row of head tables. The “Moo Shack” was a small (glorified) storage shed with power (to keep a refrigerator running), and storage for non-perishables (Peanut butter, jelly, ketchup and mustard, and mayo packs), bread, etc.
Down a large hill from Weeks, was the flag ceremony area. (Boy, the Boy Scouts really take their flag etiquette seriously!) The flag was raised and lowered each morning and evening in a very formal ceremony. It was very interesting to partake in!

Beyond Weeks and the Flag pole were the showers. Boys on one side, Adults & Camp Staff split the other side (for obvious reasons). Adults were not allowed into the boys side even to clean. No exceptions. The facilities were… adequate.

There was a staff dorm area (off limits), and building with a meeting room (upstairs) and a trading post (downstairs).

Moms and Dads, if you are reading this post in anticipation of sending your boy to Tomahawk, keep in mind that the Trading post is, how do I say this respectfully – E-X-P-E-N-S-I-V-E-! You can expect that your scout will be paying just under a dollar (90 cents) for a candy bar, a small sized slushy, and other miscellaneous sugary treats. The cost of the supplies for the merit badges also can be a factor. The required supplies (without any “optional” supplies) for the Woodworking and the Leather craft classes alone are going to cost you a ten-spot.

For my ten bucks I got…

(one) 12”x12”x1/2” slab of pine (to carve)
(one) Neckerchief slide (also pine – to carve)
(one) leather kit (I bought Jonathan a pocket knife pouch)
(one) leather “round” (3” circle of leather)
(two) lengths of plastic strapping (for a weaving project to go with the leather round)

It was about 4 bucks worth of stuff.

The only redeemable quality was that the (huge) profits this place was makes goes back into the camp – so I felt a little less disgusted.

In another area of the camp you can find the shotgun range, the rifle range, and the archery range. (Costs: Three shotgun shells for a dollar, ten .22 cal cartridges for twenty-five cents, and ten arrows for free.)

At the furthest end of the camp was the horse barn (with 6 horses and a permanent “human foosball court”).

For the naturalists there was Eco (The Ecology building). They held classes on weather, birds, wildlife, insects, plants, wilderness survival, and other Ecology based curriculum.

Last and certainly not least was “Scoutcraft”. I spent most of my time at “Scoutcraft”. Scoutcraft was like an “island” where the trail to Eco and the Equestrian area looped around. Scoutcraft had stations set up for Woodworking, Leather Craft, a huge climbing tower, an “Axe Yard”, and a play area that our troop affectionately re-named “Slip and bleed”. “Slip and Bleed” was a humongous playground of ropes, nets, tightropes, cable carriages, swings and all sorts of wood, and rope contraptions built in, around, and among the trees! It was a “tween” boy’s dream! It was nick named “Slip and Bleed” because of all the minor injuries (to include, abrasions, contusions, sprains, strains, and lacerations) that all but a few from our troop fell victim to. Any time the boys had more than five extra minutes to spare, they would run off to “Slip and Bleed” to play.

Each of the new scouts were signed up for the “Brownsea” class. No, Brownsea has nothting to do with the latrines. Brownsea was the name of the island the very first set of Boy Scouts were taken for a campout back in 1907. They were taught all the necessary things about growing up a boy. The tradition is carried on to this day, and when a Boy Scout gets his Brownsea patch, he has completed almost everything he needs to move up his first rank from “Scout” to “Tenderfoot”. Brownsea class was two hours each day.

Jonathan also took Woodcarving, and Leatherwork. Both were held in the Scoutcraft area. In Woodcarving, Jonathan chose to carve a 3d image of a Loon in the block of wood. He was also required to carve a canoe paddle neckerchief slide. I actually had a lot of fun watching in this class, and even got my hands on a u gouge and helped out a teensy bit (but I felt guilty about it).

Leather craft was the last of Jonathan’s 4 electives (Brownsea (2 hours), Woodworking (1 hour) and Leathercraft (1 hour). In Leathercraft the boys were taught about leather, Neatsfoot oil, decorating leather, sewing leather, some weaving (in this case plastic straps) and were asked to put together a leather kit of their choice. (I picked the knife sheath for Joanthan – he LOVED it!)

Tip for the sufferers of Paruresis or Parcopresis. During Merit badge classes, the camp is all but empty EVERWHERE execpt the class areas. That, folks, was my saving grace.

In addition to the 4 (actually 3) classes Jonathan took, Jonathan also took part in several “Troop Activities”. Jonathan climbed (and rappelled back down) the climbing tower, spent a lot of time at the rifle range, tried his hand at archery, OD’ed on sugar from the Trading Post, spent some time at the Aquatics Center (swimming), did a lot of whittling, carving, and weaving on his down time, and spent a lot of time with his friends just hanging out.

The meals were good. “Comfort food” is what I would call them. Chicken, Stew, Corn dogs, omelets, etc. Not great, but not bad either. PB and J was an alternative at EVERY meal.

I know there is more to talk about, but I am afraid I could go on for hours.

Overall (and to summarize), I had a very good time. I am glad I went, and any concerns I had from the get go were quickly quashed. I know Jonathan made some lifetime memories (as did I). He is already looking forward to next year’s trip. I too am looking forward to attending again next year - with Zachary as a first year Boy Scout!


  1. David! I hope your issues with #2 (on your list, that is) are the same problems that I have with disgusting public restrooms and not some weird Freudian thing. ;-) What are your feelings about THIS? He he.

  2. Ahhhh.. The ol' "Sherman Tank" as we used to call them.

    There were the old "Moss Boxs", and the newer "Sherman Tanks" when I was a BWCA frequent flyer.

    Honestly, I only saw a few of these over the years. Most of the camp sites I visited were of the "moss box" variety.

    Eric, are there still quite a few "moss boxex" up there, or have they all been converted over to "sherman tanks"...

    (Don't ask me why "Sherman Tank"... I think they look more like a "submarine hatch"...

  3. For whatever reason, most of the latrines in the BW have been upgraded to fiberglass "thunder boxes." There are two campsites that I know of that still have the old wooden ones. One is at the campsite on Neewin Lake north of Cummings and the other is on Bear Lake and is totally rotted and wrecked. Bear Lake is not on any canoe route and has no portages to it so it probably won't be replaced. The one in the photo above is on Buck Lake and sits up on a ridge a good 75 feet higher than the surface of the lake - a throne fit for a king. ;-)

  4. I'm surprised your son's Troop didn't explain things better so you knew what to expect at Tomahawk. Tomahawk is a time for boys to experience independence in a safe setting. It is critical that the boys have a chance to develop self-reliance without Mom or Dad always within easy reach.

  5. Anonymous. The troop did a fine job at explaining it.. My interpretation of what they said is something completely different.

    Two years later, I recognized the confused look on the faces of the parents of the first year scouts - while I sit back and say "ahh, yes".

    Tomahawk IS (as you say) - "a time for boys to experience independence in a safe setting"... And it was just that! I ended up tagging along, and sort of "watching" as my son did all his stuff.

    This post was written in 2007. In 2008 - his brother attended, and I did the same thing... Tag along with him as "watch" as he did his thing. I had much less contact with first son (#2 of 5) - as he had much more established friendships within the troop.

    Now, this year (2009) - my roll is more of a driver, and overall chaperon - helping to keep an eye on the new wave of 1st year scouts..

    I doubt I will have much contact with my boys this year - which (I think) is EXACTLY how it was intended...

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