After the Apocalypse
Chapter 3: Twenty-Five And Counting

by Mark Bollman--> and Steve Donohue

Winter Camp faced a new solitude as the 25th camp opened on December 27. For many years, D-A Scout Ranch had been largely deserted during the year's final weekette as Scout units were less quick to come out for an extended camping trip. The Detroit Area Council had not marketed the extended camping opportunity a great deal, so although Winter Camp had the personal assurance of the ranger staff that they would be allowed to continue convening each December, the abandonment became complete as Mahican Chapter was the only group in camp. Even the camp's resident staff was gone, as they knew that the Ranch was in good hands.

Nonetheless, the weather was in full cooperation. Metro Detroit had had a white Christmas only when three inches of snow fell starting Christmas Eve at midnight, but Winter Campers knew that conditions in Detroit were only marginally accurate predictors of weather at camp two counties north. Their optimism proved justified when they arrived two days later to see over a foot of snow on the ground and thick ice on all of the camp's lakes. The roads within camp were cleared for easy access to Beaver Creek and Clearwater cabins, and all signs pointed to another successful weekette.

Plans proceeded in earnest for Saturday night's Anniversary Banquet, which would cap a quarter-century of good camping. While some of the most elusive veterans, including Tom Achatz and Tom Conroy, had remained at large, family members of current campers and old-timers stretching all the way back to the beginning were expected to number over 100 on the night of the party.

Even as the banquet loomed in the future, Winter Camp's various other traditions reappeared. 2001's theme, obviously enough, was "Space Odyssey", and many activities centered around space exploration and varied aspects of science fiction. The time capsule buried in 1996 was recovered on the first day, and a collection of curious objects was brought back to light. Some were reclaimed by their owners, while others whose original holders hadn't made it to camp were up for grabs. The Blind Hike, the only event held at every Winter Camp, traced its way in double darkness to the treeless Trout Lake waterfront. The service tradition continued into its eighteenth year as campers assisted in the renovation of Shady Oaks cabin, from which Jeff salvaged considerable lumber for cabin improvements at Clearwater. Mark and his crew fired up Bollmano's Pizza, home of "The Finest Italian Cuisine In The Wilderness", for Winter Camp's favorite snack on Friday night.

Saturday's events were largely focused on preparing the banquet. The guests were scheduled to arrive for pre-dinner fellowship beginning at 4:16 P.M. (or, more suggestive of Winter Camp's near-obsession with multiples of 101, 1616 hours), with dinner at 6:18. Winter Camp's video library was tapped for continuous entertainment during the social hour, and displays of camp artifacts and documents occupied every spare table and most of the wall space in the main dining hall. Jeff had brought his early-model but still serviceable TRS-80 computer-Winter Camp's first home computer, and still the official Winter Camp machine-and first-generation BASIC games from the late 1970's and early 1980's attracted a spirited group of competitors who lined up for a turn at Super Nova, Saucers, Scarf-Man, Battle of the Arrowmen, and Capture the Objective.

As Mike and his crew held forth in the kitchen preparing the evening's elaborate feast, old friends and new began to arrive. The resident campers sported the evening's uniform: commemorative T-shirts and improvised bow ties. Howard Hammes was the first guest to appear, wearing his traditional pre-80's Scout uniform as he continued his commitment not to switch to the model introduced in 1982. Other former campers and families of the current crew began to arrive, and it wasn't long before the hall was filled with the excitement of the reunion and the amazed reactions of parents who only now fully understood the scope of the camp tradition that their sons had now joined.

Tom Ray and Dave Woods soon signaled from the kitchen that dinner was ready, and Steve moved to the podium. He called for silence, holding his right hand in the Scout sign.

"Welcome, friends and family, to Winter Camp's 25th Anniversary Banquet," he said. "It's great to see all of you here tonight, and we thank you for coming out to help us celebrate a quarter-century of Winter Camp."

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