Monday, August 4, 2014

JAKES! or, How to Go Camping with 800 Children

JAKES is an event run by the National Wild Turkey Foundation, and I will be the first to tell you that, when Daddy and I were dating and he told me about it, I laughed. Seriously? You are officially a turkey? The WTF, as I have since learned, is an organization dedicated to, among other things, protecting habitats and hunting rights, and promoting firearm safety. There's a whole lot more to it, but you can read about it here. The important part, for us, is the annual JAKES event. JAKES stands for Juniors Achieving Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship, but I had to look that up just now - mostly it means camping and having a blast with a whole mess of kids! 

The first year I participated, I had seven kids with me, and no real idea of what to expect.  It's not always easy to explain it in twenty words or less, so I hereby present you with a 'few' pictures from this year's event (there were around 300 - I have whittled it down a bit). They are in chronological order, not necessarily an order that otherwise makes sense, because THERE WERE 300 and I still have laundry to do.

Daddy went up to the chosen site on Thursday to start setting up, and we joined him Friday afternoon. Yes, the same Friday that we had the closing ceremony for the summer reading program. Let's try not to do it quite like that again next year, m'kay? 

While the event is officially run by the WTF (and yes, I am juvenile enough to love that acronym), there are many agencies heavily involved, as you'll see along the way.

Here we have Game and Fish setting up the archery station:

NWTF air rifle range coming in (really nifty set-up, you'll see it in a bit):

Having a huge RV, btw, was NOT an advantage on this road. I didn't get stuck at all, despite the fact that I may possibly have been steering with one hand, because I was eating a PB cup with the other.

The kids were BEYOND excited to go camping in the trailer. Usually when I pick them up at Grandma's, I have to go into the house and 'find' them, usually hiding behind the sofa. This time, Sheridan met me at the car door, giggling hysterically.

Shane wasn't sure what was going on, but as long as there's food, he's pretty flexible.

Speaking of food, Grandma sent some brownie bites along, so we had a quick taste-test.

Then, outside to explore!

Look, dead animals!

Ooh, a ditch! (There were three, and they explored them all thoroughly)

Very important part of setting up - find two tall poles, drill a hole...


...up with the flags!

Making sure they won't budge:

After all that hard work, Shane needed a rest.

Time for everyone to eat, in fact.

And talk. And relax.

And explore some more!

There was an 80% chance of rain, but it held off until everyone was safely tucked away. Both Saturday and Sunday, the worst we had was a light mist. After the 100-plus temperatures in town, nobody was complaining!

I'm sure not!

Everything tastes better cooked over a fire.

And what better way to get your first taste of meat? (No, I didn't let him actually eat it, although he sure tried!)

Chips and guacamole!

An actual smile! Caught on camera! We may have to do this more often!

Brotherly love...

...with a human shield, just in case.

I can't remember what everyone was giggling about, but I'm sure it was hilarious.

Time for bed! Big day tomorrow!

We were up fairly early Saturday morning to finish setting up - but, first, a good breakfast. Shane discovered powdered donuts.

Don't tell Daddy!

Not quite a morning person.

REALLY not a morning person.

Remember the trailer that came in yesterday? This is what's inside it:

There are two 'booths' on the left side where kids can sit with an air rifle, and paper targets on strings, down at the other end. They got ten shots, then the target was brought forward so they could check their accuracy. I meant to get a picture of one of the kids with theirs, but never had my camera handy when they showed them to me!

Most of the organizers used ATVs of some sort to get around. For safety's sake, everything was spread out up and down the canyon, and that would have been a LOT of walking! This is John Montoya, with the Forest Service.

Taryn and Madeline registered participants at the gate, and stole babies. Ahem.

Waiting for things to get started...






Dude, what's up with your feet?!

Okay, we're ready to start! And, Shane needs a nap, so I get absolutely no pictures of the next two hours. Kids were divided into groups of  8 or so and given colored arm bands. Those groups were then put into two bigger groups, and they learned about gun safety and wildlife ID.

Short break to play in the mud...

...while lunch is prepared...

Shh...don't tell anyone, but it was Tommy's birthday!
Oh, and the State Police were there, too! How is his car NOT as muddy as mine?

Time to eat!

Where's mine?!

Brisket smoking for later.
 More exploring...the kids had lots of time to just enjoy being out in the forest. They felt like they were unsupervised and running wild, but there were always plenty of eyes on them. Every kid needs time like this!

After lunch, the groups rotated among six different stations. At this one, EMTs Gary and Wendy from Alamo West taught basic First Aid.

Game and Fish ran an archery course (which, btw, may be coming to a Teen Cafe near you!)

The kids were SO GOOD about following directions - pointing their weapons in a safe direction, staying behind the firing line - I heard it mentioned more than once that this was the best-behaved group we have ever had! Safety is drilled into everyone from the first session, and it was good to see that they took it seriously - if nothing else, that makes the weekend a success!

Watching big brothers and snuggling with Mom is fun, too!

 The air rifle tent was another station,

and Logan even tried it out.

So proud of himself!
The kids didn't get to use the ATVs. That's okay, they are young and healthy!

I didn't get a good shot of the skeet shooting, because I didn't have ear protection in.

Thank goodness for a good zoom lens!

Jessica, with Game and Fish, instructing in the basics, with Curtis, also Game and Fish.
Muzzle loaders:

Mark, also Game and Fish, and a really handsome fellah to his right.

Demonstrating proper ear protection

One on one instruction. Safety, safety, safety!

Last but not least, .22 rifles:

Jason and Marcelino with Game and Fish

Jason is so good with the kids...but whenever Daddy tried to hand him Shane, he took off in another direction! I guess some wild animals are too scary even for Game and Fish.

Mommy walks too slowly.
 Back to archery.

No arrow yet - getting used to the feel of the string.

Christopher was old enough to go off with one of the groups and not have to tag along behind me. He made a bajillion new friends and came to tell me about each one. Then, when I asked him what their names were, he gave me this look

Who needs names, Mom? We're having fun! I am very proud of how well he listened (not always his strong point), and how independent he was. And I don't like it. Stop growing up!

Psst - you may just see this trailer at the library some time, for Teen Cafe! I see a Hunger Games tie-in, don't you?
 After all six stations, time to rest before supper.

Or, learn to build a fire. Yeah, let's go with the fire.

Did someone say fire?

This is what we camped in - all six of us:

Some went with tents:

Some with campers of varying size:

Note for next year: spread out more!
 The adults made fun of Big Red, but the kids loved it. It's a classic- just like Daddy!

 You're never too young to help clean up.

Or gather firewood.


Or build a fire pit.

Did I mention how pretty this area is?

More time to explore, then hang out around the campfire.

Marshmallows, of course, are a must.

Cuddle time is, too.

I don't know about everyone else's tent/camper, but ours was pretty quiet all night. Nothing like fresh air and a LOT of exercise to wear the kids out! Logan rolled out about 6AM and padded over to my bunk, where he complained, "People should be quiet and go to bed now!" He was pretty astonished when I explained that it was morning again already, and he had better get a move on if he wanted breakfast.

After breakfast there were four more sessions - fire prevention, Hot Shots fire safety, and a nature walk, none of which I got pictures of because Madeline and I were running the craft table. Hey, I'm the children's librarian, there has to be a craft!

We actually had two: painting with marshmallows and food coloring was one choice.

Anthony's ant.

My OCD-ness hates when colors get mixed, so the rule was, when you finish with a eat your paintbrush!

The other choice was building 3D sculptures with marshmallows and toothpicks.

Go-cart - he later added a steering wheel and driver.

There was much discussion of support and foundations and cross-ties. Those sneaky homeschoolers, hiding education in sugary snacks!

There was also much eating of said sugary snacks.

I told him to "say marshmallows", but his mouth was too full of them!

Hard to see the white on white, but he had a pretty cool structure going.
 It was interesting watching each group come up with different ideas. This group started putting more than one marshmallow on a toothpick, then rolling them,

even painting each a different color.

 Heck, who needs toothpicks? Fingers allow you to really get into your art!

More play time! Did we mention there was mud?

Heavy coat and barefoot. That's my boy.

Most of the wildlife was smart enough to stay well clear of us, but late Sunday morning we did spot a bear coming out of the woods!

He was a friendly sort, though.

He even took time for a dance!

Not impressed.
 Smokey is getting a bit tired in his old age, so we gave him a lift home.

Time to wrap things up with closing remarks,

and prizes! Everybody got something, from sports equipment,

to fishing gear,

Decisions, decisions...
 to camping equipment.

Scott, with the Wild Turkey Federation

Then it was time to head home.

We had to make one brief stop on the way. The kids spotted this Friday afternoon, and watched for it all the way back. 

What can I say, we don't have cable.

I hope everyone else had as great a time as we did, and that more families will join us next year! I also hope I will get all this laundry and unpacking done in my lifetime, but I don't want to press my luck. Thanks for a great weekend, everyone!

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