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Camp Melakwa's remote site abounds with opportunities for Boy Scouts.

Byline: Lewis Taylor The Register-Guard

Many of those who've been to Camp Melakwa refer to it as a playground. But for the roughly 250 Boy Scouts who visit the remote wilderness camp each summer, it's also a classroom.

"It gives Scouts the experience of seeing what nature does by itself," camp director Pat Patterson says. "It gives them a broader understanding of what good stewardship is."

Ever since the 1930s, when the wilderness camp, Camp Lucky Boy, was submerged by the dam that created Blue River Lake, thousands of Oregon Scouts have been coming to this 75-acre camp near the Three Sisters Wilderness Area. They've learned outdoor skills ranging from rifle shooting and mountain climbing to archery and dutch oven cooking.

Earlier this month, the camp quietly celebrated its 60th anniversary. Campers received limited edition leather rounds and patches, and a handful of Melakwa alumni journeyed to the remote mountain camp for the occasion.

But otherwise, it was business as usual.

"It's a great place," said Matt Adamson, a former camper and staff member, who returned this year to serve as Melakwa's aquatic director. "I love the camp and I love being able to help kids in the water and teach some of the kids how to swim.

`It's just a great place to be in the summertime."

Adamson says aside from a propane burner installed to replace the old wood boiler in the shower house, not much has changed at Camp Melakwa. Scouts from all over the state, and occasionally out of state arrive for weeklong stints during the first two weeks in August.

Because of high elevation, lingering snowpack and variable weather conditions, the Boy Scouts only use Camp Melakwa two weeks a year. Located north of Highway 242 near McKenzie Pass, the camp takes access off Highway 126 on Forest Road 2649. Scouts hike a half-mile into camp.

Leased from the Forest Service by the Oregon Trail Council, the camp originally was set up by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. It was used by trail maintenance crews before the Boy Scouts became the primary campers.

A church group also leases the camp, which contains very few permanent structures. A pair of 11,000-gallon tanks pull filtered water out of Lake Melakwa, and a small shack serves as a basic kitchen.

Campers haul in their own food, tents and sleeping bags. Almost nothing is provided for them on site.

"There's really not (many camps) like it left anywhere," Adamson said. "Other camps you go to, there's a dining hall and you stay in a cabin or something that's provided for you."

Perhaps the most remote Boy Scout camp in the Pacific Northwest, Adamson says Melakwa teaches Scouts how to pull their own weight and take on new responsibilities many never dreamed. Campers also learn more traditional camp skills, such as canoeing, swimming, fishing, shooting and archery. They study American Indian lore, practice leatherwork and other handicraft and pick up skills in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and wilderness survival.

"They have to work as a team," Patterson says. "They have to respect their brother Scouts at other camp sites and also have fellowship. It's a good interchange of experience."

The remote location of Camp Melakwa provides Scouts with opportunities they wouldn't find just anywhere. And for many, the experiences of being so far removed from civilization is an eye opener, Patterson says.

Campers study astronomy under a starry night sky. They learn how to rappel down a rocky cliff face. One of the most popular activities is a two-day hike up the 10,047-foot Middle Sister.

Another thing Scouts learn is to be prepared for anything, says Patterson, citing the camp's unofficial slogan with a hint of sarcasm in his voice:

"There are no mosquitos, the water's always warm and it never rains."

You can reach Lewis Taylor at 338-2512 or ltaylor@guardnet .com.
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Title Annotation:Recreation
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Aug 27, 2006
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