The youth gathered around the parking lot of the church building, excitedly waiting for their travels. The scorching sun beat down on their backs and faces as they talked within their little groups. They had gone camping a few times in the past, but it was usually separate. Girls went to girls camp and boys went to, well, who cares where? It was that simple. But this year, they were combining, although, they still had to stay in separate camps. The boys would be on one side of the lake, hopefully the far side, and the girls would stay on the other. They would join for activities, but they’d head their separate ways at night.It was how it worked for Maple Valley ward. It was the bishops way of trying to gain their friendships stronger, while still being appropriate.
As huge Jeep Cherokees pulled into the parking lot, the excitement in the air increased tenfold. They had waited for this day to come,agonizing over every second they had to wait, until the day had finally arrived.
“I can’t wait till we arrive at camp,” Abby cheered clapping her hands together. Her long hair was pulled into a braid that laid on her shoulder. “Just imagine all the things we’ll be able to do.”
“Alright,” the bishop said gaining the distant attention of the excited youth. He smiled kindly. “I know you are all excited to get going, and I am too. The leaders have put a lot of effort into making this camping trip a success. Hopefully, you will feel the spirit and enjoy the wonderful games that we have planned.” He paused, as if waiting for someone to speak. “First, let’s have a prayer and then we’ll get going.” The youth looked at each other, avoiding eye contact with the Bishop. “Kaden? Will you say the prayer?” Kaden nodded reluctantly and folded his arms.
After saying the prayer, the youth looked anxiously at the bishop. “Let’s get going,” he said. Then the regular thing happened. They all separated into their groups. The same people always rode in the the same car with the same leader. They had favorite people to be around, even though they loved everyone that they met. The vehicles finally loaded, then drove out of the parking lot, carrying the youth to their first adventure together.
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The vehicles came to a bumpy, jerky stop at the entrance of the campground. The youth crawled out, feeling the cool air on their skin. The sun was starting to set, but there was still enough light to set up the tents and tables. Afton looked around and held her stomach.
“You okay, Afton?” Kenzie asked. Afton Hearts held her stomach before running to a bush and throwing up. She coughed as she looked at the group. Something didn’t feel right. The plants of the camp seemed to be alive, but it was like they weren’t at the same time. Jane pulled on her jacket, making it tighter.
“Why is it so cold?” she asked. Her short hair swayed in the breeze that blew past them. She looked around and noticed that everything stood still. Everything seemed peaceful and quiet, but a little too quiet, like it was dead. It seemed to Jane that the camp was trying to hide something.
“Jane!” Alexis called. Jane turned and chased after her ward. They hiked up a trail and arrived at a clearing just a few miles up. Little cabins stood, and the edge of the lake gave the clearing a dazzling look to it. It’s cool waters were a turquoise blue. It gave the sky a bright neon color, forcing the youth to look at the ground. The green grass held a few weeds, but also a brilliant pop of color.
“Why do the girls get a good looking camp?” David asked. His dark hair hung in his eyes and his orange jacket wrapped around his waist. David was one to create an adventure. His comments and stories made any situation a movie scene.
“We get a good camp, too,” Brother Johnson, the second counselor in the bishopric, answered. “Come on boys, let's get going to our camp.” He led the group of young men along the trail, while the girls sorted through their belongings and picked a cabin. Chatter filled the clearing as they got settled and sat down to enjoy a nice dinner.
The boys stomped into their camp. Cabins were lined up and a huge mess hall stood at the front of the camp. A flagpole was in the middle; the flag drooped down, waving lazily in the weak breeze. It wasn’t great, but it was a cozy. The edge of the lake was a few feet away and the cool waters gave the camp a spark of adventure. The boys felt proud about having a mysterious camp.
“Imagine all the fun things we’ll be doing,” Kaden commented to his friend Payson.
“Yes, and we’ll join the girls on most of the activities,” Brother Christian said dropping the bags to the ground. Groans rose from the young men. They loved the girls, but they would rather do things alone.
“Really? But they don’t know how to have fun,” Mason said crossing his arms. The leaders chuckled, shaking their heads in a knowing way, and moved aside as the boys grabbed their belongings.
“I can’t believe this,” Tristan replied stepping into a cabin. The leaders smiled as they watched the boys carefully select their cabins. Even though it wasn’t exactly what they planned, they were going to try get the girls and boys closer. They were all friends, but they didn’t really socialize with each other because of this so-called thing they called, “the gender barrier”. In classrooms at the church, there was always a definite line between them. Girls sat in the chairs on one side, and the boys sat on the other. If anyone ever broke it, it was a sacred moment. Like it would bring major disaster on the world if anyone actually did break it. The world would be plunged into confusion and darkness because no one would know what to do. It was first brought up by the bishop at a senior night when he noticed the gender barrier in action. Again. That was what brought the idea of combining camps.
“Do you think it’ll work?” Brother Johnson asked watching the boys. Bishop slightly laughed.
“Who knows?” he replied. “Anything could happen.”
© Julia Shelley, 2019. All rights reserved.