Mountain Musings


Camp Grenada


Nearly 60 years ago this month, I waved goodbye to Mom and Dad after being dropped off at Perris Hill Park in San Bernardino, only to be herded like cattle onto the back of a flatbed truck with 20 other boys for a wild ride up the long and winding road to Big Bear.


“The long and winding road that leads to your door will never disappear, I’ve seen that road before. It always leads me here, leads me to your door.” (“The Long and Winding Road” – The Beatles – 1970)


I recall my parents leaping in the air, high-fiving each other at the prospect of four weeks without little Douglas around. Those four weeks at Mill Creek Boys Ranch, miles up a bumpy excuse for a dirt road, were a highlight of my childhood. It was a Spin and Marty-type adventure every kid should be able to experience and write home about. A popular song on the radio that summer was “Camp Grenada.”


“Hello mudduh, hello fadduh, here I am at Camp Grenada. Camp is entertaining and they say we’ll have fun if it stops raining.” (“Camp Grenada” – Allan Sherman – 1964)


Getting there was an adventure itself, one that no child would be allowed to endure with today’s seat belt requirements. Upon arrival, we turned onto Mill Creek Road and proceeded up this bumpy excuse for a dirt road to this traditional summer camp with its dining hall, bunkhouses, fishing pond and stable nestled amongst tall pines.


Four weeks is a long time to be away from home, your parents, friends and TV when you’re 12, but I didn’t miss them that much and I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t miss me. I was having too much fun riding horses, hiking, fishing, snipe hunting, taking target practice, singing songs and roasting marshmallows around the campfire. Bedtime was always entertaining when our counselor read us scary ghost stories.


If you were good (which I was), they would take you down to Big Bear Village, where we played in the arcade and watched the latest Jerry Lewis movie for an afternoon of fun and entertainment.


Another Saturday I almost drowned attempting to water ski. It seems my skis were pointed downward and, when the boat took off, downward I went toward the realm of Poseidon. On yet another Saturday outing, we ventured to Lake Arrowhead Village to swim at what today would be Burnt Mill Beach Club, before there was a clubhouse.


Then there was the overnight excursion to Mt. San Gorgonio. Following another bumpy ride, we were dropped off at the ridge overlooking Barton Flats, where we began the long march down Seven Oaks Road to Jenk’s Lake and the Poop Out Hill trailhead to begin our ascent to the 11,503 peak. We would have made it to the summit, had it not been for the intense rain, thunder, hail and lightening.


“Wait a minute, it’s stopped raining, guys are swimming, playing baseball, gee that’s better. Mudduh, fadduh, kindly disregard this letter.”


Keep it flyin’, Uncle Mott