Destination: Girl Scout Junior Jamboree

Camp Arequipa and Bothin (Fairfax, CA)


Lane Dooling

© Copyright 2018 by Lane Dooling

Photo of Brownie Troop.  Author is on bottom row, far left.
Author is on bottom row, far left (waiting to bridge up to become
a Girl


One of the second best things about being in elementary school was being old enough to join a Brownie troop. The first best thing was being old enough to be a Girl Scout! I loved everything about being a Girl Scout (except selling calendars was way harder than selling cookies!). One of the highlights was the annual Junior Jamboree at Bothin and Arequipa Girl Scout camps located in Fairfax, CA (northern CA) every October. It is difficult to pick one or two reasons why this was a favorite experience – all I can say is that it remains deep in my soul and I still think about it often.

The Junior Jamboree encompassed a lot of the skills and traditions we learned throughout the year. To begin with, we started with meal planning and shopping. This took place weeks before the coveted weekend which increased the existing anticipation. We also had to figure out tent assignments (without anyone’s feelings being hurt). I remember a few years in a row being able to camp out with my good friends Laura and Karen…and very happy about it. We figured out what equipment we needed in terms of a tent, mess kits and of course “supplies” for s’mores (what camp-out is complete without s’mores?). The topic of s’mores was more interesting to me (big sweet tooth) than the meal planning (I was a picky eater). Of course there were a few more extras like little Milky Way bars or Snickers to eat while we hunkered down in our tent at night and told spooky stories.

When the weekend finally arrived, my mother would pick up a Kentucky Fried Chicken meal – fried chicken with coleslaw (yuck) and a roll with butter and honey – since we needed to bring a boxed dinner for the Friday night. When I think back on this, it is strange since we rarely went to fast food restaurants and never went to KFC as a family (and I haven’t eaten there since I was a Girl Scout). We could hardly contain our excitement in the parking lot waiting for our carpool – luckily the drive was less than 30 minutes. Once there, we had to find our space for our tent and get set up. By the time that was done, it was time for our tasty boxed dinners. Dinner was followed by a big campfire, roasting marshmallows for s’mores and lots of songs.

Later in the evening we headed back to our tents, put on our warm P.J’s and broke out the candy. We told ghost stories and secrets…and talked about boys. When the very long day was done, the sounds of nature and wild life lulled us to sleep almost as if we were a part of their world.

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was the first few minutes of waking up in the morning – slowly remembering I was in the woods as the sun filtered through the tent flap ushering in the fragrance of the surrounding Oak trees, moss and earth. As I inhaled the beauty of nature, looked outside to see if any animals were roaming around, I roused my friends since it would be a busy day. We began the day with our troop preparing breakfast over the fire in a heavy skillet. Soon the smell of bacon frying in the pan filled the air, as pancakes cooked in another skillet. After eating our breakfast at the picnic table and we washed up the mess kits and pots and pans, we headed to our different activities – archery, fire safety, cooking, hiking (map and compass reading) , swimming, crafts (God’s eyes, leaf rubbings), practice skits for evening campfire. It made it even more fun being with other troops since we always met new friends.

Another favorite part of the day was exploring – especially because there was some-thing a little spooky about this Girl Scout Camp. In 1911, Dr. Phillip Brown opened the Arequipa Tuberculosis Sanitarium to treat women with Tuberculosis. This place was made available to just women since Dr. Brown felt they were more vulnerable - especially after the horrific 1906 Earthquake on San Francisco - due to working in shops, classrooms, offices and factories. This place was referred to “rest cure” since antibiotics weren’t discovered until the late 1940’s. The land was given to Dr. Brown by Philanthropist Henry Bothin who must have been a very generous man since his own home burned down in the earthquake. Although the patients lived inside, the goal for recovery was for them to be outside to breathe in as much fresh air as possible – referred to as living The Outdoor Life.

Although the Sanitarium was closed in 1957, there was still equipment in the building and it hadn’t been changed much. I remember we discovered records and other papers in piles along with old pictures. A musty smell hung in the air as we wondered if the ghost story was true? There were reports of a ghostly figure of a nurse pushing a cart in the hallways, and standing in the old building made it seem true although we never saw it. Since we didn’t really understand fully what this place was all about, it added to the mystique and we were drawn in to learn more about the people who stayed there.

Dinner was followed by a rambunctious evening with s’mores or banana boats (delicious – put two halves of banana cut length-wise into a piece of foil and add some squares of milk chocolate and marshmallows, wrap it up and put it in the fire until the chocolate is melted and dive in with a spoon), skits and songs. I can still smell the smoke from the fire combined with the Oak and Eucalyptus trees as the orangy-red flames burned brightly with the occasional popping sounds. As we closed the circle with the traditional ceremony, we wandered back to our tents but conked out earlier than the night before since it has been a wonderful and busy day.

The last day of our camp-out included breakfast, cleaning up and saying good-bye to new friends. At the flag ceremony, the whole weekend washed over me in a bittersweet way – it was so much fun…but it was over for now. I have wondered over the years why this weekend (and being a Girl Scout in general) was so meaningful to me. I have finally figured out it was for many reasons – the friendships, activities (different than what I did at school or home), camping/hiking (my family didn’t do these things), learning new skills /earning badges…and learning to be a resourceful person.

I was reminded recently that the Girl Scout theme in the early 1970’s was “Today’s Vision, Tomorrow’s World” and how this still is timely today. I will forever be grateful for being involved in Girl Scouts for many years and thrilled the organization is 106 years old (founded in 1912). I love the following quote because I do feel I was really part of something (far beyond the annual Junior Jamboree) – an incredible legacy that has been resilient over many decades and continues to be:

The work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”
 Juliette Gordon Low, Girl Scout Founder

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