Church Campouts

by William B. Reed 

The annual church camping trip is attended by approximately 80-140 people depending on the campsite. It is a community-building activity where attendees of both Sunday services and their families can take time to get to know each other away from the church. For many attendees it is a family/church tradition. The event covers 3 nights and 4 days on average. Family friendly activities take place every day and there is a huge potluck that is often also attended by people who drive up just for the day (another 10 people or so).

I have fond memories of attending these campouts.  After moving to Salt Lake City in August of 1997, I found the church campouts to be a great way to meet members and their children.  They were truly intergenerational events and part of the Religious Education activities. Vicki and Paul Bennett were coordinating the campouts when I arrived.  They were held during UEA Weekend and very well attended by people of all ages.

At first the campouts were rotated between State Parks in southern Utah.  Because they were held in the Fall, people wanted to go south to get warm. Southern Utah is beautiful in the Fall, and I remember attending campouts at Snow Canyon State Park, Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, and Kodachrome Basin State Park.

Often late at night I would roam from campfire to campfire to listen to the myriad stories and personal experiences of church members and their friends.           The Sunday services at these events were held by Silvia. After Sunday service we would do trail work for the local Park Ranger.

In 2000 or thereabouts the event was moved to summertime and campgrounds closer to SLC have been used:

1) Oak Creek Recreation Site Campground near Oak City Utah was an adventure featuring the migration of Mormon Crickets across roads and tents, sand dunes near Delta, hikes to lava tubes and an excursion to Pahvant Butte.

2) Maple Grove Campground near Salina, Utah included a trip to the 4th of July Rodeo and Fireworks in Salina for some.

3) Twice we went to Spruces Campground in Big Cottonwood Canyon which offered hikes to Donut Falls and sometimes moose walking thru the campsite.  Also, a famous pastry chef would deliver goodies in the morning. Really.

4) And then we began alternating between Pine Valley Campground off of Mirror Lake Highway and Wolf Creek Pass Campground with the event being held near Pioneer Weekend.

The 2011 Intermountain Church campout at Pine Valley, coordinated with the assistance of Jim Turner, was particularly memorable. About 125 people attended from these six UU congregations: Idaho Falls UU, Pocatello UU Fellowship, Cache Valley Unitarian Universalist, First Unitarian Church of SLC, South Valley UU Fellowship, and Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden.

Unfortunately, since 2012 we have slowly watched the decay of Wolf Creek Pass campground as the Aspen clone slowly died off followed by the pines dying off. There is no doubt in my mind that climate change brought about this destruction.  The area is now a place where there are more cow pies than trees. Indeed Diane Johnson collected numerous large trash bags of cow pies in order to make the place useable prior to our last use of this site.

The campouts have been organized by many individuals taking a turn: Marti Major, Amy Brunvand, Diane Johnson, and Bill Reed, among others.  Last year the campout was handled by Jim Thornburg with the help of others.  A special thanks to John Major who has led many of the Sunday morning campout services after the departure of Silvia.



Church Campout 2013, off to see the wizard, Lori Shields, Natalia Johansen, Natalia’s friend from Peru, Sue Click, Dave Click, Carl Johansen

the hills are alive with the sound of music, Jessica French, Bill Reed, Gwen Trefts

Church Campout 2013 Wolf Creek, See No evil, hear no evil, speak no evil…Jim French, Carl Johansen, Sue Click, Dave Click, Jessica French, and Tom Oesleby