Image Credit: Anthony White

Let's Go: Explore, Serve and Share — NPUC Camporee 2022

The North Pacific Union Pathfinder Camporee was held in Kalispell, Montana, at the Northwest Montana Fairgrounds Sept. 21-25, 2022. 1,653 Pathfinders, Adventurers, Master Guides and parent volunteers from all six conferences represented by the NPUC came to explore, serve and share.

Day one was rainy and cold, but that didn’t phase any of the Pathfinders, Adventurers or staff, who roll with whatever weather is thrown their way.

The rainfall was the heaviest in the morning when the activities were designed to be indoors. The Adventurers learned fire safety, made their own bear paw print makers out of flip-flops, crafted ornaments from clay and learned about bears.

Several Adventurers were busy filling Adventist Community Services Disaster Clean Up buckets. Gabriele Laub, Montana Conference Adventist Community Services coordinator, said they hoped to fill 120 buckets to replenish their supply. Recently, they distributed more than 150 buckets to people in eastern Montana who were affected by flooding. She said that having laundry detergent, dish detergent, gloves, brushes, wipes and clothesline with clothespins gave them an initial boost to help them get back on their feet.

Pathfinders entering the honors building were greeted by two larger-than-life inflatable Pathfinders wearing full Class A uniforms. Pathfinders had 25 choices of honors to work on including Sand, Mosaic Tiles, Basic Rescue and Hot Air Balloon. Several new honors were being piloted: Dams and Hydroelectricity, Wildfire Preparation and Prevention, Land Surveying, Search and Rescue, and Glaciers. The room was filled with the sound of pounding nails from those working towards their String Art honor, while other Pathfinders concentrated on learning the various details needed for each honor. One club was working on their third honor by the time 10 a.m. rolled around.

For many clubs, the fun began even before they arrived at the fairground. Several had many hours of driving, some starting their journey on Tuesday. One club visited a hot spring and did a service project in Salmon, Idaho, at the Sacajawea Visitors Center.

Luke, from Apple Valley Pathfinder Club, was looking forward to the Gold Panning honor. He said that he got a little wet in the tent Wednesday night because he was right on the edge of the tent, but his things dried the next day.

Addie, from Golden Eagle Pathfinder Club, said her favorite thing about the camporee is the people. Julisa, from Meadow Glade Pathfinder Club, said the best thing is seeing people and doing the honors! Alynna, from Meadow Glade Pathfinder Club, said her favorite thing about Pathfinders is that she gets to go places she probably never would have gone.

It’s not just kids who enjoy Pathfinders. Imogene, member of Upper Columbia Conference, is currently the event coordinator. She has been involved with Pathfinders since becoming one herself  56 years ago. Imogene only missed one camporee — the Friendship Camporee in 1989.

The afternoon brought a little less rain, which was good because there were many activities outside. The Mountain Man Village introduced Pathfinders to a trapper, an Indian arrowhead maker and a leather worker and gave them a chance to throw a tomahawk at a tree stump. Pathfinders also learned that the men who brought supplies to the forts would charge 1,000% markup. The journey was long and arduous, often taking up to three months, yet the fur traders generally made more money.

There were additional activities outside, including an air-filled maze race, a volleyball toss into barrels, ladder ball and a blow-up hatchet throwing game.

Inside, Danielle Oyler from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks department taught Pathfinders the differences between black bears and grizzly bears. She also shared how to stay safe around bears of any kind. One fact they learned turned into a safety lesson: bears can run up to 35 mph, so don't try to run from them! Oyler also advised the Pathfinders to keep their food and supplies in bear safes or hanging appropriately in trees over 100 yards from where they sleep. 

Stan Hudson, NPUC creation ministries director, shared the reasoning for creation in his presentation. He provided facts, including that dinosaurs were real. He believes God created dinosaurs and mankind bred some to be aggressive to use as hunters or warriors.

Another inside activity was archery. First, Pathfinders had to discover if they were left-eyed or right-eyed. Even if they were left-handed, they could be right-eyed. That determined which bow they used and how they stood.

The Pathfinder Museum opened in the expo building at the south end of the fairground. Dixie Plata has been running the museum for over 40 years. Her husband, Arnold Plata, used to make all the display cases. Dixie was excited because a young Pathfinder gave her a Montana pin for this year’s camporee exhibit.

The evening program had music, a story by a mountain man, prayer and a talk by Ron Whitehead, executive director of the International Pathfinder Camporee. Sierra and Anniston, from Puyallup Pioneers Pathfinder Club, both enjoyed the music from the meeting. It was lively and the songs were ones they were familiar with. They also thought the Mountain Man was hilarious! However, they were concerned about what happened to the bear in his story. They didn’t want it to get hurt.

Whitehead talked about Abraham’s friendship and journey with God. Did you know that God has friends? James 2:23 says that Abraham was a friend of God. Did you know that it’s OK to struggle with your friendship with God? He won’t give up on you just because you might be embarrassed to talk about Him.

Whitehead shared a personal story of when he began attending boarding school. His parents, particularly his mom, taught him that Jesus was his best friend. He had a picture of Jesus at the foot of his bed. Every morning and every night he saw Jesus. Suddenly, he began to question whether he wanted everyone to know that Jesus was his best friend. He said it’s OK to struggle and to question. God’s not going to give up on you. He’ll work it out with you.

Overall, Pathfinders and Adventurers enjoyed day one despite the rain. However, they were looking forward to warm and dry weather during the remaining days.

Day two started out very foggy, but the fog burned off as the sun rose higher, and Pathfinders and Adventurers walked with more bounce in their step.

The Adventurers had a surprise guest during their morning program. Smokey Bear and a ranger showed up! Smokey Bear high-fived several of the kids. The ranger asked questions about fire safety because the Adventurers are learning to be Junior Rangers. One of the boys responded to the question, “What do you do with your fire when you’re all done roasting marshmallows?” with the correct response: pour water on it until it’s completely out.

Honor rotations continued, with many Pathfinders pursuing the self-guided ones, allowing them to earn several honors in a short period of time. Each honor had a monitor or teacher who checked answers.

One of the new honors being piloted was created by Kelly Jones. He has worked with dams for the past six years and was encouraged by Luke Torquato to develop an honor on dams and hydroelectricity. The honor took a few years to develop, and this camporee finally gave him the opportunity to pilot it. While Jones didn’t grow up in Pathfinders, he has been involved with them as a staff member.

Aubrey, from St. Maries Seekers Pathfinder Club, did the Search and Rescue honor. She said she was doing all the pilot honors to make sure that there was enough participation for them to be considered as new honors in the North American Division. Sierra, from Salem Pioneers Pathfinder Club, also did the Search and Rescue honor and found it interesting that she could help determine someone’s condition (if that person were lost or injured). She learned to check if she could help or if she should call for emergency services.

Janelle, from Fort Vancouver Pathfinder Club, took the Creationism honor. She said she learned that after the flood, all the animals and fish left the ark once the water went away.

Bradley and Zach, from Sandpoint Northern Lights Pathfinder Club, took the Land Survey pilot honor. Once they complete it and it gets accepted as a new honor, they will get a special patch for being part of the piloting process.

The Tombstones honor is another being piloted at the camporee. Emma, from Cascade Eagles Pathfinder Club, said it was interesting to learn about the different materials used to make tombstones and see the variety of epitaphs engraved on them.

While many clubs were working on their honors, Sandpoint Northern Lights Pathfinder Club went to Lawrence Park and spread mulch on the trails as a service project. They did their part to leave Kalispell better than they found it, an unofficial motto of Pathfinders. Several other clubs left their mark on Kalispell as well.

Afternoon activities included the indoor venues: Wildlife Bear Show, Creation Show, the Pathfinder Museum and the Camporee Store. Mr. Dillon from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks department came to share about bears and bear safety for day two. Sam, from Wheatland Coyotes Pathfinder Club, said he really enjoyed the bear spray video and thought the grizzly bear skull on the table was interesting as it could open. While he already knew a lot about bears, he was interested in learning the differences between black bears and grizzly bears.

Wendy Wolfswinkel da Silva began a project of having every club sign or be listed on Pathfinder flags back in 2004. She is now up to three flags. Her flags were displayed first in the expo building, and then moved into the nightly program building for the weekend. Many Pathfinders tried to find their club name on one of the flags.

Outside activities continued with the addition of a dunk tank. A long line of Pathfinders and staff waited to dunk the latest victim. An obstacle course included a tire run, large round bales of hay to climb and run across, a log walk and a tube to crawl through.

Two other popular activities were human foosball and the cave maze. During human foosball, players held onto a PVC pipe on a rope. They had to try to help their team make a goal without letting go of the pipe. The cave maze was brought by Oregon Conference, who converted their semi-truck trailer into four mazes, ranging in skill level from easy to very difficult. Most of the kids were lined up for the two more difficult mazes.

Malea, from a local 4-H club, brought animals to show the Pathfinders. Her two sheep, horse named Ranji, Nigerian/Alpine hybrid milking goat named Peaches, and Peaches' two kids all met the Pathfinders inside a fenced area and were happy to be pet or pose for a photo.

The Big Show, which had been canceled due to rain on day one, was rescheduled for day two. Bert and Frannie Davis and The Muttley Crew presented a dog show and rodeo. They showed how they taught their dogs to barrel race. Four dogs ran, two at a time.

Bert then invited two boys and two girls to run the barrels. The corral was quite muddy and thick, and while it was not soupy, it did make it difficult to run. Malachi, from Wheatland Coyotes Pathfinder club, was the fastest. Bert then pitted Malachi against Glory, one of the dogs. It was close, and they both turned the last barrel about the same time. Glory looked over to see how close Malachi was on her tail as he kicked it into high gear right across the finish line.

The Grand Parade began at the south end of the fairground. Every club marched in the parade toward the nightly program building. They marched in their Class A uniforms and, if they didn’t have those uniforms yet, in their field uniforms. It was a great way to welcome the Sabbath. More singing, more Mountain Man and more on God’s friendship with Abraham engaged the Pathfinders on Friday evening.

Growing a friendship with your best buddies is the work of a lifetime, just as a friendship with God takes a lifetime. Friends work on doing good or nice things for each other. Whitehead talked about traps to avoid in developing friendships, and shared that avoiding those traps applies equally to friendship with God.

Day three of the camporee started bright and early for the clubs that wanted to go to Glacier National Park. It was National Park Day and entrance into the park was free.

Golden Eagles Pathfinder Club were among the clubs that left at 5 a.m. with sack breakfasts and lunches packed.

Nampa Zephyrs Pathfinder Club had a more reasonable time of 7:30 a.m. set for their departure from the Northwest Montana Fairgrounds. They stopped at the Glacier National Park sign for an obligatory photo.

Their first planned stop was the Logan Pass Visitor Center. The parking lot was full, so drivers dropped off kids and staff at the center. The three vehicles that brought the club ended up finding parking two off-road parking areas away.

Golden Eagles and Sandpoint Northern Lights Pathfinder Clubs had already finished their hikes when Nampa Zephyrs Pathfinder Club arrived. Golden Eagles Pathfinder Club was headed to St. Mary Lake, and Sandpoint Northern Lights Pathfinder Club headed up to the Continental Divide sign for a group photo.

Once everyone was assembled, some of the group decided to hike to the Hidden Lake Outlook, a 1.5-mile one-way hike, mostly uphill on wooden boardwalks. Along the way, other clubs passed by. Sunnyside Spanish Exploradores de Jesus Pathfinder Club hiked all the way to the outlook sporting their bright orange hoodies.

Cascadia Eagles Pathfinder Club also made the trek to the outlook and said the view was fantastic. Wheatland Coyotes Pathfinder Club also made the hike. Puyallup Pioneers Pathfinder Club went to Flathead Lake. They enjoyed kayaking and swimming. Of course, since kids had paddles in hand, a splash war ensued.

Otis Orchards Pathfinder Club went to Glacier and saw a grizzly bear. They even had video to prove it! Members of Boise Ponderosa Pathfinder Club also saw the grizzly bear.

Tacoma Central God’s Northern Lights Club also went to Glacier. They had a great time, skipped stones on one of the lakes, hiked and had lunch.

One very special thing that happened in Glacier was the baptism of two Pathfinders. That’s what Pathfinder Camporees are all about!

Back at the fairgrounds, Montana Wild Wings gave a demonstration on birds. They showed a variety of falcons, hawks and owls. The volunteers shared that the birds they brought with them were on loan from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and are unable to be released into the wild due to the injuries sustained. According to the presentation, 90% of the birds brought to them are injured due to being struck by a vehicle.

Clubs gathered for supper and then prepared to come to the nightly program. Idaho clubs assisted with a flag burning. When a flag has become too worn to be flown, the special ceremony is initiated to respectfully retire the flag. Pathfinders joined in singing “God Bless America” as the flag was being burned.

Whitehead extended an invitation to the Pathfinders to choose Jesus to be their friend, just like Abraham. Some recommitted to Jesus, and 236 made decisions for baptism.

While Pathfinders is a lot of fun, that fun wraps around experiencing Jesus. Without that emphasis, Pathfinders would be just another youth group. Pathfinders is all about giving youth opportunities to experience and choose Jesus as their friend.

Some clubs packed up and left after the nightly program, especially those with a long way to travel. Others plan to leave Sunday morning.

Even though day one’s weather was a total washout, the "Let’s Go" NPUC Pathfinder Camporee was a great experience. Looking back, Pathfinders and Adventurers were able to learn a lot, earn honors and awards and get to know kids from other clubs and conferences. Many staff and Pathfinders were able to experience Glacier National Park for the first time as well.

Featured in: November/December 2022


Eve Rusk

Idaho Conference communication director