My husband and I along with LC, ZM, and about 10 other Scouts spent last week at Camp Drake. (JD and DS are working on staff at one of our council camps this summer, so they didn’t go with us.) Since ZM has now crossed over to Scouts BSA, my husband and I finally get to attend long term camp together. Yeah!
Our troop does a three year rotation for summer camp. We attend one of the Scout camps at S bar F Scout Ranch one year, Camp Lewallen the second year, and an out of council camp the third year. We also do a second week of summer camp at Swift Base for Catholic Adventure Week every year, so we make at least one trip to “The Ranch” every year. This was our year to go out of council, and we selected Camp Drake based on some research of camps within about a 4 hour drive and a recommendation from a local troop which attended Camp Drake last year.
Camp Drake Review
Camp Robert Drake is located in eastern Illinois, near Champaign-Urbana. One reason we go out of council on a regular basis is that we want our scouts to have the chance to participate in some program opportunities not offered at our council camps. Camp Drake did not disappoint. They offer a very wide selection of merit badges. Several of our scouts participated in their older boy program, called Vermilion Trex, which included things like an introduction to scuba in the pool, offsite ziplining and horseback riding, and an overnight canoe trip.
The camp is well administered and we always had plenty of information or knew who we could go ask to find out. And the staff was excellent. These youth worked really hard all week and put on a great program. The camp had way more campers than usual the week we attended, which I know must have put a lot of extra stress on the staff. And it was very hot (over 100 degrees) at the end of the week. But they kept up their energy level and enthusiasm all week and really made it a great experience.
The program areas used permanent shelters and there seemed to be plenty of room and appropriate equipment for the program. Most of the program areas and the swimming pool are grouped together in the center of camp. The shooting sports range and scoutcraft areas are a just a few minutes walk away. Ecology also requires a walk. The pond, where boating takes place, is the exception. It is a pretty good hike.
Now I’ll take a break in the middle of my review for a story. I only went down to the pond once. One of the bridges you have to walk across to get to the pond is a narrow suspension bridge. I have a tremendous fear of heights/falling and I started out across the bridge and the bouncing was too much for me so I went back after about 15 feet. But then I decided to get courageous and waited until nobody else was around and, walking gingerly but quickly, made it across and went down to the pond. But then I had to cross the bridge again to get back. Once again, I waited until nobody else was coming and softly walked across. So I’m glad I conquered my fear to do it but once was definitely enough.
But enough about my anxiety about heights – back to the review! There were lots of programs for the evenings – games, scoutmaster competitions, etc.. Their favorite was the cardboard canoe races in the pool. The OA callout was very well done and one of the first year scouts couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards.
Meals are served in a dining hall. The food was good and plentiful. For pickier eaters they also provided peanut butter, jelly, and bread. They were careful about allergies and even worked with people with special dietary needs, such as vegetarian. Friday dinner was a luau in the dining hall with music and limbo which was fun. Saturday morning they served “Lumberjack pancakes” which were giant pancakes which had to be flipped with snow shovels. The scouts really enjoyed that.
Our campsite was a nice wooded area with plenty of shade, several picnic tables, and a fire ring. We had a flag pole and were provided with a flag for daily flag raising. Many of the troops there used their own tents, but we used the camp canvas tents since that is what we prefer for summer camp. They do not have floorboards, so we brought troop tarps for each tent. The camp provided cots also.
So the bottom line is that we had a great experience at Camp Drake and would recommend the camp to others. If you have additional information, a favorite memory, or story about Camp Drake, feel free to add it to the comments below.