Posted June 9, 2017
Before heading off to the wilds of West Virginia to offload your youngster for a few weeks at summer camp, you glance once more at The Checklist. No odyssey to summer camp launches without The Checklist:
- Warm blanket – check.
- Plastic shower caddy (one that drains) – check.
- Rain jacket/poncho – check.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, bug spray – check, check and check.
And that’s just a fraction of the stuff that’s headed to camp. They’ll need Sherpa porters to haul all of your child’s gear from the car to their assigned cabin – much of it fashioned from or with the help of natural gas and oil.
Your kid will be warm and cool, hydrated and clothed, thanks to products derived from them. Everything from toothbrushes to Teva sandals are manufactured with materials made from oil. If Junior comes home sunburned or ravaged by skeeters or chiggers, it’ll be his own fault for not applying the lotions and sprays you sent with him – with ingredients made from petroleum. Energy makes “roughing it” outdoors not so rough – and safer, healthier and cleaner than ever before.
This summer some 14 million children and young adults will beat the summertime blues and breathe in the fresh air at one of the nation’s 14,000 day and resident summer camps. For many in the Mid-Atlantic, that could be camp in “Wild and Wonderful” West Virginia. Whether high-tech retreats – like the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve near Glen Jean, W.Va., that will host scouting’s ginormous National Jamboree in late July – or one of the many Appalachian Mountain camps that are more low tech, products made with natural gas and oil make for a great outdoor experience.
The moment most campers step out of the car or off the bus, they’ve already benefited from the gasoline or diesel that powered the vehicle to get them there. But that’ll be galaxies from their minds as they take in the surroundings and in their eagerness to make new friends. First things first: stowing all that gear.
More than likely, the camp bunkhouse and surrounding grounds are reliably rustic. At the far end of the rustic scale are camps that focus on getting away from it all by not using electricity (like this one). Even so, you’re likely to find staffers using lanterns after sunset that run on a naphtha fuel – one of a number of products that refineries make from petroleum – sometimes known as Coleman fuel or, more generically, white gas. Meanwhile, energy is present in nylon and polyester sleeping bags and backpacks, both made with materials produced from petroleum that help make them lightweight and durable.
Outside, kids are eager to get the fun started. There’s plenty to do, whether the camp is large – like Camp Twin Creeks near Marlinton or Camp Greenbrier at Alderson – or one of the other 70 or so camps across West Virginia’s rolling hills and mountains. And energy helps make it happen.
An archery range is set not far away, and bows and arrows wait for each camper to do his or her best William Tell impression (aiming at targets, not an apple on another camper’s head). The bowstring is made of Dacron wrapped with a petroleum-based nylon thread, which reinforces the ends and the middle where the arrow and archer's fingers meet during each shot. The children take their shots, not quite bull’s-eyes, but they still hit the target.
Excited shouts echo through the camp as campers zoom overhead on a zip line. Kids climb up the tower and they put on a sturdy, plastic helmet – an energy product made either using natural gas liquids or with petroleum through a process known as “cracking.” They strap on a harness made with plastic and nylon, both products of natural gas and petroleum, and clip to the zip line, ready to go flying through the air.
Back on the ground everyone hits the water in Hypalon, urethane or PVC rafts and plastic and fiberglass kayaks, all petroleum-based products. And along the shore another group fishes with fiberglass and graphite fishing poles, again, all made with energy, including petroleum-based plastics and resins for binding and natural gas to heat and mold the shape.
When it’s time for something more serene, campers flock to the arts and crafts building to join a class that paints pictures of some of the native flowers. Some kids decide on a vivid pink rhododendron, the West Virginia state flower. They grab a canvas and some supplies, including a selection of acrylic paints, which use a petroleum-based polymer emulsion binder, to start their masterpiece.
OK, so maybe masterpiece is a bit strong, as the rhododendrons look more like “The Blob,” but there’s always tomorrow.
The dinner bell rings, it’s time to head to the mess hall and eat, with much of the meal prepared on propane stoves, the same natural gas and petroleum fuel that heats the water in the camp showers.
It’s been an active first day, and with four more weeks to go, it promises to be an energy-filled West Virginia adventure!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.