Explorers Camp has a knack for finding God in unusual places. They are explorers after all. Two weeks ago twenty five campers and their counselors descended into a rocky creek valley near the base of North Mountain and stood ankle-deep in the frigid water. Armed with D-frame, telescoping nets and their bare hands, the explorers discovered an abundance of life under the cold, hard stones of Salt Peter Run. From the surface, the creek looks devoid of life. It is narrow and rocky and not deep enough to accommodate fish. Under the rocky substrate however, it is teeming with: tadpoles, crayfish, larvae of stoneflies, crane flies, dragonflies; and best of all, case-making caddis flies, tiny insects that spin silk and use it to tie together pebbles and sticks to make their own shelter. These organisms are indicative of pollution-free waters and proof that God has planted life in every nook and cranny of Creation.
The Explorers also know that even though life is abundant, it is volatile. People can change a creek habitat in a flash. We frequently add new creatures to a stream without knowing it. The introduced animals are many times smaller than the larvae of caddis flies and they spread illness. E coli. bacteria originate in the intestines of warm-blooded animals and has unfortunately appeared on several occasions in the other little creek that runs through Orkney Springs. Man-made sources: farms, sewers and even pets are frequently at the root of a bacteria impairment.
Service to God is a major theme at Explorers Camp and stewardship of Creation is part of that. That is where Explorers got “sciencey”. Try to follow along… The campers collected water samples at five different points on the creek, mixed each with a catalytic auger, poured the samples into Petri dishes and incubated them for 24 hours at 95 degrees Fahrenheit in a farm incubator to grow cultures of tiny reproducing creatures. The next day they counted the cultures and recorded the data. This was done to find potential hot spots where E. coli might be entering the creek. It will give Shrine Mont staff baseline information when making decisions about infrastructure improvements and maintenance. Yep, these really are camp activities and they all boil down to embracing our duty to be caretakers of Eden.
So, the Explorers don’t just go camping (not that camping isn’t a spiritual experience in its own right). Here are some photos to prove that science and camp go hand in hand.