June Lake Camp 2012 by Nancy Fiddler

June Lake Camp 2012 by Nancy Fiddler

Photos by Mark Nadell

Records show that this year’s Far West June Lake Camp was the 19th Annual! The first camp, held back in 1994, was actually held in a now closed campground at Horseshoe Lake in Mammoth, but for 18 straight years, Far West Nordic juniors have been gathering every July for some great training in the beautiful June Lake area. The camp has a colorful history of peak bagging high Sierra summits, roller skiing on the mostly deserted eastside roads, ski walking on the endless June Mountain summer road, rope swinging, swimming, and all kinds of camp shenanigans. The camp coaching staff has included just about every coach who has been involved with Far West for the last two decades, including a few campers-turned coaches. Coach Fiddler has not missed a camp yet in this run, including one pregnant summer and the following summer with Baby Laurel riding in a car seat while Nancy coached roller ski workouts out of her car.

The roster at June Lake Camp 2012, made up of participants from Truckee, North Tahoe, Incline Village, San Jose, and Mammoth, was an enthusiastic, hard working group.  These kids, skiing for separate school teams in the winter, trained as one cohesive Far West family for four days, pushing and supporting one another through some pretty tough workouts. Coaches Nancy Fiddler, Mark Nadell, Marie French, and Austin Meng led the daily charge from 6 AM until 10 PM, leading workouts, driving, cooking, motivating, entertaining, and even chasing camp bears.

Day 1 began under a cloud of rain for the Truckee-Tahoe participants.  Coach Mark fearlessly drove the ever-finicky ASC van crammed to the max with athletes and gear, with Austin driving a fully loaded support vehicle (thanks Gerald!) from Truckee to June Lake. They blazed south into the wind, tearing the rain tarp clear off the roof of the van.  Meanwhile, the Mammoth contingency was quickly claiming all the shady tent sites in the Oh Ridge campground. The wind ended up being the story of the rest of that day and night, but camp was finally set up and the campers were led on a late afternoon “ice breaker” hike up the Rush Creek trail. The day ended with Coach Fiddler’s chili and corn muffins.

Day 2 warmed up with the popular straight uphill warm-up run through the forest at June Mountain, followed by a group stretch and classic drills. Coach Nancy taught the group how to kick and glide up a set of stairs, then the group broke into two to get to work on hill bounding and ski walking technique. The grand finale was a ski walking/moose hoofing interval workout that took the athletes almost to the June Mountain Day Lodge. Tired and sweaty, the group repaired to the Gull Lake rope swing for some water action.  Lunch, cards, naps, reading took up the next few hours until it was time to get ready for the second workout; a double pole workout at Crowley Lake. After a quick double pole tune-up, skiers headed south on the Crowley Lake Drive from Long Valley.  Many of the campers skied all the way to Tom’s Place with Coach Austin, 8 miles down the road, and some even made it half way back, for a total of about 12 miles. It was back to camp for a quick swim and a pasta dinner. There wasn’t a camper who didn’t give it his or her “all” this day, but dinner was a boisterous affair, followed by the inevitable Apples to Apples game.

By the time Saturday morning rolled around, there were visible signs of wear and tear on both the campers and coaches. But, everyone rallied for the much- anticipated Mt. Conness hike. Stories have been passed down over the years about this summit, located in the Tioga Pass area of Yosemite National Park. This beautiful peak is crowned with a spectacular and airy summit ridge, which has been burned into the collective memory of the June Lake Camp. This year, it was decided that the group would break into two to climb this revered mountain. Because of the threat of thunderstorms, everyone rallied early to eat breakfast and pack lunches, with a new early camp departure record set. The trail was hit by 8:30, and everyone settled into a good hiking rhythm, first through the sunny meadows of Sawmill Canyon then straight up the “vertical meadow” leading to Alpine Lake. From there, it was talus hopping to the steep goat trails that gain the summit plateau.  Finally, the route took the group across the plateau to the base of the summit ridge.  Moving carefully, the campers made the summit, with more than a few breaking through some strong fear barriers. Coach Austin broke out the two watermelons he had hauled up in his pack, making for a good celebration.

Back down the road, the tired skiers gathered at Mono Cone for a treat, which seemed to revive everyone, for not too long later, they were all rope swinging again. It was burrito night back in camp, followed by a campfire and s’mores.  A karaoke session was threatened, but it turned into more Apples to Apples and a mysterious boys “night hike”.  Who said there are no bears in the Oh Ridge campground? Well, there are, and Coaches Mark and Austin taught that bear to not come back to our camp ever again!  Coach Nancy pretended to be asleep. A few boys learned the lesson about not to leave food in tents, as well.  No harm done, but it made for an exciting night. 

The final day of camp broke to cloudy, humid conditions. There were some tired countenances, but the morning proved to hardly be a waste of time with a trip down to Benton Crossing Road for skate technique and some easy distance, followed by Austin strength and Nancy agility at the ball fields, which we shared with some nice black cows. It all ended too soon with a rushed swim, lunch, and packing up. There were some teary good-byes as the northbound vehicles departed, and June Lake Camp 2012 was over.

Thanks to all the June Lake Campers for their great energy and focus! A special thanks to Coach Ben for shopping and packing all the great food we ate, to Kelly for keeping the records straight, and to Marie, Mark, and Austin for doing whatever needed to be done at any given time. See you next summer!