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Welcome to Camp Wolverton
Camp Wolverton is a Boy Scout camp located in Sequoia National Park, California, at an elevation of 7,200 feet. The camp is about two miles from the former Giant Forest Village, and three driving miles (or one hiking mile) from Lodgepole Campground and Visitor’s Center.
Today, Camp Wolverton is somewhat of a primitive base camp in the shadows of beautiful red fir trees, several of which are probably 250 to 300 years old. The older and larger Sequoia trees are only a few miles away.
There is no electricity in camp, but there are hot showers in the shower house building. There are three nice camp sites that can accommodate a total of about 75 campers. Each campsite contains picnic tables, water, fire barrel, trash can, bear-proof food storage locker, and a latrine. The lodge that was built in 1947 is still standing strong and is used by the Staff each summer.
Scouts currently use the camp in a variety of ways. Many troops use Wolverton as a base camp prior to leaving on a long-term hike into the High Sierra. These troops usually spend only a night or two in camp. Backpacking from Wolverton, using the 15’ Triple Divide Quadrangle Map, is excellent! Other troops and Scouting families spend an entire week at camp and set up their own “summer camp”. There are still numerous in-camp and near-camp opportunities, short day hikes, and Park Service activities available.
Because of the high altitude, the camp is traditionally open and/or usable only during the summer months of June, July, and August. Deep snow and freezing temperatures prevents year-round use.
The camp does not have an official philosophy, but if it did, it may be the words which were painted on a camp map made in the 1950’s:
“REAL SCOUT CAMPING IN THE HIGH SIERRA”
Wolverton was never a camp for sissies. Whether you were in camp, walking among the Sequoia tress in Giant Forest, or fishing in the backcountry, you knew you were a “real” Scout.
In the 1970’s, as concern for the environment grew, two new philosophies were embraced at Wolverton. They were: Minimum Impact, and Low Profile. All Scouts attending the camp learned about these two concepts. Large groups of Boy Scouts were no longer appreciated in the backcountry, or even at Lodgepole for that matter. So, the Staff at Wolverton taught the Scouts how to spend a week in the National Park while making a minimum impact on the environment, and also keeping a low profile.
These concepts have been modified through the years on a national level as the conservation movement became the environmental movement, and environmentalism put pressures on the scope and manner of traditional wilderness use.
During the mid 1990’s, federal agencies such as the National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and US Fish and Wildlife Service were becoming alarmed by the lack of knowledge exhibited by front country and backcountry users. In conjunction with the National Outdoor Leadership School, these federal agencies developed the Leave No Trace [LNT] program. LNT updates the philosophies and actions of “Take Nothing But Pictures, Leave Nothing But Footprints” and puts a 90’s spin on it.
Many old time minimum impact wilderness users don’t like LNT because the program lacks any hard-fast “rules” and prefers only to offer “suggestions.” For instance, we learned that building fires was bad, no matter what the context. LNT teaches that fires are a matter of personal choice and if you build one, make sure it is in an environmentally “safe” manner. And if you get into camp late at night, or are cold and wet, and even if wood is in short supply such as at 12,000’ in Kings Canyon, it would be alright to have a BIG fire if you thought it was called for.
Choice is a wonderful thing, but choice without responsibility is one of the tenets of outdoor recreation that minimum impact camping was trying to remedy. Camp Wolverton always taught it’s campers to be responsible campers.
The Camp and the National Park Service
Rumor has it that Camp Wolverton is the only Boy Scout camp in a National Park (Operated by the U.S. Department of the Interior). This is not to be confused with the many Scout camps which exist in National Forests, which are operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture; their motto is “Land of Many Uses.”
Camp Wolverton has continued to exist because of the conscientious efforts of the Camp Staff. Over the years, the Staff has tried to make sure that the Camp, and the Scouts using it and the Park, didn’t become a problem for the National Park Service. The largest task has always been bear management; rarely do a few days go by when a bear isn’t seen in camp. If the Camp Staff had allowed the bears to routinely get food and/or trash from the camp, there is a good chance the camp wouldn’t be here today. A primary role of the Staff in the 1990’s and the 2000’s has been to maintain good relations with the Park Service. Long-time Staff man Rich Stowell has done an excellent job at that.
Stan Morse, who worked on the Council Executive Committee recalls that relationships between the Boy Scouts and the National Park Service were strained at times. “There were also many men, as members of the Council Camping committee, and as interested Scouters, who through work parties, material donations, etc. kept the physical part of the Camp together. At one time in the 1960’s the Camp was scheduled to be phased out by the National Park Service. It was then that Don Douglas Jr. (Council President) interceded with the head of the Department Of Interior and the closure was cancelled.
Apparently, there was no formal record of the Camp even existing in the Park for its first 50 years or so. In 1990, Rich Stowell secured a five-year special use permit from the Park Service. In 1995, Rich was able to renew the special use permit for another six years, thus taking the camp into the 21st century. Camp Wolverton’s long term ability to survive has always been uncertain. Since 2001 the Camp has been on an annual permit with the Park Service. Frank Glick and others went to public meetings throughout California, and wrote letters to the Park Service, in an attempt to convince the Park Service it is in the Public’s best interest to keep Camp Wolverton in place. So far that effort has been successful.
Since the 1970’s, the Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks have been working on a Master Plan for the Park’s future. Many changes have already occurred in the Parks, and many more are being planned. Until the last round of analysis and planning, Camp Wolverton and the Boy Scouts were not mentioned in any of the formal reports – that was either good news or bad news. Now the Camp has been recognized and it is listed as a “special use”. The official published options range from keeping the Camp the way it is, modifying it in several ways, or removing it all together and restoring the grounds to nature. As this is being written, the ultimate future of the camp is still uncertain. Time will tell. In the meantime, we made it to through our 70th summer and 70th Anniversary, and the Camp continues to be open each summer with a special use permit from the Park Service, and the support of the Western Los Angeles County Council.