Girls camping with their focus on the Spirit

Heber Valley Camp offers nature without distractions

HEBER VALLEY, Utah — The Heber Valley Camp exists not to teach fire building, pioneering, or even camping. Delving into those traditional crafts is possible here, but the Church-owned property has been developed to facilitate programs that will strengthen the spirituality of young women, according to its managing director, Stan Miller.

The camp's facilities and amenities "take away the consuming nature of camping and make it so Young Women leaders are free to teach the girls," he said.

Located high in the mountains about 10 miles east of Heber City, the Church camp covers 8,500 mostly forest-covered acres bordered by the Uinta National Forest and some private property. The Church spent three years building the infrastructure, and is now open for its second season of use, Brother Miller said.

The camp has been under the direction of Utah's three Church areas. With organizational changes coming in August, it will fall under the direction of Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Presidency of the Seventy who will oversee Utah. Young Women use of the camp so far has been by assignment from representatives of the Utah North, Utah Salt Lake City and Utah South areas, Brother Miller said.

He noted that it is a bus camp. The camp administration arranges for buses to pick up the young women at their stake centers at the beginning of the week and then deliver them back there at the end of the camp. That limits the number of vehicles in the camp.

Within the total camp complex, there are currently four individual camps open, with space for a maximum of 25. Each camp, named after prominent women from the scriptures and Church history, consists of five campsites with three cabins each and can accommodate about 250 campers. There is, at this time, one tent camp.

Among the facilities are the cabins, pavilions, rest rooms, showers and kitchens. The camp has electricity and propane lines.

Each log cabin — there are traditional rectangular shaped as well as round yurt-style — has 16 bunks. Campers provide their own bedding.

There are large pavilions, suitable for the young women of a large stake, and medium and small pavilions appropriate for smaller groups. Besides covered tables, the large pavilions have enclosed kitchens, a first aid station, and living quarters for leaders. The kitchens have inside cooking, cleaning and serving capabilities with a walk-in refrigerator/freezer. The other pavilions also have refrigerators and cook stoves. The rest rooms have full plumbing and there are multiple private showers.

The outdoor experience includes hiking trails through the forest, amphitheaters with fire rings, and multi-use fields. There are two confidence courses complete with certified staff. There, groups can learn principles such as teamwork as they scramble over logs, figure out how to traverse several tree stumps without touching the ground, or ride down a zip line. A swimming pool is planned for the future. The Church also owns a 14-acre lake that will be developed for recreational use.

Not to be overlooked are fresh air, clean water, cool nights, breathtaking vistas, forests of aspen and conifers, meadows, wetlands, wildflowers, and an assortment of deer, chipmunks, birds and other wildlife.

While providing the Church News with a tour of the camp, Brother Miller said, "This is my thought. The Lord knew from the beginning what the end use of this property would be." Then he added, "The camp brings the girls to the tops of the mountain, to sacred property where they can look upon the beauty of God's creation and reinforce their testimonies."

Built primarily for Young Women groups, the camp is limited to their use through most of the summer. Because of that, it is governed by strict rules to provide safety for the girls as well as the opportunity to carry out, without distraction, the programs designed by their leaders. All except those authorized to be at the camp are turned away at the gate.

However, a few weeks prior to and following the season for young women, the camp is open to stakes, wards, families, Boy Scouts and other groups. By reservation, those groups can use most of the facilities of the camp for a fee.

The camp is staffed by senior couples who are service missionaries. They are camp hosts, building supervisors and maintenance workers. There is a demand for more missionary help, Brother Miller said, adding that the requirements are a willingness and ability to serve as well as access to a camp trailer for living on site and an ATV for transportation in fulfilling duties.

Much of the maintenance and improvements at the camp, such as building trails, raking areas and hauling gravel, are done by volunteers — about 50,000 volunteer hours a summer, Brother Miller said.

The camp Web site is complete with information describing the camp and clearly stating its rules and restrictions. Reservations can also be made through the site:

E-mail to: [email protected]

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