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Cockrell River Camp at El Rancho Cima, Sam Houston Area Council, near San Marcos, Texas
We arrived at El Rancho Cima quite a bit later than usual, around 7:00 p.m., having traveled from Lost Pines Scout Camp with a smoked sausage stop in Lockhart and a work stop in San Marcos. Assistant Director of Camping for the Sam Houston Area Council, Frank Mund, was kind enough to extend his usually long day to include finding time to get us settled in and taking us for a quick tour of the two summer camp properties found on the Rancho. Our first glimpse of their camps was the Cockrell River Camp and then a short trip to Horseshoe Bend Camp, a short trip owing to all Horseshoe's campers marching to the Council Ring for a confab. Despite the short introduction to Horseshoe Bend, one thing became quickly apparent to us, and that was that even though the two camps are on the same property, they are as different as night and day.
Cockrell River Camp lies along the Blanco River which runs through the sprawling El Rancho Cima property. All program areas, except shooting sports, are located within 100 feet of the river. Navigating this compact camp proved to be a pleasure after some of the sprawling, wide-open camps that we visited previously. The morning after our arrival Matt, the Camp Director, was kind enough to drop us at shooting sports across the river and dam and up a long hill so we could start our photographic effort for the day.
By 10:30, we had reached the other end of the camp passing by all of the program areas and, most interestingly, two or three campsites featuring six-man tents that are built into a hill and supported by raised stone pillars. It reminds us of an ancient city in Tibet; however, we saw no yaks. These elevated tent sites are reminiscent, too, of oversized treehouses, and are well sheltered by old, spreading live oaks, as were all the campsites we saw.
The feeding style in camp is somewhat unique in that Scouts prepare their own breakfast and lunch from camp-supplied foods and eat dinner together in the open-air dining hall located above camp on what is affectionately referred to as Appetite Hill. Older Scouts and Scouters might prefer to take the switchback route.
With only a half a day allotted to visit camp, we were glad that it was so quickly navigated, but it's not a small camp by any means. We were most impressed by the waterfront area with large oaks coming down to the shoreline of the river, surprisingly clear water, and plenty of room for swimming, canoeing, snorkeling, and rowing.
Cockrell River Camp also provided us with one of our favorite photographs from the summer tour: the democratic waterfront buddy check. Rules are rules, and no one is exempt from buddy check – no one, not adults, not the best swimmers, not anyone.