I’m using the wayback machine here, this book was published in 2008. I’ve had a copy for well over a year that I’ve finally just gotten to. Why? Because I’m homesick. See, I love camp life — it’s a staple having grown up in a commuter town of Pittsburgh. Many families have a camp they go to on weekends and holidays. It’s the reason that Cook’s Forest Pennsylvania has all of the honkeytonk charm of seasonal go-kart tracks and trail rides, romantic bed and breakfasts, and fishing centric bungalows for rent. F-Troop Camp is one of those weekender camps, and happens to be just down the lane from our very own camp in the PA Wilds. Abutting the same public ground as ours, his stories are our stories. His observations much the same as our own over the years.
Don writes about average Pennsylvanians enjoying their little piece of mountain paradise. That struck a chord with me. See, in that, he is me, and where he was at 37 buying his camp is where I am now at 35. Looking for that piece of mountain paradise that comes from working hard and having the determination to carve off just a little piece of that to rest your head at night.
If F-Troop Camp Chronicles had been written during the peak of Instagram and Facebook social media “influencers” I’d be cautious about the hot spotting Don does in the book. But then, upon closer inspection — many of the stream names have been changed to protect the natives. Trout that is. Beautiful bespeckled brookies, and the occasional wild spawned rainbow. State Game Lands 86 is practically our front yard at camp — because it is I can walk out my front door and enjoy the same 14,000 acres as Don and his troupe. So seeing some stream names noted — Thompson Run, Perry McGee Run, etc was nice but in theory could cause undue pressure.
However the tinier, lesser known, and never stocked streams noted throughout the book — some of the names have been changed. Now I’ll have to go down to my office and stare at the topo map I have on the wall with all the streams labeled. Fancy OnX certainly doesn’t have all of them. The astute though, can deduce some gems from distances mentioned in the book. Though, I’ll leave that as an exercise to the reader to find F-Troop Camp, read the book, and feverishly map the small streams for tiny trout.
In the book the author makes several observations — taken from an interview with one of the reasons he bought a camp in the Pennsylvania Wilds, Warren Lary had 50 years at the Lary Camp — something to aspire to. In that time he saw things change, more people and more camps pop up. Indeed the Allegheny River valley has changed some even in the 25+ years we’ve had a camp. I’d say it’s different, not necessarily better or worse. In the valley a steady stream of people are retiring to camp, making it more residential, when they age out their children or new owners take over camps. It’s a cycle. But The F-Troop Camp Chronicles is an ode to camp life, a life worth living.
“I ask myself did I have a life worth living before the days of camp? If so, I don’t much remember it.”Don Feigert
The F-Troop Camp Chronicles is a quick read which scratched the itch as I hang out couch bound from my paternity leave. It’s a collection of his stories over the years of camp life from F-Troop and camps that had inspired him. While it takes some getting used to the nicknames of camp compatriots, it solidifies the fact that camp life is a fraternity, sorority, a not-so-secret society where if you contribute, you’re welcome. The collection of stories and musings on Pennsylvania, fishing, and camp life shouldn’t be missed if you have a camp in Northwestern PA or are thinking of it. It makes me homesick for our camp, and chasing the thin blue lines of trout streams unnamed on topo maps. Thanks Don.
“The fact that wild trout can live here at all means the land is good and the water is clean.”Don Feigert telling Bobby of the land in the Pennsylvania Wilds