Divide Camp, the organization dedicated to helping 9-11 veterans suffering physical and psychological trauma from war, served a record 48 veterans this year.
The organization offers healing through integration with nature through a number of pursuits including hunting, fishing, hiking, rafting and other adventures.
Board vice president Andy Marcum said a number of positive changes took place at the camp, which is located on the Big Sheep Creek Divide.
“We got our outdoor kitchen finished, and all our cabins are up and running well right now,” he said. That kitchen really turned out great; I was really surprised.”
He also said much forestry work was accomplished as well as the building of a perimeter fence, which should help keep out wayward livestock.
He added that a cross-fit trail was added to camp amenities as well.
“Guys can come out that are into that kind of thing,” he said. “They have a trail with 15 or 20 stations.” One of the camp’s vet guests designed the trail
The camp also hosted its first archery tournament this year. Marcum said 15 veterans participated in the competition. The donated prizes gathered through the efforts of board member Tyler Andreata were particularly amazing, according to Marcum.
“We gave away three bows to first, second and third place along with targets and archery gear,” he said. “It was really good, and the guys that came felt blessed for sure. They left here understanding archery a little better and excited to pursue it more in the future.”
The camp also received a $5,000 donation exclusively for the tournament from the employer of one of the vets who participated.
Marcum said that the camp did have a little trouble filling their two back-country hikes, and he wasn’t sure why.
“We have super awesome guides who do this,” he said. “Going up in the Eagle Cap is something that’s hard to beat.”
He added that the rafting and hunting trips the camp offers are easy to fill, and the camp is looking toward adding other activities to the hiking to make it more appealing, such as a hunt or fishing in the high lakes. A pack trip with llamas did get a number of takers, he said.
Hunting proved very successful this year as at least a dozen veterans returned from successful hunts. Several more hunts are slated for the middle of November and are full. Other vets will come up for hunting through February and will stay in a bed and breakfast-like situation in town with volunteers as the camp is difficult to access through the bitter winter months.
The camp had an end–of-the-season celebration in late September that saw more than 20 people attend in addition to the camp guests. The camp’s first hosts, Jess and Barb Wallgren, of Ruch, also enjoyed their first season at the camp and plan to return next year.
Another first included a visit from Faith in the Field, a Christian organization that normally helps facilitate dream hunts for the terminally ill and cancer survivors.
“They’ve never done veterans, and they’ve always wanted to do that,” Marcum said.
It took more than a year of communication between the camp and the group, but Faith in the Field journeyed to Wallowa County this year and filmed two of the bull hunts. Two buck hunts are also slated for filming. A showing of the film is tentatively scheduled for March 2, 2019, at the Enterprise Christian Church.
“It should be super powerful,” Marcum said.
Camp director Julie Wheeler noted several other accomplishments at the camp this year, including the building of a storage barn which allows for the use of the camp’s walk-in cooler, which was used to hang elk and other game harvested by vets.
Wheeler also noted the success of the llama back-country hike.
“Each hiker got their own llama, and by the end of the hike, they had gotten to know each other really well,” she said with a laugh. “The guys were just in love with them when they got back.”
Wheeler also noted the camp’s Rogue Valley fundraiser netted more than $35,000 for the group, which helped sustain the camp through the season. The acquisition of premium hunting tags for vets were also a major boon, as Wheeler noted.
The director also noted that fishing trips included going out on a pontoon boat at Wallowa Lake, courtesy of Alvin Isley, and rafting included a trip down the Snake River with Winding Waters River Expeditions.
“They take really good care of us,” Wheeler said.
Next season will be the last for renovations, which will include turning the main cabin into a community center. Three llama hikes are also in the works along with a new guide, David Bowers, who also has extensive medical training, thereby serving two purposes.
“It’s been a good year in so many ways,” Wheeler said. “The quality of experiences for our guests has been so good. “We’re really looking forward to what next year brings.”