Camp Tontozona offers ASU an outdoor getaway

August 28, 2007

The embers in the big iron stove glow, and snow lightly dusts the ground. The football practice field is a sheet of white, just waiting for someone to make a snow angel. And it’s quiet as a mouse.

Welcome to winter at Camp Tontozona, ASU’s own retreat and playground in the mountains near Payson. Download Full Image

Though most people think of “Camp T” as the place the Sun Devil football team goes for preseason training, the camp actually is open to all ASU employees, graduates and students, nonprofit organizations and select off-campus groups.

Situated on 45 acres in the Tonto National Forest about 17 miles east of Payson, Camp T includes eight cabins of various sizes, a large dormitory, dining hall and meeting rooms, all of which can be rented year-round, with a capacity of 150.

There are hiking trails, places to swim and fish, two large practice fields, and lots of places to sit and simply “be.”

It’s also a perfect place for retreats, geology or other camps, conferences, and even weddings.

On a late winter weekend, when the temperature dipped to around 20 degrees and the snow fell fairly steadily all day Friday, ASU employees Bill and Janice Hetke were cozy in the Executive Lodge with Janice’s twin brother, Paul Sim, and her mother, Jean Sim, 84.

The Hetkes have been to Tontozona about a half-dozen times, and this was their fourth visit – a birthday celebration for Janice and Paul.

They had not been to Tontozona for eight years and were pleasantly surprised by the changes.

“Since the last time we visited the camp, the Executive Lodge’s kitchen appliances had been upgraded, along with the furnishings. The first thing we noticed was that the outside of the cabin had been painted and it looked inviting,” Janice said.

The Hetkes prefer to stay in the Executive Lodge, with its massive stone fireplace, open floor plan and knotty pine paneling and doors.

They always bring a few extra things to create a homelike atmosphere, such as votive candles for the fireplace mantel, a tablecloth for the kitchen, a bowl of fresh fruit and candles for the coffee table.

Even though the Hetkes now have their own cabin in Prescott, they enjoy going to Tontozona occasionally for a change of pace.

“We like to experience nature in a way that’s different there from anywhere else,” Janice said. “For instance, one year at twilight we saw 50 elk gracefully jump the fence to feed on the field.

“For about 20 minutes they all grazed on the grass until headlights from a car spooked them. Startled, it took all 50 elk just seconds to jump another section of the fence that took them up the snow-covered hill.

“All four of us – my husband, brother, mother and I – felt in awe of what we had witnessed. After viewing the elk, my mother said, ‘This whole weekend couldn’t be any better unless it were to snow.’ And, of course, it did.”

While the Hetkes were snug in front of their fireplace, Tim Farley, a 1987 industrial engineering graduate, rounded up his children, Ryan, 15, Kathryn, 6, and Jack, 4, to sled near the Sun Devil Lodge. (They would later set off to find a steeper slope.)

Farley and his wife, Christine, have brought their children to Camp T nearly a dozen times.

“We like to go to Camp T because it is close to the Valley, it is safe, and we love the football field, the dark nights, and the walks we can take to Kohl’s ranch,” Farley said. “The people are nice, and the firewood is a good deal. It is also affordable.”

ASU acquired the original eight acres of land for Camp T in 1951. Shortly thereafter, Professor Martin Martensen of the Science Education Department began taking his students to the mountain retreat so they could conduct field trips in cooler weather.

Historic records show that Martensen, with the assistance of faculty, staff and students, built the original camp using salvage materials from the ASU campus. The College of Architecture then constructed one of the first buildings on the site.

By 1959, the first small football field for pre-season training had been completed, with Frank Kush helping to move rocks and level the dirt.
Camp T has come a long way since 1951. Today, it’s a destination that all members of the ASU community can enjoy, summer, winter, spring or fall.

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Poetry project reveals the power of words

August 28, 2007

Alice normally lives on a mountain in Phoenix.

But for several weeks, “home” was a room in the Mayo Hospital while she made the first strides in recovering from a stroke. Download Full Image

Ironically, from her hospital room, Alice could see the mountain where her home was. And so, when Sheila Britton wrote a poem about Alice, she titled it “Alice’s Mountain.”

Alice’s poem, completed in May, is one of more than 50 that Britton, managing editor for ASU Research Publications, has written in the past two-and-a-half years as part of ASU’s Poesía del Sol, a joint project of ASU’s Creative Writing Program and Mayo Clinic’s Center for Humanities in Medicine.

Karla Elling, manager of the Creative Writing Program, coordinates Poesía del Sol, and Alberto Rios, Regents Professor of English, who holds the Katharine C. Turner Chair in English, is the faculty member facilitating the work. The project recently won a Community Governor’s Arts Award.

Every Tuesday afternoon, Britton travels to the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix with her laptop, a portable printer and a supply of paper folders.

She spends time getting to know one patient, usually a person in palliative care. During a visit of an hour or so, Britton chats with the patient, making notes about his or her jobs, travels, children, pets and dreams. Then, with images fresh in her mind, she goes to a quiet place in the hospital and writes a poem about the person.

Finally, she returns to the patient’s room, reads the poem, and presents it as a gift, printed on handmade paper and tucked inside a folder also made of special paper.

Most Tuesdays, Britton finds a person to write about, but occasionally no one is available.

Her quest usually begins on the third floor of the hospital, where notebooks for Poesía del Sol are kept at the nurse’s station. During the week, Mayo’s physical therapists write names of patients they think would be good candidates for poems, as does Vicki McDermott, a singer who participates in the Humanities program.

Britton notes their names and room numbers, then begins chatting with the nurses about who would be appropriate.

“It’s helpful to talk to the doctors and nurses,” Britton says. “They know if someone is talkative.”

On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Britton checked on three patients before finding Alice. One had checked out, one was asleep, and the third was too ill.

“If I don’t find anyone in the hospital, I go to Sherman House, which is Mayo’s hospice,” Britton says.

Generally, Britton writes poetry for patients who still are receiving treatment but nearing the end of their lives. But occasionally, there will be a person who is seriously ill but not dying. One such person was Kai, an 18-year-old patient with lupus who had contracted Valley fever.

“I asked him if this would be something he enjoyed,” Britton says. “He had a tracheotomy and he couldn’t talk, but he nodded yes. His mother answered all of my questions. When I returned to Kai’s room, his mom had gone home to take care of their daughter, and his father was in the room. He had not talked when I was there before. When I finished reading the poem and Kai spelled out, ‘Can I have a copy?’ his dad said, ‘This is amazing. We’re going to hang this on the wall.’ He seemed very moved.”

Why create poetry for very ill or elderly people?

C.J. Kennedy, coordinator for Mayo’s Center for Humanities in Medicine program in Arizona, said Poesía del Sol “gives them the opportunity to express important moments of their lives, and the poem produced is a cherished gift for loved ones of the patient.”

Poesía del Sol “takes the best writers we can find,” Kennedy adds, “because it requires writing poetry ‘on demand.’ The writer usually has less than an hour to create the poem based on the patient’s words, but formed by the poet’s use of metaphor and imagination.”

Alice’s daughter, Barbara, says that her mother “very much enjoyed the ‘discovery’ part of being interviewed. Some of her information caused some poetic misinformation, but generally the poem is right – and we both thoroughly enjoying hearing Sheilah read it.”

Another Tuesday there will be another life, and another poem.

“Every life has a poem,” Britton says.