The camping adventures continued through the years. When my girls were in grammar school and junior high, I had them in Girl Scouts. That provides for a number of off-the-wall camping experiences, you may be sure. Three guesses who got to be the troop leader..(the first two don't count)...Right! At one point, I had two troops--a Brownie troop and a Junior troop! Oh, such fun. Welll.....there were times....
One camping adventure with the scouts involved a springtime trip, and the weather was still, as the TV weather reporters say, "unsettled." On the packing list for the girls to bring was very clear advice that it would likely rain that weekend, and to be sure to have "a rain poncho, a warm jacket and either rain boots or a change of shoes."
Most of them managed to show up properly equipped, but I had to wonder about 2 of the parents. Did they even know what rain gear was?? Or, did the parent ever even see the packing list? One girl packed a light windbreaker jacket as her 'warm jacket,' and the other had an umbrella. Seriously?? An umbrella out camping is a hindrance and can be a hazard as well. Neither girl had any footwear but the sneakers they were wearing, but at that point, it was time to leave, (Friday, after school), and too late to do anything about it.
Not only did it rain, it down-poured! Makeshift ponchos were made by cutting head holes and arm holes in leaf-size trash bags. Not much could be done about wet shoes...those two girls were quite miserably cold and damp for the duration. I bet they learned something, though! And that is a big part of the whole point of Scouting!
The assistant leader and I were both very experienced campers, and had our own gear in order, our tents 'trenched,' and rain flies installed. We had a foil tent over the propane stove, and proceeded with the Saturday pancake breakfast. The girls lined up, and as you might guess, there were one or two.. (not saying which two...) who failed to listen to the advice to, "Hold your plates upside down while you are in line." Again, most everyone else did as told, and the assistant was serving up the pancakes as fast as they came off the turn, and did not notice that 'someone' had water in her plate. Ooops.. Oh, well. Soggy pancakes are what you get when you don't 'get' the instructions!
It was on this same trip that a maker of tents had called our local association chair, to inquire if we'd like to use some of their tents, free of charge, to test and provide feedback. The timing was perfect, so we agreed. Each leader had one of the tents.
The tent designer had one good idea, but it was fatally flawed: the screen window privacy flaps were on the inside instead of the outside--that was the good idea part. Unfortunately, they zipped down from the top, and rolled up at the bottom where they were sewn to the body of the tent. This made a superb catch-basin for rainwater, and when in the morning, the girls opened the flap, they got a cold shower of water on them and down into their sleeping bags!
You've heard no alarm clock quite like the screaming of a dozen girls in a neighboring tent! Two or three of them got the cold shower; why all of them needed to scream I never did figure out.
Besides that, despite instructions to the contrary, the kids managed to be traipsing in and out of the tents all day long...tracking in mud galore!
The weekend was a washout. After arriving at camp Friday afternoon, waking up to rain on Saturday morning, and on and off rain all day Saturday, it was pretty miserable all around. By lunchtime on Saturday, there were so many wet and muddy sleeping bags (trampled and sat on with wet clothes from girls disobeying the order not to be in and out of the tents..)..that a meeting of leaders was held, and we called the trip and went home Saturday afternoon instead of staying over till Sunday.
Prepared and dug in as I was, I was peeved. My girls & I could have stuck it out and managed to stay.
Upon arriving home, the the tents were so trashed with mud that I had to bring them to my mom's house, set them up in the yard and hose them off inside and out! Then, I hung them upside-down to dry in her garage, ours not being tall enough.
On another trip, I seriously had to wonder about some of the adults. Again, we had sent home a detailed packing list with all the usual camping accouterments: 2 changes of clothing, extra socks; mess kit and dunk bag; sleeping bag; ground cloth; etc. The cooking gear was communal, and the responsibility of the leaders.
Would you believe, we had a parent call and ask, "What's a sleeping bag?" My assistant and I were stunned! How could anyone not know what a sleeping bag is? Even if you've never gone camping, how can you miss seeing the displays as you are shopping in such all-purpose stores as Target or Wal-Mart??!! I'm afraid that story made the rounds of the entire association's complement of leaders!
Then, there was the problem with parents in general not being able to distinguish between a sleeping bag and a slumber bag! The former is for camping, the latter is for indoor-only slumber parties.
Sleeping bags are temperature rated, based upon the type and amount of insulating filling. Those rated to 30 degrees are suitable for most all trips. Zero-degree bags are for camping in cold climates, or where snow is expected.
Slumber bags, on the other hand, are little more than fleecy blankets with a zipper, and not nearly warm enough for sleeping outdoors. Nonetheless, every year without fail, in spite of being advised otherwise, some kid would show up for camp with her slumber bag in tow...and she was usually very cold all night. The best we could do for such unfortunate children was to scrounge an extra blanket to put under the thing, and place her in the middle of the other sleepers rather than on an outside edge. Hopefully, the child went home and clearly explained the difference to her parents!
When you are out camping, things are different than they are at home in your kitchen. You don't step over to your sink and turn on the tap for hot and cold running water. At camp, the water faucet is most likely a hundred feet or so from your campsite. It provides cold water only. If there is a restroom with plumbing, it probably also has only cold water.
Still, dishes must be washed, and hot water is needed. It is not hard to figure out what needs to be done. So, imagine our speechless surprise when one of another unit's parent-volunteer "assistant leaders" sauntered over to our unit to inquire, "Where did you get your hot water?"
Whaaaaaattt????? You're joking, right? Was our initial reaction. While none of us spoke this aloud, you'd better believe we were thinking it! We simply could not believe that this adult woman, mother of children, had to be told that you simply put the water in a pot and heat it on your camp stove. Wow! She would be one who would not be a survivor in a disaster!
To be fair, I must tell a tale on one of my own kids. Growing up camping as she did, she should have known better, but she has always been known for her own brand of logic, being especially creative when she was young. (She's still very creative--just in a different way.)
Well, on this one trip, for some reason, she had decided she was too hot inside her tent, and dragged her sleeping bag outside to sleep under the stars. Unfortunately, this campground was in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, an area known for its cool summers. While the daytime temperatures at camp were pleasant enough to allow for a swimming pool, the fog would roll in from the coast at night.
Poor kiddo had placed her sleeping bag right underneath the drip line of a tree, and woke up soaking wet in the a.m. We had to take the thing down by the pool and hang it on the cyclone fence all day to dry, as that was the only part of camp with all-day sun.
(This was the same child who, on another, non-camping, trip, pulled blankets onto the floor of a motel room, "because the mattress was too hard." HUH??!! That kind of logic was hers in spades!)
Perhaps I should write a book...more to come... ;-)