Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Survival of the Fattest

Did I mention that I'm just not a big fan of camping? It’s a tremendous amount of work that I would not have to do if I were at home. I have a difficult time relaxing around a camp fire when survival is a delicate balance between staying warm and spontaneously combusting in front of the towering inferno that our scout master creates with a few logs and the butt of a cigarette. Cold dry air combined with the heat of a camp fire dehydrates a person quickly. I’ve never been able to drink enough fluid to stop the inevitable vicious migraine that begins on Friday night and ends on the return trip Sunday when I pull into a truck stop for a case of Mountain Dew and two Excedrin. Our assistant scout master stretched, reclined in his chair, and opined, “Isn’t this relaxing?”

“Yeah,” I replied. “By the way, your shoes laces are on fire.”

In many ways, this past weekend’s campout was like any other Boy Scout winter camp-out, if you ignore the fact that a new member of the Voices of Thunder volunteered to bring a trailer full of wood to the camp site so that we would not have to venture into the dark snowy woods to locate fallen timber upon our arrival. It was an exceedingly generous offer. When he arrived his trailer had just enough wood to burn for fifteen minutes, if it had been burnable.

“I was amazed at how much wood was left up by the lake,” he told us. “Nobody had taken this stuff, so I snatched it.”

“That’s because it’s green,” the scoutmaster observed.

Oh, you can burn green wood. When you have an established, roaring campfire a green log will bubble and hiss and steam as all the water is boiled out of it. Then it will burn nicely. But, we didn’t have an established fire when we arrived Friday night with the temperature hovering at a nippy eight degrees above zero. There is more heat in a can of Sterno than there was in Friday’s campfire. You know you’re in for a long night when you hope to fart in your sleeping bag just for the heat it will generate.

Saturday morning the thermometer read -5.

The boys participated in a ten mile hike around Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge while newbie and I remained at the campsite to gather wood. The hike was intended to be a twenty mile hike for the Hiking Merit Badge, but was cut short by high winds, cold temperatures, and freezing rain. When the troop returned to the camp site I politely suggested to the scout master that the next hike be scheduled in nicer weather, before the searing heat of summer but after the frigid arctic winds depart for the season. He pondered this eureka moment with an amused smile. He has more interesting scouting activities to pursue in the summer months, so this event was relegated to the winter. Apparently, there is nothing better to do in a foot of snow than to recreate Amundsen’s race to the South Pole against Captain Scott of the Royal Navy.

With a wood pile the size of a small house, the main task for the Voices of Thunder on Saturday night was to adjust our chairs closer to and farther back from the campfire in order to remain warm without melting the tips of our boots, while scheduling first and second desserts around the evening’s activities. The boy’s held Campfire, shared Roses and Thorns, and departed for snowy adventures that involved getting too wet for the weather before bedding down for the night. The Voices of Thunder watched as two new Eagle Scouts (boys who earned the right to sit at the VOT campfire) marveled at the size and BTUs of our campfire as well as the volume of food that was cooked. Two fourteen year old boys begged off thirds, complaining that they needed to go into training to be able to consume that much food. They peacefully slipped into a food coma in their chairs before wandering off to their tents a few hours later. One pound of bacon, one pound of sausage, one pound of cheese, one pound of hash browns and 24 eggs were cooked for breakfast the following morning in one-half of a skillet that is large enough to bath a small child and needs two men and a dolly to move. That fed six people nicely.

We made it home in once piece. The next campout isn’t until the end of January. It’s the annual Klondike Derby, a huge winter camporee at Fort Leavenworth, where troops from all around the area compete in skills events while the Voices of Thunder continue the tradition of moving our chairs closer to and farther back from the campfire in order to stop from burning off the lower legs of our pants and turning fleece lined camouflage trousers into capris. Our Scout Master wants to hold a pig roast.

One winter camp out is completed.

There’s only three more to go.


Kellie said...

Stories like this make me glad I'm a mom. We aren't expected AT ALL to do things like that.

Oklahoma Granny said...

All I can say is your kids are very lucky indeed to have such a fantastically wonderful dad who would brave that kind of cold to camp.

Michelle said...

I agree-your kids are very lucky to go with you. I still love my camper and will never give it up. I can't see Kevin camping in a tent anytime soon either. He loves his heated mattress too much. So, Trey ventures off with the other Boy Scouts into the frozen tundra. Thankfully, this campout is inside this month-next two months will be the cold ones! Have a great day!

Teacher Mommy said...

Good lord. Seriously? This is how you spent your weekend?

Um, I mean, wow. Sounds amazing.


The Boss said...

Wow. Now my comment about how hot I was when you called from the ranger's building seems really cold.

Sorry, I know how you like a bad pun.....

Kathleen said...

"You know you’re in for a long night when you hope to fart in your sleeping bag just for the heat it will generate."


You are certifiably crazy! And I only say that with admiration...I don't venture out to the store in 8 degree weather (in the rare event that that occurs 'round here) because I can't hack the short run from car to warmish store foyer.

TobyBo said...

I am amazed your fingers are thawed enough for you to type.

Anonymous said...

OH WOW! I remember when we went is was cold but...WOW!

You're such a good daddy to go through all that for your lil' scout!

TobyBo said...

RYC: thanks for the clarification on nuts and drupes. Our dictionary required you to know things like what exocarps and mesocarps were and I did not want to make a full study. Though, our dictionary specifically said almonds are drupes... and I think they are a little like peach pits, so... maybe...

tsinclair said...

Hello! I have wandered over here every now and then from Kathleen's site. This post strikes close to home as we recently experienced a very cold camping trip ourselves, and we didn't even get any badges for it.

Way to go Dad!