In the last post, I started wrapping up the work done during the camp training I was able to take in early May, and today I thought I’d finish that wrap up by just walking folks through the approximate timeline for the training–it kind of summarizes all the outstanding part of the training not yet covered by previous posts.
Friday, May 6th
3:00 pm — My friend and camp trainer Stacy Lieder picks me up. We hit the road for the drive to Camp Wind-a-Mere in Alvin, TX, just outside of Houston. We throw our gear into one of the campsite’s platform tents and meet up with an extraordinary lifelong scout and trainer, Rusty.
7:00 pm — Stacy, Rusty, and I head into town for a great typically Texas diner meal. You have to love a place that lets you order gravy by the cup, as a side dish. Rusty, it turns out, is one of the most interesting and exceptional women I’ve ever met. In her 70s, she’s wicked funny, and she does not suffer fools gladly. She’s a wealth of quality information, and I can tell I’ll be a fool if I don’t just shut up and soak it up like a sponge.
8:30 pm — Back at the main lodge at Wind-A-Mere, Stacy and Rusty are getting supplies together for the Saturday training.
9:00 pm — A group of junior scouts, camping at another spot at Wind-A-Mere, come up to the lodge. Stacy pulls out her guitar and teaches the girls a number of very hip little interactive tunes. By 9:30, however, the girls are starting to fade, and by 10:00 they’re heading back to camp to sleep.
10:00 pm — Rusty starts to put me through my paces. She takes her responsibility of making sure I’ve got my head on straight about how to lead a group of girls on a camp outing. She asks me a series of questions, based on the training manual, which just make a lot of common sense to me, and Rusty seems pleased–especially since she gives the distinct impression that she doesn’t see a whole lot of common sense out there in a lot of adult scout volunteers.
11:00 pm — The three of us are back at the tent site. Rusty and Stacy are yakking at a picnic table, and I’ve donned Charles’ head lamp–infinitely better than a flashlight, and I’ve got to get us another one. Within moments, I see what appear to be dew droplets on blades of grass, reflecting in the light. Only thing is, there’s no dew anywhere. And it dawns on me I’m actually seeing spider eyes! Stacy and Rusty get a kick out of me as I wander around the area “looking for jewels.” Yes, I suppose it’s really childish, but it’s really cool.
12:30 am — sleep.
Saturday, May 7th
8:00 am — Local adult trainees start to roll into camp. Everyone registers and is assigned to one of three patrols. The patrol leaders and participants have come prepared with menus, kaper charts, cooking utensils and more. In addition to Stacy and Rusty, we meet two other trainers.
8:30 am — Training in knot tying. The knots aren’t for show. We turn around and use them to set up tarps on poles under which each patrol will eat. Concurrently, one of the patrols is getting ready to lead the morning Flag Ceremony.
9:15 am — Flag Ceremony, followed by large group instruction on camping, outdoor cooking, environmental care, and safety basics.
11:00 am — Patrols begin prepping for lunch, based on kaper chart responsibilities. Concurrently, individuals go off to collect plenty of tinder so everyone can make their own one-match fire, put it out, and clean it up.
12:30 pm — Eat lunch, then clean up. Now, clean up is a pretty interesting process. It took three bowls of water. The first, a hot, soapy solution was used to scrub down dishes. The second, lukewarm, was used as a first rinse. The third, cold with a cap full of bleach, was a sanitizing final rinse. When the dishes are done, you throw out the hot and lukewarm water first, then you use the bleach water to sanitize the first two bowls before tossing it out, too. Don’t remember that we did it this way when I was a kid. And I have to confess that I didn’t feel all that good about tossing even a small amount of bleach into the bushes. Somehow that didn’t feel like “leave no trace” to me…
2:00 pm — Patrols divvied up for more camp training. We sharpened knives, lashed tents, considered the ever-important care of latrines. And we received a great deal of guidance in how the camping experience can be used to build the confidence and skills of young women. In the age of the “helicopter parent,” this seems more important than ever. Self-sufficiency in young adults matters.
4:30 pm — Each patrols is assigned chief responsibility for one of the three evening ceremonies–flag, campfire, and scout’s own. We begin with the afternoon flag ceremony, and I have to say that the gentleman who both raised and lowered the flag at both of the day’s ceremonies was really moving. A veteran of the Iraq war, no one could take their eyes off him and his commitment to his country, symbolized by this simple ceremony.
5:00 pm — The Scout’s Own ceremony, led by our patrol, took everyone to an open meadow where we formed a large circle and each shared a brief reflection on the days’ training. As the only trainee there not actually associated with a troop or young women, my remarks focused on how much this experience reminded me that we are always, always learning, regardless of our age.
8:00 pm — Campfire ceremony. Listen, by this time, people were pretty fried from a full day of skill building. And as I recall, the day was scheduled to end at 8:30 — and we were clearly behind schedule. So what could’ve been a really fun, chill hour with some very cool women felt pretty hurried. We learned some songs, had a skit, discussed the kinds of other activities adults could help guide at a campfire, and that was about it. Cool and noteworthy, however, was the very creative use of battery powered light placed beneath some wood to simulate the effect of a campfire. Nice call, given the burn ban!
9:00 pm — Trash is taken to the campground dumpster, the lodge is swept, the tarps are put away, and all traces of the day’s training pretty much disappear. Rusty, Stacy and I are pretty much the last to leave.
So there you have it. Apparently, if I just go through a background check, I’d be officially certified to take girls camping, which is amazing if you ask me. But for a woman who never pitched a tent before she was 35 years old, I do feel significantly more informed, my outdoor skills are sharper, and damned if I can’t light a fire off of one match now.
Thanks again, Stacy — I sure do appreciate it!