Camping out with the troop. The youth leaders have got their patrols to sleep, held their quick meeting to plan the next day and turned in for the night. It’s 10pm and totally quiet in the camp. I change my socks, tuck into the bag, zip up, set my alarm for 6:30, put my shoes by the tent door, prop up on my extra sleeping bag, and turn on my Kindle.
A long day, a full belly, a quiet forest, and a warm sleeping bag conspire to shorten my time catching up with Fyodor Dostoevsky, and I’ll be snoring in a few minutes.
The best time and place to eat a deep-fried turkey: November, at the family campout two weeks before Thanksgiving, surrounded by active young people who will eat all but a full slices so that I am not inclined to eat half the damned bird.
Seriously delicious, and courtesy of our wise and tireless Scoutmaster, Mr. E.
While the rest of the troop curls up in their tents, our intrepid Senior Patrol Leader throws down a ground cloth, a pad, and his sleeping bag alongside his backpack, curls up, and snores contentedly. Behind him is his camp chair, to which he has tied his crutches, upon which he has neatly hung his field uniform (“Class-As”), water bottle in reach.
He’s come a very long way since our first campout together 9-1/2 years ago. Now he wants to take me backpacking along the Pacific Crest Trail. He has gone from video game couch-potato to an intrepid outdoorsman, and I give all the credit to the Boy Scouts of America and the encouragement of his teachers at school.
A little note to my friends in China and elsewhere who disparage the value of extra-academic endeavors beyond those that will polish college applications: when we slash everything out of our children’s lives but academics, we not only shortchange our offspring: we shortchange society, our nations, and the world at large.
Never in our history has it been more important to raise resilient children.
This is the best time of a summer day in California’s Traverse Ranges. A trickle of sea breeze sneaks in from the West, and the desert to the east has not quite made its influence felt. At 64F at 6am, the temperature will rise one degree every twelve minutes for the next six hours, and the humidity will drop below 20% and stay there until long after sunset.
I am as yet the only one awake in camp. I sit in my chair and enjoy the cool and quiet, planning the day, grateful that kind colleagues and spotty coverage ensure that flow of emailed trivialities shan’t interrupt it.
A last coyote protests the dawn in a far hillside. A blue jay darts across my view. The yellow jackets hum in the water buckets. And the trees hum with that distinctive sound made only by a mountainside of conifers catching a rising breeze, sounding like the distant roar of a cheering crowd.
The camp stirs. Alarm clocks go off in six tents within a few moments of each other. Groans, yawns, and farts emerge from the tents long before their sources do, but the troop is waking. I pull on my Keens, straightening my field uniform, and pull my protesting bones out of my chair.
“Good morning, two thirty-four,” I say at a low baritone.
The scenery was beautiful, and any other time of the year it would be an ideal place to take a scout troop camping.
In the summer, during a heat wave, temperatures in triple-digits, relative humidity 10%, and no shade beyond our canopies and tent flies is not ideal. The expression on my face was unintentional: five minutes in the sun was too much.
After this short recon, we decided to shift the campout to someplace with water.
We will camp at Red Rock eventually, but we will wait for a time of year when the list of available activities can extend beyond endurance and survival.