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Scout Camp is For Scouts

Last weekend I went with Alex and his Cub Scout Pack to the annual summer camp. I still maintain that a) I am not old and , b) I am not getting any older, but I did notice a difference between the Scout's glowing reports of camp in previous years and my experience.

Our summer has been very strange. We have had so much rain and cool weather which lead right up to camp. We didn't know if we should pack sun screen or a life raft, but the clouds parted and gave us (almost) 4 full days of sunny weather. Lots of sun after lots of rain equals what? Humidity. Being in the woods equals no wind or breeze of any kind so we had 4 days of 90 degree, humid weather and no breeze. I have officially turned into a softy because in Kansas we typically had, oh, 90 or 100 days of weather like that (except a with a constant 30 mph wind), but our wussy Seattle bodies were not suited to that environment. We made the Scouts carry a water bottle everywhere they went, and we all drank gallons of the camp's lovely, tea colored water (note to self: REI water purifier next year...). The result of all of that water drinking was that we did not loose any Scouts, but every 10 minutes someone had to go potty. Between finding and filling the water bottles and emptying bladders we were late to nearly every activity, but no heat stroke.

Our accommodations at camp were classic Scouts - borderline horrifying. My cousin suggested that they might be preparing us to deal with becoming homeless one day, but I have seen the homeless camps that pop up around Seattle and they tend to have better digs. Fortunately, I had heard about the tents so I brought my own - as did almost all of the other leaders. REI sells very slim air mattresses for backpacking, but all of the leaders, myself included, had the 6 to 8 inch thick, Target style air mattresses. Much nicer for, ahem, more mature campers. (I am NOT old!) I tried out my REI mattress and I am not sure how a quarter inch of air is supposed to help me. Anyway, I had fortunately gotten that particular memo so I was prepared. I won't describe the bathroom situation in case there are sensitive readers. I will say that I have seen better conditions in bathrooms in gas stations in Mexico. I hiked it over to the chow hall where there were flush toilets.

I don't consider myself a food snob. I like to eat good food, but I am not a gourmet. I don't insist on organic, fair trade, free range extra virgin corn flakes for breakfast, for example. When I sampled the cuisine at the chow hall I realized just how spoiled I am on a daily basis. How can someone mess up Mac and Cheese? Where does one go to purchase lunch meat that tastes like it was dragged across a salt lick? They did have coffee, but I think that it might have permanently burned away the protective coating on the inside of my stomach. (Note to self: bring some kind of REI gadget for coffee next year).

The activities were pretty good. BB Gun shooting, archery, swimming, crafts, etc. Each one started with a safety and rules talk, but I suppose that they have to do that. We stumped through the forest from one activity to the next, herding and cajoling sweaty, increasingly smelly Scouts, with brief intermissions for "food" or "quiet time." One difficulty was that I stopped wearing a watch - I use my phone to tell time. My shinny iPhone eats batteries, however, and I had no way to charge it in the woods. (note to self - bring Honda generator next year). None of the kids had a watch. Not one. Most of the leaders were in the same boat as me, so we pestered the 2 adults with watches constantly. The kids got fairly eaten alive by mosquitoes. Some of them had welts that were so large that we were concerned that they might have injured themselves somehow. I was reminded of the line from the Lord of the Rings, "What do they [mosquitoes] eat when they can't get hobbit?"

In the end we had four, hot, sweaty, bug bitten, tiring days of bad food and terrible accommodations. Will we go again next year? Hell yes!! Alexander had a fantastic time, saying something about how was it possible *not* to have a great time! My lovely wife also informed me that I will be attending next year because it gets Alex and I out of her hair for 4 days. Dammit. I wonder if I can get a motor home cheap....

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