Tuesday 19 June 2012

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The Top Five (or Ten) Things I Learned While Camping

Two nights. That was it. In all I spent just over 48 hours at camp last week, barely enough time to fall behind on my chores at home or lose track of the Euro 2012 soccer tournament. For my first time at camp though, the learning curve was steep.

See, I'm not much of an outdoorsman. I knew going into this trip that I would be solidly out of my element, but I looked at it as a chance to experience something different...learn something new if you will. In that aspect, I certainly wasn't disappointed. I came home from this trip having learned far more than I ever did in any 48 hour span of sitting in a classroom. I'm just not sure that I have any real-life uses for these lessons, so I'm going to put them down here in the hopes that they might be helpful to some of you. Do with these teachings as you will, but please, remember the sacrifices made to share this knowledge.

(If you're wondering why it says "or Ten" in the title, I learned way too much to fit into one post, so lessons 6-10 are posted on the More Kids Than Suitcases Facebook page. Don't miss valuable tips about brownie eating wildlife, collapsing canoe seats, and the dishwashing shift you want to avoid.)

#5 - There's Cell Service in the Strangest Places.

I was warned that there was no cell service at the camp we would be staying at, but about half way through our first hike of the trip, we came upon a clearing and my phone started beeping from incoming messages. Yes, I'm that guy who has his cell phone along on the hike. I also had my wallet and car keys with me. I told you, I'm not an outdoorsman. A quick bit of shuffling around (thus forcing everybody else to hike off the trail to get around me) led to my finding a place in the middle of nowhere that had five bar cell reception. Of course that exact spot involved straddling a pile of moose droppings, but that seemed like a small price to pay for the ability to check Facebook. I did feel a little bad about holding the hike up while I tweeted out some pictures though.

#4 - Don't Lean Into Corners in a Canoe.

It works everywhere else in life. If you're riding your bike and you want to turn right, you lean right. Same thing with a skateboard, a scooter, or even a jet-ski. Canoes however, seem to have their own set of rules. It would have been nice if somebody had shared these rules with me, although since everybody else seemed to know these rules, I can only assume that they covered them while I was on Facebook in the middle of the wilderness.

#3 - It DOESN'T matter how cold the lake is. It DOES matter how cold the shower is.

I don't really understand this one. The same kids who happily spend hours in a lake that is being fed by water from a glacier, to the point of losing feeling in their extremities, will complain bitterly when they're the last people to the showers in the morning and the bathroom water has dipped below 80°F. Personally, I found the shower temperature to be too hot, but then again I wasn't crazy enough to go swimming in melted snow. I'll confess that the water trampoline did look tempting though. If there'd been a hot tub joining land and the trampoline, I might have given it a go.

#2 - Campfire songs have actions, which apparently everybody knows except me.

I didn't expect to know the songs. I spend as little time as possible around campfires, so being clueless when it came to the lyrics was an expected condition to find myself in. Still, I wasn't expecting to spend my time listening to songs about a moose named Fred who drinks juice in bed (at least it rhymes). Apparently he's pretty clumsy too because he gets a lot of it in his hair. Equally surprising was finding out that there's actions to go along with the juice-spilling activities of said moose. I'm getting the feeling that people who frequent campfires have a lot of spare time on their hands. Time they could be spending making me S'mores.

#1 - If you're tired enough, the comfort level of the bed isn't really important.

I'll be honest...the bed didn't look promising. I got the bottom bunk beside the door, furthest away from the fireplace. When I dropped my bag on the bed for the first time, I was greeted with a "Whack" as opposed to a nice, soft bouncing sound. Mix in the 11 boys who were sharing the cabin with me, and the signs weren't really pointing towards me getting a decent amount of sleep. What I didn't factor in though, was the complete exhaustion that comes from trying to keep up with teenagers for 16 hours a day. In my youth I'm sure I would have played all day and then come back to the cabin and complained about the hardness of the mattress. At my age however, I don't even remember my head hitting the bed, never mind whether or not the mattress was missing a pillow top. As a chaperone this probably wasn't the ideal situation since traffic could flow freely through the door without my supervision, but really as long as the kids sneaking out or the squirrels sneaking in didn't wake me up, I was perfectly fine with it.

Written by Steve Pratt