A Common Experience
July 2, 2015 by Don Gentle
The last of the cabin overnights headed out this evening. Typically, the youngest guys head out last to give them a little more time to acclimate to camp and the cabin. The cabin overnight is a common experience shared by all of camp. Each cabin takes one night early in the session to head out to one of our five open air shelters on the property. They cook out, enjoy some time together around the campfire, and then sleep. Sounds simple enough, right? It is…for the most part.
The best stories come from the youngest age groups. It starts with getting everyone ready during rest hour by packing up their pack; one counselor and six guys who are more enthusiastic than you can imagine, but are not as skilled at organization. The skilled staff member will have the boys find one item at a time and put it in the pack. “Toothbrush?” “Check!” “Sweatshirt?” “Check!” Down the list they go until is all set. The most challenging part is finding ways to get the sleeping bag (which is typically as big as the counselor) stuffed, rolled, and attached to the pack. Step one complete!
Now, we need to remind all the boys to meet back up in the cabin at 5pm to head over and get the group gear. This time of day is typically choice period/free time, the favored part of the day…AND it is two hours AFTER they have been instructed to so. Success rate is about 75%… They get all the scattered kittens out of the gaga pit and free swim back together and over to mystic hill for staging. Water bottles are filled, group gear is distributed and spots are found for all the gear. With pillows, stuffed animals, and sleeping bags filling the backpacks of the campers, the counselors carry the bulk of the load. Finally, a few sleeping bags are re-attached, shoes are re-tied, and around 6pm we are ready to hike… ” I have to go to the bathroom” shouts one boy. “My water bottle is empty” shouts another. Needs are met and, again, a few sleeping bags are re-attached. A couple boys saved from the impossible task of getting up after sitting down with their pack on, and they are on their way again.
It’s a short hike of less than a mile to any of the shelters. The group arrives and is ready for their camp out. Gear is unpacked while one counselor starts to cook. The menu has been set for many years; pita pizzas, carrots and fruit, maybe some pretzels or chips, and s’mores. Each counselor has their own method to the madness for these wonderful creations. The boys love the pizzas. They will eat until they are full. Half of the food that is served is scattered about the campers body like he bathed in cheesy tomato sauce creating a perfect adhesive to attract anything including dirt, leaves, and bark. The fire has been miraculously created as the smartest counselors send the boys into the woods to find pieces of wood the size of their forearm so that they can secretly make a fire without hazard. The boys slowly figure out how their Crazy Creek chairs work (with assistance) and find a place by the fire. Time for s’mores!
Rules are set as is the table for the delightful campfire dessert known the world over. The smell of burning marshmallow flesh fills the air as the counselors skillfully assemble the gooey creations and allow the feast to begin. Again, half of the s’more has found its way ON the camper rather than IN the camper. Most of it attached to the cheesy, dirt substance already there.
The sun is down, the food is up and they enjoy a few group mysteries around the campfire. Time for bed! The boys squish themselves into the shelter like worms lined up in a sardine can laughing, yelling, and trying to figure out where their pillow went, what time it is, and where is that water bottle. We didn’t brush our teeth! A party gathers at the edge of the shelter as the boys compete trying to spit the farthest. Again, adding some more adhesive to the cheesy, marshmallow, dirt substance already present on their face.
After the last giggle and bodily noise has ceased, they finally fall asleep…”Charlie?” “I have to go to the bathroom.”
After what seems like about two hours, it’s time to get up! The reality of the night is exposed in the morning light with personal items everywhere and young boys who now look like the original “Lost Boys.” Time to pack and get back BEFORE breakfast. Packs are loaded, items hastily returned to any pack that will hold it. Sleeping bags are stuffed and attached, somewhat more haphazardly this time. Whatever it takes to get back to the cabin and to breakfast.
As the group slowly makes its way back to camp, counselors just grab items as they fall from children’s packs along the way. The dining hall is spotted and a last ditch push is made to get home… They make it to the hiking shed where group items items are slowly gathered. Back to the cabin they go.
With little time to change, several of boys make their way to breakfast in the same clothes they had on last night. I ask one boy how his cabin over night was last night. He looks up at me with a greasy, cheesy, marshmallow grin…shirt stained with the tomato, butter, cheese dirt adhesive created in the wilderness and says, “how did you know I was on an overnight?” I suggest maybe we at least wash our hands and we head to the hand washing sink. The stories of the night begin as we wash our hands. The cabin overnight is a success!
The here and there rain was a welcome addition to camp today and it didn’t seem to scare away anyone from normal activities. We have a couple more trips tomorrow before we all retreat back to camp for the Independence Celebration Weekend! We sure are having a blast!
Have a great evening,