Monday, April 19, 2010

The Thing About Camping

Packing Up to Go Home

This past weekend my sister and I helped take the youth group camping at a nearby state park. The weekend's activities included canoeing, hiking, card games, wood chopping, whittling, midnight geocaching, jumping, cooking over open flames, scrubbing pots with handfuls of sand (because we'd forgotten the scrubbers), storytelling around the campfire, and very little sleep.

The thing about camping (and let's get this straight: by camping I mean tenting) is that I've never really enjoyed it, possibly because nearly every time I've camped in the past ten years, I've been responsible for hordes of teenagers. But it's not just that. It's the late-night walks to the bath house, the spiders' webs that I never see until it's too late, the bug bites, and my special knack for always choosing the part of the tent directly over the most lumpy area of ground for my bedroll.

I'm not a novice in such situations. After all, I spent an entire summer living in a tent when I was sixteen. But let's face it. I'm not sixteen any more.

And I'm all for roughing it... you know, if we have to. Like, if there's some global catastrophe, and it's the only way of survival left available to us. Or if we're suddenly punted back in time and we find ourselves along the actual Oregon Trail. (Just a side note: it was decided this weekend that while my sister would not only survive but thrive in such a situation, I would die immediately of yellow fever.)

Not that I don't think camping is an important experience: I do. Why else would I take groups of teenagers camping each year, prying them away from their cell phones, game systems, Facebooks, and distracting modern conveniences in order to experience massive amounts of fresh air and (sometimes dangerous) close encounters with nature? Who hasn't experienced that rare blend of exhaustion and emotional clarity that can only be brought on by blending a lack of sleep with an overabundance of fresh air?

As I dragged myself home yesterday afternoon, reeking of woodsmoke and Off!, I thought about how different adult life has turned out to be from what I'd expected.

Most of us assume that when we grow up, we'll only do the things we want to do, and we'll be able to stop doing all the things we're forced to do when we're younger (such as go camping when we'd much rather stay at home for the weekend and be comfortable). We eventually learn, though, that some of the most important things we will ever do in life are the things that we do when we feel least like doing them, especially when we do those things for the best possible reasons.

But before I wax philosophical for the rest of the post, allow me to share with you several memorable moments of the weekend:
  • Two of the girls misheard my directions and thought I told them that if they had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and take a buddy with them, they would have to take a bunny. They really thought I said this at first, too, because while one girl was saying "What bunny?" another was saying, "Where are we supposed to get a bunny?"
  • One of the girls and I were walking along a bike trail in the middle of the night (slightly separated from the group while geocaching) when suddenly we heard a noise in the palmettos to our right. The next thing I knew, I was completely alone on the path. I've never seen a girl run so far so quickly.
  • While on the same bike path, another leader and I were walking in front of the group and came across two snakes slithering across our path. While the kids clumped up behind the leaders and acted, you know, like kids, I yelled, "Don't worry, I'll get it!!!" and started jumping up and down on a twig that was on the ground really close to the snakes. The kids didn't react, but the other leaders laughed... AT me. (Disclaimer: I was really, really tired at that point.)
  • We hid from the kids, jumped out, and scared them so badly that one fell over completely.
  • One of the girls killed a huge spider in the bath house by throwing a huge trash can across the room at it. Classy.
  • I dropped a piece of bacon on the ground while cooking over the skillet. Not my best moment, but one worth noting.
  • Also, this weekend I decided that I want to learn to throw knives. We'll see what happens with that.

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