Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Siege Camping

Over a year ago, I wrote of the differences I noted between the sort of camping I have loved most (backpacking or mountaineering), and what I called "car camping."

In the third week of July I was re-introduced to something I had totally forgotten, and which I quickly dubbed siege camping. It was a strange sort of a combination of "returning to my roots" while yet clashing with "everything I know and love about the outdoors." I went to Woodland Trails with my son's Boyscout Troop. As an Eagle Scout myself, I'm hardly a newcomer to "The Boyscout Way"... but since the majority of my outdoor experience occurred after my time in scouting, I apparently had forgotten just how "camping" works for a Boyscout Troop.

I told the Scoutmaster I would be there Monday morning by about 9:00 a.m. True to my word, I packed my Mountainsmith Backpack the night before, containing everything I thought I might need to survive for a fortnight or so, and arrived at the GRC campsite in Woodland Trails the next morning to find THIS:

(Yes, that object in the foreground appears to be a folding cot stolen from a Holiday Inn somewhere around 1972.) Since the first shot misses it, there are four... count them FOUR complete "camp kitchens" under the shelter:

Compare that to my usual camp kitchen, and you'll see why I was somewhat confused upon my arrival at camp...

Needless to say, I had to do a little adjusting... I was suddenly in a place that was more like being in the city than it was "camping" ... with the exception being that the kids smelled worse. The feeling of being at home was even more exaggerated by something that (I think) is completely new to scouting since my departure somewhere around the age of nineteen: MOTHERS coming along on scout camp-outs and scoutcamps. Don't get me wrong: I think mothers are the greatest... my own mom is a saint and my wife is the most wonderful person I know.

That said... mothers don't belong in BOYscouts. Go ahead and call me "sexist" or "old fashioned" or just plain old, "asshole." (You won't be the first) but Boyscouts is about making boys into men... and moms can't do that. Nothing can screw up a boys development into a strong, independent man like a woman shrieking at the top of her lungs for him to "Put that stick down before you hurt someone!"

I understand, lady... you made a bad choice in who was to be the father of your child: he skipped town or died of a drug overdose... you feel like your son needs something else in his life, so you shove him into scouts. Fine... you think to yourself, "Boyscouts will fix my screwed up kid." Although I have my own issues with your motives, I accept your son as he is ... now GO AWAY. Leave. Drop his little screwed-up ass in the woods and let MEN fix him. Shrieking women don't make boys into men... MEN do.

There was a calendar of who had KP when... a list of things that needed done... a schedule of who had what merit badges classes when. Was I in school or in the woods? I couldn't just dig a hole 300 feet from the nearest water source or trail and poop in it, I had to go poop in a nasty, filthy outhouse. Moms screamed at kids to take showers so that "you won't get diseases," even though I know that I have gone up to 21 days on an expedition without a shower and lived just fine. (Kids came back smelling like Zest and getting eaten by mosquitoes...) and moms yelled at kids to put more chemicals (DEET) on their skin to scare the skeeters away. My favorite mom kept insisting that we all spread Bounce sheets around our tent and the picnic shelter to scare the crawly things away... note to mommy: It doesn't work, and MEN aren't scared of little bugs.

So anyway... for one week the boyscouts and their shrieking mothers basically beat this campsite into submission, as opposed to the quiet serenity I had become accustomed to since growing out of scouting almost twenty years ago, but the sum of the parts is good...

Even with the things about scouting that I found myself bewildered by and turned off by, two things kept coming to mind: First, the words of one of the scoutmasters kept floating into my head. He said, "My goal is that I could drop any one of you anywhere in the world and you would be able to survive." Think about that for a second... really think. Your first thoughts were probably of Bear Grills or Survivorman on the Discovery Channel; but the scoutmaster didn't say that, did he? He said anywhere in the world. A ghetto in New York City. Raton, New Mexico. The middle of the Rocky Mountains. A third world island country. Anywhere. It's an awesome and lofty goal, isn't it? But this man meant it, and I have no doubt that he has and will contribute to many, many boys being able to survive anywhere that they find themselves in life.

Secondly, I remember the words of my own scoutmaster, Tom Whitten, as he was handing me a Senior Patrol Leader patch: "Scouting is about boys to leading boys." As I watched during my days at Woodland Trails last month, I could see the cream rising to the top. Leaders were being made.


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