Bearing It, But Grinning

I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors. I’m often more comfortable without modern conveniences. I love camping, but I dislike the preparation. Camping is a lot of work, so I do anything I can to minimize my load to pack. My preferred meals are high energy per serving and take up little to no space in a cooler.

I do opt for a few modern conveniences.  I must have coffee in the morning.  I’ve found individually packaged tea bags of coffee in the percolator are easily portioned and best for a quick cleanup.  I usually do bring an alternative heat source in case stoking the coals on the campfire is out of the question in the mornings.  When camping alone with family, I usually use a Swiss volcano stove, but I’ll bring a small propane burner when with a group in case someone else might need an extra cooking surface.  I also bring an air mattress.  My body can no longer take sleeping on just a camping mat anymore.  But, my mattress is lightweight, and I bring a hand pump rather than one that requires electrical power.

LGDOct19 140My recent trip was a group outing.  I prefer the quiet and solitude of primitive family camping.  I usually avoid other campers as much as possible and keep to myself.  However, camping in a group has its benefits.  This trip unexpectedly ended up lifting my foul mood that had seen no signs of improvement over the last few weeks.  Besides, the folks I was with are pretty good company.

Eugenie_Gershoy_SleepMy very first experience with group camping was excellent.  I was part of a coed scouting group that taught the kids very well.  As I grew older, I became involved with a Native American group that met annually.  These gatherings were usually pleasant and by invitation to a privately owned campground.  The people had the greatest respect for the land and fellow campers.  Fast forward to the current decade, and I now have another group of kids and parents to enjoy a group camping event with.  I have to say, I found myself surprised about a few things.  My philosophies differed greatly from my fellow campers.  My son and I had to learn how to adapt.  We’ve learned to pack ear plugs and sleep masks as part of our essential gear, for instance.

For these events, I had to buy a large cooler for stocking supplies for community meals.  I also stash meal alternatives for those times that I just can’t take part in what the group is serving up.  Don’t get me wrong, hot dogs, hamburgers, and other high protein, fat laden foods are perfectly fine.  I just can’t function with that kind of thing for every meal over the course of a weekend.  So I ate the hamburgers for one meal, but skipped the hot dogs for another in favor of what I like to call Hobo Curried Peas and rice.  I don’t want my fellow campers to think me rude, but I certainly wouldn’t be very pleasant to be around if I’m sluggish, constipated, and cranky for eating the types of foods that my body isn’t accustomed to consuming without some moderation.  Yes, I believe my fellow campers think I’m strange.  I kind of like it that way.

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Golden Silk Spider (Nephila clavipes) hanging out undisturbed less than 3 ft from our tent.

Once I was settled in, my mood started to lift and I gradually started to relax.  As we were setting up, we found a “friend” camped out next to us.  We managed not to disturb it the whole weekend.  By morning, I was doing even better after a little camp coffee and some breakfast.  Then we were off to the beach cleanup service project.  I’m not sure how, but I found myself partly responsible for two groups of kids.  Almost right away, I lost two boys and one parent.  I think they got out of ear shot as we announced which direction we would be walking.

Isn't it beautiful? It was gratifying when a visiting family thanked us for our hard work to keep the area clean.
Isn’t it beautiful? It was gratifying when a visiting family thanked us for our hard work to keep the area clean.

I backtracked and found them and eventually met up with the rest of our group.  One visiting family gave us a very gratifying thank you for our efforts.  Locals really appreciate folks that keep this sanctuary clean.  These days, one doesn’t get a thank you for one’s good deeds very often.  Once we were done, I looked down at the trash we had all collected.  For some reason, Leadership chose full-sized trash bags for this project.  It seemed like we were putting more in the landfill than we were taking off the beach, so I instructed our group to continue using our bags back at camp so they wouldn’t seem so wasted.

LGDOct19 125After a couple more activities and a few hours later, we prepared for our guided hike.  Our boys had been working hard and learning a lot.  We had very few activities on the agenda and a lot of academics.  The boys had been very patient and willing.  I decided to spring for a few gifts for the boys as a reward for their good diligence to bring along on the hike.  I wasn’t sure how that would be received, but the reception my good deed brought was surprising.  Yes, we had asked them to prepare and bring most of these items on their own, but, I really thought the gifts would be appreciated a little more.  I never expected my motives to be questioned by 8 and 9-year-old boys.  When prompted by another parent, I did get a nice round of “thank you”, though, and I was able to move on to more important things without further ado.  Lesson learned.

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Raccoons are clean critters and like to wash their food. Their tracks are easy to spot by a pond or other water source.
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Frog resting pond-side on the hunt for a good meal.  There was plenty of prey for this hungry predator.

Our task was to hike at least 1 mile and find at least 6 signs of life from critters.  We had no trouble at all finding the required spoor.  The “bird” nests the boys spotted everywhere were actually home to a plentiful population of squirrels.  Raccoon tracks could be seen by the edge of a rather swampy pond.  Frogs laid in wait for their next meal.

I had a planned route for the hike, but we had to alter it last-minute due to flooded trails.  That’s when the mosquitoes really came out in force and followed us all the way to the main road along the beach.  Then it was time for a rest and a snack.  The boys were obligated to bring one, but I guess we forgot to mention the reason for it.  In our books, trail food for a short hike isn’t so much to nourish you every half mile as it is to keep you comfortable if your mile long hike turns into a more dire situation.  That’s why you bring non-perishable, long-lasting snacks that won’t be crushed in your pack.  I’m still not sure the boys got the point of it all, but the various chips and other snacks made them happy.  The stop was well worth it, however, when we spotted a few critters worthy of bringing out the long distance optical gear to fulfill yet another requirement for advancement.  Overall, the boys did very well.  I couldn’t have asked for a better crew.

LGDOct19 138The next morning, most folks took off pretty early.  I like being one of the last ones out to enjoy the quiet of the woods.  It wouldn’t be a trip to the woods without hearing the birds sing and admiring my surroundings.  I found some pretty cool stuff over the weekend including an interesting member of the dogwood family I had never seen before.

Once the last camper left and our site was clean, my son and I opted for a little exploring.  We didn’t have much time, but quick trip to the beach was in order.   The tide was rising high, and the weather was beautiful, but a bit chilly.  The beach was relatively deserted and serene except for the surf rolling in.  Eventually, the inevitable happened.  A wave snuck up on us, and my son’s feet got wet.  We had to wrap things up if we wanted to stay warm.

The only thing left on the agenda was a quick walk to find a favorite old tree for a photo op before heading home.

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