A Spring Camp Story
A little rain, a little sun, and lots of the Scouting Spirit
With the sweet sound of their youthful joy, the Scouts eagerly set about to get the tents up the mug-up made before the light from the sun faded below the golden horizon. I sat with my guitar to serenade the stars that pin-pricked the black night sky with their twinkling light. The young faces of the Scouts were aglow with the light from the campfire. All the world was in perfect peace as we went to bed in our tents for a comforting sleep.
The next morning was not so pastoral. I was rudely awakened by little Graham who couldn't get his propane stove to light. The sky was grey with clouds. Rain started just after Flag Break as we left on our hike to the Ridge.
As we entered the forest, I noted that the snow cover was much more consistent than on the field where it was little more than a patch of snow here and there. As the forest thickened, so did the wet snow. In places, we were hacking through dense tree branches in the pouring rain with snow up above our knees. The slush slid into our boots.
When we had finally made it to the Ridge, there was so much mist that the normally beautiful view was totally obscured: one might as well stare at a white wall (at least one wouldn't have to get cold and wet to do that). The walk back from the Ridge was worse than the walk out. Rain had swelled the banks of the streams; with every step new cold water crept into our boots.
Upon arrival back at camp, I was disappointed to observe that the field was not draining. The ground was frozen below about 10 cm; once that space had been filled, the water gathered on top of the soil (mud).
The fire wouldn't burn in the pouring rain. The mud was flowing into the tents. The Scouts were cold and wet. I knew Nick was being sarcastic when they said, "This is good: it builds character."
Since part of the point going camping is to have fun, the decision was made to adjourn the camp to the nearby cottage of one of the Scouters. We left the muddy field and the pouring rain, the snow and the cold, to return to the civilization of their cottage. Once inside, the full stentorian power of the God of Rain was unleashed in a voluminous, drenching downpour with lightening that made the night as bright as day. We were thankful for the roof overhead.
The next day was a glorious one. The golden sun shone on the glistening lake. Chirping birds filled the sky and the smell of spring was in the air.
After dragging the Scouts outside and cooking breakfast, we departed on a hike to a nearby abandoned mine. After three quarters of an hour, we came to a steep hill and began climbing it. The entrance to the mine was half way up the hill. There was still much snow under the cover of the trees, but it was a warm day, our spirits were high.
We reached the small entrance to the mine and went in. The mine went straight back into the hill side, but had many openings in the ceiling, so it was bright inside. Since it was sheltered, the snow was quite deep inside. There were great icicles hanging down the walls. Melt water ran down these and glittered in the sun.
The next cavern in the old mine was not as deeply filled with snow, but it did have quite a large amount of water in it. The water was not deep. In fact, it was just over the tops of my boots. As the Scouts who were in front of me entered this cavern, their cries of pain reviled something else about the water: it was paralysingly cold. I stepped in myself and felt the water flow into my boots and sting my feet like I was walking on thumb tacks. I hurried across the cavern to an elevated rock area on the far side and stood there trying to recover from the freeze I had experienced.
We had lunch outside the mine before heading back to pack up for the trip home. As we left for home, there was a moment of truth for the LiamMobile. I was relaxed as I drove the LiamMobile along the gravel road that led to the highway. Then we hit The Pot Hole. I had seen it in the distance, so I slowed to make for a gentler ride over it. When I was about 5 m away, I saw the hole expand as the gravel fell through into a broken culvert below the road surface. I gunned the engine and was just able to make the van jump over the hole, now 1 m deep and 40 cm long. The crack that had extended half way across the windshield completed its journey, but besides this, there was no damage to the LiamMobile. The hole was the result of a leaking culvert and a flooded stream; the final revenge of the Rain God.
When I got home, I wondered about the weekend. Did the Scouts have fun in all that rain and cold? Any doubts about how worthwhile the weekend was vanished at the next troop night when I saw and heard the excitement of the Scouts as they retold the stories of the weekend. The cold and the wet had vanished from their memories leaving only the fun, challenge, and excitement. "I can hardly wait 'till the next camp!" they all said. Isn't Scouting Great? I only hope my van can recover.