Monday, October 17, 2011

Cub Scout Camp out: Under a bright moon with the coyotes howling all night

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Boy Scout Troop 318 invited the Cub Scouts of 372 to camp out with them over the weekend. Of course, the invite was made several months ago when the weather was great and I eagerly said yes. Let's do it!

Of course, I would have camped out anyway, but the idea of warm weather was very appealing.

The weather wasn't too bad this past weekend, though. It was sunny Saturday but chilly at night. Not arctic-like, which often is the case when camping out.

So, we went out and bought a new tent. The old "triangle" tent didn't seem to appealing. You know the kind where the front is a triangle, the top is a single bar and it's easy to set-up? I think the tent was from the 1960s and I may have used it once. (I can only imagine what it would have done in the rain.)

We bought the new tent at Dick's and bought a tent they said would accommodate four people. Four? I doubt it. Two for sure, three if we slept on top of each other. It was Field & Stream. The store had a miniature set-up on the shelf and it looked cool. And simple. But simple is never simple. Tents are always complicated.

It only cost $59 -- on sale. That should have been my first tip-off on the tight squeeze. But it was great looking. Round. A front canopy. About 8 feet wide and 6 feet long, with 4 more feet under the outside canopy. Why would anyone want an outside canopy? What were we going to do, sit there like we were on our stoops on Chicago's South Side back in the 1960s waiving to all the neighbors as they walked or drove by?

We were in a forest. We don't need a stoop on our tent. What was I thinking?

Oye ve!

Anyway, we got there Saturday morning around 9:30 and I immediately unpacked the tent. Have to get the tent up first. The wind was howling and gales were sweeping the tent parts like sails in the Mackinac boat races from the Chicago Yacht Club. Finally two other fathers who had come the night before, came by to help. You can't set up a tent with one person, anymore, I learned the hard way.

And they also had a suggestion. We were setting up with the large group of tents on the east side of the field against the tree line. The wind was blowing to the northeast right into those tents that flapped loudly all day and all night. They pointed to a few tents on the west side of the field along the other tree line that look solid as brick.

I'm thinking the whole time of the Three Little Pigs at this point. Because as the tent was gale-ing in the wind, the fiber glass rods were knocking me in the noggin.

So they helped me lift the mess up and we walked across the field to a smaller group of tents and set up there.  It did make a huge difference. No wind, I was almost able to do this myself. I spent an hour trying to set it up before we moved. Now, with their help, it only took about 45 minutes.

Lay the tent out. Stake in the corners. Put the fiber glass rods through the tent loops. Figure why I had about 15 remaining pieces with no place to go.

It worked. I was winded. Tired. And thinking about food. We missed breakfast but the Scouts prepared a phenomenal lunch as the Cub Scouts were returning from a hike through the forest with the Boy Scouts.

Once the tent was up, I was able to walk to my SUV and grab the rest of the junk. A bag of food. Two sleeping bags wrapped tight in their holders. Two very heavy sleeping cots. I figured if it were really cold, having the beds off the ground would help. Other people used air mattresses.

I even purchased a gas heater, but then was easily convinced in the tent, it wouldn't be very safe. So I left it in the car.

The adults spent most of the time reminiscing about Scouts when we were kids. I still have my Hiawatha Trail Copper Medal. That was from a 20 mile hike along the lake short near the old train  tracks back in the 1960s.

And most of us were baby boomers, so we talked a lot about how in the old days, the Dens and Packs were usually run by one or two scouts and our parents never came along to join the camp outs. At least where I was a Scout, the parents didn't join us. Television news has destroyed our sense of safety and security. We think a killer is around every corner, and a monster in every shadow.

We had a huge bonfire and the Boy Scouts did most of the work. They spent the day showing the Cub Scouts how to do things, qualifying them for more badges. They told stories, performed some skits, all funny. And we had a great meal.

When it was over, we all went to our tents. And by then, I was ready to collapse and go to sleep. Eventually, I went to the car and got the iPad2 and we watched a couple of Movies on Netflix.

It's amazing how the world has changed.

During the night, I woke up to the sound of coyotes howling to each other from different ends of the forest. It was pretty cool. It wasn't that cold at all. The sleeping bags were very warm. And once I realized that I should keep the tent door closed, there were no more bugs.

It even rained in the morning. That's what woke up up at 6 am. The tent held out with no problems.

I wanted to thank the scouts, the friends we made and all the people we met. Lots of moms and even sisters of the scouts joined in the fun so it was a real family affair.

That's the way it should be, I think.

-- Ray Hanania

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