Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Weekend Update

So last Friday I took four girls from my troop and one of my assistant leaders to Camporee in the charming town of Woodside. This particular Camporee is a competitive one, testing the girls' knowledge of basic outdoor skills.

Our first challenge was packing everything in one car while still allowing me to drive and the passengers to wear their seat belts.

The second challenge was to get the tent up before dark.

The site was beautiful. We could see part of the Bay and wooded hills surrounded us. We were up on a slight knoll which meant we were totally exposed to the brisk spring wind that came up around 10:00 p.m.

It was a cold night.

The next morning was also cold. But at least it wasn't raining. We met for opening flag, flown at half-mast in honor of the victims at Virginia Tech. And then, because the next day was Earth Day, one of the AICs (Adults In Charge) spoke about recycling and how we should all do our part to reduce our carbon footprint.

My response was to mutter, sotto voce, "I pledge not to take my private jet to any conferences on Global Warming."

Apparently my voce wasn't quite sotto enough as the gentleman next to me snickered.

The events started. The girls first event was the pancake flip flop. They had to light charcoal, using a trench candle and a chimney, mix the batter, cook the pancakes over the charcoal, flip the cooked pancake over a string 6' in the air, catch it, and add it to the plate. They could not touch the pancake with their hands.

All the Assistant Leader and I could do was cheer.

This was not their best event. Turned out not to be their worst, either, but we didn't know that until Sunday. Note to self: remind DD#2 that coals give off heat without flame.

Orienteering was their Waterloo. Turns out DD#2 can't read a map with a compass. Youngest team member thought they were going the wrong way, but didn't say anything. What should have taken 30 minutes took 60 and we had just sent out someone to look for them when they returned.

They griped about the other events, but were fairly satisfied with how they did. They were in the top four for Girl Scout Facts and were in the "Jeopardy Round." I was rather impressed with what they knew--I didn't think they'd been paying attention at meetings when I'd blather on about Girl Scout history.

The real challenge, though, came Saturday night. The rain started about 3:00 p.m. and became heavier and heavier. And it was still cold. We were in one of the few sites that was completely in the open--there was no way to rig any kind of tarp over the tables. Thank goodness, dinner was simple, so they cooked under umbrellas and tried to keep from tracking mud into the tent.

And then Assistant Leader had a bronchial attack.

Her daughter called me in. I tried the tricks I knew from growing up with asthmatics. I stayed calm. I shooed the girls out of the tent. When it became apparent that this attack was not going away, I sent two girls to get the official First Aider who took Assistant Leader to the hospital. Turns out she was really sick and she ended up going home.

We ate dinner in the tent and I decided that we were going to deal with the dishes in the morning when, hopefully, it would not be raining. We left the dishes and pots out in a zippered "porch" area, along with our shoes (we were still trying to keep the mud to a minimum).

Sometime around 0-dark-thirty, I was asleep and warm for the first time in about 24-hours (my fingers and toes had finally thawed), the girls woke me up to point out that the tent wall that had been 6' away was now considerably closer. The wind had battered the front of the tent so badly that the stakes had been pulled out. Our shoes were in a damp pile hidden in a mass of netting that had been the "porch." The Assistant Leader's daughter came outside with me and she held the flashlight as I re-staked the tent and straightened the poles. Fortunately, nothing had broken or been bent.

However, now awake, we stayed that way, listening to the wind and wondering if the tent was going to collapse on top of us.

Before we had gone to bed the first time, I had told the girls that, upon awakening, they were to "pee and pack" their personal gear. We would load their clothes and sleeping bags into the van to keep it dry and then deal with the rest of the wet gear.

They giggled. I think we have a new shorthand phrase in our troop because, come the morning, they went to the bathroom, then came back and packed their stuff immediately.

Other troops were not quite so fortunate. One troop had a tent collapse completely AND the tent for their female leader had been flooded. They ended up sleeping in their van.

At the Awards ceremony, the girls were quite surprised to find out they took First in Girl Scout Facts. But that was not their only ribbon: they were Fifth in the dreaded Pancake Flip Flop, First Aid (which they had guessed their way through), and Knot Tying. They were Fourth in Tent Pitching (a timed event which includes stringing a tarp between two trees and using the proper knots to secure the corners of the tarp to the stakes).

Then they said the words I love to hear: "Next year..."