Tent Camping Proved Challenging

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Illustration By Wayne Stroot
A rainstorm made tent camping challenging.

“Wanted: Women interested in being Girl Scout leaders. Please call this number.” Wow! That’s right up my alley, I thought. I had been in the Girl Scouts for a few years. I had earned my second-class badge and was working on my first-class when the interest in scouting dropped so low that they disbanded — and I was deeply disappointed. I had been proud of being a Girl Scout, and now I had a chance to join again and enjoy all the fun and excitement of such a wonderful organization.

I called the number listed, and before I knew it, I was deeply involved. I had a group of Brownies, and I was having the time of my life. I even bought a leader’s uniform and all that went with it.

I’d been with the group for about a year when the troop leader announced that there was to be a tent camping trip, and all leaders were to report to a local park one Saturday to practice setting up tents and campfire cooking.

At the park, everything went well. So well, in fact, that I was anticipating the real thing going just as well. That was not to be the case, however.

Tent Camping Gone Wrong

The following Saturday, once everyone had arrived at the designated meeting spot, all the girls were assigned to specific leaders. I was in charge of 12 Brownies, and as a leader, my first job was to go through each girl’s bag to make sure she had everything she would need for the weekend and none of the electrical objects that were prohibited. After removing several radios, hair dryers and curling irons, we were ready to board the bus. Heading west toward our mountain retreat, we sang songs and had a great time.

When we arrived at our campsites, we set up our tents, which in no way resembled the one I had practiced setting up the week before. Our tent turned out to be a six-person tent, so we knew holding 13 of us would be a challenge. After our tents were up, it was time to eat. The menu also was quite different from our practice meals, but nobody seemed to mind as the smell of campfire cooking filled the air.

As dusk grew near, the signal sounded for everyone to gather for an evening bonfire, a program and s’mores. It was obvious the girls were having a great time, and I admit I was having a lot of fun, too. After the program ended and everyone was done with their chocolaty marshmallow treats, it was time for the Girl Scout circle, in which everyone holds hands, right over left, and sings “Taps.”

Finally, we quietly strolled back to our campsites, where we settled in for the night. With bodies everywhere, the tent bulged as everyone squirmed to get comfortable. As soon as everyone had settled down, I heard a little voice say, “I need to use the latrine.” I feigned sleep, but the voice became more persistent. So, after finding my glasses, I carefully made my way through a scramble of miniature bodies. The latrine was some distance away, and even with a flashlight it was a spooky stroll, especially when we crossed a shallow but swiftly flowing stream.

Once we were safely back in our tent, we curled up and fell asleep. Soon I was awakened to what I thought was the banging of pans outside our tent. But as I opened my eyes, I realized that the top of the tent was only about two inches above my nose — and the banging was actually rain. I gingerly stepped over the snoring girls, stuck my head out of the tent, and was greeted by a voice saying, “Shh! We’ve received notice that a convict has escaped from the prison 50 miles away, and he was last seen heading this way. We need to get out of here in a hurry.”

I woke the girls, and we got everything packed up. Then we headed toward the shelter house for breakfast, which consisted of cold toast and instant oatmeal. The girls inhaled the food as though they hadn’t eaten for days.

Soon the girls’ parents arrived to greet their brave, tried and true, experienced though quite damp Brownie Scouts who had braved the wilds of nature and earned their camping badges.

As for this Brownie leader, I asked my husband to take me to my favorite restaurant for breakfast — and then to let me take a nice, long nap when we got home.

Horton, Kansas

Read more stories about summer activities in Stories of Camping Adventures.