i spent a long weekend last month working at that boy scout camp that i’m constantly talking about. (so, yes, this is another camp post, as if i don’t post enough about that place already.) staffing at winter camp was wildly different from my experiences there last summer. i thought i’d share my ordeal with you all, because how often do you get to learn about what really goes on at a scout camp?
packing list for winter camp:
– as many blankets as you can fit in your bag. it will be freezing and the heaters won’t work.
– wool socks, gloves, and a thick coat that makes you feel like a marshmallow. despite all those layers, you won’t ever be warm enough.
– a journal, to keep track of the health officers’ phone numbers and last minute lesson plans.
– don’t bother with showering supplies, because the camp will be winterized and there won’t be a lot of running water. just bring dry shampoo and deodorant instead.
– lots of snacks. the kitchen staff are stingy. they’ll give you two hash browns for breakfast and act surprised when they find you eating lucky charms in the back.
– water bottles. there’s no running water, remember?
– tea bags. preferably a kind with lots and lots of caffeine in it. you will not get nearly enough sleep to function without the help of tea or coffee.
– a knife, a lighter/matches, painkillers, and lip balm. be prepared.
| friday |
just getting to camp in the first place was tricky business. staff was asked to arrive at three in the afternoon, there was supposed to be a one o’clock dismissal that day, and it’s about a two hour drive to get there. so, time was a bit tight, but if i left immediately after school, it should have worked out. but then the school decided to let out at three instead of one. which is, you know, a bit inconvenient.
i ended up leaving school early, then going home to finish packing. because despite planning on staffing at winter camp since august, i still waited until the very last minute to find all my stuff. and i had a lot of stuff: three bag fulls, in fact. one backpack stuffed with things like books and snacks, a smallish duffle bag filled with typical going-away-for-the-weekend things, and then an enormous bag my mom forced me to take. she packed that one for me, and it contained lots of useless, bulky snow gear.
on the way there, i read love & gelato and listened to billy joel’s greatest hits on repeat. i’ve made that drive so often that the two hours doesn’t feel like anything. i just look out the window at familiar landmarks, i blink, and we’re there. amazing, really.
the camp has two sides: the boy scout side, which is where i go to summer camp and where i hope to work this year (i sent in my application a week or two ago . . . wish me luck), and the cub side. it blows my mind a little that i’ve been going there for three years, and i’ve never seen cub camp before.
anyway, once we arrived, i checked in and picked up my staff hoodie. it’s a lovely blue, so warm, and a huge improvement from the disgusting highlighter-yellow t-shirts from last summer. then my mom and i drove all the way to the other side and dropped my stuff of at a staff cabin. the cabins there are really more like plywood sheds, and there was a tiny heater on the floor — really cozy, you know?
and here’s where things get fun. as i was walking back to the main road from staff site, i heard our health officer talking on the phone with someone from admin (this health officer is yanni, the one who made me overdose last summer. i love him). he was complaining about the sink not working in the health lodge, and as he was talking, i spotted a line of port-a-potties beside the road. so, basically: there was just about no running water in the camp. there were a few working bathrooms on cub side, and the sinks at the STEM center functioned some of the time, but the only shower was at admin.
it wasn’t a great way to start the weekend. not being able to shower makes me a little panicky inside for some reason. i really did want to go home then and there, but of course my mom wasn’t going to allow that, so i just thanked God that i don’t sweat.
good things that happened on friday:
– i was reunited with some friends from last summer!! most of the staff are in college, and i assumed a lot of them wouldn’t be at winter camp because they’d busy with exams or whatever. but most of them made it, so i spent the weekend hanging out with kaitlyn (aka my camp mom), jordan (handicraft director), john (nature director), and brie (friend from ahg camp who works on cub side). it was so wonderful to see them again and i miss them all so much already.
– brie went out to dinner instead of eating camp food (a very wise decision), and she brought me lo mein with tofu!!
– had a wild conversation with kaitlyn and john about how many staffers are gay. apparently, the answer is at least half. i love scout camp.
| saturday |
the next morning, i had to be at the dining hall on cub side by 7 a.m. to help serve breakfast. i got up at 5 o’clock every morning and walked a mile in the cold just to stand around in the kitchen for two hours and dish out a meal that i couldn’t eat while wearing a ridiculous paper hat. the only thing that made it bearable was the classic rock blasting from a speaker. i must have heard jessie’s girl twenty times that weekend.
after an appetizing breakfast consisting of a single dry biscuit, i headed over to the STEM center to help kaitlyn teach programming. i say “teach,” but really i just wrote lines of code on the whiteboard, because i have no idea how to help boys program games and calculators into java.
we had a campfire in the dining hall that night. this particular campfire involved no flames, and i couldn’t see or hear the skits, and it was all around a little miserable. just before it started, i had spotted someone for last summer, someone who i associate really awful memories with, and i don’t know. i just freaked out. i couldn’t keep still; i kept pacing and fidgeting and i felt like the air was too warm and i couldn’t breathe properly.
i decided to wash my hair that night. i tossed a tiny bottle of shampoo into my backpack and hiked from my cabin to STEM at one in the morning. i have to say, there’s something about washing your hair in a dirty sink during the witching hour, while listening to rain on a metal roof, that is strangely poetic to me.
| sunday |
after another half-awake morning in the kitchen, i helped jordan with space exploration, otherwise known as my favorite merit badge ever. we headed into the dining hall armed with boxes of rockets and hot glue guns. it took ALL MORNING for the campers to get their rockets together, which made me desperately miss my friend scout, because he is a genius and can put one of those kits together in ten minutes flat.
eventually, the rockets were ready to launch, so we took them into the field outside and shot them off one at a time. it must have taken at least an hour. it was windy, and i was starving (i’d been living off of hot tea and vanilla pudding, which isn’t that filling), and my jacket was back in my cabin so i was cold, too. i ended up taking jordan’s coat, which helped some, but still. my only joy was using the C engines. those bad boys sent some rockets all the way to the other side.
afterwards, jordan proceeded to make me crouch in the mud while he signed at least twenty blue cards on my back. because, you know, what else is support staff good for?
that night, i moved into a cabin with kaitlyn and brie on cub side. that wasn’t strictly allowed, but i likely would have frozen to death if i hadn’t. it got down into the single digits that night, and had only warmed up to fourteen degrees by 7 a.m. the next morning. there was no chance of me walking a mile to breakfast in that kind of weather.
| monday |
when i was trekking up to the dining hall that morning, i paused in the middle of the icy road to gaze at the moon. the lunar eclipse had taken place over the night, and the super blood moon was still hanging in the sky, tinted red. there was a colorful ring around it that looked just like a lens flare.
they didn’t need help with breakfast that morning, and no one had bothered to tell me, so i made some hot tea in the dining hall and hurried back to the cabin. i curled up next to the heater and got a few more much needed hours of sleep.
kaitlyn and i were teaching the mammal study badge in the nature lodge that day. unfortunately, kaitlyn had procrastinated writing a lesson plan, and we also had no idea where the nature lodge was on the cub side. we ended up wandering around the camp while the freezing wind got under our skin until we got brie to give us directions over the phone.
the nature lodge was conveniently all the way on the outskirts of the camp. we passed some enormous red yurts tucked away in the trees and i started fangirling. that’s really the only way to describe it. i’d read about the yurts on the camp’s website, but i’d never seen them before. they were so cool!! i didn’t go inside any of them, but still. i love those yurts.
mammal studies was a little bit miserable. the lodge’s heater didn’t work at all, the scouts wouldn’t listen to me, kaitlyn and i weren’t prepared, etc. it was such a relief when we finished early. if i’d been out there much longer, i think i would have turned into a popsicle. as it was, i couldn’t feel my hands until at least an hour later, despite hanging out in the heated dining hall with a cup of hot tea.
my friends cleared out shortly after, so i holed up in the cabin with a book and several cups of vanilla pudding while i waited for my mom to arrive. it was sort of peaceful. the camp was quiet for once, instead of being filled with the shouts and cheers of boys playing in the gaga pit.
my mom got lost a few times on the way home. (it is truly amazing to me that after all this time, she is still finding new ways to get lost.) i had been looking forward to finally getting a shower, but as soon as i stepped inside, i got a text from a friend reminding me that there was pep band that night. i didn’t have time to change out of the staff hoodie i’d been shivering in all weekend, much less get a desperately needed shower, before i was at school and setting up a bass drum in the bleachers.
other things that happened at winter camp:
– my “friend” peter called me a communist and a liberal because i said i’m in marching band and don’t like meat?? i was telling him that i play percussion when he interrupted with a gasp and said, “i was afraid you were going to say that you play triangle! i can just see you jamming to a triangle solo.” and it would have been hilarious except i did actually play triangle at one point during our show. :’)
– a scout that i’ve never talked to in my life told me one night that i looked really pretty that day. thanks, i guess?? it was sort of weird. having guys flirt with me is my least favorite thing about staffing there.
– i’m pretty sure this kid that i troop guided for last year was flirting with me. i’m not 100% sure, but hear me out. he was support staff too and we worked in the kitchen together during every meal. he sat with me during breakfast, was really friendly, gave me cookies from his lunch, etc. we hiked all over camp together on friday, he walked me back to my cabin twice, and he even invited me to play cards against humanity with him in his cabin. do i just have a really big ego, or does it sound like he was flirting and i was just too oblivious to notice?
– everyone thought i was older than i actually am. when i mentioned my real age, it was followed by lots of disbelief and exclamations about how i’m “just a baby!” love that for me.
– i got really sick with the flu right after camp and ended up missing a week of school. i think i got it from kaitlyn. thanks, camp mom, i was basically dying but at least i got to stay home and read.
overall, winter camp involved a lot of shivering, not enough sleep, horrible food, and a scratchy throat from yelling at insolent scouts. it was unorganized and the classes seemed to stretch on forever. but do i plan on going back next year? oh, absolutely. i want another staff hoodie.
have you ever been to a winter camp? how did it compare to summer camp?