So I'm back... and I survived... and I actually sort of kind of maybe had fun. I think I'd even do it again.
Shocking, I know.
It was with trepidation that I drove to Camp Welaka Saturday morning. I left my quiet house in the dewy morning, coffee in hand, Munchkin's pink canvas duffel bag slung across my shoulder, and my new 30 degree sleeping bag dangling from my arm.
I arrived at the camp around 8 AM, checked in, and walked my stuff straight into my assigned camp site. As I was walking to the site, one of the trainers stopped me on the way in. She was telling me which cabins I could choose from and then added that some of us would be sleeping in the unit house on mattresses on the ground and that the benefit to the unit house was that there were fans.
Guess where I chose to put my stuff.
After unloading all my stuff on the bench in the unit house, I ventured out to talk with one of the trainers and wait for the rest of the attendants to arrive.
When everyone arrived we all headed over to the main flagpole for an opening camp ceremony. Now, our council, the Palm Glades Council, has recently merged with the Broward County council. Recently, as in last month. So as with any merger, there are kinks that need to be ironed out. Evidently, the proper way to do a flag ceremony needs to be ironed out still. There were all kind of bickering between leaders from Broward and leaders from Palm Glades about such things as where did the horseshoe end and whether women were allowed to wear hats and if you were allowed to be carrying things in your hands. It was all very unprofessional and unsettling... not exactly a great way to open up camp.
But whatever... I was planning on making the best of this 28 hour session and hoped this bickering wouldn't continue throughout the weekend.
After the flag ceremony we headed back to the site where we settled in to learn knife safety, how to tie a few basic knots (square, clove hitch, and bowline), and how to select and make a good stick to roast food over the fire. Then it was time for lunch.
And here's my note on lunch. If you choose to roast a hot dog over an open flame, simply put your toasted weanie into a bun. Do not try to get fancy and wrap crescent roll around the dog in lieu of a bun. Crescent roll is a pain in the butt to cook over an open flame.
After lunch we took a 2 1/2 mile hiking tour of camp, including a walk on Welaka's cat walk. The cat walk (and forgive me, I did not get a picture) is a very narrow stretch of wooden boards that you can walk over the natural swamp land and through the thick mangrove trees. I do vaguely remember this from being a girl, but as an adult I'm more observant of nature and I was in awe of all of the little crabs walking along the trees right next to us and how dense the mangroves are in that area. It was spooky and beautiful and magical and I can't wait to take Munchkin to see it. :)
After our exhausting tour of camp was complete it was time to head back to our site and cook our foil packet dinner.
I was a little freaked by the amount of people who were in the fire circle at one time...
But dinner turned out great. We made sliced chicken with peppers and onions and potatoes and learned that putting a wet paper towel in between the pieces of foil would keep our chicken moist and a couple of ice cubes inside the packet would help steam the vegetables.
After dinner we, of course, had to have toasted marshmallows!
After our marshmallows we had a flag retiring ceremony at another fire circle and invited a couple of other sites along to watch. Before the flag retiring we sang typical girl scout songs and some groups performed a couple of skits and it was really just like traditional girl scout camp! So much fun. The flag retiring ceremony was very moving and sort of sad and beautiful. I'm so glad I got to see it, it really helps inspire respect for the flag and I hope to do it with our girl scouts one day.
Later, some of us opted to go on a night hike to the catwalk. I was a little apprehensive to go on the catwalk at night, but I wanted to experience as much as I could and the moon was very bright, so I went. We really didn't see too much, but it definitely got our adrenaline rushing to be out in the swamp at night! Definitely spookier than in the day!
When we got back to camp I was ready for bed. I headed into the unit house and found that there was NO mattress left for me! My stuff was still there, but there was no mattress. Super.
Luckily, there was one extra bed in one of the cabins with a couple of the wonderful women who had gone on the night hike. I could not thank them enough for their hospitality as they welcomed me into their cabin and I lugged all my stuff up the hill, in the dark, and to their little cabin.
As they went down to munch on cheese and crackers and then get ready for bed I set up my little bunk and changed into pajamas. Not easy to do by flashlight, let me tell you. When I stripped off my socks I was shocked. All my hiking had made my feet smell like something I had not smelled for 20 years. It was Camp Welaka foot, for sure. Horrified, I scrubbed them with baby wipes I was thankful I had remembered to bring and put on new, clean socks.
Once I was all clean and had ventured down to brush my teeth I slipped into my sleeping bag and settled in for a night of whacking mosquitoes and wondering what every noise I heard was.
In the morning I woke up early enough that my little group wasn't all awake yet. After changing I decided to take a short walk down to the lake where we had been for our flag retiring ceremony the night before.
I sat for about 10 minutes and reflecting on how peaceful and serene it all was, the birds flying around, the muffled sounds of people getting ready for the morning, and the stillness of the lake.
Finally I got up and walked over to take a picture of the fire circle from the night before.
I was sad to see this piece of one of the retired flags that someone had dropped and forgotten. Not knowing the protocol, I simply placed it in the center of the fire circle hoping that it would be retired properly during the next fire.
Soon it was time for breakfast. We had decided to cook cinnamon rolls in a box oven for breakfast. When it was first presented to me that you could actually make an oven out of a cardboard box and some aluminum foil I was intrigued. I guess I assumed that the foil protected the box from fire and that was how it didn't go up in flames. I was wrong.
Our box (which was unfortunately borrowed from another group since the group member that was responsible for creating our box - who also happened to be the only man in our group - didn't show up) went up in flames. We lit our coals, placed them inside the box, and waited for it to preheat. While waiting, we decided to quickly go into the unit house to get a drink.
By the time we grabbed a drink and went back to the fire circle, this is what we found.
We had to beg to get someone else to lend us their box oven so we could make our breakfast. Some running was involved. :)
And after much ribbing, and a little ruffling of feathers, and some comments about how you never leave a fire unattended and how we could have burned the whole forest down we finally got to eat our cinnamon rolls.
And they were really good, too.
(We were supposed to put the coals in after the flames had gone out and they had gone white... I know, seems like common sense now... duh.)
After breakfast and clean up and packing up and evaluating and saying our goodbyes, we all got to head out to the parking lot to drive back to civilization.
It's good to be home. :) All in all, I met some wonderful women and got some great ideas about things we can do with our troop. I have a completely renewed love for scouting (girl scouts, especially, of course) and really can't wait to take the girls camping. It was a great experience and it's going to be wonderful to watch these little girls grow into strong and confident young ladies.