I’m proud to say I’m a leader of a troop of 12 girls that is part of a larger national organization that may or may not rhyme with “Whirl Spouts.” (Hint: we sell cookies. A flavor of them rhymes with “Shin Splints.”) For the purposes of this article, and the desire not to lose my troop because I’ve violated some type of public relations clause somewhere, let’s just call them my Gal Sprout troop.
This past weekend I planned a camping trip for my Gal Sprouts, who are around 10 years old and have been camping several times before with me. I’ve camped many times, absolutely love it, and purposefully plan camping trips for the girls because my fondest childhood memories involve camping with my own Gal Sprout troop.
Packing a camping trip for 12 girls and five moms is a lot of work. There is a ton of stuff to remember, from craft and activity supplies to meals, complete with cookware and enough food. So last week as I was cramming everything from pots and pans to glue and construction paper into my car, plus making sure my daughter had her own camping gear, packing my own gear took a backseat. Never even looked at the very camping supply list I had provided for the other girls.
Here are some things I learned last weekend about camping with a Gal Sprout troop of 12 girls:
Enjoy Nature: No matter how much planning and hassle it is to get yourself out into the woods and under some stars, it’s worth the effort. We forget how light and noise polluted our world is until we are in a place of pure, gorgeous darkness and blissful silence.
Bring a Fucking Sleeping Bag: If you’re sleeping in a screened treehouse and the temperatures are going to be in the 30s, you should bring a temperature appropriate sleeping bag. You shouldn’t grab a green rolled thing out of a closet on your way out the door because you thought it was a sleeping bag. It wasn’t. It was a not-at-all-warm blanket and you are going to spend the first night not sleeping because you can’t feel your face, and the second night crammed into your daughter’s mummy sleeping bag awkwardly explaining about spooning.
Talent Shows Are Fun But With Tears: Letting a bunch of tweens plan and perform their own talent show seems like a fun idea that will kill lots of time while you’re spending two hours working on a cooking fire so they can eat. It’ll be adorable to watch their teamwork in putting the show together. Probably there will be tears. Possibly some of them will come from the mothers when we hear a version of an Adele song that is absolutely unbelievable.
Camping Will Make You Fat: After recently losing 50 pounds, I gained 10 of them back this weekend. Pizza, cheeseburgers, hot dogs and mac and cheese (cooked over fire!), pancakes and bacon (fire!) and the S’mores. Our troop doesn’t just eat normal S’mores. It started with the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup S’more, because the melted peanut butter mixture is far superior to the normal chocolate variety, and this year? Suddenly there was “The Smoreo.” Break the two halves of an Oreo open and put a toasted marshmallow in the middle? Culinary campfire magic. We are considering a S’mores cookbook. You are welcome.
Camping Builds Confidence: I taught the girls (amidst some mumblings from the moms) to light a match. Why? Because who else is going to teach them? I’ve been camp-trained to teach them. And now they know. I hope they’ll use this skill to keep warm or cook food one day, and not to burn down their subdivisions. They also took archery. I feel sort of bad for all Santa’s elves and how many more archery kits they will need to build for Christmas this year, but giving the world 12 new Hunger Games-style Katniss-badass girls? I am not sorry for that. I saw the looks on some of their faces as they hesitated to pull back that arrow, and then I saw their faces when they nailed a bullseye, and that’s invaluable.
Moments like those make it all worth it that I forgot the propane camping stove and had to cook like a cavewoman all weekend, froze my eyeballs out, and had no hiking boots or Wifi or sleep.
—Mary McCarthy (@marymac) blogs at pajamasandcoffee.com