Ben and I are back from winter camping. It was a marvelous experience and what follows is a little mental unpacking from the trip. This post will begin a synopsis of what we did; I’ll be mining this event for some other ruminations as the week progresses – believe me, I can easily get a week out of this.
As I mentioned in my Friday post, my son Ben absolutely loves camping and the Phillipo Scout Reserve may be his favorite place in the world. The camp itself is typical of most Boy Scout installation, a sprawling, beautiful site on the south bank of a dammed up section of the Cannon River known as Lake Byllesby. We arrived on Friday night a few hours prior to the onset of SNOWMAGEDDON. We set up in our cabin and then repaired to the Gwin Center, where we visited with our fellow campers. Ben brought his cribbage board along and we played a few games, drawing a steady stream of kibitzing Cub Scouts. Over the course of the weekend, we taught about six kids how to play. After a few hours of this, we scampered back to the cabin to anticipate the transformation of the Camp into something Omar Sharif might be trudging through. The wind was howling that night with the evil sound that anyone who lives in Minnesota recognizes. It was, to paraphrase W. C. Fields, not a fit night out for man nor beast.
When we got up, we girded for the worst. Would the snow be piled up to the door? Nah. There was about a half inch of sleet/shmutz covering the existing glaze ice. It was windy and snow flurries were whipping around, but Phase One of SNOWMAGEDDON seemed like a bit of a cheat. However, a little bit of sleet on top of glaze ice makes for perfect sledding weather. So Ben wolfed down some pancakes and headed for the hill by the main camp mess hall. This is a primo sledding hill, fairly steep but with a lot of room and the bottom of the hillside empties out into an enormous parade ground that is about the size of five football fields. Ben clambered up the hill with “Black Mariah,” his plastic one-seat implement of self-destruction, and let fly. He ended up almost a quarter mile away from the top of the hill, with a wild eyed grin on his face the whole time. Back he came. Down he went. Eventually some other kids asked to try his sled and he traded out with them a few times. All in all, he probably made about 30 runs, despite the long trudge back each time, all the while with Ben’s million-watt smile framed by strawberry-colored cheeks.
After a hot dog and soup lunch – this is camp, after all, it was time for an afternoon of games – more cribbage, a few rounds of blackjack and poker (no money involved, however), Battleship and a new, fun game called “Apples to Apples” that is pretty amusing. We were cooling our heels a bit waiting for the “Polar Cub” troops that were doing a day-camp version of our event to finish with the tubing hill. Our turn would be after dinner. And we’ll get to that next.