chelsea cookSince it is November, one can safely put away all the camping gear, clean the lanterns, put away the tents and wash the dishes. Then one can look forward to next spring when the camping season begins again. The thrill of unpacking the tent, setting up cots, cutting back the poison ivy from the near by tree, chasing off skunks without getting “caught” and trying to remember where you packed the food and left it. Ah, good times, good times. But now the season is coming to a close and, for many people, nostalgia sets in.
Wellsir, actually I haven’t been camping for about 20-25 years and that is about all the camping I need. It used to be that anytime it got ten degrees above freezing I was ready to go. Of course, that changed to 20 degrees above and then 30 degrees above and then pure summer. Some say that we could tolerate the cold weather better when we were young. My belief is that we didn’t have any better sense than to go out in the cold. We would look for an excuse to go camping to get away from a) everything or b) every body  or both. We would even take almost enough things that should have been taken. Not always but some times. Some times we didn’t exactly go hungry but we sure didn’t have a banquet. When we would decide to pool our food supply but made no lists, it was amazing how many different ways one could heat/boil and/or burn pork and beans. Yessir, that is one word if you say it properly.
 older boys were going on a bike hike. Fortunately for me they did everything correctly and later in life became very successful adults. I whined my way into being allowed to go with them so I threw a strange backpack with some canned goods across the handle bars and I was ready. OK, said the leader, you must do this and that and this and the other thing. It ended up with him loading the backpack on his bike and I took whatever thing he had. I didn’t care as I was allowed to go and I thought this was the coolest thing since meeting some cowboy movie star whose name i can no longer remember. One of the older boys was my best friend’s brother so best friend had to go also. Older guy told us our route and I was a little disappointed we were not going to camp in some exotic national park that night.
The one thing that stands out was when we went through a small village a few miles from our hometown. There were some high school age boys loitering near the general store and they yelled obscenities and challenges at us. They had never seen boys in shorts riding bicycles for pleasure and they were put off by strangers. Think “Deliverance” here. As we moved on past the store and obligatory service station, they not only yelled but threw rocks at us. Dumbutts didn’t know that either of the older guys could have pounded them. I was hoping that would happen but we kept riding. Somewhere we spent the night in a field and shared our food stores and looked at stars. One older, who later became an Air Force pilot, told us about the stars and constellations.
Herself and I did a great deal of camping with our kids. Being a teacher in Oklahoma that is what we could afford and, as a bonus, we liked it. Both boys stayed campers through school and beyond. We did a camping vacation across Canada once and it was great. OK, the mosquitoes were not so great but that is part of the price. When in Minnesota as it got dark, we would have the tent zipped up and then unzip about three or four inches and spray a large amount of bug killer inside. After is settled we would move inside one at a time starting with the smallest, then next, etc and prevented the swarm of mossies from entering. Of course, some scouts did enter but we persevered. We made it all the way and came back into the USA above Mt. Rushmore which is among the greatest things in the world. I could go there again and again.
Our scout troop leaders would camp together often. Those were great times and great comradeship. Each one of them was the world’s best camp cook so I didn’t even try as I didn’t want to embarrass them by my superb skills. I stayed in camp and washed dishes and enjoyed great company. Except for one night I slept in the camper on a pickup when my toboggan cap came off and I was colder than cold. Even my hair was cold. I decided ”this is not fun” and I totally gave up cold weather camping anytime. However, I would go again in a minute if I had my old crew again. “Old times that are not forgotten.