My Last Campout Ever

“Time goes, you say? Alas, time stays. We go.”

–  Austin Dobson

 

Around a year ago, I was on a trip with Boy Scouts and started dishing out my opinions on quite a few things. Mostly books and movies, but I touched on the music industry as well. By the end of the afternoon, several people told me the same thing: “Dude, you should get a blog.”

The main reason I wanted a blog, other than to give out opinions, was because words are concrete. You can write about a life experience as soon as it’s over, and that writing will always be there. I’m going to use that to my advantage tonight, because after all my writing about scout campouts, I got back yesterday from the last one I would ever attend. And I think I owe it to my friends who went with me to write a good, solid summary of it, so that they can go back to it whenever they want same as me.

Our troop goes to see the ocean every June. Last year was my first time going on this trip, and my first time ever seeing an ocean. It became my favorite trip other than the Christmas Campout, which I blogged about back in December.

So then, my last campout ever. It was awesome; in fact, I’d be willing to say it’s the best of all the scout campouts I’ve been on in the past seven years. I’ll do my usual daily breakdown, since I can assume all non-interested readers have already closed out the post.

 

Day 1: Friday, June 14, 2013

I was already in a good mood when I showed up at the meeting point at noon, having spent the morning hanging out with my girlfriend after going out to breakfast. Good part number one clicked into place when I was assigned the best car arrangement: me and two close friends. One of them I’ve known for four years and talk with a lot; the other is my best friend who also happens to be one of my Ideal Readers.

Anyway. The ride up was fun, mostly spent talking, arguing with each other, and programming the car’s amazing GPS—the thing was seriously magical—to take us to a McDonald’s, because we were ready to implode with hunger.

Fifteen minutes later…

“That’ll be $8.65.”

0614131616

And thus, I set a new record: most money I’ve ever spent at McDonald’s.

The rest of the drive there was pretty relaxed, as was set-up. We all pitched our tents in the sand in a campsite practically next to the ocean, which made for an awesome layout. Then after we’d all changed and gotten settled, it was time for a walk down to the beach.

I’d forgotten how pretty it was.

It was relaxing hanging out on the beach and talking, though we had some interesting company in the distance. I just talked with my best friend (one of the people in the car) and another close friend (not in the car) about politics; specifically, which forms of dictatorship we would prefer to enact if we were ever in charge of the world.

You know, normal teenage stuff.

The kicker of the night, though, came when we were preparing to head off to bed. A wind came through the site (that’s pretty normal). Then our tents started getting ripped out of the ground (that isn’t).

Mine was the coolest, because it did a triple backflip and scrambled up all of my possessions like a roller coaster ride. I must say, I’ve been in scouts for seven years, and the experience of trying to secure my tent in a mini-hurricane while everything was blowing around was an entirely new sensation. It was crazily scary during the time, but great to look back on. After securing our tents, we took shelter in the cars for a few minutes while the worst of it passed.

Luckily, we didn’t have much damage, unless you count a tipped over porta-potti. Which in Scouts, maybe you do.

DSCN2588

 

Day 2: Saturday, June 15, 2013

My day hit the ground running when I got up early to watch the sun come up.

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The morning wasn’t complicated. We ate breakfast, changed, and all walked down to the beach. Me, my best friend, and our politics-talking buddy from last night all found a clear area in the sand and laid down to relax. When we were younger scouts, we all went swimming and splashing around in the ocean. But we’d done that before, the water was chilly, and we were tired. Being a teenager is hard work. So, we just relaxed and enjoyed the view.

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We also talked. Kind of a lot. The main subject of the conversation was high school, since out of the three of us one was in it, one had just finished, and one was about to start. A quote from the conversation that I think is worth putting on my blog: “Everyone changes in high school. Some for better, some for worse. But everyone changes.”

After lunch, my tradition gears kicked in, and the four older scouts—myself included—walked to a gift shop a bit up the road to buy milkshakes. I know, going to a rest stop during a campout is kind of cheating, but we were on the beach. Plus, we’d gotten milkshakes last year, which means we’d done it every year I’d gone.

After this we headed back to the beach and resumed our talk, though the topic this time around was girls and relationships, and how complicated they were in high school. This was enough conversation to keep us busy until 4 PM, when we headed right back to the gift shop.

Again, this was tradition: get milkshakes at the start of the afternoon, get sodas and ice cream at the end. The place sells the soda in these cool aluminum bottles, which totally makes it worth the $4.

B.S. is a popular game on campouts, and we played it along with spoons up until dinner. Then after dinner it was relatively mellow: get a campfire going and change into sleeping clothes. The sunset wasn’t too bad either.

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I decided to sleep outside my tent, just as I had last year. When I’d done it then, you could see the stars and there was a nice breeze and it was nice to be alone.

That was all true this year except the last part, because half the troop decided to join me. I was actually glad of that, though, because it meant I could talk with everyone before I fell asleep (I hadn’t done that since January, my last campout as a kid).

My best friend and I stayed up until roughly 2 AM talking, which was kind of the highlight. First topic: movies. Specifically, The Dictator and the funniest lines from it. Then it was talk of how weird it was I was leaving for college soon, and how I would make a bunch of new friends. The last topic was the bulk of the conversation: stuff that was bothering us.

Sound vague? Sorry, that’s as detailed as I’m getting. Each of us had a few things bothering us—99% of them having to do with girls—and neither of us really liked talking to other people about them. So, naturally, we talked to each other about them. Confusing? Yeah, life gets like that a lot.

Around 1 AM came one more adventure to close out my camping experience.

As described, I was talking to my best friend. Then I hear movement behind me (keep in mind, I’m laying in a sleeping bag on the sand). I look up and see something towering over me. And it takes me a minute to believe it, because that something is a wild horse.

My friend and I were both whispering, since it was nighttime, and our whisper-screaming—“OH MY GOD, A HORSE!”—must have been comical. I curled up into a ball and continued whisper-yelling as the horse walked over to another scout, picked up their flashlight in its teeth, and galloped away.

Well if that didn’t close out my camping experience.

 

That’s about it for the campout. In the morning we just packed up and drove home, once again listening to music. Specifically “Radioactive” and Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack,” which we had no shame in singing to at the top of our lungs.

Most of our camping gear was full of sand, my tent was a few stakes short due to the storm, we were all sunburned, and my heart was permanently beating faster due to the almost-being-trampled-by-a-horse incident. But it was all worth it, and it was all part of what camping is about: adventure.

As I said, though, the highlight has to be the talking with my best friend. I know that’s vague and probably meaningless to a lot of people, but I’m sure everyone can think of at least one similar thing they’ve done. Getting to know someone about as well as you can is an interesting experience, especially if you’ll be saying bye to all of your friends soon, including them.

But as always, I try to close on a note of optimism. I try to look at how much I’ve grown in the last year alone, considering this trip is the one where people suggested I get a blog.

These seven years of camping have been the best of my life so far, and it’s hard to imagine not going on a scout trip again. But I’m grateful for the memories, for the pictures and jokes and bro talks, and everything that makes days worth waking up for.

Right now I’m happy about all that and sad about leaving it behind, and kind of excited for how I’ll change in the next year but also scared about it. Confusing, right?

Life gets like that a lot.

Whole Grain Grilled Cheese is Disgusting (And Other Things You Learn on a Winter Campout)

“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”

–  James Dean

 

I’m getting a feeling that within the next few months, if not sooner, I’m going to have some standard in place to mark the blog posts of mine that I know for a fact will be uninteresting to the majority of readers. Because trust me, with high school graduation coming up, and college…well, writer me will be busy.

“But you run this blog, you silly teenager,” I hear you muttering. “Surely you can just do away with the boring posts.”

Well, no, I can’t. Not really. I don’t know if any other writers experience this, but there are some things you just have to not only write down, but put out there for people to see. Even if barely anyone reads it, you need to put it out there.

Call me selfish; that’s fine. You won’t be the first or last.

The point is that this, much like my nostalgic blurb back in December, isn’t interesting. I respect you enough to tell you that. If you don’t enjoy reading about a random kid going winter camping with his scout troop, then please: walk, don’t run, to the nearest exit. If you do enjoy reading about such things, then by all means sit back, relax and enjoy.

As I mentioned back in December, my scout troop goes on campouts quite a bit. Once a month, to be exact. This month’s was at a local camp site, from Friday night to this morning (Sunday). Basically this is a summary of what all happened, give or take.

 

Scene 1: Friday Night. Curtain…open.

I got dropped off with all my heavy gear that was supposed to keep me warm (which, to be fair, it did). After a quarter mile walk down to the camp site, we indulged in several more quarter-mile walks back and forth to haul all of the troop gear and set up our eating area. Luckily that only took until about an hour past sundown.

Okay, so we had to set up our tents in the dark. There are worse problems to have.

Friday night was essentially spent walking around talking, sitting at picnic benches talking, and staying up until 1:40 in the morning talking. That last part was only in my tent, though. You’d be surprised how philosophical I can get at 1 AM. Or, maybe you wouldn’t.

 

Scene 2: Saturday

Essentially, I can summarize this day with brevity: we built shelters. To sleep in.

A more difficult task than it sounds. One does not simply build a shelter to sleep in when you’re camping in the middle of the woods. First, you have to find a spot. My friend and I, henceforth referred to as the shelter-builders 8000, spent most of the morning doing that. We had just cleared out the spot when lunchtime came.

And then, everything crashed down in one single moment.

Okay, not really. But we did find out that the scout in charge of buying our food—my shelter-building buddy, incidentally—decided that it would be a wise decision to buy whole grain bread to use in cooking our grilled cheese sandwiches.

Well, let me tell you something. There’s only one possible reaction you can have when you’re in the middle of the woods, hungry, and you’ve been informed you’ll be eating grilled cheese on whole grain bread:

World Burn

Needless to say, we spent a good hour into the afternoon yelling at my friend’s food choice. Then it was on to shelter-building.

This was tedious, but fun. Shelter-building was something I’d been doing for the past five years in scouts, and this was the last time I would get the chance. My friend and I finished at sundown. You can be the judge.

Shelter

Looks awesome, right? And yes, that is a foil space blanket over the entrance.

Dinner was chicken quesadillas and chicken noodle soup. After that was some card-playing, walking around talking, and just good old hanging out with everyone. Was it cold? Yep. Did we yearn for electricity, for plumbing and heat and a roof? You bet. Was it fun?

Absolutely.

And then, sleep. Only not really.

It’s not that our shelter wasn’t well-designed. It held in heat pretty well, actually. But this was my last campout before I turn eighteen, become a legal adult, and thus become banned from ever tenting with my non-adult scout friends again.

Which is awful.

So, my last night tenting with another human being was spent staying up late—not midnight late, but late—talking to my best friend in the troop, the one who helped me build my shelter. Maybe it’s just because I’m a writer, but I consider talking to be one of the most valuable things in the world.

The discussion topics were as generic as they come. High school, girls, driving, girls, writing, and girls were a few of the talking points. It was a bonding experience, talking about random stuff sitting in a Hunger Games-esque shelter. I even forgave him for bringing the whole grain bread.

This sounds boring, I know. Not to get philosophical, but hopefully others feel this way: life isn’t like a story you write, where you get to know each and every character involved. In life, every person is their own main character. And when you read about experiences such as this one, it probably means nothing to you. The fact is, none of my personal experiences will mean much to anyone else. Because no one else has met who I’ve met, seen what I’ve seen, or had friends as incredible as mine.

And that’s exactly why those things are so precious to me.

 

When you’re younger, you don’t have to worry about ever letting go. But there are no exceptions to the ‘too much of a good thing’ rule, in my opinion, and even fun times can run together if you have too many. So I just try to enjoy the ones I do have.

I’ll close on this note: I’ve always believed that the thing about making memories is that you never know when it’s happening.

This past weekend proved that wrong. There are some moments that are so filled—whether it’s with adventure, humor, love, or all three—that it’s impossible not to be absolutely certain you’ll remember them.

And those are the moments I live for.

Christmas Camping, Memories and Moonshiner Ghosts

“Happiness is only real when shared.”

–  Chris McCandless, written in journal

  

I like to think of myself as a somewhat courteous blogger. So, as a courtesy, I’ll tell you now that this post probably won’t interest you in the slightest. Because even though I just got back from an amazing trip with quite a few of my friends, that doesn’t really affect you. No, there’s no deep emotional story about to come out, or a lifetime realization about the secret to writing well. Just a recap of my great weekend. Ergo…this post probably won’t interest you in the slightest.

I’ll post on writing next time, I promise!

 

So, then. My weekend trip.

Every December since sixth grade, I’ve gone with my Boy Scout troop up to a lodge, which has a room full of bunk beds, an eating area, a sitting area with a fireplace, and even an arena for us to play dodgeball.

And I suppose now is when I should explain that this isn’t technically a ‘campout.’ Normally a campout for us is building and sleeping in shelters during freezing-level temperatures. But for Scouts who have exceptional service hours, this is our ‘reward’ campout.

Since I’m a senior in high school, this was my last chance to go. I planned to enjoy it and wasn’t disappointed.

I mostly played Mario Kart and slept during the drive up. Once we arrived at the lodge, we cranked up the iPods until it was time for bed.

Saturday was full of funness. There was great food (cooked by the adults; again, this was a reward trip), lots of music, and movies shown with the help of my projector and another scout’s drop-down screen. Through the course of the day we watched The Rundown, The Dark Knight Rises and the first half of The Avengers.

We also fit in a hike. That was surprisingly relaxing…walking through the clear, open woods in mild cold while all of us whistled “Viva La Vida” and enjoyed the view.

Hike 1

I got to talk to my friends, which I realized I wouldn’t have many more chances to do within the troop.

Then towards the end of the hike, we came across a destroyed cabin, and our Scoutmaster told us the same story he’s told every year:

In the early 1900’s, a man lived in these back woods…a moonshiner. He built a cabin by hand and smuggled a boiler into it, which he used to make hundreds of gallons of moonshine over the next five years…illegally, of course.

Soon, the police heard rumors of what he was doing, and investigated. Upon confirming that the man was indeed breaking the law, they sent several teams to find his cabin and arrest him.

When they arrived at the scene, the moonshiner locked himself in his house and started shooting, intending to go down fighting. The police fired back, and their bullets hit the boiler.

The cabin exploded. The moonshiner was killed, but his body never was found.

The rumor said that he still haunted the forest where he had spent the last years of his life, waiting for the moment to carry out his revenge. And to this day, people who have ventured to the lodge at night claim to have heard him calling out for his killers.

Or, so the story goes, anyway.

I know that doesn’t sound like much, but hearing it while we stood in the cold wind, looking out at the pile of logs that was obviously once a home…it was interesting. The rusted bed frame was still there, along with a part of the stove, an old sink, and even parts of a car on the other side of the stream.

Anyway. After all of this we got back to the lodge, had dinner, exchanged small gifts, and had some amazing hot apple cider. Before I fell asleep that night, I cranked up the Fray’s “Never Say Never” in my earbuds and started to type on my iPod’s notepad.

 

I know this is my last year because today was a great day, and for some reason I’m sad.

This is the last time I’ll sleep in this lodge, under this roof with these incredible people. I’m trying to capture everything, but of course that’s impossible. So what’s the one thing I do to preserve it? I write about it.

But I’ll do that tomorrow. For right now, I need sleep. I’ve had my time for goodbyes here. All it really taught me is that I’ll never have enough.

So for now, as I sit here for the last time in this place: goodbye. Thank you for six incredible years.

10:55 PM.

 

Then I woke up this morning, we all packed up, and we drove home. Luckily I got to make one more memory by watching Super 8 with one of my close friends during the ride.

All I can say is that I’m coming home next year, and I’ll go on this again, if I’m allowed. I don’t care if I’ll be in college with a new set of friends and finals bearing down. There are just some things you never let go of.

This is one of them.