Honorary Boy Scouts

OK, I know I’m a girl, a woman to be exact, and traditionally camping with the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts is for the males. Yet, I also pride myself on my appreciation of nature and my ability to rough it like a man, as if somehow I’ll be treated as an equal in their world.

It’s all for the experience, I tell myself,  along with the bragging rights that come with giving up the shower, the hair dryer, the comforts of home for a weekend. Still, there’s nowhere a girl or woman sticks out more than when the boys are pissing in the woods with only their backs turned to company, and you’re searching for a clandestine sanctuary to cop a squat without exposing or wetting yourself completely. It’s definitely a skill worth learning, I might add, that has come in handy on other occasions away from the camp-site.

So, up until my son became a Boy Scout, my daughter and I have packed up our hair products and bare girlie essentials — knowing full well we probably wouldn’t stay all fresh and feminine — and joined the boys, my husband and son, on their outings in the woods. I should add that in addition to the camping gear, we also included a plastic baby porto-potty for those late-night I’m-not-going-out-there-what’s-that-noise urgencies.  Even the PM pain reliever that usually knocks me unconscious can’t seem to control my neurotic bladder, which seems to have a mind of its own when there’s no indoor plumbing that’s close or clean enough to compensate for the fear of the unknown outside the tent unseen by mere flashlight illumination. My daughter sometimes has her mother’s bladder, too. 

Practical question: What to do with the um-contributions? Dump it outside the tent and hope it rains to wash the evidence away, although rain actually triggers the neurosis further.  Still, notwithstanding the stench near the tent, it’s worth the release.

Enough about bodily functions. The beauty of being a girl with the Boy Scouts is you don’t have to help cook and clean for belt loops, merit badges or advancement and you still get to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors. I particularly remember a camping trip I took with the family to Callaway Gardens one fall weekend in 2009. We were with about 40 Cub Scouts and their families from our troop in Marietta, Ga.

For $35 a person (2009 rates), the 70-member Pack 1800 pitched tents in F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, near Callaway, 100 miles south of Atlanta. The Scout families cooked some of their own meals over an open pit, roasted marshmallows and smores, and sang campfire songs under the stars with guitar accompaniment.

Certainly sleeping in your typical walled structure — read: comfy hotel room — you can’t appreciate the night music of the katydids and how their chirping drone echoes our own sleeping pattern, changing from restless chatter to quite slumber, except for the occasional coyote or owl some campers heard.

Among those on this trip were two Atlanta lawyers with differing perspectives about camping as a regular travel option. Ian Platt, division counsel for Textron Financial, was a Cub Scout leader who is willing to really rough-it twice a year with the group.

“I like it, but I like it to be in small bursts, spread out,” he said, between overseeing silly skits — a campfire ritual — and helping to prepare a grilled pack dinner.

David Bryman of Bryman, Clerke & Kent was a newcomer to scouts at the time, but he had a long history of camping and wanted to make it a regular family outing.

“I really just enjoy doing the work that camping involves: setting up the tent, making a fire, using camping tools. My wife’s not the camping type,” he added, “but we’re going to convert her.”

With guilt, he admits he slept pretty well on his air mattress. His then 7-year-old, Drew, is quick to point out that camping is about “sleeping outside in the woods. It’s not about an air mattress.”

Platt contends the full adventure includes sleeping on the hard tent floor and arising in the middle of the night with a flashlight to use a wood-structure latrine. The pack rented those disgusting everyone gets to excrete in the same hole porta-Johns, but the less-than-pristine latrine was closer to Platt’s tent. If he only had our relatively sanitary baby porto-potty he wouldn’t have had to leave the comfort of the tent.

“To me, part of the experience is to feel the separateness, to be in total darkness, to hear animals that if you were home, you would call pest control about.”

It didn’t hurt that it was only around 50 degrees overnight with clear skies. While it’s been nice on past trips to lie in a tent listening to raindrops hit the tarp, leaves and ground, it’s a little sloppy trudging around outside, he said. Still, contemporary campers always know they have a warm, dry home awaiting their return.

For more information about camping at F.D. Roosevelt State Park, view www.gastateparks.org/info/fdr.

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