This will be my last camping post and then I promise I'll shut up!
(at least until next summer)
One thing I forgot to mention about the whole camping thing.... I actually went to college to learn how to do this. Yes, it's true. Long, long ago, in a dorm room far, far away, I was sitting contemplating the nature of my existence and wondering how the hell I was ever going to graduate when I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.
I'd already been in college for two years and the powers that be were requiring that I get serious and declare a major. Back then, every female I knew was majoring in either Education or Nursing (with a few Sociology majors thrown in) and I didn't want to do the stereotypical female thing. So, I sat down with the old college catalog and started flipping through the pages....
Anthropology... Art History... Biology... Business... Education... Mathematics... Nursing... Recreation... Sociology...
WAIT! GO BACK! What was that one in the R's? Although I'd heard of this before, I thought it was only for the athletic types and that klutzes need not apply. But look... you can take classes in camping and camp management. WooHoo! Arts and Crafts can't be far behind! I'm saved!
It wasn't all fun and games, though. "Teaching of Games & Recreational Sports" was okay, but it was only offered at freakin' 7:30 in the morning and it was on the other side of the river! Not fun in the winter for someone who was known previously for never scheduling (or at least never going to) any classes before noon. And there was a lot about business administration, facilities management (everything you ever wanted to know about diatomaceous earth filters) and medical stuff pertaining to therapeutic recreation that stretched my brain in a lot of different directions.
Enter Martha Glasgock, PhD... the faculty member who taught all the camp-related courses. She was a gnarly woman in her 50's who looked like she had spent way too much time in the sun and took the whole camping thing very seriously. She didn't mess around and she rarely smiled. There was no sloughing off in her classes if you wanted a passing (let alone a decent) grade. And the final exam in her "Camp Management" class was actually going camping for a weekend.
It was here that Martha taught us about orienteering and how to bank a fire overnight so the coals would still be going in the morning. We had to make our own tents out of tarps and rope, as well as dig our own pit toilets. Our group designed the best pit toilet ever! Over the requisite hole that we dug the requisite depth, we lashed together sticks to make a rather comfortable seat, complete with backrest, a post for storing the toilet paper, and a Reader's Digest hanging from a string on another post. (Suitable for reading or using as spare toilet paper if need be.)
Then there was learning to cook with an actual Dutch oven. This is a cast iron pot with a rimmed lid so you can set it in coals and pile additional coals on top in order to get the heat distributed evenly on all sides. Our task was to bake a cake using the Dutch oven. Sadly, this was the one thing that my group nearly failed, thanks to me. But I ask you... who can resist eating the cake batter before you bake the cake? Because we had less batter than we should have, our cake got a little burnt around the edges. OOPS! But since I had so many idiosyncratic credits built up from the pit toilet thing, people forgave me. And I did listen carefully when Martha taught us how to use the coals to toast the perfect marshmallow.
So I passed "Smores 101" with flying colors, graduated from college and became the camper I am today. Thank you, Martha Glasgock, PhD. I bow to your awesomeness every time I return from a camping venture unscathed.