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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Happy campers.

Happy campers, oh yes we are.

So I may have been a little ambitious in my assertion that I'd have the blog caught up by the end of August. I sabotaged myself by purchasing the full PC version of Minecraft, so now Lauren is going to be camped out (Get it?) in front of the computer most of the time. Right now she's actually outside playing, so I thought I steal some quality time with the iMac.


Anyway, let's talk about camp. This is going to be a long story, so make yourself a snack and get comfortable. Now that summer is drawing to a close, I can say with certainty that our camping experience at Camp Redwing at the end of June was the highlight of the season. That's saying something, because we did a lot of fun things this summer. The program we attended was called "Me and My Gal." It was a mother / daughter weekend with a western theme. Myself and two other moms from our Girl Scout troop signed up to give it a try so that we could learn the ropes before camping as a troop. It was nice to have a Girl Scout adventure as just Lauren's mom rather than Troop Leader.

I have to admit that I was a pretty anxious leading up to it. I really didn't know what to expect, and right up until the moment we left, I stressed about packing (They provided us an extensive packing list so we would be prepared for any situation - A Girl Scout is always prepared, doncha know?). I make no secret that I am not an outdoors person. On top of that, camp was held on a weekend where the heat index was predicted to be around 110 degrees. Heat and I don't mix AT ALL. Especially that kind of heat.

Camp Redwing is only about a 45 minute drive from where we live, but it's a little ways off the beaten path. As we got closer to the camp, they had counselors stationed along the road greeting us with waves and smiles. It was a nice touch and a hint of what was to come.

After we arrived, they checked us over for lice and provided us our unit assignment. All but one unit at the camp is made up of platform tents. We, however, were very spoiled and assigned to Trails End, the sole yurt unit.

My scouts.

Lauren posing with her sister scouts.

Inside our yurt.

A yurt is basically a cross between a cabin and a tent. As you can see, it has a high ceiling with a dome that opens for ventilation, a finished floor, doors and windows.

Claiming her bunk at camp.

We were supposed to have a welcome session around a bonfire, but just as we got settled into our new living space, it started to pour. So they instead moved the event inside the mess hall so that we could get to know the councilors.

I cannot say enough about the amazing group of young women who run Camp Redwing. Girl Scouts recruit girls from all around the country, and even abroad (There were quite a few from Great Britain) to work at their camps. I think some companies could learn a thing or two from the team building and customer service training that the councilors must go through because they work together as a cohesive unit dedicated to making sure everyone has a safe, fun time. They share meals with the campers and never hesitate to chat with you. I lost count of how many times I was asked "Did you have fun doing such and such?" or "Did you sleep well last night?" The entire time we were there, no one was ever in a bad mood. On the last day, we were hanging out at the creek and told some of the councilors how impressed we were, especially with their positive attitudes. The one councilor laughed and replied, "Look at me - I'm floating in a creek. I have the best job in the world!"

Did I mention that they all have cute nicknames like Twizzler, Parker and Badger? *sigh* I so want to run away and become a camp councilor.

Back to reality. If it's one thing that Girl Scouts are known for, it songs and skits. The ladies of Camp Redwing entertained us for a full hour with traditional songs and silly skits of their own making. There is A LOT of singing and hand jiving at Girl Scout camp, especially during meals in the mess hall. Every councilor knew every lyric and could burst into song at a moments notice. They were like a seasoned theater troop that had worked together for years.

After the entertainment, some of the councilors took our daughters back to their units, while others stayed behind with us moms to give a presentation about the rules of camp and how to build our schedule for the next two days. That was the absolutely best part of camp. We got to pick between dozens of activities, and I mean dozens. Horseback riding, canoeing, swimming, many different crafts, ice cream making, hiking, etc. Basically, we could do whatever we wanted, when we wanted. By the time we finished, it was dark, so we headed back to our units.

Once we arrived, we found that the councilors had our daughters all ready for bed and in their pajamas. They were all sitting around a campfire, making s'mores and quietly singing songs. It was absolutely adorable.

Pink cowboy boots.

Now for the the worst part of camp. The bathrooms. Although they have stalls with doors, as expected, the facilities are outside. They are wired with electricity, but the lights attract every bug within miles. One morning, as I was helping Lauren overcome her hesitance about using the bathroom, I kicked what I thought was a leaf off of the seat and into the toilet. Then the leaf started to frantically flap its wings. Survival instincts kicked in and I tried to flush it. But the humongous moth refused to be flushed. And then Lauren refused to go to the bathroom. Luckily, we found the mess hall facilities to be a little more plusher - about the level of the restrooms found in a dive bar. They were heavenly.

Oh, and the sink. The sink is basically a long trough lined with faucets. It looked old enough that Juliette Gordon Lowe's scouts may have brushed their teeth there. I wish that I would have taken photos of the bathrooms, just for fun. Looking back I wish I would have take photos of a lot of things, but I was just too busy experiencing them. There's always next time.

All joking aside, eventually you do get past the grossness of the bathrooms and just go with it. After all, it's camping, not a luxury hotel.

When we woke up the next morning, we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually chilly outside! Despite the weather predictions, the rain cooled things down dramatically, so the entire weekend we had comfortable temperatures. It was truly a miracle.

Of course, we started every morning with breakfast at the mess hall. And oh, what food they serve at camp! At breakfast, we had pancakes, bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, home fries and a bunch of other things that I'm probably forgetting. There was also various breads, cereals and oatmeal. For Saturday lunch, we had lasagna, salad, garlic toast. On Sunday, there was chicken salad complete with french fries. They also had ala carte items at lunch like PB&J and even tuna casserole. It was pretty much all you can eat. And it was AWESOME. You eat family style, where each table has an assigned person called a "hopper" who goes up to the counter to retrieve platters of food for everyone. Then at the end of the meal, everyone helps clear and wash the dishes using big basins of soapy and clean water at the table. I was very proud of Lauren when she washed everyone's dishes during lunch one day.


After our hearty breakfast, we scheduled ourselves for an hour of friendship bracelet making. Then it was time for what we had all been looking forward to - horseback riding!

Grooming a horse.

First, the girls got to learn about horse grooming. This one was a retired thoroughbred named "Avert."

Getting acquainted.

Then, it was finally time to saddle up. Lauren's horse was named Jasmine.

 Coming in for a landing.

Here she is finishing up her ride around camp. I was glad to get this one photo of her on the horse because since the kids rode in line behind the adults, I couldn't see her.

Me and Gunther.

While the kids were led around on their horses, the adults had to fend for themselves. I never realized how big and powerful horses were until I had to get on one. I was very proud when I was able to hike myself up in the saddle on the first try. My horse was named Gunther. Poor Gunther had a cough and would occasionally let out a little wheeze as we rode around camp.

Posing with her new friend.

After horseback riding, we took a break for lunch, went swimming in the camp's lovely heated(!) pool for a couple of hours, and then went for a relaxing hayride.

Tie dyed t-shirts.

Then it was time for tie-dying. The camp has a dedicated building for arts and crafts. I was in heaven - this place had every crafting supply you could imagine. After we finished tie-dying, the councilor in charge just let us loose to make whatever we wanted. She was so patient - if we needed a supply, she would track it down. If we wanted to learn something new, she would sit down and teach us. Have I mentioned how wonderful the councilors were?

 Campfire for flag retirement ceremony.

After crafting, it was time for dinner at our units. The councilors then treated us to a cook out of hot dogs and hamburgers. Then, our daughters got to participate in a flag retirement ceremony.

 My little camper.

The big event of Saturday evening was the camp hoe down. The girls were prepared.

 Baby shark.

On the way, Lauren and her sister scout demonstrated for us the "Baby Shark" song that they learned by the camp fire the night before.

Walkin' to the hoe down.

Hammock love.

Taking a short break on the way to the hoe down. The girls loved to hang out in the colorful hammocks in front of the mess hall.

Suspension bridge.

To get to the field where the hoe down was held, we had to cross the suspension bridge over the creek.

Resting before the hoedown. 

Here I am with my fellow moms. Little did we know what was in store for us at the hoe down. We thought we would just sit in the grass and watch the girls. Oh, no. We ended up participating in what amounted to an hour of western style aerobics. Square dancing. The Hamster Dance. The Cha Cha Slide. It was both exhausting and an absolute blast. And yes, that's one of the councilors photo bombing behind us.
Candlelight ceremony. 

Saturday night was the most amazing part of all - everyone gathered to sing songs at the candlelight ceremony. Before bed each night, we sang Taps:

Green trees around us
Bright stars above
Friends all around us
In a world filled with love
Taps sounding softly
Hearts beating true
Camp Redwing sings goodnight to you.

 Me and my gal.

We spent Sunday morning canoeing, but I unfortunately didn't take my camera with me because I wasn't sure how wet things were going to get. However, I can assure you that I successfully navigated our canoe down the creek and back, and only managed to get stuck once.

And that concludes our summer camp adventure. Is it next summer yet?

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