On a warm evening in mid-September, the idea of taking my son on an overnight campout at Loud Thunder sounded like an opportunity for fun and character-building. I left the choice up to him, but since he wanted to go, I signed us up. A month later, huddled in my sleeping bag and not quite shivering but not warm enough to get back to sleep, I couldn’t help asking myself if this was worth it.
It was our third HALT (Halloween at Loud Thunder), and I had tried to be prepared for the problems we had had on previous occasions. Make sure he packs his pajamas. Extra pants, extra socks, extra underwear. Hats and gloves – although it seemed an unneeded precaution on an October afternoon that was brisk but not so cold Al felt he needed to change from shorts (because the pants had been in the washer) to pants.
By the time we got to the Council Ring for the after-supper campfire, we were grateful for our hats and gloves. He was eager to crawl into a warm sleeping bag, but agreed to go first to the observatory. Even without the telescope, we could see far more stars than here in town (and here we no doubt see far more than in even a mid-size city). But with the telescope, we could see Jupiter, amazingly bright and white, and three of its moons.
Usually s’mores are too sweet for me (though I loved them when I was younger), but last night they were delicious – although Al did have trouble biting through the cold chocolate bar. When we returned to our very small dome tent (a neighboring Scouter was surprised that two of us could squeeze in there), moisture had condensed on the outside, and frozen. I was glad for the Hollofil 808 in my sleeping bag, and hoped my son’s would be warm enough.
Apparently it was. A foot shorter than I am, he also had the advantage of being able to stretch out without bumping his head against the side of the tent. I kept reminding myself that I was far warmer than the time 27 years ago that I went on my first and last backpacking trip, when my borrowed one-man tent leaked on a rainy night, and I spent most of the night soaked to the skin and getting so chilled that my sluggish brain could not entertain the notion of waking campers in another tent to ask for shelter.
Hot breakfast (served in a heated dining hall) was very welcome this morning. Amazing how good food tastes after a night sleeping outside! Then we warmed up some more walking all over camp to the various activities. I remembered how bored he got last time waiting in line half an hour for a hay rack ride, and so scared at the haunted house that we had to back out, only a few feet from the entrance door. This year he was determined to brave the haunted house.
He made it through the haunted house not once but twice (first with me in front, then with him in front). Perhaps the weather kept some people at home, because there was no line at the hay rack – instead of waiting for a wagon, we had to wait for a few more people to ride on it. Al won the Frankenstein boot race (it helps being one of the older Cub Scouts instead of one of the younger ones). And he made it across the “monkey bridge” without any help (another first).
So it was definitely worth it. By now I’ve warmed up (though I still have some sleep to catch up on). And the tent, set up in the basement to dry out, is probably ready to put away until next year’s HALT.