Friday, February 28, 2014

Camp and Outdoor series: "We are prepared and adaptable. We are Girl Scouts!"

So you think Girl Scouts just sell cookies and ride horses at camp? Think again. Our Outdoor Specialist, Jessica Noelke, taught a Backpacking Basics course at the beginning of February and the things these girls learn are not for the faint of heart! Read about their adventure and what a regular backpacking course looks like. These girls do not survive in the wilderness by chance, but by preparedness and this is something they learn everyday through Girl Scouting. 


On February 7th – 9th, 2014 my volunteer, Ruthy Mounce and I put together a Backpacking Basics course that would challenge and prepare girls and their leaders for future backpacking adventures. This was the first event that I would do with Girl Scouts. I have been the Outdoor Program Specialist for one month, and so far so good.
And they're off!
  The weather was cold and wet on the way down, but I refused to cancel knowing that Saturday would be perfect for the activities we had planned (Isn’t that how it always goes?).  Not only the weather, but the size of the camp we were using and the location were also a concern I, along with others, had. This was my first event to host with Girl Scouts, and it was going to be a good one despite the circumstances!

     Everyone showed up around 9 PM to make s’mores over the fire we had going in the lodge at Happy Hollow, and find their campsites that would now be a little damp from the drizzle we had experienced all day. But we are Girl Scouts! We are prepared and we are adaptable! Ruthy and I headed out to set up our own camp as well, and to get ready for a good night’s sleep to be ready for the next morning.

     Now I have been a Girl Scout and I have camped in primitive sights, not showered for days, seen all types of wildlife not limited to bears and cougars, and witnessed some of the most amazing sunrises you have ever seen above treeline. One night camping five miles away from 290 in Texas was one of the hardest things I have done. You might be thinking, “This is our outdoor Program Specialist?” but ‘bear’ with me.

     I don’t think I slept a wink that night. It was below freezing and between the coyotes mocking girls screaming and laughing, and birds that sounded like bands of monkeys flying through the canopy, I was awakened multiple times throughout the night wondering “what country am I in this time?” The cars from the road weren’t soothing either, and I believe at some point in the night there was a train. I also woke up to my friend ‘whisper-yelling’ at me to stop pushing her into the other side of the tent. “I can’t help it! It’s freezing and you’re warm!” Not only that, I had started to get a scratchy throat and was drowning in my own drool, along with not being able to breathe at all, I started to second-guess whether or not camping was really for me.

     We got started around 9am that next morning, starting with the Ten Essentials of Hiking, performing some Leave No Trace skits, and going over how to filter water with a Katadyn Filter. We also hiked around (a total of 6 miles according to someone’s FitBit) and went over some basic ways to avoid getting lost, avoid lightning strikes, and also how to not get eaten by mountain lions (a serious problem in the backwoods of East Texas). 

After lunch, I would surprise the girls with a quiche that was made from all powdered ingredients; powdered eggs, powdered milk, and powdered soup mix with a crust that only required water to be added to it. We were all amazed about how good it was and how this was something the girls could make on their camp stoves in the backcountry. That afternoon, Ruthy had created a fun game that would present the girls with various challenges that they may face when backpacking in the wilderness, as well as test the skills that they had learned that morning. One of these challenges involved the girls getting stranded on a day hike and needing to build an emergency shelter to get them through the night or during a rainstorm. The girls were divided into teams and each given two trash bags, some rope, and what they had in their packs to build a shelter in ten minutes. The girls really put their heads together for this one, and each team built a shelter that was well thought out, and functional in varying situations. I was really proud of the girls and by the end of the day we were pretty tired.

     Ruthy and I were invited to our neighbor’s that night for dinner and enjoyed some stew with Fritos, and black cherry red velvet cake with coffee, and shared stories around the fire with some of the Girl Scouts and their moms. Ruthy and I have been friends for ten years, and have been on many adventures together in the Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. She is an amazing outdoorswoman, and none of this would have happened without her expertise and inspiring stories to get the girls intrigued about going on their own wild adventures in the back country.

     That night sleeping was easier with some cold medicine and an extra sleeping bag over my original one. Ruthy and I both, doubling up with some of the spare bags I brought for people to use, got into the sleeping bags and both sighed with relief knowing we would be warm the whole night. Being prepared is the secret to having a good time and having the right gear is important when camping. Overall, the Backpacking Basics weekend was a success and we all had a great time learning together!

Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.-James Cash Penney

Proud to be a Girl Scout,

Jessica Noelke, Outdoor Program Specialist

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