Times are strange.
Even though a lot of what I like to do is, by its nature, remote – backpacking, canoeing/kayaking, sailing, etc – all these activities became extremely popular as soon as we started getting guidance not to congregate. The bars closed down and the trailheads clogged up.
Add to that the challenges of getting to a place – the travel, the reliance on infrastructure (food, gas), and the simple social responsibility associated with trying to be a good citizen and maintain social distance, and it’s just been hard to justify doing these things, responsibly, even if I were to be largely alone. I don’t want to be “that guy”. But, at the same time, I miss it.
So, working with the Scout leadership of our Boy Scout Troop, we hatched a plan. We’ve been holding meetings over Zoom lately, and last week our Senior Patrol Leader (14 yr old) put it out there – let’s go camping this weekend. The boys’ leadership council had a meeting the next night, and figuring out details for this campout consumed a lot of the discussion. Last night, we made it happen.
We wound up with about 15 boys and their respective families participate. (Actual numbers were hard to figure, we’ll get a good count after the fact). Each family set up camp in their own respective backyards – in my case that meant tucking in between a big white pine and white oak, and underneath a holly, “deep” in the small forest behind the house. We don’t have a lot of acreage, but it’s wooded, and there’s enough that by going to the far corner of my lot, which is nearest the far corners of everybody else’s, I can get the feeling of being pretty isolated.
Anyway, everybody did their own version of this, and about a half-hour before sunset we all called into a Zoom chat and showed off our campsites. We discussed dinner, and compared notes on who was cooking what. I didn’t see any stoves, but lots of campfire cooking – foil packs, hot dogs, etc.
Then we had dinner as families, and called back in late, well after sunset. Each little Zoom window showed an image of somebody else’s campfire. In the dark, that’s all you could see, really. Fifteen little individuals, brought together. We told jokes, we all looked at Venus, together. One Scout brought out a guitar and played a tune or two, and for long periods, we just sat together, in silence, enjoying our own fires and the shared experience. A couple boys admitted they couldn’t camp for various reasons, but they built a fire just so they could join the group. It was still weird, but very special.
Overnight, I was serenaded by frogs, a very loud Chuck Will’s Widow, and a whitetail deer blowing alarms at (I think) one of my sons who had strung his hammock alongside the deer’s regular game trail. This morning’s dawn chorus of birds was spectacular, and I just lay in my tent trying to distinguish individual birds and species, some whistling loudly and broadcasting from treetops, others quietly cooing low in the holly and huckleberry undergrowth nearby.
It was just one night, but it was refreshing to the soul. And I’m so happy that others joined in, wherever they were. Hopefully things will get back to normal and we’ll be able to do things together before too long, but until then, we’ll make do as best we can.
Whitetail Deer at 5am
Dawn Chorus, with a lingering Chuck Will’s Widow
Get Out There