Monday, December 30, 2013

Under the Stars

Usually I can't remember much detail about activities that happened more than 15 years ago, but one camping trip I took while I was in elementary stands out. I probably had not been in the Boy Scouts of America long (as in having finished Cub Scouts) when our troop went camping at Wooly Hollow State Park outside of Greenbrier. The fact I remember the campground and location is amazing, but it wasn't simply the beautiful park that made the trip so memorable.

What stood out is where we slept and the environment. Not long before we were all supposed to go to bed, the scout master put his sleeping bag in the bed of his truck. When we asked why, he told us he was going to sleep outside under the stars. Some of us asked if we could too. I was one of the first to move my gear out of the tent into a tent pad. It wasn't long before all of the tents were empty and everyone was laying outside under the stars. Before we fell asleep we could hear the soft strum of the guitar from a near-by campsite and the voices of a Hispanic family singing along. It was truly a memorable experience.

I have tried to relive that experience on multiple camping trips but out of the four to five attempts, none have been successful. In fact, most were cut short because of the weather or threat of rain. The last failed attempt was this weekend at Petit Jean State Park. My friend and I were bundled up around our campfire and decided we would go ahead and sleep next to the fire a while. The campground was dark with the exception of a few fires spread around the area. We both fell sleep, but the changes in lighting from our fire kept waking me up. I finally rolled over on my back and could see an animal in the next campsite over, close enough to see an outline by the glow of our fire. I quickly scrambled to my feet, not so quietly as I kicked the tarp I was on and woke my friend who questioned me confusedly.

After that he decided he wouldn't be sleeping outside -- not that the thin tent canvas would keep anything out that really wanted in. Eventually the fire died, leaving us with only a cold tent to return to and this funny story to tell. Well, funny for me; the raccoon may think otherwise.

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