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Friday, August 14, 2015

Learning Camping skills one stake at a time

MOUNTAIN VIEWS Kodiak Daily Mirror Column
Published August 13th, 2015
By Zoya

Sitting on the beach of Woody Island next to a big stack of camping gear, I was excited for the Girl Scouts to arrive on the seiner F/V Silver Fox. The weather and transportation plans were cooperating for our weekend camping trip! The state park campsite was vacant. I could breath a sigh of relief as the final pieces of trip planning had fallen into place.

Eleven excited scouts, five leaders, five tents, food, supplies and lots of cute stuffed animals in backpacks arrived on shore via zodiac. Together we packed up gear from the beach to our campsite. Without much prompting, the girls helped each other haul their big bags up the beach.

Alaska Troop #118 had patches to be completed, camping skills to be honed, trails to be explored and a geocache to be found.

Four other leaders and I helped guide the girls with the morning tasks to get camp set up. The girls drew colored straws to break up into what Girl Scout tradition calls KAPER groups. These are small groups who would do chores around camp. One group set up the fire pit. One group helped with tent setup. One group gathered wood off the beach. The excitement built as the tents went up and the reality of our trip set in.

There were challenges the leaders had to face together; a scout who came down with a stomach virus, enforcing strict safety rules around the camp fire and teaching the girls how and where to “take care of business” in a leave-no-trace manner.

These are the less-glorious, unavoidable aspects of taking a troop camping.

After dinner the scouts took turns sharing something new that we had experienced. For many, it was eating Sprite Chicken — a greasy Dutch oven dish with chicken, carrots, potatoes and lots of bacon. For others, it was geocaching. For the adults in the group, the trip was an experience of firsts, as well. First time geocaching, first time to Woody Island. First time camping on the Woody Island State Park land.

My “camp firsts” had less to do with new foods consumed or new lands explored, but more to do with beginning to understand the culture of Girl Scout camping and the importance of rituals in the troop. I saw the principle of Girl Scout sisterhood in action; when a scout on our outing was struck with a sudden stomach virus, several scouts offered to help pack up her sleeping gear for departure.

We learned new silly fun Girl Scout songs, showed how to leave a place better than we found it, and made banana boats — once again a Girl Scout classic. My co-leader and I were reflecting on how, years from now, with these repeated camping trips, the girls will become very adept at camping and how fun that will be to see! One tent stake at a time, one fire at a time — skills were practiced this weekend.

And now, I have a few Girl Scout songs stuck on repeat in my head. Just need to somehow turn those off and I'll be officially recovered from the weekend!

Kodiak resident Zoya Saltonstall is a mother of two and a physical therapist. She loves black labs and chocolate.

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