ScoutsJust got back today from our annual fall area Scout Camp, this time at the Foley Mountain Conservation Area on the Rideau Lakes.


And things turn out better. The forecast was cold, and rain. Last year was all rain, all the time. I felt sick on Friday and, without being able to find a replacement leader to cover our 2-adult minimum, was about to cancel the camp. But I decided to medicate my way through whatever was coming over me and just press on. We got a little wet on Friday, but the weather dried up Saturday afternoon for the outbound hike, and we have lovely sunshine on Sunday for the inbound. And it turns out all I ended up getting was a cold, and I managed fine.


On the outbound hike on Saturday, one kid in particular forged ahead if the rest of us by himself. It struck me that he was not doing this out of competitiveness, but sheer curiosity. He just wanted to see, almost urgently, what lay ahead. On Sunday morning, one of the kids came to me and gave me a plastic bag to throw in with the rest of the garbage. The contents looked very unfamiliar, and for a split second I thought it was vomit. I asked him what it was. He said it was his pillow. The day before he had been foraging around in the milkweed and had asked me for a plastic bag. I thought nothing of it at the time and gave him one. Well, this is what he did with it. And it was not a bad pillow at that. For the final lunch, to get us out quickly I just boiled water at the base camp to give the kids a quick single-serving of ready-made noodle soups. All the utensils were already packed, and no-one wanted to dig into their packs for them, though a few finally did. When some of the kids asked me how are we going to eat the soup, I bent down, picked up a twig, snapped it in two, grinned, and said "Chop-sticks!" And began to eat my soup. Well the kids all thought that was great and entertaining and continued with whatever they were doing, except one, who called out "Look Scouter George, I'm using chop-sticks!" It was the same boy as the pillow-maker and our uber-hiker. Some people, even at a very young age, just make you sit up and take notice.

Oh yes, another improvisation, this time by my co-leader. Morning breakfast was oatmeal, the hot drink (to get warm), a big vat of hot chocolate. I was about to start boiling water for the oatmeal as well, when he said "Why not just use the hot chocolate in the oatmeal?" Why not indeed? "Hey kid, come here, try this." He loved it, and so did the rest. Another innovation of the 63rd Ottawa (which immediately virally mutated when one of the kids also added some of the leaders' left over coffee to this new successful combination).


Hiking outbound, the call came in. Troops, the road to the far camp has been washed out (remember the previous day's rain), and we can't get your gear to the far camp site. It looks like you'll have to return. We discussed it with the other two troops hiking with us over our lunch break at the 3.5km point, and decided to leave our packs and go see the "Act of G_d" (I did build it up somewhat) anyway. We finished our lunch first, and off we went, just our troop. It was a lot further than originally advertised by the organizers (they had misread the map), but 3km later we arrived, and sure enough, a flooded stream was pouring over the road with foot-deep water. We then started back, and passed the other troops still on their way out. After a few quick quips to keep up their morale, such "makes Niagara Falls look like a big waterfall", we continued back, and they on. Well, by the time we were almost back to where our packs were in the woods just off the road, we learned from the organizers driving by that the water had dropped and the 36th had somehow crossed the stream. The far camp was on again! But, in fairness, as the kids had already hiked the total distance they were supposed to, we drove them and their stuff to the campsite - a farmer's field. But for a moment, they had the experience of what can happen when the things you take for granted fail.


We all had to be ferried to the far camp in two runs because of numbers. So while lying around by the side of the road, to both fill the time (and actually assess the damage), I announced "Right men, foot check - shoes and socks off on the double!" This surprised them a little, but stirred all sorts of conversation and laughter as I went from one foot to the next, bandaging whatever blister needed to be bandaged, and even loudly pondering an amputation or two. Although the repairs went a little further than expected when we noticed that one of the boys had been sitting in a major pile of (fresh) animal droppings the whole time. That required using up quite a few antiseptic wet-wipes before we were truly car-worthy.


We set up and took down camp twice this weekend, and hiked 20km - a good portion with full packs. Most of our Scouts were first-years, who normally just stay at the base camp for this particular event and don't do the hike part. Would they do it again? "Y-E-E-E-S!"


I ended up with a splinter in my index finger, which became increasingly annoying. With a pin from the sewing kit I was able to break the skin, and then with the miniature tweezers cleverly embedded in this particular flavour of knife, I was able to pull out the splinter. I cannot tell you the number of time a Swiss army knife has solved one of life's many little problems.


When we do a camp, we collect the registration fees from the parents, and then use the cash to pay for supplies and the site fees to the organizers (for the bigger multi-troop camps). This is all very efficient. The payments are settled, the crests and ribbons as may apply for the participating troops distributed to the troops and then to the youth, and at camp's end, the books closed. No lingering obligations. For there is always the next camp. Where you have an event-based, or a commodity transactions, it made me think about how useful it is to just settle everything then and there - cash - so you can move in with no further overhang. Compare that to credit-default swaps, 10-year warranties, 30-year bonds, and unfunded pensions and government programs. How much unnecessary complexity (that needs to be tracked and managed) have we, over time, brought upon ourselves?





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