Winter Camping Like a Pro

I’m a Rangers leader. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s the 15-17 year-old Girl Guide group, which is a whole different ballgame from the 9-11 year-olds I worked with before. I signed on because I missed all the fun outdoorsy events I participated in while I was a kid, not realizing that growing up in St. John’s is entirely different than growing up in the bay. For example, their extra-curricular activities involve piano lessons and traveling to China to sing in the choir. Mine involved bushwhacking to find swimming holes and watching Dad carefully unassemble a moose in our shed.

We have nothing to relate about and often I’m blown away by their brightness. One evening, before a cross-country skiing excursion, one of the girls remarked that the group loves me because I’m “chilled out” and “don’t really know how to do stuff.” Bless their hearts; I’m crazy about those girls.

So two weekends ago, we went winter camping. I haven’t done so in 10 years, and trust me, I’m no longer the swarthy bay-woman I used to be. In reality, I guess I was never really swarthy, but I tried to be.

Bauline East

Candy-coloured houses near our campsite.

We stayed in a cute log cabin in Bauline East with some of the Pathfinders girls. Our luxury accommodations included an outhouse with nearly pristine toilets—a major improvement from the stench crapholes of 2 years ago. We had all packed several pairs of socks, pants, mitts, hats, and extra blankets, but the cabin was surprisingly cozy. After a night of hot cocoa and me mouthing campfire songs because even after 4 years I still can’t memorize the lyrics, we bunkered down for the night. I believe there is nothing more lulling than a fire crackling over the noise of wind gusting through a rickety old roof, and after reading for an hour, I figured I’d fall into a deep sleep. I was also pretty hungover from St. Patrick’s Day the night before.

The role model.

That didn’t happen, of course. I spent all night tossing and turning on my hard mattress and trying to cram earplugs into my head. I slept a total of 2 hours, and awoke around 7 a.m. to hear something that resembled a tennis match going on inside the cabin. It was only noisy Pathfinders. I glared at them with redheaded rage.

Our mission for the day was a hike to Doctor’s Cove, a pretty little spot located just before the abandoned village of La Manche. My girls were unforgiving about my Molson Canadian toque, and called me out on it for being a great role model. The trail alternated from a muddy sludge to snow-covered terrain, and we had to creep carefully across snowy logs meant to be used as bridges. I fell into a river and took a Pathfinder with me.

The sky was overcast and the weather hovered somewhere between drizzle and raging blizzard. We were told to take damp wood and make a fire. I ran around the cliffs scooping up armfuls of semi-dry brush and piles of alders, and watched the girls do their thing. We had charcoal and fire sticks, and the damn thing wouldn’t light. Finally one of them looked at me and said, “Aren’t you our leader?” Haha, joke’s on you. In the bay, we burned tires.

Our lunch did get cooked eventually, however: chunks of sausage, sliced potato, a handful of corn, some onions and couscous mashed together and roasted over coals in tinfoil. My excitement over escaping beer calories at winter camp came back to haunt me in the form of mechanically separated meat, but it was damned delicious.

Again, I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I tossed and turned and burrowed deep in my sleeping bag and practiced breathing exercises I learned from a few measly yoga lessons, but mostly I stayed awake until sunrise. I didn’t get frostbite, I didn’t break any bones, and I only traumatized two or three girls. Also, I earned this sweet, sweet badge:

I win.

  • April 05 2011

    What a cool experience, leave it to adolescent/teen girls to totally put you in your place!

    Glad you had a good time and got back to relive some childhood memories! :)

    • April 08 2011

      Hahaha, seriously! They mean well though, I adore those ladies.

  • April 06 2011

    I can never get used to sleeping bags, did the yoga actually help you get to sleep? The food does look delicious though.

    • April 08 2011

      Nah, I like to think I know yoga, but I’m a newb. ;) But sleeping bags are LOVELY! Like a personal cocoon…

  • April 06 2011

    i wrote something very witty and intelligent, failed the captcha code and it dissapeared.. SADFACE!

    Did you seriously get a badge? that’s awesome!! :D
    I did brownies as a child, but never anything after that… I believe I was given the choice: girl guides or swimming lessons. I chose swimming, got neither.. thanks mum ;P

    also, I think you’re a great role model.
    and i always sleep very well when camping, not sure why since I typically don’t sleep well in other people’s houses… guess outside doesn’t count as another person’s house…

    and now i’m hungry.

    • April 08 2011

      Hmmm, my CAPTCHA code seems to be failing all over the place…must look into it.

      And I’m glad you think I’m a good role model! Even if I did accidentally curse at one of the girls on Saturday morning…

  • April 06 2011

    My wife bribes me into doing random chores with the promise of a badge.
    There is never a badge.
    Yet I fall for it every time.
    If there was a gullibility badge…


  • April 06 2011

    Although the weather looks dreary, the pictures are great! I especially like the candy colored homes :-)

    • April 08 2011

      Very dreary, but thanks! Perhaps that’s why the houses are so bright. :)

  • April 06 2011

    I was very concerned about your judgment with voluntarily going camping in the winter as I would not even go in the summer. Sleeping on the ground and walking a mile to pee isn’t my idea of a good time. At least it’s one of those things you now can always say you did that…

    • April 08 2011

      Hahaha, I love it! Just not the cold, snowy part…

  • April 06 2011

    this was my favourite part: one of the girls remarked that the group loves me because I’m “chilled out” and “don’t really know how to do stuff.” and i agree…you are a great role model!

    (ps – i got the catcha code error message too the first time – copy your comment before you post!)

    • April 08 2011

      Thanks, Carlo! I’m surprised people think I’m a good role model. Wearing that beer hat and all. Hah!

      CAPTCHA code is ruining my life. Will look into it, thanks.

  • April 06 2011

    I had to sleep in a TENT in the winter to get my winter camp badge. Have all girl guiders gone this soft? :)

    • April 08 2011

      For reals, so did I back in the day! Things have changed…

  • April 06 2011

    That badge is amazing. It is so cute that you lead this group of girls! I would have loved to have you as my group leader as a teenager. Congrats on surviving!

    • April 08 2011

      Oh man, thank god there are other leaders around because I can barely take care of myself, never mind 20 girls…

  • April 06 2011

    I love camping, but I’d never go in the winter – even with a cabin. Unless of course there’s mulled wine involved… see you’re a better role model than I am. Also that badge is awesome. I’d consider winter camping just for it. But then I’d stay home instead and draw a picture.

    • April 08 2011

      Ooh but winter cabin trips are so fun! I loved it growing up. Nothing like a little snowmobiling to get there first.

  • April 06 2011

    Candice got all woodsy. Love it !

  • April 07 2011

    Well, if you’re going to fall into a frigid river, I guess it’s smart to take a Pathfinder with you to help you out, hehe :) . I totally enjoyed reading this. It’s a great story. You should write more posts like this.

    • April 08 2011

      Hehe, thanks Sabina! Funny because I struggled through this post and wasn’t sure how to make a story out of it…

  • April 07 2011

    great post and that is a super cool badge. I hope the opinion of the Pathfinder, that you pulled into the river didn’t change of you ;). Glad that all ended safely. But they are right, you are super cool, and even if you don’t know how to do stuff, it’s the being chilled and putting yourself on their level that makes you a GREAT role model. I do the same with the kids that I teach and I get the same reaction (at least they tell me they don’t want me to ever leave). I don’t know all the stuff I am teaching, but we teach each other, and I think they like that and benefit more from it.

    Hopefully you have got some rest since. Oh and you rock the Molson toque.

    • April 08 2011

      Thank ya, Peter! I think so too, actually. They’re so freaking mature, there’s no way I could treat them like kids. Some of my best conversations with them have occurred on their “level.”

      And I do love that toque!

  • April 07 2011

    What a great story. I’m sure the girls had such fun!

    • April 08 2011

      Thanks, Marsha! It was a hoot.

  • April 09 2011

    So the parents trusted you with their offspring??
    I’m sure you were great fun to be around.
    I loved this post and the fact you help out in your community.

    • April 11 2011

      Lol, trust me, I’m as surprised as you are!

  • April 18 2011

    Oh my gosh! I want to do this with you next year!! It sounds like fun!!! :)

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