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.
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.
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: