Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Surviving the Survival Camp Out

Rain, rain, go away!
Survival camp out. What can I say? This picture says more than a thousand words. It is a real thing when the rain doesn't stop coming down, the wind doesn't stop blowing and the temperature dips to an uncomfortable level, causing chill bumps to erupt all over. What can you do? Build a fire, grab a canoe and wait it out, I guess. That's what happens. It becomes a survival technique that brings some level of increased endurance. Temporarily anyway.

The survival weekend started as an idea I had for the older boys in the village. We are meeting on Friday nights and have been for quite some time. Nathan and Quinn started the process of meeting and engaging in activities that were of interest and brought about some wholesome character building in these boys. I should really call them "young men" as they are not just boys any more. There is also a question about some of the character building processes that have transpired but all in all I think the boys are growing into well groomed "young men".

One Friday night meeting I sat in for Nathan and we were thinking about something we could do that would be fun and exciting. I remembered the old Boy Scout survival training events and offered them an opportunity to do a survival camp out weekend. I was hoping for a little interest but found that there was an outburst of high-energy conversation that ensued out of every boy. When I offered another thought of just bringing what they could stuff into a three pound coffee can the energy spiked a new all-time high.

One such shelter construction.
Conversation started with,
"Can we bring fishing poles?"
Sure, if they fit in the can.
"Can we bring hatchets and knives?"
Sure, if they can fit in the can.
"Can we bring seeping bags and tents?"
Sure, if they can ... wait a minute guys. This is a survival camp out adventure. You have to make do without some things and be inventive in how to construct shelters, cooking, fishing and all the other things that you will need to do to last for a weekend.

Tent style shelter 
So the planning started. Everyone was to get a 3 pound coffee can and start thinking about what could fit in the can. How much food can you really get into a can? Space blankets, small knives, band-aids, string, rope, matches, dryer lint, seasonings for cooking, tin foil and other such items started to fill the cans. Everyone was thinking hard about what they could get into that can. One of the fathers figured out how to put a fishing pole in his can. The process went on for a few weeks.

We then had to pick a place to go where we could really survive. You know, no bathrooms, no running water, no electricity. Nathan found a place in Mississippi that was on an island in the middle of a lake. That sounded great! so we Googled it and sure enough, it was an island on a lake. We would need to take the canoes. Taking the fathers was the next thought. This needed to be a bonding time for fathers and sons as well. We are at 13 people now. six canoes, thirteen coffee cans, and 24 hours of fun.

My wife, kids and I decided to take a quick trip to this camping area a couple weekends prior, just to make sure we knew everything we needed to know and see what we might be getting ourselves into. The campground is called Piney Grove Campground, in Mississippi, and it's a great place for regular camping as well. Nice lakefront views, swimming beach, boat launch area and very reasonable prices. Much more reasonable was the cost of survival camping. It was free.

So the date was set, cans were filled, fathers collected, canoes checked, weather report looked over . . . rain? Yes, the forecast was rain. Oh, well. The whole intent of this weekend was to survive, right? Rain was just water in a smaller format. We could survive that for a weekend. At least we thought so. How much could it rain, anyway?

We left Saturday morning at 6:00 AM and the weather looked pretty good. Forecast was for 70-80% rain but that only scared off the birds. Not us. We made a quick stop at a Wal-mart for fishing licenses and arrived at the boat dock around 8:00. Calm waters, clear sky and no rain in sight. Wow! what a great start to a weekend with our sons and friends. The water was actually warm and a few guys brought their swimsuits under their clothes. We were prepared for survival.

After paddling around the peninsula and up to the island we landed on sandy shores of the weekend getaway island. Everyone picked an area for setting up their camp. There were actually designated and developed camp sites for camping with a picnic table and fire ring included. No water or electric but there was an outhouse of sorts up the hill. Everyone started collecting firewood and building shelters. Fishing came next, as we were gong to need food and there was a "No Hunting" sign posted for the island. Some of us brought snack items and I poured rice into all the spaces in my can as backup. Good thing, since we personally did not catch any fish.

All was well and good till about mid afternoon, when the rain started to move in. Then things started to get interesting. Out came the ponchos (88 cent plastic bag types) and people headed for cover. Of course those that did not build shelters were left to fend for themselves. Everyone seemed to congregate to the largest fire area which was, by the way, on the windiest and coldest point of the island. Who picked that spot anyway? And then it rained. A lot of rain. Sheets of rain. Buckets of rain. And then it really started to rain and never stopped.

We canoed back to the boat ramp in the rain that next morning after a rather sleepless night for most. Those that built shelters were mostly warm and dry. Those that did not suffered the Wrath of Rain. It was a sad picture of sleepy, wet men and boys, huddled around a fire for warmth. Sort of like one of those civil war pictures you see with the half-dead men, freezing in the cold. No picture for that other than what you can muster up in your own mind. Sorry.

So we learned how to survive for 24 hours in the rain without all the comforts of what we are used to living in. We learned what we need to bring next time. We learned what not to bring next time. We learned just how much you can actually take of wet clothes, rain soaked shoes, light weight rain gear and no shelters. We learned that a canoe can be used right side up and upside down. I'm sure there were many more lessons we learned but that can be for another day and post.

Suffice it to say, we are glad to be home. I think most of us have recovered from the lack of sleep and dried out now. There will be stories for quite a while, shared around the village and the world. But you know, it was still fun. In spite of the rain, we got time to spend together and with our sons. We shared a weekend experience that we will all remember, for better or worse, for a long time to come.

What do you say guys? Wanna go again this next weekend?