Last weekend (Dec 7-9, 2007) we went camping with the Scouts at the Lightning Lake Winter campsite, Manning Provinical Park in BC. We were about 30 in number, including 3 leaders and 18 Scouts and Venturers from the 40th Marpole Scouts as well as 10 Scouts and Venturers from the 28th Kitsilano Scouts.
On the Friday night when we arrived it was pretty cold. The kids set up their tents and got their things organized. It was cold. Very cold. One of the scouts had his birthday so his parents had sent up a birthday cake. By the time we got to eating the cake it was more of an ice cream cake… Just what you need at -14C 🙂 By the time we got to the point where we were boiling up “hot water bottles” for their sleeping bags it was almost midnight. We finished boiling up the last bottle at about 0130!
Sidebar 1: We require our scouts to buy and use only the 1L wide mouth nalgene bottles which just so happen to be the type of bottle that MEC pulled from their shelves the other day due to fears of bisphenol A. This allows us to pour boiling hot water into bottles without melting them or burning the hands of the holder. The plastic is slightly insulating and makes a great slow dissipation of heat. These bottles are tough and also can handle the duress imposed upon them as the water freezes later that next day.
Sidebar 2: The old plunger pump style of coleman stoves and lanterns:
SUCK in cold weather. Since we do at least 2 cold weather camps a year, we’re going to start using more MSR stoves and look for lanterns that work on a similar fuel delivery system to the MSR. At -15, the LAST thing you want is to not be able to light a stove or lantern because you can’t maintain a seal on your fuel pump 😦 If you have any suggestions for lanterns, please add them in the comments!
The next morning it was BITTERLY cold. Turns out it had gone down to about -18C overnight. So, on top of the usual sleepy kids, we had a bunch of kidsicles too. They were cold. They had to get warm energy in themselves soon, and get moving. It’s a funny cycle though. When you’re cold you just want to sit still – which makes you colder… and around it goes. We got them to get their breakfast going and boil more water to have hot liquid to drink. In the cold everything takes a long time, and this was no exception. Breakfast finished in about 1.5 hours.
After breakfast we headed out to the parking lot area and played ball tag as well as had distance competitions for throwing “snowballs” (actually icy snow chunks). By the time we finished everyone had warmed up a bit more, and the sun was finally coming over the mountains at about 1000. It was time for a hike. Lightning lake is quite a large lake with a couple of large bays which makes the lake size look deceptively small when you look at it from the “right” angle. We headed out along the shore walking through mostly broken snow. We were able to identify tracks of rabbits, hares, raven, squirrels and possibly a small cat (cougar/bobcat?) We could tell it was a wild carnivore of some sort since its scat had a lot of fur in it, possibly from squirrels or mice. We walked all the way down to the rainbow bridge (which is where we took the picture you see above), and then returned back to the campsite to get lunch going. The kids had all kinds of different things for lunch while we, the leaders, had chunky chicken noodle soup. That warmed the soul 😀 Of course lunch and its associated machinations required about 1.5 hours again.
After lunch came the big challenge of the day: start a small sustainable fire from natural surroundings which will continue to burn for 10 minutes with no interference from the firelighters. There were some excellent attempts and one fire even burned for 9:50 before dying into a smoldering heap. They had a great time with the challenge even though it was quite difficult. Fire lighting is a skill that they need to work on still. One that may possibly save their lives in the future.
The sunset was around 1430. This is one of the joys of camping in a mountain valley in the winter – not much sunlight. The stars overhead were fantastic and made a beautiful blanket of white in the black moonless sky. I don’t think too many kids noticed them though. They were busy “being cold”.
Lessons about cold:
- If you keep your gloves off your hands will get cold
- If you keep your gloves on when they are wet your hands will get cold
- If you keep your gloves on and do nothing with your hands they will get cold
- Repeat above 3 replacing gloves with boots and hands with feet
- If you stand around and hope you’ll get warmer, you won’t. MOVE.
- If you don’t eat enough you won’t have enough calories – COLD
- If you don’t drink enough you won’t have enough water to help your body metabolize your calorie intake – COLD
- If you listen to your Scout leaders you have a WAY better chance of staying warm.
Dinner was a massive undertaking. By now most juices had frozen solid, olive oil had turned into olive butter, eggs were hard calcium covered rocks, and water bottles were full of ice. It took some determination to get dinner ready and eaten without freezing or having frozen food. They did it. Sure, the place looked a bit like a hurricane had blown through but they did it. After the 2+ hour affair called dinner it was time for the event to which ALL scouts were looking forward – campfire! We piled it high! We had a palette of old pine 2x4s and some hemlock and fir. We built a beauty of a fire and we roasted ourselves around it. While warming up we sang Christmas songs and talked about gifts from Christmases past – the good, the bad and the ugly. There sure are some odd gifts out there! I reminded them that at Christmas time everyone talks about kindness and charity, but that as Scouts they should have kindness and charity in their hearts at all times – not just Christmas. As scouts we should always be cheerful and kind, considerate and clean, looking for ways to better the world. Christmas is when the rest of them do it. We do it all year ’round.
At about 2100 we played a wide game that had them running around through the woods and playing and yelling like kids enjoy doing. It was definitely warmer than it had been on Friday night. By 2200 we had finished our game and headed over to the lakeshore to look up at the sky. For almost all these youth this will be the most stars in the sky that they may ever see. It was beautiful. Orion, Ursa major, the milky way, mars. They shone bright but were also surrounded by millions of lesser stars that you don’t see when you’re in the city. Next, we began to boil up water bottles again for those that wished them. After all was said and done we managed to get to sleep by 2330 on Saturday night. It was REALLY quiet. They were obviously tired.
Sunday morning was the mad rush to leave. We woke at 0730 again but this time to the sound of snow falling. It was falling pretty heavily and would likely start to cause us some problems if it continued at that rate. The Scouts and Venturers packed up their gear in their tents and then got up and went through the breakfast game again. One day they’ll become a well oiled team, but in the meantime we continue to be serenaded by shouts of “Hey – what ARE you doing?” and “Why are you doing that?” Ah – teamwork.
At 1120 I drove out to the lodge to meet the school bus which was to pick us up. He arrived a bit late (1150). Apparently the highway between Vancouver and Abbotsford had been closed due to too much black ice and over 15 cars in the ditch. They reopened it later, but it was enough to make him late to come get us.
We finally pulled out of Manning Park at around 1300 and were back in Vancouver by 1600. I was tired but happy that I’d had a good camp out with the Scouts again.
I hope to have one of the youths’ camp logs posted soon.