My first scout camping experience wasn’t all fun and games.
Boys start their scouting experience in Cub Scouts. That’s the biggy for younger boys, up until around the age of ten or so. The majority of Cub Scouts dream of moving on to the Boy Scout level, which is the highest level of scouting that most boys get to. Explorer Scout is another level that a small percentage of Boy Scouts decide to pursue. I joined the Sea Explorers for a while.
Explorer Scouting is a specialized branch of scouting where each unit focuses on a specific field of study or endeavor. I’m not sure how many different explorer units exist, but that level of scouting includes Sea Explorers, Space Explorers, and other areas in science and physics, just to mention a few.
Explorer Scouting starts preparing its members for careers in one area. Boy Scout activities are more general. They pretty much do it all.
But the memory I’m talking about here is after Cub Scouts, and before Boy Scouts. Nestled right in there between those two levels is a group called Webelos.
In the overall scheme of scouting, Webelos represents a very short period. I’m thinking two years, but that factoid is a bit fuzzy to me these days.
Webelos is a transition period between the Cub Scout phase and the Boy Scout phase. In Webelos, each boy completes certain tasks that show the scouting officials that he’s ready to graduate from Cub Scout to Boy Scout.
One of those tasks is an overnight camping experience.
We lived in New Jersey at that time of my life, and my first overnight scout camping experience came in January. The location for the campout? A Scout campground in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
In January it’s cold New Jersey.
But in the mountains in Pennsylvania? It’s reeeeaaaallllyyyyy cold in January!
One fellow Webelo went on that campout. His dad and my dad went to supervise the event. My brother decided to go along, though he didn’t reach Webelo level until later.
We packed our camping gear and headed for the campground. I remember snow covering the ground when we pitched our tents.
As we set up camp we found that we had two sleeping bags, but only one blanket. In that kind of cold, you honestly need a blanket to help the sleeping bag keep you warm.
Dad and my brother shared a sleeping bag. and I got the other one with the blanket.
I put the blanket inside the bag, and that turned out to be a lesson in itself. Inside the bag the blanket lets the warmth get out, put the blanket on top of the bag, and it holds the warmth in.
The cold that night is the main thing I remember about that trip. Dad thought I’d put blankets in the bags. I thought he did. We were lucky that one bag actually had the blanket in it.
We survived and I went on to Boy Scout status. But that’s a cold overnight camping experience I’ll never forget.