Sunday, May 2, 2010

A Girl's Guide to Camping

My first camping experience was a success. I must admit I was not too excited when the idea was first proposed by the energetic college intern, Stephanie, working with me this semester. Taking a dozen teenagers camping sounded more like an episode of MTV’s Real World than an activity for a fifty-something woman whose idea of roughing it is having to carry my own luggage into a hotel. However, Stephanie’s enthusiasm prevailed and before I knew it I was on my way to the great outdoors.

I am proud to say I survived. I guess, as camping experiences go, this one was rather cushy. Stephanie’s enthusiasm infected almost everyone at our non-profit organization and before they knew it they were volunteering to assist, and/or attend the trip. We arrived at the campsite to find three R.V. campers, complete with bathrooms, refrigerators, and sleeping accommodations. There was one for the boys, one for the girls, and one for the adults. Wow, who knew camping could be so easy? Not I.

There were a few hard-core attendees who wanted the full camping experience, so a couple of tents were pitched. Guess who got to sleep in one of the tents to serve as a chaperone? That would be me. But even that didn’t come close to the horror I had prepared myself for. When the provider of the R.V.s (who also happens to be our staff nutrition educator) learned of my fate she quickly provided an inflatable bed and a down-filled comforter. I think I probably had even more comfortable accommodations than those in the heated campers. Except for the brief rain that fell around midnight and came in through the mesh ceiling of the tent, my night was comfy, cozy, and uneventful. My tent-mates never even knew we had undergone a campsite baptism of sorts.

We performed all of the standard camp rituals; we roasted hot dogs, we made s’mores, we sang (and danced) around the campfire, we smelled of wood smoke when we went to bed, we hiked, we caught bugs, and we had a real “camp” breakfast cooked over an open fire. How many campers can boast their meals were prepared by an Executive Chef? Yep, Stephanie-the-intern even convinced our staff chef to attend and cook for us. In addition to the chef and nutritionist she also recruited other employees. Our chief financial officer led a hiking expedition, our executive director served as photographer, our Ph.D. horticulturist conducted the bug hunting/identifying/labeling excursions, and even our accountant, dock foreman, social marketing director, and two kitchen assistants got in on the camping action. Our farm manager and her husband kept the campfire and a pot of coffee going all night.

I’ve always believed in the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but I now see that it takes an entire non-profit organization to orchestrate and pull off a successful camping experience – not only for me, but for the eleven lucky teens that this trip was for. Thanks to my co-workers and especially to Stephanie, the intern, for making this an experience none of us will ever forget.