Winter Camping

Chris and Everett just returned from a winter camping trip with the Y-Tribe. This is the first overnight adventure we have had while Mom stayed home. It’s also the first time that Melissa has stayed in the house alone since we moved to Wauwatosa.

The trip logistics worked out perfectly. While Everett was in drama class on Saturday morning, Chris rented a car for a day so that Melissa wouldn’t be without one. Chris picked up Everett from class and we went straight to the YMCA camp near Burlington, Wisconsin.

We were told ahead of time that camp is a Mom-free zone, and that there would be essentially no restrictions on junk food. We were also informed that there would be a “meat attack” in the hours between dinner and bedtime. So we came prepared for both. Everett had a bag of treats (chocolate, lebkuchen, gummy bears, grinilla bars, etc). We also made one stop along the way for snacks (sausages and shelled peanuts), and for extra propane for the grill.

We arrived just in time for lunch on Saturday. After lunch we moved into our cabin, which is the most deluxe accommodations Chris has ever seen for camping. The cabin had three bathrooms with showers, a large kitchen and three separate bedrooms with bunk beds. Everett immediately chose a top bunk even though as recently as our Christmas trip to Cincinnati he informed us that he was rolling out of bed as often as three times a night. Chris tried to address this by putting an extra mattress vertically on the open side of  Everett’s bed.

Saturday afternoon we explored camp. A few kids were playing gaga ball, but Everett was far more interested in the giant ropes course, and since that wasn’t open we went for a hike around the lake. Then we rested for a bit in the cabin, and then went to arts and crafts. We made a tie-dyed t-shirt and beaded heart for Mom.

Next was The Big Event: the snow snake competition! This is something we have never heard of before, but apparently it is a tradition started by Native Americans as a winter bonding activity. A brief description is here: Basically you make a snow snake out of wood and launch it down a snow trough to see who can throw the farthest. Chris & Everett have been working on their snow snake for about a week. We went to Home Depot and chose a wood dowel after testing about a dozen of them for straightness and speed. Then we carved it into shape with a plane and a utility knife, sanded it smooth, and applied a coat of polyurethane each night for the next four nights. Finally we gave it a top-secret coating which we cannot divulge but will say that it causes a very high contact angle with water.

Unfortunately, we are currently in the midst of the non-winter of 2012-2013. We did get a little snow recently but then temperatures rose so much that all of it melted. So we found the steepest hill we could locate in camp and held a grass snake competition. Everett was in the 4K-5K group, and each child got three throws. We noted that the change in conditions from snow to grass heavily favored more of a javelin toss than a sliding technique. Nonetheless, it was a lot of fun.

After the snow snake we had some more play time and then turkey dinner at the lodge. Then we went back to the cabin and built a bonfire. I should pause here and make two observations. First, boys of all ages are commonly fascinated by fire, and this is the first time I have observed this behavior in Everett. He spent over an hour catching sticks on fire, making smoke signals, hitting the hot coals to create sparks, etc. It was really difficult to pull him away. Second, the minimal supervision that Dads usually provide under these types of circumstances was reduced even further because the Packers were playing a playoff game. Two televisions were setup in the kitchen, and while the Dads watched the game the kids were outside by the fire.

We were just thinking about pajamas and bedtime when Everett asked “What does invade mean?” Apparently he had heard other kids talk about invading another cabin. “Well I want to go on an invasion!” So we put our hats and jackets on once more and went on an invasion hike around camp on the wooden boardwalks in the dark and the rain.

Everett finally got to sleep around 9pm. The Packers lost to the 49ers a couple hours later. Then the Dads played with fire for a while (it turns out that a styrofoam cup of water in a campfire doesn’t melt) during a mixture of rain, sleet and hail.

Sunday night there was some heavy snoring in our room, and at one point during the night Everett told Chris that he couldn’t sleep and to be quiet! For the record: it wasn’t Chris snoring.

Sunday morning we got up around 7:15, had chocolate for breakfast (Cocoa Puffs) and made one last visit to the sledding hill before returning home. We went straight to the airport so that Chris could catch a flight to the Mayo Clinic for work. Melissa met us at the airport and took Everett home.

A few thoughts about the trip:

-The Y-Tribe is a great group of Dads and kids. We thoroughly enjoyed our time with them and are excited to be part of the group!

-Chris does not often get to see Everett around other groups of kids, and he is probably the youngest member of the Y-Tribe group. Everett didn’t seem so interested in playing the big kid games, but he did enjoy exploring, doing art projects and playing with the snow snake.

-Everett seemed to love the experience and said multiple times that he wanted to do it again.

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