I led my pathfinder club no a campout this weekend. The weather was gorgeous, which is a little unusual; it usually rains when we camp.

We camped at the Washington Seventh-day Adventist Church, which is an historic place actually. It is the church where Adventists first observed the seventh day as Sabbath. Before that time, there were Adventists, and there were people who kept Sabbath on Saturday, but this was the first time those two beliefs came together.

They do not have electricity there, nor do they have plumbing. But they do have outhouses. We had to haul all our water there.

When we arrived and opened the trailer, I started hauling stuff out and almost immediately saw a couple of ticks. Uh oh. So before proceeding any further, I found the insect repellent and sprayed myself. Then I started spraying other kids.

We got all the tents pitched, made supper, and lit a campfire. I let all the kids stay up until 10:30. I figure tired kids sleep better. I let the teens stay up another hour or so, and we all turned in around 11:30.

The past couple of times we camped here, we tried to use a few large tents. That doesn’t work well, because we have to pitch them in the woods, and it’s hard to find a clear, level spot big enough to pitch a large tent. This time I changed strategies, and decided we would use many small tents instead. I was able to scare up enough three-man tents so that everyone either had a tent to himself, or was sharing with another kid.

At about 1:30 am one of the kids in a tent near mine woke up and started asking “Is it breakfast time yet?” I hollered to him to be quite, and that it was still the middle of the night. He did quiet down, and I went back to sleep.

The sun came up at 5:15. Some of the kids got up shortly before then. They proceeded to wake the rest of the kids, who all started running around yelling and screaming and having a good old time.

I did not sleep a wink after that, but I did not get up either. Not until 7:00 anyhow. I doubt that any of them had a timepiece of any kind. It was light outside, and they were awake, and that was all that seemed to matter to them.

After breakfast I told them that since they got up before 5:00am, they were going to have to go to bed early. If they would not sleep in the morning, I would make sure they slept at night.

We went on a long hike Saturday afteroon. It was uphill all the way there and most of the way back. Or so it seemed. We met a convoy consisting of two Humvees and a military truck on the “road,” and I’m using that term fairly loosely. Maybe it used to be a road, but I wouldn’t want to drive on it. It was pretty OK for hiking though. Apparently it’s pretty OK for training the Guardsmen to drive Humvees over unimproved roads.

We got back from that, took a short rest, and then set out for a geocache, which was another mile and a half away (and a mile and a half back). It wasn’t uphill in both directions, but it was unambiguously uphill on the way there. There was plenty of boulder scrambling involved. After on particularly steep incline we came to a rock cairn (these are common on the hiking trails in these parts), and curled up under a rock was a nice-sized milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum triangulum). We found the cache, and then headed back to camp.

Then we had some dinner, and the kids ran around in the dark playing some variant of hide and seek. I don’t think any two of them had the same notion of what the rules were, but they did all seem to enjoy it pretty substantially.

I sent them to bed at 9:30 (as promised), and the teens and I turned in at around 10:30. At about 11:00 the coyotes started howling. I’m sure they were within a hundred yards of our site. They were pretty loud, and I sure thought it was pretty cool.

Shortly after that I heard something that did scare – ATV’s. They came roaring onto the site full-throttle and went tearing down the trail in the dark. Some of our tents were pitched partly on the trail, and I was afraid that these idiots (who were ignoring the “NO MOTORCYCLES OR ATVS” signs posted all over the place) were probably drunk, and maybe wouldn’t expect to find a tent on the trail. They didn’t venture onto any of the trails near us though. They did tear around for about an hour, and then went roaring outta there. I’ll take a pack of coyotes over a pack of ATV’s any day.

The kids miraculously slept until after 7:00. I didn’t wake up myself until 7:05. I don’t know if it was the dressing down I gave them the previous morning, or if it was the six miles of hiking uphill both ways, but they were all pretty dead to the world when I came around waking them up at a decent hour.

Connected with the Washington Adventist Church is a mile-long loop trail called The Sabbath Trail. There are 32 markers along the trail chronicling the history of Sabbath observance. I had offered our club’s services to do some trail maintenance while we were there. That was partly meant as payment for permission to camp, and partly because I like to teach the kids the meaning of community service. Anyhow, the plan was for us to work on the trail on Sunday morning. We did that after breakfast, lopping off thousands of branches overhanging the trail (at face level and lower) and hauling them into the woods. It took a couple of hours to do that, and the trail was far easier to navigate afterwords. I am secretly pleased that we did not do this before the ATVs arrived. I suppose ATVs have their uses. I just wish they were not used as a form of recreation.

They are noisy, they pollute, and I would rather not share the trail with them. They also do not extend the benefits of exercise to those who ride them. Similarly, I prefer to canoe and kayak over a jet ski, and I intend to take up snowshoeing before I ever ride on a snowmobile.

After we cleaned up the trail, we made lunch, ate it, and began breaking camp. That went pretty quickly. I really like using lots of small tents verses fewer large ones. They are easier to pitch and easier to strike, and the kids require very little supervision to do either. When we use big tents, it always ends up with two kids doing the work and three or four others watching them unhelpfully. This is much nicer.

So! That was my big adventure. I think it was a positive experience for everyone in my club. We won’t camp again (as a club at least) until September, as the Pathfinder year has almost drawn to a close.