1:05 PM

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Teeth Chattering Bon Homie

Mister Nizz

Good Times at Burke Lake

My son's scout troop had their FALL FAMILY CAMPOUT this weekend, and being a "Den Dad" I decided to go. I woke to a cold drizzle on Saturday morning and was not greatly enthused about the prospect of camping. The Weather Channel predicted steady rain starting sometime in the early evening and continuing all night. I wasn't any MORE enthused and told G. that we would only visit the campfire until 9 or so or if we got rained out (whichever happened first). Saturday was spent doing errands in the morning and then I went shopping for "S'mores Stuff"... How hard could that be, right? Just go to CostCo, right? Well, it turns out that the great and mighty CostCo doesn't keep everything in stock, no matter what they say. I found chocolate bars, but was surprised to discover they didn't sell marshmallows or graham crackers (after hunting for the best part of an hour and finding nobody who could string an English sentence together). So off I zipped to the grocery store, to pay for some top-dollar kibestibles.

The Campsite was BURKE LAKE, in Fairfax County, VA. They have very agreeable camping facilities for a nice price.

We weren't SO late that the evening was blown, only less than an hour, really. Immediately we started cooking dinner, which, shock and amazement, G. ate and ate a lot of. Surprise! Must be the exercise and fresh air that does it. At this point our cubmaster guilt-trips me into staying over.. "oh, just run home and get your tent... no problem!" The clouds had parted. The (setting) sun was clear and bright. I had a full stomach and a sense of contentment next to the fire. NEVER make decisions in this state. I should have looked at my watch.

So off I zipped to home, and found all my gear in a record 20 minutes. and then I zipped back. By the time I got to the campsite again, the sun had set and darkness crashed. I gamely tried to set up my tent in the pitch black, close enough to the fire to use some of the glow, and with a penlight in my mouth. Gradually, I figured out the right combination of tent pole and tent fly, with the help of a horde of youngsters intent on being helpful, and then a far more knowledgeable adult than I dropped by and we got the tent to a point that hillbillies wouldn't be ashamed to live in it.

I say this without braggadocio or boast, I can play to a campfire. My repetoire of campfire jokes is the envy of lesser men. So when they were calling for a "Mister (Nizz)" story, I was happy to rise up on my hind legs and deliver "the Atheist and the Loch Ness Monster" and a crowd favorite, "The Angry Scotsman". Unfortunately, one of my newer stories, "The Talking greyhound" had been scooped... You just can't win them all.

My pack closes down early which always surprises me. No fireside activities after 9 PM. I blew up the air mattress for G. and tightened the flylines on the tent, not trusting the clear night sky. Then I was cajoled into running WEREWOLF for some of the older kids. We were going to play card and board games independently after the fire but the organizer of the activity wussed because of the rain. Fortunately WEREWOLF doesn't' require ANYTHING to play (although I did create a deck for it at some point). The boys were astonished at how simple the concept was yet how engrossing it could get. The game ended in an impromptu Werewolf victory after we were told we had to pack it in for being too noisy at 10 PM. Right about the time I made it back to my tent (with G. sawing logs within), the first drops of the torrential downpour started.

And it rained, and rained and rained....

Normally I can sleep through anything but there's something about listening to rain in an unsealed tent laying on rocky ground. I just didn't get much sleep. At four in the morning, I started rolling up my sleeping bag, deflating the air mattress (what the heck, Garrett was unconscious), and packing up any loose gear, ready for a quick departure. At some point, I must have collapsed with weariness, as I woke up around 630, curled around a rolled up sleeping bag and sleeping in a sitting up position. I was told my snoring was impressive. The rain had slackened to almost nothing but , and I awakened by my own chattering teeth. A very kind soul (Kevin, another Den Dad) had gone to a nearby Starbucks and bought four industrial pourable jugs of coffee with cups. God bless him. A den Mommy showed up with doughnuts for everyone, which improved G's spirits (he was quite cold and grouchy until he got a sprinkle doughnut). Since so much of my stuff was packed already, we set a record for dropping a tent and getting it sufficiently bundled to get out of there in a timely fashion.

Needless to say, the best part of the weekend loomed ahead as I crashed on the couch in the family room and slept for two solid hours. We're raring to go again in the Spring!