Manassas Journal Messenger | You’re never alone when camping in the woods

As you read this column, I will be returning from a camping trip. For the second year, my son and I are attending a week-long Webelos Cub Scout camp at Goshen, near Lexington.

Goshen is like the Ritz Carlton of campgrounds. Stepping out of your car, you are immersed in the sounds and smells of nature. There are children’s programs from morning to nightfall.

Most of the boys especially enjoyed the program that taught them how to build a fire. As the instructor chanted the mantra “fire is your friend,” the adult chaperones responded with “don’t do this at home.”

There are separate lodgings for adults and children. Well, to be more accurate, the same type of lodging, just different campsites.

Rooms are spacious A-frame styled tents with cot mattresses just thick enough to only slightly cushion the squeaky coiled springs just underneath. By virtue of being the only woman in my group to attend Goshen, I get private accommodations at no extra charge.

Wake-up calls are gentle – either by the beaming of the natural light of the early (and by early I mean early in the day, not early in the season) summer sun or by the quickly rising heat as the interior temperature of the tent rises with the pounding warmth of the sun’s light. Either way, there was no need to worry about missing the flag ceremony or breakfast. Although there was no bed turn-down service, bathrooms were cleaned at least once daily (depending on how many boys got caught in how many infractions.)

Three meals per day are included in the “room” rate, cooked by chefs imported from the internationally renowned Virginia Military Institute. Working under the theory that children do not have to worry about fat, breakfast was made from combinations of pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon and cereal.

You could have anything for lunch, as long as it consisted of bread and lunch meat. Dinner was standard American fare – pizza, Sloppy Joes, hot dogs, chicken.

Spa and exercise services were also offered during our week. The saunas are free of charge, generally in the afternoon as the temperature soars to more than 80 degrees. Group exercise is offered informally, generally every hour on the rolling hills and winding pathways from activity to activity.

There were two water areas, one which provided opportunity for kayaking, canoeing and swimming with the fishes (if you weren’t trying to catch them, that is) and another which offered opportunity to swim with the snakes.

Like any well respected spa, the atmosphere of Goshen is filled with the sounds of wildlife – birds singing, frogs croaking, fish splashing, snakes slithering. At night, campers are sung to sleep by the constant chirping of crickets. Interspersed with the cricket serenade are the rustles of larger wildlife, wildlife that has taken upon themselves the responsibility of nightly bed checks. These bed checks are reserved not only for the younger campers, but for all campers.

I was the recipient of at least one such bed check last year. Perhaps the large black kitty with the white stripe didn’t realize my tent was occupied as I was sleeping with the flaps open to take advantage of the slowly circulating heated air.

I was softly roused from a fitful light sleep by a scratching on my tent. Not expecting visitors, I opened my eyes to pure dark. As I listened to the scratching, not sure if it was coming from outside my tent or inside with me, I weighed my options.

I could lie still and hope whatever was scratching would move on to the next tent or I could try to see where the creature was. Sheer fear won out over curiosity and I remained completely still and the visitor moved along – to another tent whose occupant awoke to find himself nose to nose with a mama skunk.

Apparently she was enticed from my barren tent to the adjacent adult campsite by the soft sound of snoring, which she mistook for a mating call. That, or she was hoping for something better than the bags of hot dog buns she was able to rummage through at our site.

Tent, food, exercise, wildlife – about two hundred bucks. A week spent with my kid in the outdoors, away from television, Play Station, GameBoy and computers – priceless.

Denise Oppenhagen lives in Lake Ridge where the dominate creature is the Northern Virginia slug.

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