Roughing It … Part Two

Apr 13, 2011 by

“Stay together.”

Two simple words. Pretty clear in meaning. But if you’ve got small kids and you’re at the latest theme park du jour … well, not so much. That is why man invented ropes, and shock collars. And that scenario, herding cats kids together, holds true any time there’s a group of say, more than you can grab with your hands.

And yes, this applies to Boy Scouts as well.

It was the first day at our wilderness island. We set up camp and it was time to hit the beach; a beach that was two miles away I’d like to note for the record. We had maps, there were trails – pretty well-marked trails and pretty obvious maps. Maps along the lines of “we are here,” “the beach is there,” and see this dotted line that goes from here to there? That’s the trail to said beach.

So we hand out some maps, go over the trail directions again and head out.

“Stay together.”


“Stay together” has different meanings. To adults, it means “stay together.” To a bunch of Boy Scouts, it means “half of us have to run way ahead but we really are ‘staying together’ because half of us are together so that counts and you guys are too slow anyway and we really want to get to the beach so if you can’t keep up it’s not our fault you’re not ‘staying together.'”

Or something.

We’ve gone about half way when we – the four dads and the remaining good Scouts who understand the term “stay together,” realize the bad Scouts are not on the trail. We know this because we are really smart and have acute deductive reasoning. It might also be because one of the bad Scouts has a broken foot and is being pushed by other bad Scouts down the trail on a push cart. The trail has a lot of sand, and there are no more tracks from said push cart.

Anyway. We – the dads and good Scouts – finally hit the beach and no, the bad Scouts are not there. Surprise. So I pull out the map to try to figure how the bad Scouts can get lost on a clearly marked trail that’s basically a straight line. And then I see it, and I remember passing it.

Turns out there was a sign a ways back that said “water, 1/4 mile” and pointed off to another trail. Using the aforementioned acute deductive reasoning, I was pretty well ready to bet just about anything that the bad Scouts took that path. “Water” somehow translated to “beach.”

It pays to double-check. We are on an island. Drinkable water is only in a very few spots. That water sign was on the map, and clearly showed it was the location of drinking water.

So the dads figure the bad Scouts, if they just stay on the trail they are not supposed to be on, will eventually hit the beach. However, that trail head opens up about a mile from where we are, “where we are” being well, where we are supposed to be. So one dad and yours truly head off down said beach to meet up with the bad Scouts. And right when we’ve reached the other trail head, we get a call from another dad saying the bad Scouts just showed up. So we walk back another mile. But it was a pretty walk along the beach anyway.

Part of the reason we were there was to do a service project – helping to clear trails. And the nice Park Ranger staff came by and showed us the trails they wanted us to clear. And they would like the trail cleared wide enough so that someone could walk down it with their hands spread apart and not touch anything. Fair enough.

Of course I’m wondering why we have to make such a wide trail when we are in a wilderness area and the nice Rangers keep reminding us of that fact and how we need to keep the “wilderness” area, well, wildernessy, or something. I just didn’t get the point of making a trail big enough for a car to drive down in a wilderness area where no cars, and in fact, no bicycles are allowed. What do I know.

But the nice Rangers had lots and lots of incredibly deadly instruments for the Scouts to use. The kind lumberjacks use to cut down, say, the Redwood Forest.

After being read the riot act, getting the safety lesson, we consider our options. The plan was to split into two groups and approach the trail in question from either end, start clearing and meet somewhere in the middle. The nice Rangers thought we could just walk down to the trail and get to work. The nice Rangers were clueless.

I can read a map. I also know how to figure out the distance scale on a map. So do the other dads. And we realized one group is going to have to walk about two miles to get to said trail, the other group a little more than two miles. Whatever. We head off.

We get to the trail and again, with that acute deductive reasoning I mentioned earlier, figure out the trail was recently cleared. That’s probably because you could almost drive a car down it, at least a small car. But we go ahead and make it as wide as they want. And again I’m wondering why since this is a wilderness area and shouldn’t we keep it sort of wildernessy and … never mind.

All told, about a four-hour hike there and back. About half an hour of work.

We are to repeat the process the next day. Going out on a big limb, we suggest to the nice Rangers the crazy idea of having them transport us by vehicle to the next trail. We even suggest using some of the gazillion trucks parked around in the wilderness area where no vehicles are allowed. Our reasoning is pretty simple. We’re willing to work, but how about spending 30 minutes round-trip on transportation and four hours of work, instead of the other way round.

And they agree. Hooray. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, there’s a major thunderstorm complete with Scout-killing lightening the next day. No work.

But later that day the nice Ranger gives us a tour of one of the absurdly massive mansions on the island. Said island was once pretty much owned by one of the old tycoon families of yore. Think Bill Gates of the late 19th and early 20th century. Now the mansion we toured was not the “big mansion,” – that one had burned down. Rather, it was the abode of one of the daughters of this tycoon family.

It had 15 bedrooms. The servants section alone was bigger than my house. The wine cellar was bigger than my garage. The wine cellar was empty. Oh well.

The island, along with the various mansions, were donated to the federal government by the heirs several years ago. We are told our nice government spent about $6 million on the “little mansion” we toured. Putting in alarms, fire suppression systems and other governmental regulated stuff.

And that’s so we the taxpayers can tour said little mansion. But only on the second and fourth Sundays of every month. Do the math.

I’m outside the little mansion, when I take notice. There’s a wild turkey running around the porch. And right at the bottom of the massive front steps is a huge pile of horse poop. And I’m thinking to myself that years ago, one of the most powerful families of this country used to vacation here, and now there’s horse poop at the front door.

And for some reason, a scripture came to mind:

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (I Timothy 6:6-8)