Monday, April 12, 2010

Dry land canoeing with the Girl Scouts

Nothing beats a sunny Sunday morning with one of my daughters...in theory.

Yesterday morning, we rose early for and excursion to Girl Scout Camp River Ranch, located in beautiful Carnation, Washington, for a three-hour seminar on canoeing. Each member of Lauyn's troop is required to organize an outing, and since Lauryn loves canoeing, this seemed like a great option. Also, being my 110 percent male self and hence not privy to the ways of GS of A, this trip provided me with a rare glimpse into the Girl Scout culture.

Lauryn was a bit disappointed because only two other girls from her troop had signed up for canoeing, but any sense of letdown was trumped by excitement as we crested the hill, which revealed a calm, sparkling lake, patrolled by Canadian geese and a bald eagle. We approached the staging area, signed in and gathered on benches for an introductory chat with the facilitator. Approximately fifteen other Girl Scouts accumulated along with their moms; our troop was the only one chaperoned by dads.

It became apparent early on that one of the mothers would be asserting herself as the alpha mom. She strode from parent to parent, loudly commenting on whatever came to mind. "Oh, I see some Mr. Moms are here. Looks like we've got three Man Scouts. Ha, ha, ha." I politely chuckled along, while sizing her up in her bright orange, nylon pants, hiking boots, dangly earrings and proudly graying, long ponytail. At this point I made my first decision of the day—I wouldn't be liking "Orange Pants," as she would henceforth be known. Even if she offered me a sip of her herbal tea, I wasn't willing to stomach her obnoxiousness.

Our instructor stepped forward. "Hi, everyone," she stated morosely. My name is Gold, and behind me is my assistant, Turtle. I'm really excited to be here this morning." I barely heard this, because she said it in nearly a whisper. "We're going to have a lot of fun, but you can't have fun unless you are safe, so we're going to first discuss canoe safety."

Without further ado, parents and children lined up to be fitted for their PFDs, or personal flotation devices. I thought, "Cool, we're gearing up to get out on the water. Won't be long now." Wrong. We had merely put on life vests as an added garment for learning another two hours worth of information.

I'm pretty sure that Gold was new to this job, since she seemed to be jumping around, subject-wise. "Who can tell me the signs of hypothermia?" She hadn't yet explained the definition of hypothermia to these nine- and ten-year-olds, but we were leaping right to the symptoms.

"When your temperature gets down to 42 degrees," said one of the girls, rather confidently. This kid turned out to be that one child in every group who tries to answer every question, and then volunteers additional information. She explained later why she could no longer wear rubber rain boots, because the chafing had resulted in scarring, which we all were allowed to examine.

I glanced over at Orange Pants, who had become disinterested and was doing yoga poses.

"Hypothermia is a condition which can lead to death," Gold unenthusiastically stated. The girls, still snuggly wedged into their PFDs, appeared quite alarmed. "Your lips turn blue...umm...your arms and legs lose all feeling, you get very sleepy...and...umm...you die. Okay, now we're going to break into two groups and do some fun skits about hypothermia."

"Are you serious?" I wondered. "We just want to paddle around on this smooth, little pond, and you're asking us to perform Deliverance II?"

After Orange Pants had assumed the creative lead with our little thespians, and was satisfied with their level of preparation, our group performed a skit about surviving in open water, with a rather confused brilliance. By now, I think everyone had adjusted to the tightness of his or her PFD, breathing shallowly and not moving too fast or too far.

After two full hours, after learning every part of the canoe, from the gunwales to the breast plates to the thwarts, we were finally ready to get out on the lake, assuming none of the kids was paralyzed either from their life vests or fear of an untimely, frozen death. Just as we were ready to hoist the canoes into the water, Orange Pants verbalized a thought.

"Can we take a little break and let the kids have a granola bar before we begin?"

I wanted to scream at her something like, "Are you freaking kidding me, Orange Pants? We've done nothing but sit here for two hours, we're finally ready to get our blood re-circulating, and you want to stuff these kids with granola? That's like eating a corndog so you don't run out of energy on the Ferris Wheel.

So, ten minutes and fifteen unnecessary Quaker Oats bars later, we finally mounted our canoes. And let me tell you...that twenty minutes out on the water was the most fun Lauryn and I had experienced for the past three hours.

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