Monday, March 02, 2009


As a Scout and Scouter, I’ve spent countless nights sleeping in tents – ranging from one-man backpacking tents to supersized wall tents on huge platforms when I was staffing Science camp. Many of the nights have been in my own, small tent… and many nights have been spent in tents at Horseshoe Scout Reservation…

Still, there is one night that stands out as being different… I was about 13 or 14, and still involved with my local scout troop.

It was a clear, warm fall evening, and as the campfire burned down and the troop members headed off to bed, everyone went towards the tents they used the previous night.

Then one of the scouts my age, actually a year older than me, points out that he was using a jury-rigged tarp as a shelter. The tarp is very large, and an idea is planted… there will be no rain. It is a clear night, and lots of stars are in the sky. We discuss, and several of us agree that we should try to sleep “cowboy style” under the stars… no tents, just using the large tarp as a ground cloth to put our sleeping bags on. If things go wrong, our tents are still set up – and empty.

Thinking back, I remember two things about that camping trip – one was the idiot scout that used gasoline to get the fire going, and the other was falling asleep under the stars… no tent, going back to a more primitive time.

Since then, I’ve only had the opportunity to repeat that once… about 8 years later, on my OA Ordeal, where I was “required to sleep alone, apart from other campers” and using the same minimalist supplies of a ground cloth and blanket/bedroll. That was a much colder fall night. And it was wet… and we were under trees. It wasn’t nearly as pleasant, but it was a formative experience.

That said… one of my goals for this year is to find a perfect time to yet again sleep out under the stars… not in a tent.