Monday, March 12, 2007

My Weekend at Camp

I drove up to camp on Friday morning, arriving just after 10 am. Perfect timing. I got checked in, got my cabin and bunk assignment, got my things unpacked and went to orientation. It was all going very well.

Then we had our first meal. Cheeseburgers and fries.

Sorry, no can do. I don’t eat meat on non-training days, and I won’t eat deep-fried foods. It’s been so long since I’ve eaten fried foods that they quite literally send me heaving into the toilet. Not to mention that they just taste nasty when they haven’t been part of your diet since high school (22 years ago, but who’s counting?).

So I had some fruit and yogurt, and ate a Clif bar back at my cabin. Little did I realize that these would become the three staples of my weekend diet.

After lunch was my first class: food dehydration. It was great—even better than I had expected, and we got to have samples, thank goodness! Real food—zucchini, sweet potatoes, soup, and banana pudding. I seriously considered offering to buy the food dehydration instructor’s teaching materials!

We had free time after class, and I took some photos and tried to get online. There was no wireless access and my laptop couldn’t get a dial tone off the land line in my cabin, even though I’m 99% certain I had it set up correctly. I think they did something to the phones or the lines to keep campers (who are usually kids) from being able to do exactly what I was trying to do. Oh well. I was supposed to be enjoying nature, not reading my email.

Supper was baked salmon. Nice, except that I’m allergic to salmon, or so says my allergist, and I wasn’t about to test her assertion 15 miles from the nearest emergency facility. But I ate the cole slaw and roll, had some salad (iceburg lettuce—ugh), and had some more yogurt.

In the evening there was a presentation about someone’s trip to Australia. The pics were lovely, but I had only slept four hours the night before, so after awhile I started getting sleepy and had to leave the room for some fresh air. I was glad when the presentation was over. A group of us went into a field with the astronomy instructor and looked at the stars. It was fun, and it was such a clear night we could see nebulas and the rings on Saturn. But I started getting cold, and I was still sleepy. So I went back to my cabin, had another Clif bar, and did some writing.

As I was getting ready for bed we had a little excitement. A woman showed up late and stole someone’s bunk. She just took the other person’s things off the bed, laid down her own pillows and blankets, got into her pajamas and went to bed! And to make things worse, when the person who had previously claimed the bed found out, the interloper copped an attitude, then ran off in tears to get the camp organizer. Goldilocks was escorted to another place to sleep, but the incident left us all weirded out.

Saturday breakfast was omelets and hash browns. Too much grease, too early in the morning. There was cereal, but it was all of the sugared variety. There was no soy milk, and regular, un-yogurted milk in any but the smallest quantities messes with me. So I had more yogurt, some coffee, and some fruit. It’s similar to what I would’ve normally eaten, anyway. I don’t do big breakfasts.

My Saturday morning class was basket-making. This was an alternate for me, but I’m so glad I went! In just a couple of hours I made a lovely basket to bring home.

Lunch was ham and turkey on a croissant, with a candy bar for dessert-- more foods I wouldn’t normally eat. But lunch was followed by free time, so it was a good opportunity to go for a run. I gave away my Hershey bar, then put my sandwich, a yogurt and a can of V8 in the fridge for later. Then I ran for an hour.

It was noon and temps were in the 80s, with no shade. But I like being warm, so it was okay with me. I followed a county road until it dead-ended, and then made up the rest of my run by finding another county road by a historic church and cemetery.

I took these pictures on Sunday when a storm was moving in. It was sunny on the day of my run.

I got back to camp, retrieved my lunch and took it to my cabin to eat while getting ready for archery class. Problem was that I was running very late. It was 1:36, archery started at 2:00, and I was drenched and stinky. I ate two bites of the sandwich, decided I didn’t care for it (I don’t like American cheese or nitrate-laden lunchmeat), so I showered, dressed, fixed my damp hair as best I could while eating yogurt, then ran off to archery, eating an apple along the way.

Archery was a blast! I did badly on my first round because my dominant eye is the one that is so severely nearsighted that it can’t be corrected to 20/20. I have an astigmatism, too. But I gradually learned that if I aimed for the rump of the foam deer, I could hit it in the shoulder nearly every time. Weird. But whatever works, right? One of my classmates hit the deer between the eyes. I also found a really cool old-fashioned arrow in the woods. It’s made of wood, with split turkey feathers lashed on with sinew.

I hung out with some of my new friends after that, waiting for dinnertime. They served fried chicken tenders with green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy. I told the server to skip the gravy, and I gave away the chicken tenders. (Deep fried foods make me ill, remember?) But the green beans and potatoes were good. The roll was white bread and bland, but edible. I asked for a second helping of potatoes, had some more iceburg salad and two yogurts.

Our evening options were a concert in a local cavern, a bluegrass concert on the lake, or a night hike. I opted for the night hike and had a great time. By now I had made a lot of new friends, which made everything more fun. And yes, they were as disappointed with the food as I was, although they weren’t taking their protest to the level of actually refusing to eat it. That was probably because they lacked Clif bars and they were taking their culinary stand against the yogurt, which contained high fructose corn syrup, whereas I figured since my other options were fish allergies or grease that would make me puke, corn syrup didn’t seem so bad.

I had another Clif bar when I got back to the cabin and hung out late on the front porch and then inside in the common room visiting with my friends. After that I spent a semi-sleepless night trying not to kill the snorers in the room. This was serious, bring-the-house-down snoring. I was wearing 33-decible earplugs, a fleece headband and my hoodie jacket in an effort to drown out the noise, all to no avail. Lucky for the snorers, I was too tired to cause them actual physical harm. But seriously, it was bad.

The next morning I didn’t even bother looking at the breakfast tacos and danishes, although I was told later they were good. I skipped the sugared cereals of course, and had more yogurt and some cantaloupe. And coffee. Lots of coffee.

My morning class was horseback riding.

We focused on things I hadn’t ever had a chance to do before, like grooming and saddling our horses. It was fun, and we went for a long trail ride that include lots of tricky terrain. My horse was determined to eat wherever she saw green grass, so I spent a lot of time having to jerk her head up. But she loved to trot, and I was surprised at how natural it felt to work with her. I’m well-read when it comes to horses, but I have little hands-on experience. My only difficulty was that I can’t post a trot very well and consequently bruised my behind. Fun stuff, when you’ve got a 4+ hour drive ahead of you.

There was no lunch on Sunday. No great loss. I had a Clif bar. And then I loaded up and headed home. I drove through rain almost to Giddings, but it was clear the rest of the way to Houston.

In sum, I loved the camp, the people and the activities, but the food left a lot to be desired. What kind of idiot wouldn’t guess that out of a hundred urban women who have signed up for an active weekend out in nature, a sizeable number might want healthy food options? All of my new friends were complaining too, so I was hardly the only one. Would it have been so hard to boil up a batch of penne and offer a choice of marinara or meat sauce? How about oatmeal as a breakfast choice? It doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to offer healthy meals. I’m sure the baked salmon they served (and I was allergic to) was more expensive than red beans and rice would’ve been.

So next time I do one of these (and since there are other activities I haven’t tried, there will be a next time) I’m taking my own meals. Dehydrated. I know how to do it because I took the class!

One other note about this weekend. I read about the drought in the hill country last summer when wildfires were threatening the area north of Austin, but since the issue dropped out of the news, I thought the drought was over. Well, it’s still going on, and it’s bad.

Normally the Texas hill country is green and full of wildflowers of every color this time of year. Instead it was brown, full of dead trees, dead or absent grass, blowing dust and hardly a flower in sight.

The hills were sometimes so bare of vegetation that I could see the caliche. Even some of the nopales were black and dead. That’s some drought that can kill a cactus!

So I was glad that it was raining when I headed home. I hope it helps and that there’s more on the way.


Spider63 said...

Wow that sounds like a great camp, and you had a great time!! Awesome for you, I am going to look for someting like that to send my daughter, she would love it!

My experience has been mostly with religious retreats, and the food usually sucks. I went on a Zen meditation retreat about twenty years ago, and breakfast was a little box of cereal (no milk). Water was a lot faster to get out of the garden hose than trying to get into the house (only the monks were allowed). They did not serve drinks unless you really pestered them, and I think they were counting on most people to just drink from the water hose.

Lunch was cold hot dogs (no buns). They actually cooked these dogs on the skillet, and then I think they intentionally waited ten minutes before serving them as everyone got them cold and did not like it. I guess this was all part of the austerity lesson?

We had all paid good money for the retreat (with meetings with a real, bona fide, certified Zen Master), so the fact that they had spent about twenty dollars on the entire weekend food budget steamed many of us who lacked enlightenment.

Spider63 said...

The Zen retreat was very good except for discipline!

I had an opportunity to go to a weekend retreat at a Catholic Monastery a while back and it was very spiritually illuminating and positive!

Have you ever been to one of those camping retreats?

bunnygirl said...

Spider, I went on a yoga retreat around '90 or '91 and we had fantabulous food. It was all vegetarian, but it wasn't of the deprive-yourself variety. We had things like gardenburgers, pasta marinara, pilaf, and the like. Breakfast was choice of cold cereal (sugary or not) or oatmeal. In the afternoons there was always a big bowl of trail mix and another of fruit set out for us.

We were very, very active, so they had to keep us fed well. We meditated before the sun came up and went on lots of long hikes, when we weren't doing yoga. During free time, I went on still more long hikes!

Between the non-greasy vegetarian food and all the activity, I lost weight on that retreat. I suppose I could've laid in the hammock during free time, though, and conserved my energy. But that would've gone against my nature. Besides, the woods was where the wild raspberries were! :-)

Ellie said...

What a great report, I loved reading it! Very unedified of them about the food, though... But you stuck to your guns and I'm proud of ya!

LauraHinNJ said...

Sounds like fun, glad the poor food didn't seem to bother you much. Why not make the suggestion to them to offer healthy food?

momo said...

bunnygirl - i didn't know how to respond to you, so i'm doing it here. thank you so very much for your comment on my post about my cousin. i cannot believe the outpouring of support and love i've felt from my 'blog friends'. i so appreciate that, and i especially appreciate your honesty in your comment about your own personal choice. i am very glad that you were able to see how wonderful life is and what a blessing it is to be alive. i hope that you celebrate that each and every day, that you look into the mirror and know how very special you are. i am thankful for you. hugs to you.

Vickie said...

Wow, what a weekend. And a challenge to find something edible to eat too. I tend to bring my own food most of the time no matter where I go, just for the reasons you mentioned. But it sounds like you had fun, and maybe if they ask for comments, you can let them know the food left something to be desired. Probably an old-timer cook who doesn't know how to make anything else.

P.S. My grandkids have a white bunny like yours.

December Quinn said...

Boy do I miss Clif bars...the Smores flavor Luna bars were my favorite...drool.

Sounds like a great weekend! The food sounds great to me, but you're right they should have had better options. (I'm allergic to bell peppers, so I always tense up when people say they're serving healthy stuff--it invariably includes peppers. I like healthy food, I just wish the pepper wasn't the go-to vegetable these days!)

I'm trying to gain exercise inspiration from you.

TX Runner Girl said...

Glad you had a great time. Those activities sound like a lot of fun! I took horseback riding lessons a couple of years ago and was teacher yelled at me! LOL! Sorry about the food though. Good thing you were prepared!

CactusFreek said...

That camp sounds awesome!
Except the dying cactus. What a tragedy!!!

From Here to There said...

Good for you! I want to go to camp too.

I'm really surprised by the food choices as well. I honestly can't see too many women or men for that matter, happy with that menu!