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Tent Camping with the Scouts at Ft Desoto Beach

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Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!): Tent Camping with the Scouts at Ft Desoto Beach

Life Lessons of a Military Wife (overseas in Europe!)

My goal here is to make your life easier, especially those who are in the unique situation of being a military spouse. Yes...I've been around...but in a good way...and hopefully can share those tips, tricks and shortcuts with you too. I've been on this military bus for over 40 years now. My goals in life are to have a well-run home, few money worries, well adjusted children, money socked away and whatever happiness I can scoop out of life.

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After life as an Army brat, being in the Army myself and marrying a soldier, I can honestly say I have a bucket full of life lessons I can share to help you make your everyday life easier and enlightening. Don't waste your time making unnecessary mistakes and benefit from others who have come before you on your journey through life.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Tent Camping with the Scouts at Ft Desoto Beach

My boys are both in Cub Scouts. This past weekend, my 10 year old and I braved the mosquitos and some other kind of strange biting insect to camp at Ft Desoto Beach with his group of Webelos (yes, a kind of Scout). It was a long but fun packed and informative weekend and since Mom is not a camper and rarely sees the inside of a tent, I had to follow some camping protocol to get my butt in gear....literally.

Early last week, I did get a Rubbermaid bin together with all the basic camping necessities. I figured this wouldn't be the last trip, so I wanted to at least make the prep as painless as possible and be able to just re-use the container full of stuff at a later date...and I know there will be a later date, at least as far as the Scouts are concerned. I packed the container with:

  • A dishpan (yes, I even washed dishes); our leader had an impressive three dishpan arrangement. One bin had hot soapy water, the next had hot water and the third had cold water. Each pan also had a splash of bleach mixed in. This was how we were supposed to clean the dishes and keep down the paper plate and garbage waste.
  • I did have (warning, here's the boring but necessary stuff) coffee/teapot, some cooking implements, papertowels, toilet paper, can opener, condiments (salt/pepper, onion flakes and garlic), matches, vinyl tablecloth, plastic flatware and some plastic plates, camping mugs (the kind that you can throw and not break), duct tape, heavy duty aluminum foil, potholders, box cutter, pocket knife, mallet (not for self defense but pounding down tent stakes), trashbags and ziploc bags and small containers of syrup and dishwashing liquid in the bin
  • I also threw in a few scrub sponges, dishrags, a container of anti-bacterial wipes, a firestarter log, a few bungee cords and a container of medium clip binders and safety pins
  • Don't forget your first aid kit, with your basic necessities. Throw in kid's Tylenol (and stuff for you), something for sore throats, Benadryl (pill and cream), bug spray, sunscreen and a thermometer.
  • A cheap two burner gas camping stove (I think I paid $20 for ours) does work just fine; Everyone complains about them saying they only cook at one temperature...high, but I was able to get mine to cook everything from pancakes to boiling water; don't forget two small propane containers and something to light the stove with
Believe it or not, all that fit into one bin (except the stove and propane). Get a smaller bin for all the dry food you will be bringing and then a cooler for your stuff that needs to stay cold. It helps to also have a water cooler filled with mostly ice and then some water to stay hydrated. Ours stayed cool the whole weekend. Of course, don't forget the tent, the stakes, rainfly and a tarp!

Some other observations and things I would keep in mind the next time we camp, because I know this won't be our last one:

  • Have a critter-proof plan to keep those critters out of your food and stuff. I heard some serious raccoon stories! We had bungee cords and big rocks to keep the coolers shut and ended up keeping everything that couldn't be tied down in the bathroom (yes, this wasn't totally primitive camping, you know; the youth group camping site at Ft Desoto Park was very nice and secluded, right by the water; we ended up using the handicap one person bathroom as the storage area)
  • Do bring extra tent stakes; we had a person forget theirs
  • Check with the campsite office beforehand; some don't allow you to collect firewood and you may have to bring some from home; there may also be other restrictions
  • Do bring some raingear and check the weather report for the area beforehand; have all the emergency/camp office/ranger numbers handy
  • Bring a fully charged cell phone
  • Know where your car keys are at all times
  • A camping trip is not complete without Smores; bring all the fixins' and long-handled implements (I actually bought some long forks that look like coathangers)
  • Bring an individual air mattress for each camper instead of a double or queen sized one; you'll sleep easier not getting tossed around when your bedmate decides to move; the twin size mattresses are easier to move around, blow up and don't hog up all your tent space; don't forget the battery operated air pump (bring extra batteries)
  • Bring a bag of charcoal; even if you don't have grills; you can easily make the two recipes below in any firepit and it's easier if you have coals
Since I did travel with some seasoned campers, I was fortunate enough to try these tasty dishes, because really, I didn't come up with them on my own...well, actually I pigged out on them, if I want to be totally honest with you:

Dinner Foil Packets

frozen hamburger patty (which is already partially thawed from being in your cooler)

handful frozen green beans
handful frozen corn
chunks of potato cut with an apple sectioner (you know what I'm talking about?)
Dash of salt and pepper
a few splashes of Italian salad dressing

Put all ingredients into a double layer packet of heavy duty foil. Make sure the foil is folded into a bag, double creasing the open ends. Lay on a bed of coals (when they are grey and glowing). I think ours took like 45 minutes to cook. The food is done when you can easily pierce the potatoes with a fork. You can also make this recipe with canned veggies, and it'll also cook quicker.


large can of fruit filling (we had cherry one night and then peach the next)
box of yellow or white cake mix


You are going to need a camping cast iron dutch oven for this one. Dump in the fruit filling. Dump in the box of cake mix. Put pats of butter on top. Close lid and put in firepit. Arrange coal around the outsides and on lid. In about a half hour, you'll have a steaming cobbler that just melts in your mouth!

The cobbler was an even bigger treat than expected, because one of our moms had the sense of mind to bring little containers of vanilla ice cream. She had packed it in ice that afternoon, and the ice cream was just at the right consistency to eat with the cobbler...yum!

Since our leader had her act together, the kids had a full two days of activites planned. Saturday, the kids participated in an interactive nature walk at the ranger station. Also at the station, they were able to see displays of fossils, jars in specimens (which were "way cool" the kids said), photos, shells and a variety of other interesting "hands on" items. Of course, visiting the fort and exploring its underground cavernous rooms was a real highlight. The views from the top of the fort were just "awesome". Bring a pair of binoculars to get the full effect.

Sunday, our leader had arranged a mini lifeguard session with Ft Desoto's lifeguards. The kids learned about what lifeguards do, heard some interesting stories and got their hands on a lot of the lifeguarding equipment, to include the swim boards and lifesaving equipment. While training in the water, they also saw a manatee lazily swimming by and a few stingrays going about their business. My recommendation for Scout leaders, even if there isn't an advertised program for kids or Scouts, just ask what they can offer for your group. You may be pleasantly surprised like we were!

If you've never been to Ft Desoto Beach and you get a chance to come to the St Petersburg/Tampa area, it is well worth a visit. Dr. Beach even gave North Beach at Ft Desoto the #1 Beach in America rating in 2005! The sand is a beautiful white powder, and the beach has a long sloping shelf, perfect for the kids to enjoy themselves without going off an immediate drop-off. There is even a large tidal pool to wade through and watch the fish. The scenery at the mouth of Tampa Bay and Anclote Key with its lighthouse are just breathtaking!

So, as with any other Cub Scout activity, it paid off to be prepared. We had a great weekend, and the only glitch or discomfort we experienced the entire time were those darn biting insects...even though we had bug spray...they still managed to get to us somehow...and still today, I'm not sure what they were.

Do you have any beach, camping or Scout stories to share? Let's hear them!

This article and others on family life can be found at "The Carnival of Family Life".

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was a great weekend. We enjoyed it very much. Thanks for a nice write-up!

September 14, 2007 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger rbach said...

My wife, five-year-old son, and her dad (retired marine) and stepmom did their first camping adventure on the other coast here in Oregon this summer. Your tips would have been really, really useful :-).

September 23, 2007 at 5:20 PM  

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