‘Wannabes’ Prep for Weekend Camp Outing

June 24, 2009 by   - () Comments Off on ‘Wannabes’ Prep for Weekend Camp Outing

great-american-backyard-campout1Step back in time, a long, long time … back to when people lived in caves and foraged for food. Could camping be modern man’s return to his or her roots? 

About a dozen camping “wannabes” attended a skills class at Little Bennett Regional Park campground in Clarksburg, Md., June 17 to prepare for their first night in the woods. 

They will be taking part in the fifth annual Great American Backyard Campout sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation on Saturday (June 27), camping overnight, along with their instructors, at Little Bennett, according to the Business Gazette, Gathersburg, Md. 

“This is the perfect course for us,” Matt Von Hendy of Rockville said. “We’re worried about not knowing what to do, the tent, sleeping bags, you name it.” 

Von Hendy will be camping with his wife, who could not make last week’s class but, “she said to take really good notes,” he said. 

The neophytes sat on chairs inside the Hawk’s Reach Activity Center at the campground, taking notes and collecting handouts as campground manager Rosemary Nichols and facility manager-aide Lyn Duncan explained the basics of tent camping. 

Before them was an array of equipment: tents and sleeping bags, firewood (plus a saw for cutting more), cook stoves (four different types), dishwashing liquid (biodegradable), washing and rinsing tubs, a cooler, lanterns, even a collapsible trash can made of polyethylene (actually a leaf bag holder). 

Boy Scouts are not the only ones who need to be prepared. 

In considering what to take on a camping trip, Nichols had this advice: “Think, what are your basic needs at home? Shelter, food and water.” 

The group sat quietly, perhaps overwhelmed by the thought of packing their cars with all the basics just to spend one night in the woods. It was also possible that everything was so new they did not know what to ask. The group seemed to be off to a grim start. 

Nichols did not let that mood last long. She and Duncan are true camping lovers and together they have more than 80 years of experience to share. Nichols got the group interacting by having them set up a tent, right there inside the activity center. 

In less than five minutes a six-person tent was up and looking ready to welcome sleepy campers or those hoping to get away from mosquitoes. 

After the tent came the fly. The fly is a covering for the tent that provides extra protection from rain. Although simple to add, it started a philosophical debate among class members about whether it was best to have that extra protection or to enjoy better air circulation through the tent windows. 

Duncan’s ice breaker was black forest cake, which she baked outside the activity center in a Dutch oven, a cast iron pot with legs that can be place right in a bed of coals. She also served samples of spaghetti and meatballs, a dehydrated product that becomes dinner just by adding water. 

“I wanted to give them an idea of the possibilities,” Duncan said. 

Her cooking impressed Young Choi of Bethesda, who had never seen a Dutch oven before. 

“It’s very strange and interesting. I want to buy one,” Choi said. 

As the two-hour class ended, the campers-to-be seemed excited about their upcoming campout. 

“It was really very, very informative,” Rebecca Bond of Kensington said. “If you don’t grow up doing this stuff it’s intimidating.” 

Matt Eisenberg, Bond’s husband, wanted to know about coffee. What was the best way to cook camp coffee? Would it be cheating to tell him there is a Starbucks less than five miles away? 

Von Hendy asked about the bathrooms. 

“I’m going to be grilled by my wife about the bathhouses,” he said. 

The fifth annual Great American Backyard Campout, sponsored by the National Wildlife Federation, is scheduled for Saturday. For more information visit


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