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A couple of weeks ago I flooded the Wandering Pine Instagram page with snowshoeing photos after the Minnesota Monthly Magazine Feature hoping to make it snow before camp!   I’m still waiting for a good old fashioned blizzard to kick off Snowshoeing season as I write this, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun outside!   This week’s post is all about Winter Camp at Stearns Scout Camp!

IMG_5230.jpgWinter Camp with the Scouts is one I look forward to every year because you never know what the weather will be like and it’s always full of memories (both new and old).   I didn’t end up sleeping outside this year, but I got to test out some new gear and enjoyed carrying on the traditions we share from year to year. Here’s a link to last year’s Fred C. Anderson Scout Camp ‘Camp Influenza’ Experience.

IMG_5266.jpgHow do I describe Winter Camping?   Its kind of like drinking a green smoothie…

It’s good for me, I feel kind of proud of myself afterwards, especially if I finish it….maybe its even slightly enjoyable at times… 

Kidding aside, I enjoy it because it takes more effort, refines my outdoor skills, builds endurance and shows the Scouts that sleeping outside year-round is always an option if you are prepared.

Here’s a list of some of new cold weather gear I tested this weekend.  Watch for an upcoming review as I test them further.

IMG_5184.jpgI packed for either a weekend outside in my hammock or inside the cabin in a tent.   We weren’t sure if we would have a 3rd adult overnight, and I prepared to sleep inside or out based on that.   I ended up being the 2nd overnight adult, so I set up my Eagle Scout Son’s Kelty Trail Logic tent in the corner of the cabin (since my Tarptent is not free standing).

My Favorite Annual Traditions

The Holiday season is full of all sorts of traditions, and I enjoy carrying on the ones we have created for the Troop from year to year.   In the 6 years that I have been coordinating Winter Camp with the Scouts, there are at least 4 things we can always count on:

  1. Tape Ball
  2. Christmas Tree
  3. Scouts Own Service
  4. SuperJen power nap

Tape Ball

I brought this tradition to camp 6 years ago and every year its a little different. I’ve taped candy, pocket knives, multitools, dental floss, socks, mittens, toys, a tee shirt, leftover High Adventure trek swag, sewing kits, first aid supplies and even our mascot, #299wilson -the Sea Base coconut made a grand appearance in the center one year!  A prize ball full of knives and candy, what could be cooler than that?!

We have great fun with it, and you’ll quickly find out who the cooperative and competitive ones are in your group. Have you ever made a tape ball? Have no idea what it is? Here’s a video showing how to make a traditional candy tape ball.

IMG_5221.jpgChristmas Tree

Oh Tannenbaum…you poor thing…
Each year we have a small humble Christmas Tree in the cabin.  The pile of aluminum tinsel that is swept up from under this scruffy little shrub grows each year, but it still faithfully brings us cheer!   Last year, I brought a Charlie Brown themed tree in its place and it just didn’t have the same magic… so, I’m bringing the bald aluminum one for the Scouts to set up until there’s nothing left of it!

IMG_5171.jpgA Scout’s Own Service

6 years ago, I helped lead our first interfaith service at winter camp. Typically led by the Chaplain’s aid, the Scouts take turns reading a few poems or inspirational writing, put up the half-bald aluminum Christmas Tree, sing a few carols by the fireplace and end with singing Scouts Vespers. This year, our SPL suggested combining our first winter night hike with a Scouts Own Service outside. We walked silently together in the snow, through the woods, with our flashights off, only the stars to guide us under a dark new moon. We had 3 stops for sharing and personal reflection, then ended by linking hands and singing Scout Vespers by the river. A simple night hike became a holy night, and I felt both glad and proud that the Scouts led it on their own from beginning to end…truly making it a ‘scouts own service’, treasuring just how much they ministered to me.

IMG_5454.jpgSuper Jen Power Nap

Seriously, Winter Camp wears me out.   It’s the only camp out that I feel like I need a nap at EVERY SINGLE YEAR.   I don’t know if it’s the cold, getting old, all of the running around we do….or all three!   But I always need a little nap, and I NEVER take naps. Just ask my Mom!  This year, I crashed in my hammock at the GaGa Ball Pit during afternoon activities for a quick power nap.  I am thankful for all of the fun we have, and the adults that are there to cover while some of us check our eyelids for leaks.

IMG_5209.jpgIn With The New!

In addition to moving our Scouts Own Service outside, we did a couple of new activities I hope we do again!

Winter Orienteering

Each Scout is required to learn the skill of Orienteering before they can earn the First Class Rank.   It was great to get out and learn how to navigate the trail in the winter and see a new perspective.   We had a  nice light blanket of snow and frost on the trees to make everything look magical. It was out first time Orienteering at this camp and there’s plenty left to explore in the future.

Fireplace Dutch Oven

We used our Dutch Oven inside in the fireplace this year instead of outside and enjoyed smelling the bubbling cobbler cooking while we were playing cards and tape ball.   Cooking outside is cool, but it was so nice to have it all right there inside with us instead of having to run in and out to check on it.

Operation Gratitude Service Project

In between cooking, outdoor activities, and all of the other fun that comes with Winter Camp, we set aside some time to give back with a service project benefitting Operation Gratitude.   We gathered several yards of various fleece fabrics and cut no-sew fleece scarves to be sent to Military and Emergency First Responders over the holidays.   It was a fun project to work on together in the cabin and felt good knowing that our 54 scarves would be added to care packages to bring joy to those who are serving our country.

Holiday Spirit

As I reflect on another Winter Camp behind me, and Christmas just a few days away.   I appreciate this time we spend together and realize that this camp has become part of my family tradition.   I don’t know how many Winter Camps I have left with my Troop, as children grow and adults eventually move on… but I plan on enjoying and squeezing as much out of each one as I can…and sleeping outside every chance I get!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas full of old and new traditions and a joyous Holiday Season with the ones you love!




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2 thoughts on “Winter Camp, An Annual Holiday Tradition!

  1. We got a few days of snowshoeing in along the SHT in early December, but could have used another foot of snow! This has definitely been a ‘need more snow’ December.

    1. I could not agree more! I was just working on a draft of 2018 year in review and remembered the 19” we got in one blizzard in April, then immediately melted. Hoping for a good 6” next week! We need that stomp over to Utepils!

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