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Comments on Puzzle #38629: WCP 187 Worst Girl Scout Camping Trip continued
By Susan Eberhardt (susaneber)

peek at solution       solve puzzle
  quality:   difficulty:   solvability: moderate lookahead  

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#1: Susan Eberhardt (susaneber) on May 14, 2024

Story, part 3
Packing the cars took longer than expected and our little caravan didn’t set out until six-fifteen into a black, driving rain. We needed a song. Our troop insignia was the buttercup, so I had set words to the “Pinafore” song, “Little Buttercup” for our troop song, and the girls in my car started singing, “Oh, we are the Buttercups, beautiful Buttercups. We’re the Ranunculus troop . . . ” then they sang “Make New Friends But Keep the Old” and “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” all the way down to the last bottle. Visibility was terrible and we had to drive slowly. We didn’t get to camp till close to nine o’clock. I had forgotten about the boulder in the middle of the dirt road into camp and scraped the bottom of my station wagon. The two cars following me probably scraped too. The ranger was waiting for us in the parking lot.
“You’re the only troop here. I gave you the highest campsite—it’s dryer. Throw your gear in the truck and I’ll meet you there.”
After saying good-bye to our drivers, we followed the ranger’s directions and hiked up the hill to the campsite where he was already tossing our gear onto the dirt road. I was glad I’d insisted every sleeping bag and every backpack be sealed in a plastic garbage bag.
“That’s it.” He waved a hand at a circle of four tents at the top of a muddy slope. “Enjoy your stay.” And he drove off to his warm, dry cabin, his television, his flush toilet, his kitchen. We slogged up the hill with our gear, slipping in the mud, getting soaked. We were filthy, wet, cold, tired and starved. The girls were quiet.
Most Girl Scout camps are equipped with platform tents large enough to hold four cots. On fine nights you can roll up the sides and have only the canvas roof between you and nature. In wet weather you have to roll down the sides and lace up the four corners and the front and back flaps. On this night the sides were down but unlaced, so the tent walls were whipping in the wind. The wooden floors were soaked; puddles had collected on the plastic mattress covers. I had given up thinking, “Well, we got through that problem, nothing else can happen to us,” and started to believe each new problem would be worse than the last. It took a whole roll of paper towels to dry the cots and I was amazed at how quickly the girls got the tents laced up. There was a kitchen shelter—a roof on pillars, where my husband set up the camp stove to cook the hot dogs; there would be no campfire that night. Huddled under the roof, backs to the wind and horizontal rain, we ate our hot dogs, then finished off all the marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers without bothering to make s’mores, and I sent them to bed. I didn’t insist, as I usually did, that the kitchen area be left in perfect condition. I didn’t make them Lysol the latrines. I didn’t ask if they’d brushed their teeth, because I didn’t care.
#2: Susan Eberhardt (susaneber) on May 14, 2024
Story conclusion On all previous camping trips the first night was sleepless. My girls had a reputation as “The Wild Bunch,” chattering and laughing long after quiet hour, their shrill voices carrying over the camp. For me the hours alternated between lying in my worries and tying on my sneakers to threaten and yell at them in their tents. At least they stayed in their tents. At least they were afraid of the dark. This night, a night when there were no other troops to disturb, they were quiet; or perhaps the wind and rain completely muffled their voices. I was still wakeful with anxiety, wondering if it would occur to an ax murderer to make the trip to Ludington, wondering if I would find a hacked-up gory mess in the morning, wondering if I would be there in the morning. My daughter and her friend were sleeping in my tent, my husband and son had a tent to themselves, and the other eight girls were split between the other two tents. Wriggling out of the sleeping bag and getting into my wet parka to check on them was out of the question. Dead or alive, at least they were quiet. For once, I slept.
In the morning, the rain had stopped, but we were surrounded by a sea of mud and dripping trees. The girls refused to get up until full bladders forced the issue, and squeals of disgust flew from the latrines as one by one they encountered spiders, webs and a really foul stench. Lysol would be no match for it. As they drifted over to the kitchen area, I ordered one girl to pour juice and two others to mix the pancakes, then had to order them to clean batter from the table and bench and ground so it wouldn’t be tracked around by thirteen pairs of boots. Two other girls mixed a new batch and kept it in the bowl. My husband made coffee while I helped each girl pour and flip her own pancakes, and the rest of breakfast turned out fine. There was only a little complaining about clean-up. After laying out some dead branches in the sun to dry, we prepared for our hike, filling canteens and distributing the tin-can stoves and food packages among the day packs.
No one, least of all I, had the stamina to hike as far as we’d intended in the sucking mud, but we managed half the distance and found a level, fairly solid area to set up our stoves. The little paraffin tins took fifteen minutes to boil enough water for the pasta meals, but more than half an hour to cook the fruit cobblers. We didn’t mind. As long as we waited for the food we didn’t have to walk. As soon as we got back to the campsite, though, it was time to start preparing the next meal. Peter and Richard sorted the almost-dry branches according to thickness and recruited a few girls to help saw them into even lengths, one to three inches in diameter. Peter is precise that way. Recently I asked Richard what he remembered of this trip and the first thing he mentioned was slapping away swarms of bugs with the saw. I had forgotten about the bugs. I still don’t remember bugs. Not on that trip.
Ludington had small cement-block fireplaces and the rules required that all fires be contained within them. There was no way to cook our elaborate meal on that contraption, and the wet woods offered no danger of spreading fire. We broke the rules. An area was cleared of leaves and the fire laid. While it flamed, creating a great bed of coals, we dug the hens out of the cooler and found them still half-frozen. Another of Richard’s memories is trying to pull rock-hard giblets out of the cavities. I do remember that. My fingers were frozen. By the time the coals were perfect, the hens were ready for the spit. Two girls were the turners and basters, another two mixed stuffing, two poured canned pie filling into frozen pie shells and set them to bake in Dutch ovens, two wrapped potatoes and frozen corn-on-the-cob in aluminum foil and two set the table. I sat wishing for a bourbon on the rocks. It was perking along. They were doing their jobs, laughing together, for once not tormenting anyone.
Dinner was fine. Everything was just fine. Some comments like, “This is the best chicken I ever had” brought vindication. They weren’t as willing to share clean-up chores, but we got through it. Every girl earned her badge.
Sunday morning the sun was bright and warm and it didn’t matter that everyone’s bread-on-a-stick fell in the fire or that forgetting to put butter in your pan before cooking eggs makes an impossible mess. They were quick to pack up their gear. The drivers had arrived and we were going home to showers, to television, to video games, to the telephone, to safety.
A few days later the missing woman was found in the lake; a suicide note had been discovered earlier in her car. There was a story about a bad divorce, an abusive husband. There didn’t seem to be any reason for her choice of Girl Scout property as the place to end her life, only that she had found a remote parking place near a lake.
I asked Amy recently what she recalled about this trip. She remembers nothing. Something in her ten-year-old brain blocked it from her forty-year-old memory. She remembers family camping trips when she was much younger, but not one thing about that trip. And you, Mia, Brandi, Nicole, Tracey and all my other Buttercups, do you remember anything? Anything at all?
#3: Steve (StevieB) on May 14, 2024
Love the story!
#4: Valerie Mates (valerie) on May 14, 2024 [SPOILER]
Comment Suppressed:Click below to view spoilers
#5: Wombat (wombatilim) on May 15, 2024 [HINT]
Comment Suppressed:Click below to view hints
#6: Web Paint-By-Number Robot (webpbn) on May 15, 2024
Found to be solvable with moderate lookahead by wombatilim.
#7: valerie o..travis (bigblue) on May 15, 2024
WOW
#8: JoDeen Mozena (ozymoe) on May 16, 2024
This story was great...well, not that what you had to endure was great, but the story itself was interesting and well described, Susan...and thank you for the puzzle!!!
#9: Jota (jota) on May 18, 2024
Worth every pixel and most of all every word!

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