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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cold Weather Camping

If you do not know me too well, then you should know that I am big into camping and backpacking. Even though I don't have any sons, and my daughter is only 10 months old, I am currently acting as an Assistant Scoutmaster in one of my local Boy Scout troops, because I love scouting! Now, when I was a scout myself, it just so happened that I was able to avoid most campouts where the temperature went below freezing. I had thought that I would not have that problem living in South Carolina (where the only winter we've had was a cold drizzle). So, I decided to go on my first camp out with this troop last weekend!

It just so happened that Mother Nature had a surprise up her sleeve. Winter decided that it was time to show up for a full 48 hours... the 48 hours of our campout. But as I learned, it wasn't the cold temperatures that got to us, even the fact that it was about 20 on Sunday morning. No, it was the wind. The 20-30 mph gusts were brutal and frequent. I got to stay behind in camp where there was little shelter and little sun. At night, the wind chill was probably around 10. I needed to get more clothing, as I was getting dangerously cold despite wearing 7 shirts (2 long-sleeve, 2 t-shirts, a very warm sweater, thermal underwear, and a windbreaker jacket), 3 pants, 2 thick socks, boots, ear muffs, a hat, and gloves. The ski pants and second pair of gloves were what I needed. There's being prepared, and then there's that.

Despite the cold, I did have fun. Like I said, I love to camp. I got to see the boys attempt to make catapults with nothing but ropes and logs, we did a compass game (which teaches orienteering skills), and one of the boys discovered a UXO. That's right, an unexploded ordinance. It was a hand grenade from World War 2 that had the pin pulled, but the handle was rusted shut. Apparently paratroopers used the woods for training exercises back in the '40s. Another leader took the grenade from him, put it far away from everyone, and kept everyone away from it. The bomb squad (a single guy) came out and told us that it was likely a dud, but he'd have to x-ray it to be sure. Despite the fears that parents may have, it was a good thing that it happened; it allowed us to show the kids how to handle UXOs and other weapons of that nature. If you don't know how, there are three steps to the safe handling of a UXO. The 3 Rs.

1) Recognize. If you suspect something is an unexploded ordinance, take a bit of time to recognize it as such and not something mundane like a can. However, do not touch it, move it, or disturb it in an way. If you cannot tell what it is, treat it as a UXO. Some DO look like mufflers, soda cans, small balls, etc. If you have any reason to suspect it, treat it as a UXO.

2) Retreat. Get as far away from it as you can. Tell other people to stay away from the area. If you have the means, mark the area on a map, or put up tape or red/black flags at a safe distance from the UXO to keep others away.

3) Report. Tell the proper authorities what you have found and where. This is likely the local police and/or bomb squad, though if you are on or near a military base, the base may be better equipped to handle it. Stay nearby until the authorities get there so you can give them all the information you have. Don't worry if it turns out the UXO is actually just a pipe or paint ball. It is better to be safe than sorry. Although you may not think a grenade is that dangerous, even an old one may still be potent, and the shrapnel can travel 4 times faster than a bullet.

So after the grenade was carried away, we returned to our normal campout. For the cold, the company, and the grenade, this will definitely be a trip to remember.

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