Over Columbus Day weekend, far more was discovered in the woods of East Hampton than uncharted territory; a zombie was found.
19 girls and 15 moms were spread across 8 tents, with alternating units occupied by parents only. The girls were mostly 4 to a tent, flashlights at the ready. On Sunday night, 40 degrees, prepared moms were dressed for snow storms, battened in layers and down coats, as girls collected leaves for a centerpiece, sprinting about in hooded sweatshirts and Brownie vests. As we reviewed the dinner menu, we huddled together in the Butler’s Pantry of our Wooden Palace, our “kitchen.” “Kitchen” deserves quotes because there was no oven, nor counters, not even a pot. Our palace comprised of 4 picnic tables, an empty lock pantry (to keep animals out), and overhead lights, all housed under an army green tarp. Anywhere else it’s a hovel, but when you’re camping, it’s a pleasure palace.
…Backpacking, as far as I’m concerned, is a boldface lie. Stephanie Klein
As for all the cooking instruments, I’d spent the greater part of a week compiling a list of supplies. It wasn’t pretty. One mom, after attempting to load her car of all her daughter’s and her equipment, emailed that she needed a boat.
Imagine moving all the contents of your kitchen into your car. Vegetable peelers, soup ladles, stock pots, knives, pasta strainers, all of it. Now then, imagine yourself sidled up to a picnic table as you mince garlic with a chef’s knife, nude. Because that’s what you’d be if you stopped there. Sidestepping the Naked Chef option leaves you with very few options. You’ve got to tackle an itemized pack list of clothes—a winding list of layers from long pajamas to spare socks—then take on “gear,” sleeping bags, toiletries, snacks, water, paper towels, ingredients for all the meals, enough to feed 34 people, oh, and arts & crafts supplies. That pocket knife better come with a corkscrew.
Camping = Hell
I haven’t discovered a compact way of camping, creating a capsule, all tucked away, ready any moment to hit the road with you. Backpacking, as far as I’m concerned, is a boldface lie.
After a battle of CHOPPED—where the girls were split into teams, given identical “surprise ingredients” and invited to create award-worthy snacks—we began to break off into our assigned patrols and get dinner going. One patrol was responsible for making and maintaining the fire, another for prepping the food and cooking it, and another responsible for washing all the pots and pans. No hot water comes from this hose, no. You want warm water with which to clean your pots, you’ll need to boil it…over a fire. Holy rice and beans.
But it’s all worth it if the food’s good.
Buttermilk biscuit topped steak pot pie. When it's cold out in the woods, this is the cobbler's knob.
Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Huge hit. Though, how could it not be? 2 quarts of heavy cream is never gonna be bad.
Dutch Oven Apple Crisp
The key is to peel, core, and slice apples at home w/ lemon juice, vacuum packed & ready.
After the meal, we attended a flag retirement ceremony, where they burned a damaged, retired American flag. Then, the next night, after Chili and spoon cornbread pudding, we built our own campfire and all passed out in our tents.
Not quite all.
One mom, a self-proclaimed insomniac, tried to fall asleep in her tent, but sleep was futile. It was the middle of the night, and everyone else was asleep. The talking and giggles from neighboring tents had fainted away. So, she left her tent, with a book in hand, and decided to read in our wooden pleasure palace, the only lighted area.
After a while, she became used to the sounds of the woods, the crackling of branches, distant turkeys making their foreign sounds. Though for some reason, she looked up from her book. She wasn’t quite sure what she saw, out at the edge of our camp site. “A shadowy figure in the woods,” she later said.
Okay, that shit right there would’ve had me book it to my tent and call 911. Or at least the park ranger.
“That’s who I thought it was at first,” she said, “the ranger’s wife.” She got up with her flashlight and went in for a closer look. It wasn’t an animal, but a human, lurking in the woods. When she got a better look, she saw that the zombie in the woods was my daughter Abigail. She was standing in her pajamas, without any shoes, no flashlight. Just creepy style standing there. Holy horror story.
If a kid wants to sneak out of her tent come the middle of the night, she’s gonna do it with her shoes on, and definitely with her flashlight, and certainly with a friend. Abigail wasn’t searching for the bathroom, either. She didn’t remember ever leaving her tent. My girl was sleepwalking in the woods. If ever I go camping somewhere where bears or snakes reside, I will not be bringing Abigail.
Next time, I’m putting actual bells on her ankles and creating a parent trap web of string to prevent her from leaving her tent. Fire hazard, I’m guessing.
Sleepwalking only ever happened once before, in first grade, when one morning I awoke to find that she wasn’t in her bed. It was very early and it was absolutely startling. I eventually found her downstairs, asleep on the sofa. She had removed all the books and serving trays off our ottoman, opened it and pulled out a spare blanket, then tucked herself in on the sofa, fast asleep. She remembered none of it the next day.
I am forever thankful to the zombie mother who found my walking zombie in the woods. And so glad that her insomnia had a purpose that night.
In the spirit of Halloween, I’ve signed Abigail, Lucas, and myself up for a Zombie Preparedness class, so should a zombie apocalypse occur, or any other natural catastrophe, we’ll be ready. With bells on.