Walking in Dayton: What’s a Bear Bag?

We learned a lot of lessons on the first run into the woods with Troop 6.

The first lesson was Bear Bag does not mean what I thought it meant. And yes I do have the mind and sense of humor equal to or less than that of an adolescent. Fart jokes still make me laugh uncontrollably. Sue me.

As much as I dreaded the cold and then almost actually froze to death, there was so much good out of that weekend. I learned the entire time. And even at my age that’s a good thing. One of the lessons I learned from the outset; camping stuff is expensive as I don’t now what.

Let me tell you one thing, I don’t want to hear another peep about golf clubs, balls, greens fees, and what have you. Golf could never ever approach the expense of camping. I mean both are outdoors, both involve walking and at times carrying a heavy bag on your back, other than that…


My only camping experience before the Frank joined the Scouts. That’s our backyard.

And you’re kind of stuck you know. It’s Frank’s first gig with his new boys. Can’t have him in hand me down stuff. First of all there is no hand me down stuff. Tracy and I are not campers. If we’re not in a Marriott or something equivalent, we count that as roughing it.

So it was off to the outdoorsy store for stuff. I should have hit the prescription med store for some nitro pills first. Wow, my heart jumped a few times and I had not made it out of the special “hiking and camping” water bottle section yet. As I said in the original camping post, we did end up with some cool stuff, but that stuff cost a cool nickel. Again I was just in the accouterments area. I was on my way to tent/sleeping bags and then hiking clothes. Cause you know you need layers and such. And those layers should be as low key chic as possible. Although there was no peeling of layers on this trip. But I got Frank some good stuff and he was styling without looking like he was trying to be styling.

He did get a few things for Christmas so it wasn’t the full monty of equipment but it was close. I managed to cobble together my kit. Styling, low key or otherwise, just ain’t my thing. My old boots still fit and were in great condition. I was advised they weren’t great for hiking. I said, Boy these boots walked miles and miles, and most of that was the hard concrete of Air Force flight lines. They’ll be fine.  And they were.

Tracy had a sleeping bag and mat from a Cub Scout trip so I was good there. I wore a plain pair of kakis. I’m not dropping $45 on a pair of “specialized” hiking pants.  Honestly my old camo from work still fit me. The pants did anyway. But I had to balance not spending money and not embarrassing the kid. I get the situation. Trying to make an impression on his boys, he doesn’t need his old man wearing knee high black socks to the beach if you know what I’m saying.

Look man I’m not a granola eater. I don’t go out of my way to become one with nature and I build fires the old fashion way, with matches and small fire starter thing-a-ma-jigs I got at The Kroger.  All neatly vacuum sealed in a bag you use to seal up meat or veggies  or whatever. However I made myself keep an open mind and try to let some of these 14 to 16 year old kids teach me something. They’re all granola. And styling. And cool. And Frank idolizes them. So I gave way to these kids most of the weekend, and cheated the fire when they weren’t looking.

If I had thought to bring my small can of WD-40 I would have had that fire going tout suite. Nothing like good old Ozone depleting aerosol to get a roaring fire going at the spritz of vaporized lubricant. But like I said I did learn a few things. Helpful things for next time. If there is a next time.

Weight is an issue. This isn’t your typical overnighter. It helped to be mindful of what went in the pack. There is no conveyor belt to drop your bag on after the TSA agent unfolds all your undies. You got to hump that pack brother. So what goes in there better be necessary.

Food and water are more important than a second change of clothes.  This one I kind of knew myself. We didn’t have change of clothes on the flight line. And there were no rain delays. Plenty of days I spent the entire shift soaked. It happens, it won’t kill you. In this case the recommended three set of clothes, the set on your back plus two in the pack, was overkill. Likewise with the “camp shoes”.

Camp shoes are any foot type gear that isn’t hiking boots. Flip flops, Crocks, tennis shoes etc… This was so you could take off your hiking boots and relax your feet in camp. In my case unnecessary weight. I spent hours and sometimes days in those issue boots. A two mile walk and another eight hours in them was nothing.

Sit your ass down. Bad move on my part. I had plenty of opportunity to sit. I just didn’t. No idea why. And it became a problem when I got up the next morning to hit the old #1 tree. My legs didn’t work. Cramps in both calves and thighs. Down on my face in frost covered leaves.  I’m old what are you gonna do?

Get off the ground. Two different adults had no tent. They strung hammocks and put a tarp over themselves. (Good call G. Granroth) With a sleep mat lining the hammock in addition to his sleeping bag, the one guy said he actually stuck his feet out a few times because he got a little too warm. The gel in my iris’ almost froze solid and this guy was so warm his little pig toes had to get some crisp, fresh air a few times during the night.

The ground he said, the ground saps your heat. I knew that too. Damn it. Well I’ve never been accused of being the brightest bulb. Have my eye on a light weight camping cot now. This Scout parent will be sleeping in comfort next time.

Be smart about packing your food.  This was one of the biggest lessons I learned. And it provided the funniest/scariest moment of the trip. Well, aside from my stranded turtle scene early in the AM.

As it turns out hiking/camping food is either a smell-able or it isn’t. Meaning bears can either smell it or they can’t. If they can, they’re coming for it.  And they can smell a damn lot from a long way off.  I was looking forward to hitting a few Slim Jims that I was going to stash in my sleeping bag for a middle of the night snack. Yeah, no. Into the Bear Bag please.

The what now? Bear Bag? The Bear Bag is for all the smellables. It’s just any type of bag that can hold all the food, and is then strung up in a tree away from the camp for obvious reasons. Can’t have no bear traipsing through camp looking for my Slim Jims at 2am. Speaking of which…


Skippy you home? Is that bacon, why I had no idea.

So I learned what would be Bear Bag necessary. Some things are not as obvious as others. Factory sealed foods like Slim Jims can still be smelled by bears from a long distance. Didn’t know that.  Bacon, Bear Bag. Even I knew that one.

Yet somehow the community bacon that was going to be cooked for the morning meal provided to all the scouts was left with the youngest member of the troop. Said young man failed to offer it up when the Bear Bag went round. Everyone got a portion of the community meal to put in their pack. Share the weight as it were. This poor kid knew less than me about camping and that’s saying something. He had no idea, no one had any idea four pounds of Oscar Meyer’s finest was tucked neatly and safely in Skippy’s pack.

He might as well have been carrying a live grenade. It wasn’t until the morning when the call went out for breakfast to be assembled that the Bear Bag came down so the food could be sorted. 

Adult 1. Hey where is all the bacon? (Names changed to protect the guilty.)

Adult 2. I think Skippy has it. 

Adult 1. He ate all the bacon!?! When!?! Did he eat it raw!?!

Very young scout 1. Yeah I think Skippy ate it all. (Very young scout 1 has no idea by the way. Skippy has eaten none of the bacon.) 

Adult 1 to other adults who will not be numbered. Holy cow who gave Skippy the bacon to carry? He ate it all. 

Other adults. Undecipherable mumbling and dismissive/judgmental shaking of heads.

Skippy. (Walking up still in PJs, bed head, and 1 sock, oblivious to the great Dayton bacon incident of 2020) Hey what should I do with all this bacon?

Adult 1. (Pale as a mother f*****g ghost when he realizes what has actually happened and the lawsuits that would have sunk Boy Scouts had Timmy been pushing up daisies in the belly of a bear because most of the veteran adult campers just assumed everyone else knew what they were doing on their first camping trip.) You had that in your pack all night Skippy!!!!!!

Other adults’ begin to shake their heads for real when they realize 1. they dodged a huge bullet and 2. four pounds of bacon packed sloppily in Saran Wrap was like setting out bear bait. Skippy and everyone who was slower than they, probably should have been eaten in their sleep by a pack of roaming bears.

But unlike us, the damn bears knew what the temp was gonna be and packed it in for the night. No doubt all snuggling together in a nice cave somewhere, deciding Skippy’s bacon wasn’t worth the nut freezing cold.

So a big lesson learned there kids.

If someone has the bacon in their tent for the night, make sure you’re not the slowest runner in camp.







Walking in Dayton: Camping and Freezing with Troop 6

So here’s a big disclaimer. Feel free to e-mail, text, or call with your righteous indignations at the following statements. But believe me when I tell you I do not care already.

Here it is. I have never been a fan of the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts. My older brother was one, still not a fan.  My son is one. Still not. I’ve never been woodsy and I am loathed to sell microwave popcorn for hours on end out front The Kroger.  The fact the crates say “Gourmet Popcorn” but smell like moldy grass only emboldens my stance.

And since modern day Cub/Boy Scouts is predicated on being woodsy and indenturing first graders into selling popcorn curbside at The Kroger, count me out.

Of course having said all that, Frank loved Cub Scouts and he now loves being a Boy Scout. So while I am an ass, I have put my assiness aside to support my oldest offspring. If you need proof of that statement, and I sure would if I were you, behold! That’s me at The Crossover. Supporting my kid just like I said.


Loyal, Kind, and Respectful, he amazes me constantly.

The Crossover is when Cub Scouts move on to become Boy Scouts. Honestly I didn’t think he wanted to do it. He said as much. But at the last minute with some prodding from his mother he decided to attend the Crossover ceremony and listen to the sales pitch from the scout leader of what would be his new troop.  The millisecond he was told Troop 6 was the oldest troop in Knoxville and founded in 1915, the boy was sold.  He is on such a history bender right now it’s tough to describe.

In the pic we’re about to fist bump after he’s crossed the bridge and met his new Troop. He’s telling me his new Troop is over 100 years old. He was stoked. And I have to say, my disdain for the Scouts was overwhelmed by my son’s happiness. And not for nothing, the kids handled the Crossover very well.  They didn’t have to come, they just wanted to welcome Frank and the other two boys crossing over.

The young Scouts met Frank when he literally crossed over the bridge on stage as well as figuratively crossing over from Cub Scout to Boy Scout.  They had a Troop 6 patch for his shirt and new neckerchief in hand as they met him on the other side of the bridge.

It helped to amp up what was fast becoming an emotional scene. Of course add to that the beaming look on Frank’s face when the two older boys shook his hand and very professionally welcomed him to the Boy Scouts and the eyes got misty. Mine not his.

Afterwards it was dinner time. That’s when I got the sales pitch. I was prepared with a few diatribes, rants, and all around general musings of Scouting in America. But I laid all that down.  I had to. The kid was in. But the dude still pitched me anyway. It didn’t help. He gushed about the hiking and the camping and the hiking and the camping again, and more camping with some hiking. It was like he was daring me to go on a rant. And I don’t need much encouragement. 

In a word – I don’t camp.  The operative word there being don’t in case you’re not keeping up. And for those of you who know me, we didn’t camp in the Air Force either. I had turn down and pillow mints when I spent time in Central America. Air Force ain’t got no time for no camping. 

Of course I just lied to you. Because on the first camping trip Frank’s new Troop had, I went. So apparently I do camp, or did camp, and might possibly be camping again. Mr. Levy, my freshman year English teacher from high school, would be proud of my conjugation efforts there I think. Maybe not.

Anyway so yeah, I hiked and camped all in one trip. I got nature on me. Had to. I made a decision right there on that stage when my son came directly over to me after getting his new patch and neckerchief with a huge smile and look of pride, that I would support his scouting for as long as he wanted me to.  No matter how much I disliked it.

I folded, caved, gave in. I’m soft, I know it. And that was a problem for various reasons.

First of all, the Saturday morning of the hike to the camp site it was 30 warm hugging degrees when we gathered in the church parking lot to depart as a group. What was billed as one of the most active Troops in Tennessee was a little light on adult attendance I noticed. Below freezing temps will do that to a person. As will the knowledge that 30 degrees was the warmest it was going to get that day.

No matter, Frank was in so that meant I was too. And off we went. The drive to the Ranger Station and trail head was twice as long as the hike would take.  The drive took us through Dayton Tennessee and the hiking/camping area was not far from Dayton. Any of you history nerds care to hazard a guess as to the significance of that? Google the Scopes Monkey Trial and get back to me.

We had already checked all our gear, but we did another quick inventory when we yanked the packs from the trunk and we were good. I have to admit we got some cool stuff. Frank got his first real knife to call his own. I busted out some of the stuff that somehow never got turned in when I retired 11 years ago, carried my father’s small ditty bag from his days as an Army draftee in 1950, and a  zip lock bag loaded with chik-fil-a. Man we were set. I was actually feeling good about it. Temp still had not breeched 30 degrees.

The hike it self was uneventful. About a mile and half, maybe a tad longer, barely uphill until the final 200 or so yards to the camp site. We were warm from the hike though.  My pack weighed in at 47lbs, Frank’s at 22lbs. I was told by the scout leader 45 to 50lbs was about normal. That sounded heavy to me but what do I know.

Guess what, it was heavy. Frank’s was too but that kid could have carried mine he was so damn happy. He had his own tent because he wanted to be on his own like the high school kids in the troop. I get it, no problem. And because we practiced setting the up the night before we left, we had them up in short order.

Frank was a part of six new boy scouts to the troop, so while the older kids went on a five mile hike, Frank and the other newbies stayed in camp. That time was filled with lessons on the basics of camping, caring for the environment, scouting history, knife and fire safety and so forth. The guy did a great job and most of the six participated and did well. Of course Frank didn’t speak up until the history of the Scouts came up. Then he plowed through the questions. Another proud moment.

Then it started getting colder. Looked at my weather app and it said 26 degrees. I decided not to look at my weather app anymore. My mind was calculating how cold it could get when the sun actually goes down and what effect that may have on the sleeping part of the entertainment.

On the ground if you aren’t following, we were essentially sleeping on the ground. Yeah I had a sleeping bag rated to below zero, and by the way that became an issue. And yeah I had a “mat” under the bag, but lets not be aristocrats here. That mat was not making the frozen ground one wit more comfortable for a 225lb full grown man. But really the ground was not the issue.

It was the freaking cold! That was the issue. I was tucked in my bag fully dressed save my boots. I had a hat and gloves on and a face mask. A very cool looking face mask I might add. And since I have been trained by your tax dollars, I had the next days clothes I was gonna wear packed in the sleeping bag with me. I did put on clean clothes to sleep in. I had gone through various stages of sweating and not sweating in the clothes I wore all day. Figured it would feel better with clean clothes on and it did. Plus I hung them over the fire right before I changed into them.

A father actually asked me “Won’t they reek of smoke?” Yeah man they will, but I’m good with that. What I wanted to say was Bro, its south of 25 degrees and we ain’t done. There is not a cloud in the night sky which means any heat left in the sub atmosphere is rapidly escaping the earth. Meaning whatever real temp it gets down to, it will feel colder than that. Smoke filled clothes is the very least of our worries right now.

But he was a really nice guy and was probably worried more about his kid than anything and I was likely overreacting to the impending ice age, so I bit my lip. Frank seemed unaffected. I felt like I should worry more about him but he was so damn happy. He changed, bundled himself in his bag, and was out. Kids.

It was cold man. Laying on the ground letting the cold drain your life away is not a lot of fun. The area around my eyes was the only exposed part. Opening my eyes was not good either as I could feel my eyeballs immediately  get cold. Such a weird sensation. In the morning I had another issue. I had basically stood up all day. Even by the fire and during the big dinner and camp skits the boys put on, I was standing up.

That became a problem when I tried to get up and get out of the tent the next morning. My calves and thighs literally gave up.

Yeah screw you man, we have gone as far as we can carry you my friend. You got your last click out of us.

And down I went, into the leaves. On my face. Like a struggling turtle in the heat of the sun, except in the freezing damn cold and in reverse. I flipped over from my face onto my back. That’s when I saw it.

Why the hell is the top of my tent all white? And why does my face feel frozen but burning?  Well the tent, which I thought would be useless, acted as a barrier to the decent layer of frost that settled on the area. That frost would have been on me without the tent. So the tent did it’s job. Lesson learned.

My face burned because the small area under my eyes left uncovered, my cheek bones I guess, was also frosted over. These revelations aside, I still needed to pee. I was still on my back in the leaves. I needed my legs. It was gonna be a tough morning.

Finally got my legs under me, took care of all morning ablutions and got the fire going. I received a few kudos from the veteran parents who were there. I had the fire rolling by the time they all got up. They made breakfast for everyone and we broke camp. By the time we policed up the grounds and doused the remains of the fire it was 60 degrees.


Proof of life shot. Alive and much warmer.

We were sweating like pigs when we made it to the car. For some reason we both laughed as we loaded everything in the trunk. Not sure why.

Also important to note, I may be soft but I’m not dumb. I left shorts and t-shirts in the car for us to drive home in. Man that felt so good. Like taking off your boots after skiing all day.

We talked about Dayton as we drove through town, knocking down fries and shakes from the local establishment. He was riveted about the history of Dayton, astonished it was only an hour from our house.  We talked about the events of what we just went through together, laughed hard about me laying in the leaves and a lot of other stuff. Even cussed a little.

Anyway then we had to call Mrs Frank’s Place to tell her we survived and that we had slept in 16 degree weather, the lowest temperature point during the night. I let a few four letter words slip, as is my Modis Operandi, and was scolded immediately.

Frank blurted out, We’re mountain men now mommy this is how we talk! I supported with an Amen Brother! Then hung up the phone. We went back to our fries and our walk through history.

We’re mountain men now, that’s what we do.