I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors. Our backyard was a playground where I would climb trees, look for blue jays and woodpeckers, run barefoot through the sprinklers, and chase fireflies. Secretly, I hoped to discover a new species of insects or find buried treasure that entomologists and early explorers simply overlooked. It was only fitting that, at the age of 8, I became a Girl Scout. Yes, we wore green polyester uniforms and sold Girl Scout cookies, but we spent most of our time roughing it in the wilderness.
At Camp Addisone Boyce, we acquired basic survival skills for camping and hiking. We learned how to build, maintain and extinguish a fire, cook French toast over a tin can, and maneuver a canoe in teams of two. Over time, our overnight stays got progressively daring. First, it was a night in a cabin with only a fireplace for heat, then it was a night in tents we pitched ourselves. Soon, we were counting the stars at night from an uncovered teepee platform. And for the hardiest of campers, there was Winter Wirl: a series of overnight stays in the dead of winter. I could never forget the proud night I slept on the snow-covered ground inside a hut insulated with materials I gathered from the woods. But the most important lesson learned as Girl Scouts was not a specific talent we developed.
More than anything, we learned to adapt. Anything can happen, no matter how well you prepare. Sometimes your tent buddy loses control of her bladder while laughing uncontrollably, there is no spare tent, and all you can do is “air it out.” Sometimes manmade structures (let’s say covered wagons) are inhabited by insects (let’s say butterfly larvae), and they might just rain on your face and hatch in the middle of the night. Camping in the wild is no “walk in the park,” but any Girl Scout will tell you it is well worth the trip.
This month’s cover feature is dedicated to explorers of all ages.Follow our guide to investigating Beijing’s greenest spaces, from the city’s public parks (p53) to hiking trails around Beijing (p49). If you’re traveling with the whole clan, refer to our guide on hiking safety and equipment (p58).
Ultimately, it didn’t matter how accomplished we became as rough-and-tough Girl Scouts. I have long forgotten which branches qualify as tinder and which ones are for kindling. I can only recall searching for good walking sticks, racing to the top of the mountain, and chatting well after lights out with Tricia, Christina and Charlotte – all of whom remain good friends to this day.
Interested parties may contact firstname.lastname@example.org for Girl Scouts in Beijing, email@example.com for Boy Scouts in Beijing, and firstname.lastname@example.org for Beijing Scouts Group (open to boys and girls).
Photos: Courtesy of Kara Chin