It was 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon and I was drinking wine at Girl Scout camp. Yes, you read that right, alcohol was involved. Even now, typing that sentence, I feel like an outlaw. If there’s one thing Girl Scout leaders are never, ever supposed to do, it’s imbibe while scouting.
Yet there I was, chardonnay in one hand and plate of hors d’oeuvres in the other. I wasn’t just at Girl Scout camp, I was at Glamp, the annual fundraiser the Girl Scouts of Western Washington put on at Camp River Ranch in Carnation to raise money for camperships.
The 243 women who attended Glamp this fall raised $304,133. We did traditional camp activities like archery, hiking, canoeing, wood working, singing and the polar bear plunge. There was also special opportunities like flower arranging, resin coaster making, triathlon training, karate, belly dancing and raising chickens 101.
Sponsors such as Molly Moon, Tom Douglas and Ethan Stowell made sure we were well fed. Which brings me back to happy hour in the meadow, and me and my wine glass.
If you’ve never been to Camp River Ranch, imagine moss-covered trees, fern-lined paths and towering firs emerging from old growth nurse logs. It’s one of the most scenic places in Washington. But let me tell you, after a glass of wine, it’s even more beautiful.
The people I met standing in line to get a second helping of buffalo mozzarella cheese and heirloom tomato salad were my new best friends. The deer grazing in the grass might as well have been Bambi’s mother. When I hiked to campfire an hour later, I sang “Happy campers are we, having fun ’neath the trees,” with all my might.
By the time I got to dinner and drank my second glass of wine, my eyes welled up with tears when the woman across the table from me — who didn’t have children and was only a Brownie for one year — raised her paddle and donated $3,000 to help girls go to camp. With or without the merlot, the tears rolling down my cheeks were real.
I know from first-hand experience that Girl Scout camp changes lives. I’ve been a camper, a counselor in training, a counselor and a leader who took my troop to camp. It felt weird to be at River Ranch instead of the camps of my childhood, but oddly also like being at home. All Girl Scout camps are sacred because they are safe places for girls to take risks, be brave and fall in love with nature.
That night when I crawled into my bunk bed, my FitBit said I’d walked 23,000 steps. (Stubbornly, I’d refused the van service.) My quadriceps burned and my stomach gurgled from overindulging in too much rich food, but my heart was bursting. I was already looking forward to Sept. 11-13, 2020, when I could return to River Ranch. This might have been my first time at Glamp, but it wouldn’t be my last.
Jennifer Bardsley publishes books under her own name and the pseudonym Louise Cypress. Find her online on Instagram @the_ya_gal, on Twitter @jennbardsley or on Facebook as The YA Gal. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.