The Guzman family was invited to take part in a Boy Scouts Halloween camp. It was a last-minute planning; we packed the car like we were going for a week stay at a far away hotel, loading everything we thought we would need. I was in charge of loading up the truck and driving. My wife takes the rest of the credit for making everything else happen. The Guzman’s gone camping; our own Puertorican version of the Griswold’s National Lampoons Vacation. After several hours of loading and unloading we were ready to leave. Camp La-No-Che, located in Paisley, is about an hour from Orlando. When we arrived, it was very late and very dark. The office was closed but a good Samaritan helped us to find our group. At the campsite, some children were gathered around the camp fire singing , roasting their marshmallows and telling stories. Other children were playing around the camp site. This is the outdoor life, I thought. It was very late when I started to set up the tent. I had no idea how ; we borrowed this tent from a friend and it was very difficult to see how and where to set up. My Boy Scout and Army skills slowly started to come back and with the help of another good Samaritan our tent was finally set up. I was impressed with the help we got unloading our things. A bunch of Boy Scouts helped us carrying our things showing their good will to help. I felt proud of how the Boy Scout movement is helping these kids to become someone of value in the future. It was close to midnight when we finished; the kids were still up and running around when it was lights out, time to go to sleep.
Woke up to the sound of the bugle morning call. I felt like when I was back in the Army. It brought back memories of my Boy Scout and Army years. Time to get up! Camping with kids is bit more challenging than we thought. The bathroom facilities were located away from the camping site and Karymar didn’t like the arrangements. We walked to the chow hall for breakfast. It was like I expected; big mess hall decorated with Boy Scout signs and picture frames. Looking at the camp on daylight made me appreciate the size of it and the amenities the kids were about to enjoy. Karymar participated in many activities: archery, shooting with BB guns, arts and crafts. There was a swimming pool, climbing wall and many activities for children and adults.
The theme was Halloween of course, so the children and the adults crafted pumpkins and dressed up for the big party at night. However things were different at the campsite. The friendliness and good will environment we experienced the day before at our arrival was gone today. The children, dressed in their costumes were acting like they were really the action hero or the wrestler or the evil creature they were dressed like. An air of chaos enveloped the campsite; kids were running around without adult control, pushing other kids and were rude with people. They were not nice like the day before and were acting more like savages on a desert island. There was no sight of a responsible adult or parent around. They were oblivious to their surrounding acting like there is nothing wrong with the turmoil of children taking over the campsite. There were few, myself included, who had to put an end to the hostile takeover but the kids were resisting. All the good nature thoughts of being Boy Scouts and acting like good behaved children were vanished and a new image of out of control children took form instead. This was the result of children high of candy sugar turned loose with no parental control whatsoever. There was a woman whose son’s name will be embedded into my sub-conscious for life. She kept calling out for her two-year old son from her tent but making no attempt to go out and find him. She pretended that the poor toddler responded to the mother’s screams and find the way back to his tent. The things my wife and I saw left us gaping at each other, horror-struck. After the shock of the afternoon events, we all dressed up in our pirate costumes, except Karymar who wanted to be different and dressed up with a Hello Kitty costume. There was a Halloween parade and haunted house trail during the evening. Then Campfire tales and a big party to celebrate Halloween. At the end of the night, the kids were exhausted and so were we.
Late at night, we woke up hearing noises. We thought it was the kids creating mayhem again but it was around 3 AM when we realized that the noises was created not by the kids but by a bear. A big bear was visiting our campsite looking for food. For several minutes we stood still inside our tents. It was pitch dark and very cold outside; no one dared to venture out or able to see the bear. We communicated with other people from inside our tents. We could hear some kids crying, others excited about the unique experience. The bear kept trashing the area looking for food and then after it seemed like a good hour, he was gone.
The bear encounter was the talk of the morning the next day. The camp environment was once again calm and friendly. We saw the damage trail the bear left. Someone claimed to have seen the bear behind his tent and that he was a full-grown bear. Pretty scary considering that our protection was a thin layer of tent material against a full-grown, hungry bear. Thanks to God, we all lived to tell about the experience. Packing up our things was more tedious that setting up and less exciting. For some reason things didn’t fit in the truck. We left the campground around noon talking about our first Guzman’s family camp experience and planning our next one in a very near future.