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Soggy weather shouldn't dampen activities

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wave Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

Last week and for the first time this year, I went camping. This was no ordinary weekend campout though, and for two reasons. One, it was during the week; and two, there were a total of eleven people accompanying me.

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This, coupled with the fact that at 15 I was the oldest "kid" there, should give you a general picture of the chaos that ensued at this two night outing. Oh, and one more thing: this was a canoe trip, so there was that to deal with, too. The weather forecast, which we had been watching closely all week, predicted a "30 percent chance of thunderstorms." Thirty percent didn't seem like much.

We departed from civilization on Monday morning, a dozen people with their clothes and food and God knows what else packed into a Suburban and a 12-passenger van, and after an hour's drive arrived at our campsite. We unloaded our luggage, pitched all three of our huge tents (one for each gender, and another to be used for storage), and rode in the back of a pickup about a mile upstream from our campsite, where our group deployed into the Crow Wing River for a lazy afternoon's canoe ride down the river and back to our campsite.

Unfortunately, the canoe guide was not able to deliver on her promise of fair weather, and a good part of our afternoon was spent canoeing while inundated by precipitation. I desperately tried to lift the spirits of the other people in my canoe, both of them girls, by doing what my dad would have done in that situation: I reminded them that this was a character-building experience. They were not amused.

After what seemed an eternity, we arrived at our campsite. Ironically, it had stopped raining by that time, so we were able to be outside until close to midnight, when the showers came back and, thus, sent us to bed.

The next day I woke up at a quarter to five (a.m., in case you were wondering). It was three hours before anyone else rolled out of bed, so I spent that time preparing our entire camp for the day. As it turned out, Tuesday was primarily good weather, and we spent that day canoeing down the Crow Wing River, playing football, and, most of all, eating. Evening came, and as our entire assembly congregated around the campfire (it was a tight squeeze), I noticed something very interesting.

First of all, I want you to understand that my eight-year-old brother has always, well, had a way with women. There is simply no way around that fact. Even before he could talk, Gabe has, at every social gathering, had a cluster of girls following (or chasing, depending on whether he actually cared for them or not) him around.

It's all very innocent, and perhaps even exaggerated by his family, but nevertheless, as a lifelong bachelor who is on the shy side around anybody, let alone people of the opposite gender, I have respected, and maybe even envied my brother for his, um, social skills. Today was no exception. Brother Gabe was seated on the lap of, and apparently on very friendly terms with a 14 year-old girl, one of the people I had a day previously given the spiel about character.

I realized that she probably just thought he was cute (as in puppy-dog and infant cute), but was still a bit taken aback by my little brother. I felt like asking him, then and there, "What is your secret?" -- but didn't. As the evening wore on, I found out soon enough what his secret is. For example, when Gabe got a chance to tell a made-up story, he made it about Queen "K," who lived in a wonderful place called "K-Land" and had Gabe as her royal slave, who pulled her Royal Chariot around and occasionally beheaded unruly subjects. In fact, Gabe had drawn a picture depicting the chariot pulling, which showed him being whipped by the Queen as he labored to please his Good Master. Talk about flattery!

That night, after the camp had gone to bed and was almost perfectly quiet, the urge to relieve myself hit me. I went behind a nearby tree, did my thing, and then, running back to my tent (and please don't ask why I was running) caught my neck on a clothesline. The people in the neighboring tents remember being startled by a loud Thump! and a painful yelp on my part, and then, a few seconds later, a groggy "I'm OK."

I walked over to the girls' tent (where the only adults on this trip were sleeping) and, trying to speak over everyone else's intense laughter, asked my mom to check for bleeding. She looked me over, diagnosed me with mild self-mutilation due to stupidity, and sent me off to bed.

We were supposed to leave the next morning, but nobody knew exactly how early. That is, until the rains came. We decided to skip breakfast, at least for the time, and put all of our energies towards getting ourselves out of the God-forsaken wetlands as soon as possible.

Everything was wet when we returned home, including the tents (one of which had to later be hung inside my room to dry), but despite the rain, I would still call the trip a success. Even though this summer could be better in the way of weather, weather alone shouldn't dictate whether or not you do fun things with your family and friends. In fact, inclement conditions can add a valuable new dimension to any outdoor activity. Although rain can feel cold and miserable when you are forced to stand in it, a little moisture can't take away the wonderful memories that can be made in the beautiful outdoors.

Nathan Kitzmann will be a sophomore at Detroit Lakes High School this fall.

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