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My worst vacation: the Cub Scout blues 

Summer Guide 2018

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Misery makes an effective teacher. I've spent uncomfortable nights out under sieges of mosquitos, bivouacked in boulder fields and frozen in the beds of pickups. But I've never suffered a more traumatizing trip than the summer overnight Cub Scout Jamboree.

I long ago repressed most of the details, but it started off well enough. I was probably about a Bear or Webelos scout and my dad drove me to the jamboree on the shore of some nearby lake. We barbecued burgers, joked around the fire, probably tied some knots or something.

We had set camp under clear skies, laying down a large tarp beneath the tent and rolling out our sleeping bags. But as everyone settled into bed, the weather turned to rain. The water pattered lightly on the tent sides, streaking down until it began to pool on our large tarp.

Sometime around 1 or 2 am, I awoke in wet clothes. My sleeping bag was soaked, my pillow and pack inundated with water. With a flashlight, we saw puddles flooding our tent. Our boots and spare clothes sat submerged. The car remained parked across the campground through a long, pitch black maze of sleeping scouts. We resigned to waiting for daybreak.

My dad pulled on a long, waterproof trench coat and we curled up inside it together for the next three or four hours — sopping and shivering atop a heap of waterlogged gear. Those achingly long hours I will never forget. We were the first ones out of camp the next day. And I haven't set out a ground tarp larger than my tent since.

The original print version of this article was headlined "My Worst Summer Vacation"

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