Ready for the Zombie Apocalypse

Two teams each received a tarp and some rope and was told to build an emergency shelter using those supplies and any natural items from the forest. My team went for simplicity and built a simple tarp tent, using sticks as tent poles.

The Girl Scout motto is Be Prepared. I spent the day yesterday doing just that with other members of the adult Girl Scout troop my friend Reba recently started. At yesterday’s event, we were honing some of the important knowledge and skills we’ll need for the upcoming Zombie Apocalypse.

We met at a Girl Scout camp in Fairfax County. Activities included knot tying, shelter building, knife and tomahawk throwing, water purifying, fire building, box oven building, and snack making using two different methods of camp cooking.

One of our first activities was to collect water from the nearby creek and river and practice several different methods of purifying it for drinking. All of the methods resulted in safe drinking water, though some yielded better tasting water than others. And once I figured out how the diagrams worked, I aced knot tying. I was also part of the successful fire building detail, though I’ve certainly built enough of them, so I knew what I was doing.

Buddy burners are quite effective for cooking up some grilled cheese sandwiches.

I used to make and cook on buddy burners in Girl Scouts, but haven’t done so since I was a kid. It was fun to use one again. A buddy burner is heated by a tuna-fish can filled with wax-soaked cardboard, lit on fire. Punch some air holes in the side of a coffee can and place it upside-down over the tuna-fish can. And you’ve got a rudimentary burner. We successfully toasted grilled cheese sandwiches on top.

We also constructed box ovens out of cardboard boxes, aluminum foil, soda cans filled with gravel, and wire cooling racks; we used them to bake apples. The apples tasted great, though they were still a bit crunchy because we apparently did not bake them long enough.

I texted my son during the knife and tomahawk throwing lessons, telling him what I was doing. He responded, “Stick them with the pointy end.” Ha. Arya Stark I am not. In fact, this activity was by far my least successful part of the day. I was absolutely hopeless. I texted him back to say if we were ever attacked by zombies, I was putting him in charge of our defense, but that I’d be happy to build fires and tie knots.

In fact, I was not only bad with the weapon throwing; I realized it made me inexplicably tense. I remember feeling the same way in taekwondo class when I was supposed to spar. I enjoyed a lot of taekwondo, but I hated sparring. It made me feel completely incompetent, but my discomfort was about more than my general lack of athletic skill and coordination. In fact, most of us were pretty unsuccessful at hitting the targets and having the blades stick, but I seemed to be the only one who was really uncomfortable with it. I think it may have to do with the weapons. I guess I’m a conscientious objector at heart. In any case, when my turn was over, I did have fun talking with some of my fellow grownup Girl Scouts while others played with blades.

The box oven is a simple device made from a foil wrapped cardboard box. After placing our uncooked apple halves on top, we shoveled some burning coals from the fire into a small foil tray and slipped it between the soda cans. Then we closed up the box and waited while the apples baked.

Spending time with other people was the best part of the day. I’ve been isolated for the past year, stuck inside with few meaningful in-person interactions with anyone outside my own family. I was wary of spending the day in a group of people, despite the fact that we were outside and masked. It just wasn’t possibly to stay distanced during some of the activities. After a year of keeping people six feet away, that was a bit disturbing, but we were following the guidelines, and I think it was safe enough.

The other thing I loved about yesterday was the setting. When I was a kid, I loved to play in the woods. I’d search for wintergreen berries, climb trees, read in a tree house with my friend Caroline, and wade in the creek with my sisters while tadpoles tickled our ankles. My Girl Scout troop did a lot of hiking and camping, and those treks through the woods are some of my favorite memories. Even today, the sight of sunlight filtering through the leaves, the smell of moss, and the sound of wind in the trees bring me peace. We didn’t have the time to revel in the wilderness yesterday — after all, we had a zombie apocalypse to prepare for. But I went home feeling more serene than I had in weeks.

We tried as much as possible to stay distanced, even as we gathered around the fire.

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