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Minimalist Camping

Over the weekend of Sept. 20, 11 VanCougars went to Washington’s Council Lake, northwest of Mt. Adams in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The weekend focused on teaching some useful wilderness survival skills while testing student limits, said recreation intern Jonathan Rader.

Camping can mean something different to everyone. You could camp in an R.V., a campground or a tent in the backcountry; many people have his or her own preference to this outdoor activity. Minimalist camping is no exception, especially with the Recreation Department at WSU Vancouver.

“Minimalist is not exactly the best title for this trip,” said Rader, “but everyone was encouraged and challenged to go as minimal as they felt comfortable.”

The group left campus on a Friday evening arriving after nightfall to set up a large 12-man tent to share. On Saturday morning a game of Frisbee golf broke out, brought by Jon Nichols, a student majoring in accounting.

Saturday afternoon the recreation staff ran lessons on how to tie various knots, make a simple tarp shelter and build different fires. Once everyone learned three universal knots, the group was asked to use their new talent to build tarp shelters. The crew was ready to endure the elements and made shelters with the possibility of thunder and lightning in mind.

After learning about the essentials of fire building and different strategies to making a fire, two teams were formed to take on a fire challenge. A rope was placed about four feet above the fires and the first team to burn the rope won the challenge. Lighters and fluid were not allowed, and the teams scrambled to get wet timber to light.

The girl’s team, determined to beat the retired boy scouts, did just that. Once the flames licked the rope, splitting it in two, they cheered and letting the boys bath in their smoke. It was a fun team building exercise and the boys were good sports about their defeat.

The group huddled around the campfire for hours into the night playing games like “two lies and a dare,” and “the green door.” By the time they decided it was time for sleep, only Phil Hawkins, a student majoring in education, was willing to tough it out and sleep in his tarp shelter.

Drenching rain finally came that evening lasted well into Sunday morning. Hawkins got applause from the group when he said he stayed dry and warm in his shelter. The group then decided to pack up camp early and head into Hood River for brunch.

“There is a lot to say about going out and pushing yourself in the elements,” said Spencer Vaughn, a student majoring in both history and fine arts.

Vaughn works in the recreation office as the rental assistant and this was his first outing with recreation. Besides the fire challenge and knot tying, Vaughn said he enjoyed getting to know the people around him on the trip better, like his coworkers Rader and recreation Coordinator, Anthony Deringer.

“If you have an interest in the out- doors, come visit us and sign up for a trip. Trips are the easiest, most casual way to try something new,” said Vaughn. “We [the recreation team] and Anthony especially are looking to make everyone’s experience the best it can be.”

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