Opening the Camp, There’s more to camping than just knots
“Remind me again which knot we use for this?” Kate asked, frowning slightly at the rope in her hands. Jessica finished tying her end of the canvas tent to the wooden support and came around to Kate’s side of the platform.
“Sheet bend”, the younger woman said with a smile. “Want me to show you?” A strand of Jessica’s bright red hair had come loose from her long braid and she absently tucked it behind her ear. She was a tall young woman – close to 5’9″ – and her thick braid extended almost to her waist.
Kate didn’t know her well, but since Jessica was more experienced at camping, she had been paired with Kate to open the Girl Guide camp for the spring. This was the first year Kate had volunteered to join the group of women for this May long weekend. Five of them had driven up Friday night and several others would be coming and going throughout the weekend. There was a lot to do to prepare the camp for the summer season – minor repairs, cleaning, checking the boats, clearing out the raccoons that had decided to take advantage of the isolated site over the winter and, of course, setting up the tents. With six different sites on the large campground and at least 10 canvas tents per site, it took a while. But, once erected, the tents remained all summer for groups of girls coming to camp for a weekend or a week. Though harder to set up, they were much more durable than the flimsier nylon tents.
“Sheet bend,” Kate repeated. “Wait – I think I know that one.” She slowly twisted the rope into the requisite loops, muttering to herself as she slipped it over the pole.
“Perfect!” Jessica told her, resting a hand on Kate’s shoulder as she peered at her completed knot. “Only four more to go. I’ll finish the other side.” Kate paused to wipe the sweat off her forehead before moving to the next rope hanging loosely against the canvas. It had been unseasonably warm for the past two weeks and today was shaping up to be a scorcher. Both women were wearing long pants for leg protection while hiking through the brush and although part of the work was done in the shade, the tents were set up in clearings and it was a very sunny day.
“Frig, it’s hot!” Jessica exclaimed. “I don’t ever remember it ever being this warm on opening weekend.” She pulled her t-shirt out of her technical pants, fanning it away from her flat stomach. Kate had a brief flash of creamy white skin and blue lace before Jessica tucked her shirt back into her pants. She watched as Jessica bent to grab her water bottle, the khaki fabric of her pants tight against her slim buttocks. Jessica took a quick swallow of water and splashed a bit on her face and neck, her pale grey t-shirt now wet from sweat and water. Kate realised she was staring, her mouth somewhat dry, and bent to take a swig from her own water bottle. Settle down, she told herself firmly – she’s much too young for you.
“How many years have you been volunteering for this?” Kate asked her, pulling firmly on the rope and completing the next knot much more rapidly than the first.
“This is only my second year doing it as a leader but I’ve come a bunch of times when I was a Ranger and then a junior leader,” she said. She was already finished her side and moved along to help Kate.
“You’re what – 20? 21?” Kate asked, thinking back to how she used to spend her weekends when she was in her late teens and early 20’s…and it wasn’t doing this.
“I’m 22,” Jessica told her. “I have one more year of my bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and then I have to decide if I want to go for a master’s or maybe medical school. I’m still not sure.”
“Twenty-two!” Kate exclaimed. “I’m almost old enough to be your mother!” Although Kate’s own hair was still a rich auburn and her face still fairly free of wrinkles, Jessica’s inexhaustible energy made Kate feel far older.
“No way – how old ARE you?” Jessica asked curiously. “You can’t be more than 31 or 32.”
“I’m almost 39. Veritably ancient,” Kate replied, shaking her head and wishing she were indeed still 32.
“I have plenty of friends in their 30’s,” Jessica told her. “And you’re still so beautiful,” she continued, looking away and turning a bright red. Before Kate could process the comment – or the blush – Jessica changed the subject, suggesting they continue to the next tent.
The two women chatted as they systematically moved through the site, completing the work checklist. They’d gotten an early start and it wasn’t even ten yet. Kate was feeling pretty good about their progress but wondered if she’d survive the heat once it really warmed up for the day. Jessica must have been thinking along the same lines.
“What would you think if I volunteered us to inspect Sunset Island?” Jessica asked. “No one else had taken that job as of breakfast this morning and we could canoe over with lunch – it’d be cooler on the lake.”
“I love that idea!” Kate responded enthusiastically. “We’re almost done here, right?”
Jessica glanced through the checklist and nodded. “Let’s head back to the main lodge and hope no-one’s had the same idea first!”
They hiked down the dirt path to the sturdy wooden building near the waterfront. Most of the volunteers had slept in the bunk beds inside last night and the two older women who worked the kitchen had already started preparing lunch for the rest of the volunteers. Kate refilled their water bottles while Jessica filled a knapsack with supplies for their picnic lunch. There was a slight breeze down by the boathouse and Kate was glad Jessica had made this suggestion. She’d never been to Sunset Island. It was a few kilometres from the main camp and a popular destination for older girls to practice their boating skills.
Kate stopped to untie her braid, which had become loose during the morning.
“Sometimes I wish my hair wasn’t so curly!” she cursed, her fingers caught in a tangle.
“I’d love to have curly hair,” Jessica responded. “Mine is so fine I end up having to wear it tied up most of the time. Here – I’ll re-braid it for you,” she offered, moving behind Kate.
“Thanks,” Kate said, as the girl expertly separated and braided her hair. It only extended to her upper back, so the process was rather quick. Even so, Kate was very conscious of Jessica’s fingers gently stroking her scalp, her warm breath on her neck, and possibly the brush of her small breasts against Kate’s back. But perhaps she was imagining that, Kate thought. Despite the heat, Kate felt her nipples harden and tried to focus her thoughts on something other than how strong Jessica’s hands were and how they might feel on other parts of her body.
“All done,” Jessica said, somewhat breathlessly and brushed her hands lightly over Kate’s shoulders. Kate turned to smile at her and was surprised to see that Jessica was again blushing. Jessica opened her mouth, as if to say something, but bit her lip and looked away. But then she suddenly reached out and grasped Kate in a quick hug.
“I’m having a great day with you,” Jessica said impulsively. “Let’s get going.”
Kate caught her breath, surprised at the sudden show of affection…and at her own physical response to it. She found herself wishing it had lasted just a bit longer.
As they donned their life jackets and prepped the canoe, Jessica explained that the island was named for its westerly position in relation to the main camp. Hopefully, the small campsite on the island had fared well over the winter and they wouldn’t have much clean up to do. If major repairs were needed, they would have to report back to the property committee.
Jessica grabbed an emergency kit and tossed it into the canoe. She directed Kate to take the front position, as the younger woman was the more experienced boater. They used the oars to push off the dock and headed away from the main camp. The sun was strong and Kate was glad for her hat and sunglasses. The lake was quiet with only the sounds of birds and their oars dipping into the clear surface. Kate wasn’t used to boating and her shoulder muscles were just starting to protest when Jessica pointed out the small stretch of beach ahead. They landed and Kate jumped out to hold the canoe steady for Jessica. They pulled it farther out of the water and immediately took off their sweaty life jackets.