We arrived at our campground in the Smoky Mountains only minutes ahead of a driving rain, and so were reduced to waiting in trucks and vans for it to stop. Our growing distrust of the virtues of adulthood, though, had only started.

Sunset comes early in valleys that lie between mountains. Back in the days before smart phones, on-the-spot weather forecasts were acquired by seeing which way the clouds were blowing and looking at what was behind them. With mountain ridges to either side, the best forecast we could gather was rain for the foreseeable future, however brief, and it only required a glance at a watch to know night was coming on.

There was plenty of food in coolers in the back of the truck, more than enough to feed the restless, complaining dozen scouts for the week ahead, but practically all of it was uncooked. There were sandwich makings for hiking lunches, but only enough for the hiking lunches. If we ate that for supper on the first night, there’d be no way to prepare day hike food for the rest of the week, and the thought of sustaining ourselves through full days afoot with only granola bars from the plywood family as sustenance was too much to bear.

The troop’s travel budget didn’t have enough in it for dinner in town, even if there’d been a town to go have dinner in, which there wasn’t.

Finally one of our older scouts spoke up.

“What if we put up the cooking shelter, then heated up soup using the fish fryer?” he offered, a suggestion so obvious the adults were all stunned it had taken so long to come out.

With much splashing and rushing about, four poncho-clad scouts soon had a cooking fly strung between four trees and the fish cooker percolating stew as close to the upper edge as physics would allow. An occasional downspout from the shelter would pour into the pot, but that only meant there’d be plenty for seconds, if thinner.

Just having more age, we saw, didn’t mean having more ideas.

Kevin Tate is V.P. of Media for Mossy Oak in West Point.

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