The Boy Scout program rolls on! We rolled on to western Oklahoma this past weekend for about six hours to the alabaster caverns state park to do a bit of caving. Or “spelunking” as some refer to it. From Greg’s dictionary of common language:

Spelunking: Slipping and sliding around like a dork in the dark and muck of a cave .

Our trip took us through Enid which, according to a billboard, is home to “simply the best flat roofing system around.” Who would have thought it? Flat land/flat roofs. Hmmm… They have several nice filling stations too which is about all we ever see of any town. The drivers can fill up on gas and the boys can fill up on beef jerky and candy. The Boy Scouts have a definite series of priorities on camping trips with safety being number one. Nutrition is pretty far down on the list; hence the beef jerky and candy. Evan approached the cash register with candy that feature a plastic nose with a reservoir of green goo at the back. You squeezed the tube and the green snot oozed through the nostril. I drew the line there: no way was he spending his money on that. I do have standards although at times they are pretty low.

These caverns are not the stalag(m/t)ited variety of Carlsbad fame; rather, they are just holes in a mesa with lots of boulders to climb over and under. There are even a few bats. This area of western Oklahoma could pass for west Texas with it’s arid, desert-like vegetation and mesas all around. Indeed there is a nearby state park named the “Little Sahara”. There were some very nice hikes to be had along and down into the nearby canyon where some of the caves were.

We were told: bring clothes that you won’t mind throwing away because you’ll be crawling on your belly in cave mud. Woo Hoo! The boys loved it. I personally didn’t get as dirty as some but I nevertheless had some personal hygiene to attend to upon completion. Actually, since it was some 95 degrees outside, the rolling sweat did a fair job of dealing with the mud. After crawling out of the cave exhausted, I spent a fair amount of time pouring water on my head to cool off. The good part was we got to wear hard hats with those little head lights on them. Very cool. Mine said “CAT” on it and, on the back, “Braden Winch – a division of PACCAR”. Apparently, Tulsa is some sort of worldwide winch center of excellence. Others said “PSO” (the electric company) or “GTE” (the old phone company). I guess there are very few logo-less hard hats in the world.

I and most of the others chose not to crawl through the 40 feet of mud and water; preferring instead to return and go around to another cave called “The Kneecrusher” that joined up with the main cave past the mud and water. It was little more than a naturally occuring culvert pipe which required lots of belly crawling. It does in fact crush your knees. I was the “trailer” and Evan was two boys in front of me; it was nice of him to periodically call back to check on me. It’s a good thing I’m not claustrophobic – if you have even a little bit of it, the kneecrusher will bring it out of you.

When it’s so hot, it’s pretty difficult to sleep. The tickle of sweat as it trickles down my back and/or forehead tends to keep me awake but we got lucky Saturday night as a front came through and brought the temp down to about 70 and so whether it was due to the temperature or the exhaustion, we all turned in about 9:00 pm and slept like babies. The boy scout troop camped next to us came over to invite us to share their cobbler and there was nobody awake but I and one other dad.

On the way back, we fell in behind the ultimate redneck pickup which I’ll have to send photos of. It has to be seen to be believed but I will say at this point that rust, string, and bailing wire plays a big part of its look. He was pulling out in front of anyone and everyone because with a truck like that, you don’t have a care in the world as far as fender-benders are concerned.

We also stopped at the Glass Mountains on the way back. Our assistant scoutmaster has a master’s degree in geology and so is handy to have around when climbing about on rocks. Interesting conversational note: when you’re in the presence of a geologist, you’re going to hear about the difference between lignite and anthracite no matter what. It just happens – so be ready for it. Anyway, he got some pretty good mileage out of an old geologist’s joke.

Kid: “Hey Mr. D, what kind of rock is this?”

Mr D: “That’s leaverite.”

Kid: “Leaverite?”

Mr D: “Yeah, leaverite there where you found it!”

Me: “Yuck, yuck!”

The glass mountains were actually mesas, one of which had a combination trail/stairway up to the top which made for a fascinating hike. There is great scenery to be experienced from the top of a mesa. I voiced the opinion that it would be cool to camp up there but Evan, in an impressive flash of commune sense said “Yeah but we’d have to haul all our stuff up here.” Good point. There’s a reason there aren’t a lot of campgrounds on the tops of mesas.

Once again, the most popular vehicle was not the most utilitarian but the most elegant: a Lincoln navigator with TV and VCR. There really should be a law against such things on campouts. It was full and left the rest of us in pickups with some extra elbow room. The particular pickup I was in had an interesting experience when the driver’s side mirror just fell out and shattered on the freeway. I’ve always wondered where those little shards of mirror came from that you occasionally see on the roads and, based upon my experience, they come from GMC pickup trucks with 125,000 miles on them. It just fell out – for no particular reason. Hmmm….

The scoutmaster had unfortunately been called away on business Thursday so this campout featured back-up leadership and somewhat relaxed standards. For example, one of the younger fellows was allowed to sleep in his mom’s tent and Saturday afternoon was unstructured. In other words the boys raced off to the woods and climbed trees. They all came back with reports of great fun so you’ve got to wonder if free time isn’t worth more than we give it credit for. The adults stayed up in the shade and fought a losing battle against sleep. It was pretty comical with us trying to keep up a conversation and one or the other of us always nodding off uncontrollably.

The spiders around there have evidently developed a knowledge of how great it would be to set up camp (so to speak) inside a tent since as soon as I opened my flap they would come running like it was new years eve. Much swatting ensued and the flap stayed shut most of the time.

We certainly ate well. The boys planned the menu and as a result, we ate the sorts of things that don’t require a lot of K.P. The kids always like meals served out of foil pouches for that reason. Our menus featured tons of red meat and little else. For me, that was a little slice of heaven. Also, the boys like to make oatmeal by pouring it into a Ziploc bag, pouring in the water, and biting off the corner and sucking it out. No cleanup there either.

So, the boys got to explore a cave, crawl in mud, climb trees, buy soda and beef jerky at a truck stop and suck oatmeal through a hole in a Ziploc bag. It doesn’t get any better than that.