Camping In A Caboose

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I spent a rather unusual weekend with my boys, Jon and Aidan. Unusual for two reasons: it was warm, short sleeves weather outside (very strange for London, Ontario where it’s more likely I’d be shovelling snow this time of year than sunning) and we spent the weekend camping in a trio of retired CN train cabooses.

The Cabooses at Camp Sylvan.     Photo: Brad MoonThe Cabooses at Camp Sylvan.     Photo: Brad Moon

The Cabooses at Camp Sylvan. Photo: Brad Moon

The boys, who just turned seven, joined Beavers this year and this was their first experience camping as part of the Scouting organization. When I heard the trip was planned for mid-November, I was a little concerned. Not so much that we’d be freezing (at that age I had no doubt they’d be providing decent shelter for the kids), but I had images of trudging trough slush or cold rain and struggling to hike through mucky woods while sporting heavy winter boots. The list of things to bring issued to parents included mitts, winter boots and a winter coat. Our average daily high temperature in November is 45 degrees with 72 hours of sunshine for the entire month, so the 63 degrees and nine hours or so of cloudless sunshine on Saturday were really something to be enjoyed. The kids (and parents) went on multiple hikes, including one in the dark, and enjoyed twenty minutes or so of being “geographically embarrassed” when taking a short cut through a pine forest while learning how to use a compass. The hot chocolate packed for hikes was a little under appreciated, given the weather, but who would have predicted the kids would be demanding cold drinks at this time of year?

By far the best part of the experience, though, was bunking down in a trio of retired CN (Canadian National) train cabooses that have been transported to Camp Sylvan, mounted permanently on short rails, equipped with bunk beds and generally prepped for use by kids and covered by a permanent shelter. Sort of a combination playground, museum and hotel. While the bunks themselves were a little short for me, I’m hardly their target demographic; and they were heated, not that ten kids tearing from car to car, climbing bunks and hauling themselves up into the elevated crew seats in the cupola (the little box with windows you see perched on the top of a caboose) don’t generate enough excess heat on their own. During our main hike, the kids had to spot an object that corresponded to every letter in the alphabet. While (T)rees and (L)eaves were basically like the free square in Bingo, they were stumped with Z until one of them caught a parent snapping photos and shouted out “Zoom lens!” I was not busted for carrying my C(ellphone) and I obeyed the rules, even leaving my (i)Pod at home.

We had to miss the London Santa Claus Parade (what’s up with a Santa Claus parade two weeks after Halloween, anyway?) where I’d heard the London Rogues Star Wars fangroup was going to enter a float featuring their 13 foot tall AT-ST pulling a sled carrying four Ewoks. But it was worth it. Next year we’ll catch the Stormtroopers with Santa.

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