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What's the Point?

Okay, so we know how I’ll benefit from this endeavor. I’ll gain experience in the great outdoors that will help me write a better book set in the Adirondacks. But you, my dear reader, may well be asking, “What’s in all this for me?” Hopefully you’ll gain a little knowledge, have a few laughs, and vicariously enjoy a sense of adventure. Think of it as a modern-day Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, where you get to sit comfortably at your computer screen – much like Marlin Perkins watching from a safe distance behind some bushes. I, on the other hand, will go out into the wild, ala Jim Fowler, and do all the heavy lifting in an effort to entertain you.

            Well, on second thought…

Entries in L.L. Bean (2)


Happy Camper Is An Oxymoron

 I come from a long line of people who consider the phrase ”happy camper” to be an oxymoron. To put it simply, we Bitners are inside folk and I made sure to marry a man with similar proclivities. I assumed, then, that my husband and I would beget children who appreciated the value of memory foam pillows and indoor plumbing. I was wrong.



Recently my youngest has become fixated on the idea of camping outside. With me. In a tent. An item that, due to our love of the great indoors, we have conveniently neglected to own. Every time he brings up camping, I try to get him off the topic by offering him candy or turning the TV to Sponge Bob. Not a parenting technique I’m proud of, but one I was willing to resort to if it meant sleeping in my own bed. 

That is until the day my parental guilt took a direct hit from the Internet. I’d received an email announcing LL Bean was having a sale on all camping equipment.

            Malls I can do. They’re climate controlled, bear-free and the most dangerous part is looking for a parking space. Plus, the only equipment I needed was the piece of plastic in my wallet. So it was a no-brainer to head to Colonie Center for an adventure my nature-phobic DNA is better suited for: shopping.

            I was still on a buyer’s high when I returned home with my purchases – a tent, two sleeping bags and a self-inflating pillow. I only bought one pillow because I wasn’t sure it would work. If it did end up inflating, my son I would have to wrestle for it, but I was confident I could take him.

I also purchased a first aid kit and something called a Pocket Survival Pack. I bought the pack because it had seemed cocky to look at it in the store and then put it back like I didn’t need it. With my lack of camping know-how, I was in no position to tempt fate. I could picture rescuers one day discovering my lifeless body in the woods and lamenting, “If only she’d bought that pocket survival pack.” Besides, it was on sale.

            I decided I’d better figure out how to use the stuff while I was still safe and secure in my own home. It took me about ten minutes – no lie – to figure out how to open the survival pack, which turned out to be a simple zippered plastic pouch. This did not bode well for my chances in the wild.

            The first thing I noticed when I finally did get it open was that my pack was defective – no chocolate. Second thing I noticed was it was full of cool stuff I hoped I would never have to use – like a rescue whistle, signal mirror and waterproof fire starter.

Then I came across fishing line and fish hooks. I searched in vain in the pouch for the little tiny fisherman that will use them. Good Lord, I’m never going to survive if I have to catch my own food. There was also a scalpel blade, which, if I used it for slitting my wrists, would be a faster way to go than starving to death. There was even a pencil and notepaper.  Although it says you can use the paper when it’s wet, I’ll try to remember to write my farewell note before using the scalpel.

            Then I checked out the bonus lifesaving instructions. The first instruction said: Don’t Panic! Too late. Especially if I was reading it while stuck on the side of some mountain. Come to think of it, instead of a zippered plastic pouch, the whole thing should come in a brown paper bag so I’ll have something to breathe into to stave off the inevitable panic attack.


 With any luck, this retail excursion will be enough and just owning the gear will satisfy my son’s desire to go camping. And maybe if I stick the stuff in a closet, we can forget all about it. At least until the Visa bill arrives.


Oh, Deer!

Readers take note: if the story Bambi gives you nightmares, you might want to skip this post, but if Silence of the Lambs is one of your favorite movies then the following should be your cup of venison tea (or chianti).


The carnivorous side of me was getting cranky after sampling nothing but green leafy vegetables in the Essential Edibles class at Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) on Friday afternoon. So I figured the Field Dressing Game class on Saturday morning would balance things out.

Word on the street (or trail, in this case) was that the Silver Bay staffers were snickering because they thought Field Dressing Game was an actual game where one person was “It” and the rest of us raced to come up with the best combination of L.L. Bean boots and Smartwool socks or Patagonia hiking shorts and Northface vests. But I knew we’d be dealing with deer in this class so I prepared by bringing the proper clothing. I just wondered how I’d get a deer to stand still while I put the clothes on him.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the deer would be offering no resistance during class because they were dead. You read that right: dead. Which got me to wondering exactly what the rules of this game were. But I figured that either the stakes were a lot higher than I realized or else someone was a really bad loser.

The instructors, Lou and Angie Berchielli, both outdoors people extraordinaire, batted nary an eyelash as they hauled out what we affectionately referred to as “the bucket o’ deer.”


Bucket o' Deer: It comes with an order of fries and a small drink.


Come to think of it, the deer weren’t batting any eyelashes either. What the deer were doing was giving off an odor that was very attractive to flies. I was able to take my mind off both the odor and the fact that the flies landing on the deer were the same ones I was swatting away from my face with this one overwhelming thought: “what the hell did I get myself into?”

Okay, so I've never gone hunting and have no plans to do so in the future. So taking this particular class was a little like putting the cart before the horse. Or, in this case, the knife before the deer carcass.

The BOW brochure had described the class as “hands on” – I just didn’t think they meant my hands. But it wasn’t long before I was handed a knife and began reenacting a scene from Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman.


That's Dr. Quinn, I mean me, making the first cut. Despite my best

efforts, the patient remained dead.


I’ve got news for you. The smell of the deer on the outside was nothing compared to the smell of the deer on the inside. Lou gave us a mini anatomy lesson as we removed various organs and discussed whether you leave them for the animals in the woods or take them to either eat yourself or give to other people (presumably to friends who don’t rate high enough on your gift list for fruitcake).

Once we’d divvied up the innards, we hung the deer by its hind leg, skinned it, and learned how to butcher and store various cuts of meat – now given a deceptively quaint name that sounds like something you might actually order off a restaurant menu: venison.



AFTER: Yes, the maniacal grin on my face is a little disturbing, but if there's any justice, this is the deer that just ate my hosta.

Lou and Angie also showed us how to dress goose, fish and rabbit (none of them offered any resistance, either). By then it was time to get out of the pouring rain and head to the dining hall for lunch. I had no idea what was on the menu, but I was pretty sure I’d stick with a salad.


Angie shows us how to cut and wrap a venison roast. That's me on the left, deep in thought. Remembering what I learned in the Essential Edibles class the day before, I ponder whether to serve the roast with a wood sorrel reduction or just go with my old standby - burdock root concasse.