I was lucky enough to have my name drawn for this past weekend’s Urban Park Ranger Campout in Prospect Park. The beau and I were 2 of the 28 people that participated, along with four friendly, personable Park Rangers. It was a great experience! I’ve never camped before, so it was a nice way to get my feet wet, as it were. I was within walking distance of my apartment and there was a restroom nearby, but I still “roughed it” by eating camping food and sleeping in a tent.
I had wifi though, does that mean I lose my campers badge?
After we checked-in, our first task was to assemble our tent. I was a little worried that setting it up would involve two competent people, since I am nowhere near outdoorsy and wouldn’t count as a full person. However, it was pretty easy once everything was laid out (although admittedly the beau did most of the work).
We did it! And promptly zipped our stuff inside. I’m one of those people that unpacks their whole suitcase the second I get to a hotel, so I unrolled the sleeping bag and made sure we had enough “anchors” in the corners of our tent so that it wouldn’t blow away. Later, they gave us stakes to pin it down, phew.
After tent set-up, it was dinner time. The park rangers had a pretty wide selection of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs, for those of you that have the lingo down pat), but I had called in advance to reserve a vegetarian meal. Vegetarian chili with beans and soy protein crumbles, yum! Beau had meatballs in marinara sauce, as you can see. Cooking these meals involved filling a pouch with a tiny bit of water, activating a sleeve of heat, and putting it all in a box to “cook” for about ten minutes. Yum. Actually, it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve had in the world, so good on you, MRE Star.
We played some icebreakers and then regrouped for a hike after the sun went down. I know the park well enough to know where we were walking, because I’ve covered the territory in the daylight, but it was fun walking around in the darkness too. We should have been in total darkness to allow our eyes to adjust to the light, but one of the kids that some light-up sneakers, and since I always ended up walking directly behind her, my dilated pupils were blinded by the blue from her shoes constantly.
Lastly, it was s’more time! Being resourceful, beau and I grabbed our own marshmallow roasting stick rather than waiting for the children to bring back enough for the group. And then I ran in and made sure to get enough supplies for a s’more apiece before said children swooped in. Yes, I’m secretly a little kid as well, I need to cut to the front of the line, but rest assured there was enough for everyone. One kid said he’d never had a s’more before, which, as a product of a suburban upbringing, made me sad for city kids. I’m sure that city kids get s’mores too, but apparently this one didn’t.
It was “lights out” at 11PM, and since we needed to be up at 6AM to disassemble and return to the tents, we went promptly to bed. Lame, I know. And then we were up and out by 6AM, grabbing bagels at our favorite old bagel haunt and returning to “home base” (aka the apartment), where we promptly fell back to sleep for several hours.
The whole program was really well run. I can’t speak highly enough of our park rangers: they genuinely love their jobs (and the parks), and it shows. And they all had a sense of humor, to boot! Even though their “home park” may not have been Prospect Park, they were incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. If you’re in the NYC area and want to participate, each camp night has a lottery you can enter. The lottery only lasts for 24 hours though, so be quick! Here is a list of upcoming park nights and their respective lottery days.