Five families braved temperatures in the mid-nineties to participate in the Arboretum’s Summer Campout, held July 30-31. Families dined under the shade of an oak tree, enjoying food hot off the grill alongside cool slices of watermelon. While adults set up their tents in an open meadow, Children’s Program Coordinator and campout organizer Jenny Houghton explored the wetland with young campers, ranging in age from two to ten. Children returned from the wetland to make Mason jar firefly-catchers before setting off with their parents on a woodland night hike.
As darkness fell along the Blockston Branch, Jenny’s intrepid husband, Gabe, built a roaring bonfire in a woodland clearing. Children balanced on tree stumps and searched for the perfect marshmallow roasting stick. Despite waves of heat coming off the bonfire, everyone gathered round to assemble gooey, delicious s’mores.
Saturday evening closed with a cosmic show put on by the Delmarva Stargazers, who set up three enormous telescopes in the campout field. Campers were treated to close-up views of Saturn, globular clouds, the Milky Way, and other wonders of the night sky.
After a somewhat restful and surprisingly cool night (punctuated by owl cries and the howls of neighboring beagles), campers woke to find assorted breakfast treats and some much-needed coffee laid out under the trees. Nationally known ornithologist Andy Sprenger led a bird walk introducing campers to birdsong identification. Andy was thrilled to spot a Mississippi Kite on the walk; these birds are rarely seen as far north as Maryland. Campers were thrilled at close-up scopes of a hummingbird and an indigo bunting.
As campers packed up their tents, 9-year-old Nick Obert admitted to Jenny, “I had low expectations of this camp-out, but it turned out to be a lot of fun.” High praise, indeed.