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Itchy Girl Scout Camping Experience with Poison Ivy

Updated on January 3, 2018
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Girl Scout Camping

Today I was reading advertisements for "Summer fun with the girl scouts!" in our subdivision newsletter.

It was touting the many different camp offerings which included things like the following:

  • Day and Twilight Camp
  • Troop Camping
  • Carousel Camps
  • and Resident Camps for girls during the summer months.

It brought back memories of my one and only Girl Scout camping experience where I spent most of my time seriously itching and scratching almost the entire time. I'll share the details of that experience below.

My Mother Was a Scout Leader.

Since my mother was fortunate enough to be a full time stay at home mom she was willing and able to do all the wonderful things for me and my two brothers that helped us in many ways as we were growing up. She was a brownie leader when I was young and a girl scout leader as I became older.

My mother did the same for my brothers. Cub scout leader to boy scout leader she was always there to make our troops fun and exciting as we were spreading our wings, learning new and different things along with our little friends who were in our various troops.

We earned many a merit badge with my mother accompanying that journey to success. She made things so much fun that girls from other troops always wanted to be in my mother's troop.


My Camping Experience!

Naturally my parents thought that I would have a wonderful time at girl scout camp. We had looked over the activities and the location was in a wooded area on a lake in Wisconsin. It was a bit of a drive from where we lived.

The excitement built until the day finally arrived. The list of things to take were checked and double checked. Everything was packed for the primitive outdoor stay and this anticipated home away from home camping experience was about to begin!

My parents drove me there and before leaving, we located the tent in which I was to share a cot with a couple of other girls. We were introduced to the adults who would be supervising the activities. The lake looked inviting and since swimming was one of my favorite activities I could hardly wait to get in the water.

What I did not know at the time was that there was poison ivy in that wooded site. Apparently there was lots of it and I am highly allergic.

Poison ivy!
Poison ivy! | Source

I remember getting to swim once before I started breaking out with the itchy pustules caused by poison ivy and no longer was I allowed to swim and I loved swimming!

Lake scenery - Oh how I would have liked to swim in that water!
Lake scenery - Oh how I would have liked to swim in that water! | Source

We did get to take turns trying our hand at archery and we sat around campfires at night roasting marshmallows and singing but the joy of the camping was tainted by the ever spreading rash and discomfort.

We did get to practice some archery skills at girl scout camp.
We did get to practice some archery skills at girl scout camp.

It was hard to sleep at night because of the itching! A couple of days in to the experience which was becoming less and less fun by the hour I wrote a letter home to my parents to please come and get me and take me back home.

Those were the days before cell phones. By the time the letter had arrived it was just about time to come and get me anyway.

Mailbox | Source

Horseback riding was not allowed for me because they probably thought that I might infect other girls who might ride next on that same horse. Swimming had already been ruled out for me.

I could pet the horses but not ride them.
I could pet the horses but not ride them.

But they did allow my turn at cleaning the outhouse one morning! We took turns in doing chores at this girl scout camp.

Cleaning the outhouse was not exactly fun!
Cleaning the outhouse was not exactly fun!

And they did allow my turns at washing and drying dishes.

Somehow they thought that I would infect the entire lake and pass along my poison ivy to other girls and yet handling the dishes they would be eating from was no problem.

Washing and drying dishes was another chore assigned to us at girl scout camp.
Washing and drying dishes was another chore assigned to us at girl scout camp.

The itching became worse as the rash kept spreading and I could no longer tell which bumps were from mosquito bites or the poison ivy. I had both by this time!

Where were my parents? When would they be arriving?? Woe was me!!!

The other girls that had gone to that camp seemed to love it with the exception of the cleaning of the outhouses in the mornings. We were assigned turns to clean and mornings were selected as it was still brisk and cold in the early dawn. The smells emanating from that wooden structure with 3 or 4 different sized holes was less distinct at that time of day.

Of course we had indoor plumbing in our home as I am sure most of the other girls also had so that part of the camping experience was probably an eye opener for most of the girls who were thrust into a more primitive way of living for that week of living in tents and roughing it.

We were bunked in tents that looked pretty much like this.
We were bunked in tents that looked pretty much like this.

The day my parents finally arrived and I got to go home was one of the happiest days of my girl scout camping experience. I thought that the day would never come!

I wonder why they did not broach the subject of my going to camp the following year?

Sitting around a bonfire, singing and roasting marshmallows was one of the fun things that I got to do at girl scout camp.
Sitting around a bonfire, singing and roasting marshmallows was one of the fun things that I got to do at girl scout camp.

Other than my one camping sojourn I truly enjoyed my girl scouting days of long ago.

Learn how to identify poison ivy in the video below. It would have been most helpful had I known that at the time!

Our camp was in a wooded area. Undoubtedly there were many wild animals in that environment. Had we encountered a skunk that could have made the experience even worse! Then everyone would have been suffering and not only me. My brothers and I actually got sent home from school because of a skunk one time...but that is another story!

Can any of you top my girl scout camping experience? If so leave your comments below. Thanks!

© 2009 Peggy Woods


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    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      3 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Gwyneth,

      Thanks for being a scout leader and district commissioner. That is an important job which can be of great help to girls as they grow and mature. If I had not come down with poison ivy I would have loved that camping experience. Now it is just a funny memory from the past.

    • journey-with-Dora profile image

      Gwyneth Green 

      3 years ago from Paphos, Cyprus originally United Kingdom

      I am a girl guide leader and district commissioner in cyprus. It was lovely to read about your experiences. Well written. Xx

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      10 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi JamaGenee,

      We were out in a wooded area of Wisconsin and I am sure that there were no phones on site. A camp counselor would have had to drive somewhere to get to a phone and obviously they did not think that poison ivy was enough of a reason to do that. Looking at it from your perspective...that was cruel. I certainly spent a miserable week there after the first day or so. Ah yes! Cleaning the outhouse was the worst! I'm surprised they even let me participate in KP duties since I was so covered with the itchy rash. Am sure that girl scout camp (and all kid camps) in this day and age are better. They MUST BE! Ha!

      Boy scouts and girl scouts in general are terrific organizations. One of my brothers went on to become an Eagle Scout.

      Thanks for your comment.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      10 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      How nice for you...NOT!...that you weren't allowed to swim or ride for fear of infecting the water and the horses, but quite okay for you to clean the latrines!

      As for being stuck there until your parents received your letter begging to be fetched ASAP, was there no phone at the camp or nearby that an adult could've used to call them for you as soon as you were banned from the very activities that made summer camp fun? Forcing you to stay under such tortuous circumstances would NOT seem to me the normal "tough it out" training Girl Scout Camping is meant to instill.

      Such a serious case of poison ivy, IMHO, should've been taken as seriously by the counselors as a broken limb and medical treatment sought just as immediately, right before notifying your parents of the situation and letting them decide if you should stay or go home.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      10 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi again dahoglund,

      I also stayed on as a girl scout...just never went to another camp. Being a scout leader (as my mother was for both girl and cub scouts) it IS a big job requiring a substantial amount of time and effort. Kudos to all those who do that out of love for children and their development.

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      I never went on another Summer camp but we did have weekend camp outs. We also got a new Scoutmaster.Looking back I have some sympathy with people who take on things like being Scout leaders.Also I think I would have gained something by staying in longer than I did.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      10 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi dahoglund,

      I'm laughing at your experience. At least we had outhouses! Ha! Perhaps girl scout camping and boy scout camping back then was thought to build up our characters? What do you think? Did you ever go back?

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      10 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      Hi Peggy W

      Maybe something like scout camp is part of childhood initiation. I was in a Boy Scout troop(I don't recall the terms for sure)that was made up of all kids who had no experience with camping or the outdoors. So what did the adults do? They booked us into the Pioneer section of the Boy Scout camp for two weeks. We should have been where they had something like bunkhouses, a kitchen and plumbing. Instead we slept in tent that we pitched ourselves, built our own cook-fires and cooked outdoors. We had to dig latrines. We were no happy campers.However, I ddi not get poison ivy.

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      12 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Frankie, Apparently you don't even have to touch it if you are allergic. The smoke from any being burned can infect one. I think the "7 year itch" is referring to something else. LOL Thanks for the comment.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I now have a keen eye for that 5 leaf on a stem ivy and I don't walk in the woods or get within a arms length of it. They say it stays in your blood for 7 years. Is that what they call the 7 year itch?

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      12 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi debris, I love the outdoors also but it did not stem from that long ago camping experience. Ha! Isn't nature beautiful! Thanks for your comment.

    • debris profile image

      Dennis Ebris 

      12 years ago from Florida

      Hey Peggy W,

      I never went to Boy Scouts when I was younger. It's kind of ironic seeing as how I'm so interested in the outdoors now :) Lovelly hub, well, except for the outhouses :-P


    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      12 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Ethel, If my camping experience had been my first experience with the Girl Scouts, it would have been my last also. LOL

    • ethel smith profile image

      Ethel Smith 

      12 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Joined the Girl's Life Brigade in England but it only lasted one day. Was not for me lol

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      12 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Laughing Mom, Hope your Girl scout camping memories and those of your girls are better than mine. If it hadn't been for the poison ivy, it really WAS a good camp and my memories would be far different than the ones I carried away from that experience. This was actually meant to be a bit funny...

    • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

      Peggy Woods 

      12 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Hi Pete, Yes.......getting maimed by rice had to be a most unusual happening, but it certainly had lasting effects for Juliette Gordon Low. A bit of trivia you can throw into tomorrow's conversation with people.....LOL

    • Laughing Mom profile image

      Laughing Mom 

      12 years ago

      Ha Ha, Pete!

      GS camp wasn't as nearly involved when I went (only twice) as it is now for my girls. So much competition just to get into the one they are interested in!

      Memories are kinda interesting to relive, aren't they? Well, some of them anyway.....

    • Pete Maida profile image

      Pete Maida 

      12 years ago

      I guess that is what you call seriously bad luck to get your only good damaged with a rice kernel on your wedding day.


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