Friday 5: Things I’ve Learned from My Students on Camping Trips

Two of the lab classes I’ve taught regularly as a grad student involve camping trips.  Dragging a mixed bunch of undergrads and grads out into the field together is always an adventure!  I am a huge night owl, so the best part of these trips to me is sitting around the fire until 1AM, 2AM, sometimes 3 or 4AM, talking with everyone.  I’ve learned some very interesting things from my students around the campfire, so I thought I would share 5 of these tidbits.

Reynold's Creek

Reynold's Creek, one of my favorite places to camp along the Mogollon Rim in Arizona.

1. South Park is the greatest TV show of all time.  Let me state up front that I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement and do not like South Park at all (kudos to those of you who do!), but to hear my students tell it, South Park is the most brilliantly hilarious show ever to grace our television screens.  They quote South Park endlessly and sometimes spend hours talking about nothing but South Park.  My most recent class camping trip involved a THREE HOUR long discussion of it, complete with reenactments of choice scenes as well as most of one episode.  Every time someone steered the conversation away from South Park they came right back to it.  It was a little crazy!  So, almost without fail, undergrads+grads+camping = South Park <3.

Sycamore Canyon

Sycamore Canyon. I camp here with students, and just for fun, a lot.

2. Some students drink entirely too much caffeine.  One of my students a few years back had a serious addiction to caffeine.  He literally drank 5 Monster Energy Drinks a day – and 5 hour energy shots in between.  Considering how recent findings have suggested that you should max out at about 3 cups of coffee a day, I don’t understand how his beverage choices didn’t make him horribly sick.  He seemed okay.  Awfully twitchy though…



3. Flaming marshmallows are dangerous projectiles.  Marshmallows usually happen around 11PM or so.  Everyone wanders off into the dark to find sticks, skewers a marshmallow, and gets toasting.  EVERY time, someone’s marshmallow catches on fire.  That person never calmly dumps the marshmallow into the fire and starts over.  Oh no!  He/she has to wave the flaming marshmallow wildly about trying to extinguish it.  Let me tell you that there are few things scarier than a flaming ball of molten sugar sailing through the air toward you!  If one of those were ever to hit someone… Or a patch of dry grass…  The last 4 or 5 trips, I’ve laid out some ground rules before passing the marshmallows around the circle, particularly this: If your marshmallow catches on fire, under no circumstances are you to try to put the fire out by waving your stick around!  Though I can’t be 100% certain of it, I think this rule has averted some disasters.

Harshaw Creek

We camp under a huge tree at this site, along Harshaw Creek

4. There’s a bar in Tucson where you can get branded.  As a non-drinker, this was news to me the first time I heard it!  There’s a bar called the Meet Rack with a very strange owner.  This owner has legally changed his name to God and has decorate his establishment with bras and sex toys.  At his bar, you can, among other things, tour his weird little sex dungeon and get branded.  Why might people want to be branded, with “God’s” likeness no less, you might ask?  For drink discounts of course!  If you get branded, you get $.50 off all drinks forever – and apparently hundreds of people have been willing to be branded for the perpetual coupon.  This simply blows my mind!  The majority of my students are just over 21, so drinking and going to bars is a really big deal to them.  Based on the number of stories I’ve heard, they’ve all been to the Meet Rack, though none of them have been branded yet.


Snow! It commonly snows on camping trips to northern Arizona.

5. Sometimes you just have to laugh.  I had a student once who grew up in Phoenix and had never been camping before.  She didn’t really understand the concept of “cold” even though I tried my best to scare her so she’d overcompensate and bring enough to stay warm.  On our trip to northern Arizona, she showed up with a little sleeping bag meant for indoor sleepovers and a cruddy little tent for kids (her little sister used both for Girl Scouts), things I wasn’t aware of until we started setting up camp the first night and it was too late for me to run home and grab my extra gear for her.  She and her tent mate were miserable both nights as we camped on top of snow and endured temperatures well below freezing.  The second night, there was freezing rain all evening that turned to snow around midnight.  At about 2:30 in the morning, I heard maniacal laughter coming from across camp.  The next morning I learned that the two girls were laughing because the snow piling up on their tent caused it to collapse.  They were so cold and so wet and so miserable at that point that they started laughing.  As they described it, laughing was the only thing they could do to make the situation any better, so they laughed.  Then they spent the rest of the night in the van.  I have always loved the sentiment, that sometimes things are so bad that all you can do to make things better is laugh.  This is probably the best thing I’ve learned from my students.

You have probably noticed by now, but I love to end Friday 5 posts with questions.  Have you ever gained knowledge or wisdom around a campfire?  I always come home from camping trips with new ideas and information and I love it!  I hope I’m not the only one though, so I’d love to hear your stories.  Leave comments below!


Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright ©