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All-guys campout is done, so summer is over

(Former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections and contributes a regular column.)

It's now official: Summer is over.

I say that not because of what the calendar tells me, but because a group of my male friends and I have had our annual guys-only campout.

It was the weekend before last, at a campground along Highway 26 at Mount Hood. There were 10 of us, not counting a Scotty dog named Mac with a freakishly large head. One of us came from as far away as Oahu (for the second year in a row), while some were as nearby as Gresham.

I would have written about it sooner, but it's usually such a monstrously soul-stirring event, containing experiences that can barely be remembered in their entirety - let alone fully understood by those of us who were there - that I haven't even considered putting thoughts to paper before this.

As in all previous years, no one died during the all-guys campout. There was one injury. And, considering that we're all more or less middle-age white guys, that's a good thing. It did, however, rain all Friday night. Saturday morning it stopped.

Because of rain, I took two large tarps, a patio umbrella (with iron stand) and my extensive collection of bungee cords and ropes, including two brand-new 48-inch bungees - all of which were soon stretched as tight as drums over our heads. Two other large canopies were set up, too, creating a small 'camp town' in the woods, and covering not only the picnic table, food staging zone and cooler storage area, but also strategic places where we figured we might want to sit or stand while telling each other bald-faced lies.

We arrived in four cars, one pickup truck and one Winnebago Minnie, owned and driven by head campout organizer Mark the publisher, who was accompanied by his brother, Andrew the reporter.

Andrew deserves special mention because he was the one who got hurt; he fell out of a high bunk in the Minnie and landed on his shoulder on a piece of furniture, causing him to walk kind of like Igor in 'Young Frankenstein' the rest of the weekend.

Though we don't spend much time in bed on the all-guys campout, our little gypsy city spread out over three campsites, and at night's end sleeping men occupied four tents, the Winnebago and the backs of two station wagons. We also had a fine array of collapsible chairs, including a fold-up loveseat that was promptly named the Brokeback Mountain Chair.

In the interest of openness, here are the highlights of what we do at the all-guys campout:

1. Drinking. There was beer and wine, martini fixin's, two brands of single-barrel bourbon and a nice bottle of single-malt scotch ('bold, yet not impertinent'). We also drank fancy coffee in the mornings (Starbucks from here and Kona from Hawaii).

2. Eating. Our wives observed that when they get together, they create the easiest meals possible. We, on the other hand, had steaks (Friday night) and (on Saturday) plank-grilled salmon (cooked on boards brought by Tom the builder for firewood, which we soaked for hours in water), fresh green beans and huge and exciting salads that could have filled a small wheelbarrow.

Saturday and Sunday began with breakfasts so lavish and plentiful I won't even try to describe them. I also won't go into detail on our ability to snack nonstop from morning to night.

3. Staring at the fire as if in a stupor. This, my favorite camping activity, is most effective in the dark, usually when accompanied by drinking (see No. 1).

4. Playing, and listening to, music. On guitars provided by myself, Tom the builder, Michael the writer and John the occupational therapist, not to mention a banjo brought by Jim the photographer and spoons smuggled in by Kevin the nurse, we specialize in the Bob Dylan and Beatles catalogs but are not afraid to take on any piece of music by any known (or unknown) composer - especially when inspired by the dulcet tones of our musical leader and best singer, Doug the waiter.

In the music-listening category, Scott the research guy had an iPod full of Grateful Dead tunes, and I had a battery-powered boombox standing by as back-up. And, when the on-off switch of the boombox mysteriously broke Saturday night, rendering my collection of Dylan CDs useless, Tom the builder whipped out his Swiss army knife and fixed it, in true MacGuyer style.

I probably don't need to say this, but you don't really want to camp anywhere near us, if you can avoid it.

5. Hiking. This has become a guys campout tradition, but as practiced by us, it's hardly an extreme sport. We all rode in the Minnie down to the Wildwood Recreation Area, took pictures of ourselves on the bridge, then walked in the woods for a while.

I say a while because Jim the photographer quit fairly soon and went back to the Minnie to take a nap, and I didn't last much longer. It is our sincere belief that you can't do that much eating and drinking and singing without getting plenty of rest.