By Ayelet Wenger, age 11 from OH
First published in summer 2006/ Issue #8
Dolly Sods is a wilderness area in the middle of West Virginia, which, most likely, did not have a single Jew within a 3 hour drive—except us. We were going to spend Shabbat in the middle of that out-of-the-way place, away from home and friends, running water and electricity.
We came prepared.
We got back from the long, grueling, but fun hike that Friday afternoon, and got to work. My mother made a boxed vegetable-noodle soup, steamed broccoli, and rice pilaf on a small, portable stove she had brought. My sisters and I collected wood from the forest around us. My Dad put up the Eruv.
Okay, so an Eruv in the middle of nowhere sounds a bit luxurious, but we needed it. Think about it. We didn’t have meals in our tents. That would attract bears (Ack!) We ate our food at the picnic table. (Okay, not entirely wilderness camping.) If we didn’t have an Eruv, we couldn’t carry around food, or dishes.
When my dad finished the Eruv, encircling the entire camp site, he started a fire. The fire burned for a bit, and then he stopped adding wood and let it burn down to a pile of red-hot coals. This made cooking easier, because the flame would not burn the outside and leave the inside raw, and yet the coals would cook it thoroughly. He placed chicken on a rack over the coals, and then, settling down on a portable chair reading a book, he waited, occasionally turning over a chicken wing to check its tenderness.
After they finished making supper, we ate it, despite the fact that it was not yet Shabbat. My mother explained that it would be very difficult to eat and clean up in the dark, so we’d just have a small Kiddush. My dad added wood and built up the fire. This would be our means for light and warmth, since the candles weren’t much help and we couldn’t exactly install a heating system in the middle of West Virginia.
Finally, it was time to light the candles. My mother brought some tiny tea candles, put a screen around them to shelter them from the wind, and lit them. My father said Kiddush and we ate some cake. We sat around the fire, singing Zemirot, until we were exhausted, and then we all snuggled into our sleeping bags.
The next morning I got up, got dressed, washed netilat yadayim from a small portable water container over a rock, and davened quietly to myself. After Kiddush, I took a doughnut and slowly chewed it up, savoring the taste.
By this time, everyone was up, and eating breakfast or drowsily walking around the campsite. The morning was very quiet. We all read in our tents.
Lunch was simple, just rice pilaf, salad, and cold chicken. After we bentched, we went on a walk through this short path, a loop, since we had to stay within t’chum Shabbat. Towards the middle of the loop, a boardwalk branched off to end in a large bog, engulfing the boardwalk. We looked at several different plants from the boardwalk. One memorable plant that my father pointed out to me, was the pitcher plant. It was slightly pink and about two inches high. My father explained to me that the pitcher plant fed on bugs. It would wait until a bug would land on its sticky inside, and slowly close up on the bug and digest it.
After we got back from the walk, my family and I hung around the campsite for about an hour. Then my sister Hannah and I took a short walk to watch the sun set.
We came back and said Havdalah, using, instead of the braided candles that you have to hold and that drip wax everywhere, the type that stands up of its own accord. This Shabbat reminds me of a newspaper story, written by a Jewish soldier in the Civil War, of how he and some fellow Jewish soldiers spent Pesach in West Virginia. I quote: “There, in the wild woods of West Virginia, away from home and friends, we sacrificed, and offered up to the ever-loving G-d of Israel our prayers and sacrifices.”