Conquests of Tankbird


Zoar Intensive Novice 5-Day Whitewater Kayaking: Complete!
July 20, 2009, 8:42 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Wow, I stuck it out through all five days!

So the first day, as you probably read, was hellishly difficult. At least, the morning was hellishly difficult. It felt like everyone else was more comfortable than me and ready to hop into the river, and I was all saying, “No, um, the lake is fine for now.” Fortunately I wasn’t the only one feeling that way, so a group of us hung back at the lake for some more paddling instruction that first day. Wet exits were scary!

Anyway, here’s the play-by-play with photos.

Our fabulous instructors for the week were Hillary and Sara, who were all too patient with us and walked us through everything. You’ll see them in later photos. Here we are all next to the kayak rack at Zoar. Wow, that’s a lot of kayaks. We have to get fitted to a right-size kayak, and if anything will make you feel like sticking with Weight Watchers, it’s getting fitted for a whitewater kayak. I ended up with a behemoth “Jackson Mega Rocker” kayak that by the second day I had affectionately nicknamed Big Bertha… and the name definitely stuck.
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Now we’re at the Sherman Reservoir lining our boats up on the dock, getting instructed in how to wet exit a kayak.
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Basically, you flip upside down (that part usually happens without your help), then you tuck your head up toward your knees (so you don’t hit your face on a rock in current), pull the pull strap on your spray skirt, put your hands on either side of the cockpit and push yourself out and back away from the boat. We practiced on land first, then it was time to practice in the water. I wasn’t so keen on this idea. It took me a few tries to even look moderately competent, and not flail around like a dying fish. I learned to take a moment’s pause before tucking, just to compose myself. That helped a lot. Then I practiced with a paddle, and took a video wherein I do a terrible job: look how my paddle just sticks out of the water! But I get out of the boat, and that’s success. (There’s a better video later.)

Look at the beautiful Sherman Reservoir! We had gorgeous weather all week.
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Here’s Laura practicing paddling.
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One of the few shots of me in this whole series: I was mostly taking pictures, and it was kind of hard to hand off the camera on the river, so I pretty much hung on to it. Note how stressed and intense I look. (This did diminish.)
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And look, another shot of me!
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Before we finished on Day 1, I wanted to run through a few more wet exits. This really did the trick: I suddenly didn’t feel scared of it anymore. I even took another video, wherein I control my paddle correctly! Note the long addition of me swimming to shore… yeah, you can skip that part.

The next day it was off to the Deerfield river, ready or not.

Somehow we got five kayaks on top of a Honda CRV… impressive.
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Here our instructor Hillary (in the stylish white “Zoar Instructor” penny) points out the fact that this is a river. Actually, she’s pointing out lots of interesting things. We practiced different maneuvers like eddy turns, peel outs and ferries. (For clarification, an eddy is that quiet water space behind a feature on the river. Most of whitewater kayaking involves going from eddy to eddy.)
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Laura tries out some of our mad moves.
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As we hang out in an eddy, Hillary points out some river features downstream.
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Back at the base, Hillary (left) and Sara (right) explain various river features and terminology using this technical “whiteboard with blocks of foam” to simulate the river.
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Day 3 was back at the reservoir. Another beautiful day! We learned backwards paddling and different “draw” strokes.
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Hillary demonstrates different turning maneuvers.
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Here’s Wes, focused on the instruction.
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Look at that beautiful edge!
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Here we’re taking turns practicing “peel outs” across an imaginary eddy line. We pretended this rock was in a moving current and practiced different draw strokes. Laura’s giving it a go while Wes looks on. That’s Sara on the rock.
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And now it’s Ali’s turn, with Hillary walking him through the draw stroke.
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This was a good opportunity to take a picture of Big Bertha, the star of the show. This was my view for five days.
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And here I am, with a reverse-hold self portrait. Serious face!
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Then it was time to load up all the kayaks and head back to the river. I always needed help with Big Bertha… she weighed 50 lbs empty. John seems to have no trouble hoisting his kayak single-handedly, however. Notice Hillary on top of the van, and Sara hanging off the back. When you’re a Zoar instructor, you seem to be more in danger out of the water than in. They both spent an inordinate amount of time climbing all over the vehicles and the kayaks, tying everything down securely to ensure that we weren’t going to send watercraft sailing down Route 2.
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At the put-in site, it was time to unload all the kayaks.
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Look, it’s a rapid! It’s not a very big rapid, but that day, it seemed monstrous.
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Just to show you the moving water, I took this little video.

I ran the easy side that day (I did run the harder/more fun side on Day 5), but once I was in the eddy, I pulled over to take video of the others shooting out of the rapid.

This, according to Sara, is where the Aztecs fought the aliens. It’s also a really nice cove.
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We ended up running a chunk of the Deerfield that day, very fun. We ran a rapid called “Freight Train,” and I practiced “surfing” the kayak in some of the waves. On my second attempt, I flipped the kayak, and got to do my first wet exit in current! It wasn’t bad at all, actually, and since I was the only one of our group who hadn’t flipped, it actually relieved some of the pressure. No big deal!

Back on the pond for Day 4, and this time, we got to learn some very, very beginning steps to rolling.
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The more advanced part of our group practiced a little more significant steps to rolling. The first thing to learn is the “hip snap” that brings you upright. To do that, you practice dunking under while holding a partner’s boat, and using your hips to right yourself while using your partner’s boat as little as possible. I definitely used Laura’s boat for help more than just a little, especially when I slipped a little farther under than I wanted to! I’d better work on my obliques if I ever hope to be able to roll a kayak.

Hillary took some pictures of me practicing.

Under I go… (notice the upturned kayak in the background)
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And back up again.
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Ugh, water in my eyes!
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Going under again…
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MORE water in my eyes!
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Back to the Deerfield river and into some stronger current. Here Hillary demonstrates an effortless peel-out and eddy turn. She makes it look so easy!
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She’s pointing out some sort of downstream feature here. John looks very interested. Sarah (edge of picture, different Sarah than the instructor Sara) is leaning over to get a better look.
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This is after coming through a really fun rapid! I don’t remember what it’s called, exactly, but it was really fun. Kleziak? Something strange like that. Comment if you know.
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For the record, when we re-ran this on Day 5, there were two girls tubing (no helmets, PFDs, or shoes), and one of them overturned in this. She freaked out so much she started flailing and Sara had to tow her out with her kayak…the girl was sobbing and practically hysterical. I’m sorry, but if you’re that freaked out about falling out of your tube that it makes you cry, WEAR A PFD. Morons.

The end of Day 4 and two of our brave lot decided to run Zoar Gap. Zoar Gap is a textbook Class III rapid, and let me tell you, the step up between Class II and Class III is a little big! Both of them overturned on this run, the first try for both of them. John ran it first with Hillary, but i missed it because I had just gotten to the lookout point. Then Wes ran it with Sara. Sara’s in the blue boat; you can see her approach, then pull aside to let Wes go ahead, then paddle to catch up to him. A valiant first attempt for John and Wes!

The next day was Day 5, our last day, and we were going to do a full-day river run. Here we are chilling out way at the top of the Fife Brook section, below the dam.
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This is the Fife Brook from which the river section gets its name. Yes, the big Fife Brook section of the Deerfield gets its name from this little bitty brook.
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We ran this river mostly as we chose, eddy-hopping through the rapids. I caught a bunch of eddies in this one section, and here I stopped behind a nice flat rock to take a picture upstream of some others in our group.
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The day went by way too quickly, and it was a real blast. At the end of the day, we ended up at the Zoar Gap, and it was make or break time. I decided to go for it, after all, it was the last day and I’d only had one wet exit. Laura chose to sit it out and was kind enough to videotape everyone. Eugenia and Sarah both waited for me, Ali, John and Wes to run the river, scouting it out first, then came down and ran it. John did beautifully, and Eugenia did the whole thing without overturning! Awesome!

Here’s me and then Ali.

Note Hillary come down first in the blue boat, then me in Big Bertha, then Ali in his red boat. Note how we both overturn in the same spot. I got swept into a side eddy and spun around, and when that wave hit me I couldn’t recover. So I got to do my second wet exit in current, which was a little scarier than the first. This was for two reasons: one, my foot had a little trouble getting free of the boat, and two, as soon as I got my head above water, I was swept under again. I totally lost my boat, but I kept my paddle, and for that I’m super proud! It was quite a rush and an amazing experience. Maybe I’ll be more ready to do it again sometime, because I’m certainly going kayaking again.

Here comes John, calm and poised as can be, paddling his way right down the middle.

And here’s Wes, who did a really bang-up awesome job rescuing himself from an almost-capsize before he got swept under.

Here comes Eugenia in the green boat, powering her way down and running all the way through! Awesome job!

This is Sarah, who made it almost the whole way through before she got flipped. Apparently, when she was underwater, she was so mad that she’d flipped that she tried to right herself again! Unfortunately, she doesn’t know how to roll yet, so she had to wet exit.

It took three people to drain Big Bertha while I waited far upstream, and Hillary was kind enough to tow it back up to me. I hopped it and ran the last section of little rapids with Ben, another instructor. I guess you can consider this the video of me paddling off into the sunset.

All in all, an amazing week. Exhausting, emotionally challenging, physically painful, and psychologically draining, but incredible despite (or perhaps because of) all these things. Two days later, I’m still sore, I’m bruised like I’ve gone ten rounds with a brick wall, but I’m happy and proud. And most importantly of all, I’m really excited to get back on the river again.

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Day 1 of ?: Whitewater Kayaking Class
July 15, 2009, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So it’s supposed to be Day 1 of 5, but I’m taking it one day at a time. I almost quit today… I was pretty surely going to quit at the end of the day when lunchtime rolled around. But I said I’d stick it out for the rest of the day, and I did. And a few more wet-exits later and I felt pretty good. But damn, I was happy to be done.

We started learning wet-exits, where you have to flip upside-down in the kayak, tuck up toward the kayak, pull the skirt off the kayak, and shove yourself out and up toward the surface without untucking. It’s scary at first. It’s still scary at the end. But it’s less scary now than it was at the beginning, and I’ll never have another first wet-exit again. So that’s good. The morning instruction moved really fast, and I was still uncomfortable with wet-exiting so I was afraid of tipping over. At lunch I was overwhelmed and behind and already sore. Then after lunch we split up, and some of us stayed behind on the flatwater to practice some more, and after that I felt a little better. We finished the day with some more wet-exits and then I actually felt good about them. We got a video of a pretty good wet exit of mine, and I’m happy about that. I’ll post it eventually.

But I hurt EVERYWHERE, and it was partially the thought of seeing HP6 tonight that helped me make it through today. Who knows how I’ll do tomorrow without that? 🙂

Egads, I’m sore. And a little apprehensive about tomorrow… but I’ll probably be on a river, and I suppose every day I get better. Must have patience! They said it takes a good 3 days to learn, so I’ll give it some more time. At least one more day.



SUCCESS!
July 14, 2009, 7:35 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I just got my first coal with my bow drill! AWESOME!

I’m so proud.



MPSS Earth Living 5-Day: Part 2 of 2
July 14, 2009, 4:29 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Please start with Part 1 if you haven’t read it already!

The next morning, we debriefed. Brad had gone back at about 10: he couldn’t deal with the bugs. Paul had gone back a little later (I’d heard him). I’d gone back at 2. John had slept fitfully, but his back started to really bother him in the night, so he went back at 4. Tim managed to roll over in his, after much wedging and kicking and digging, and fell right asleep. The verdict for me was that I needed to build mine a little higher than would be normally recommended, so I could roll over. We plannned to make adjustments later.

That morning was time to make spears for spear fishing. here I hold my finished spearhead while (in the background) Tim prepares the body of his spear.
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Later, we spent some time in the winter classroom, and Brad sharpened Bussey, his giant knife. This blog wouldn’t be complete without a shot of the knife that we spent the whole week teasing him about.
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While this was happening, we learned the “Big 4” of plants: pines, grases, cattails, and oaks. We went on a short plant walk and ate some cattails, had grass tea, pine needle tea, and learned about quite a few different plants.

After this, we studied traps and snares. We carved sticks for a Figure 4 deadfall trap.
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Here is my completed Figure 4 deadfall:
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Then we learned the Piute deadfall, which is about 1000x easier than a Figure 4, but we all had to get a Figure 4 set up before Mike would teach us a Piute.

Brad sets up a Piute deadfall:
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My completed Piute deadfall:
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Then we learned about rolling snares and practiced setting and triggering them. We didn’t trap anything.

Then we had a little time to work on things we hadn’t finished.
John worked on his spear:
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Tim worked on blowing a coal-burned spoon, which I hadn’t gotten to at this point. We made straws out of reed grass and used them to burn out spoons and (in some cases) bowls.
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Now it was time to learn field dressing. We had two donations of roadkill, a rabbit and a groundhog, on which to practice.
John and Paul worked on the groundhog.
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I chose the rabbit.
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Here, Mike sits next to our rabbit on its spit. (The groundhog was too far gone for us to eat more than the shoulder.)
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Then we had a little more down time to work on unfinished products again. Paul works on his coal-burned bowl.
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Brad serenades us on guitar:
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John and I work on our spoons:
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The rabbit and groundhog both turned out quite gamy, meaning they had suffered as they died, which is sad. But we couldn’t quite choke ’em down.

Later that night, Trey came back to visit. (He’d visited for a while Thursday night.) He worked with me on bow drill some more. Here’s a shot where you can see his beautifully carved bow drill.
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Now, we were supposed to go back to the shelters, but a few people were really, really wiped out (including Mike). Mike made the executive decision that we’d stay in. Trey ordered him to bed, as he was too exhausted, and Trey took over for the evening. We told stories and it was pretty amazing overall. That night, it poured, and we were happy to be inside.

The next morning, my fishing spear had accumulated about ten slugs. They like to eat the sweet cambium layer under the bark. If I had been setting traps, I could have used them for bait to catch chipmunks. Here is my stick o’slugs:
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It was mosquito-ey, so Brad lit a smudge fire.
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We were building up a bed of coals in our fire to cook on later, so Tim brought a dead punky tree in for fire wood. He jumped on it to break it. Action shot!
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Then we went out with Trey to gather grasses to make grass mats. I got to wade in the cool water, deciding that barefoot was better than soaking my shoes, and gathered up a large armful of quack grass. Here we weave grass mats out on the lawn:
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Around this time, Mike took a picture of his own face. Intense man is intense!
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Here I sit in the tracking box on my grass mat with my pine bark bowl and coal-burned spoon. Huzzah!
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New instructors started showing up at this point. Nick showed us how to use a hand drill and a strap drill.
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Then we all got to try it. I had a cut on my palm that didn’t take too well to this activity, so instead I focused on photography.
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Mike wrapped a salmon in clay to make a clay-baked salmon and laid it on the coals.
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Trey, talented fire-maker extraordinaire, decided to challenge himself to see if he could get a coal with a wet bow drill set. He couldn’t, but only because of how wet the wood was. Here’s a video of his amazing bow drill form:

Then he was kind enough to work with me on my bow drill form. Here, I got the closest I’d ever gotten to a coal. He drops the camera at the end, but you can hear us talking about it. If I’d had a little more arm strength, and if my handhold hand hadn’t been moving around so much, I’d probably have kept the coal. This is the closest I’ve gotten yet, but I’m still working on it.

Here, Mike taught us hot rock boiling in the pine bark bowls we’d made.
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Then Arthur Haines showed up from the Delta Institute. Arthur is the most amazing plant guy EVER. He knows over 2000 species off the top of his head. He made us a stew out of just wild plants growing around the site. (Arthur’s the shirtless man over the clay pot)
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Tim approves of the stew.
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A shot of some of the carrying containers the other instructors brought with them:
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Everyone gathers around the fire enjoying stew:
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Then Arthur gave us a brief plants class. Amazing! We started out on the grass under the Ash tree getting informed.
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He walked us around the area and taught us about some of the area’s plants and their edible and medicinal purposes.
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Cow Vetch… the purple flowers taste like romaine lettuce.
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Oxy Daisies. The flowers taste a little like carrot greens.
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Boneset: good for colds and flus.
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Milkweed: you can eat these flower buds (boil first, discard the water, then boil again to cook); they were in our stew. You can use the milky sap on warts.
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A gall: when insects lay their eggs/larvae inside a plant stem, the plant grows this cancerous growth in response:
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Then as a last thing, Mike took us tracking. He is an amazing tracker. He showed us a gray fox run near the main base.
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Here he points out the runs of shrews and moles beneath the grasses of a red fox run.
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Then we learned a little about rock tools and rock breaking, but it was time to go. We’d just plain run out of time. We had a closing ceremony, got our certificates, and posed for this group picture. Back row, L to R: Tim, John, Me, Brad. Front row: Mike and Paul.
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I can’t speak highly enough about this workshop. It was unbelievable. Now I want to take every course they offer. Chris has expressed interest in taking them with me, too. And once you take a course with them, you can come back as a volunteer as many times as you like for that course! I’d love to take Earth Living again… and again. But I think my next courses will be the Plant courses, and hopefully scout and tracking courses next year. This has definitely been the highlight of my summer, and I find it hard to believe that any other course can top this.



Primitive Skills School: Earth Living 5-Day: Part 1 of 2
July 14, 2009, 2:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So this past Wednesday I did wilderness survival training with the Maine Primitive Skills School in Augusta, Maine. It’s more than wilderness survival, the “suffer until you’re rescued” theory of survival that is perpetuated through current media and military training. This is Earth Living, how to sur-thrive, how to live off the land, how to go native. It’s interwoven with earth philosophy, the underlying understandings of the native people: how all things are interconnected, and the importance of maintaining reverence for all living things even as you have to take life to survive, maintaining caretaker mentality. This course was everything I wanted it to be and more than I could have imagined.

I started packing on Monday, ensuring I had everything stuffed into my giant Luna pack (which holds some serious stuff). This is definitely filled to capacity.
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Here’s my food for the week, along with the cheapo cooler I’d need to transport refrigerated stuff on a 4.5 hour drive.
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I didn’t sleep Tuesday night at all. I had to get up at 4 on Wednesday, but since I’d been sleeping so much, I couldn’t even think about going to bed until midnight. Then I lay awake until 1… until 2… until 3… and finally just got up at 4. I didn’t feel tired with all the adrenaline, though. I didn’t have any trouble staying awake on the journey. I arrived up in Augusta a little before 9:00 and it was raining. This is the sign outside the winter classroom, where we met whenever we were meeting inside.
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I met the group: 4 guys and me, plus our instructor. The guys were John, Brad, Tim, and Paul, and our instructor was Mike. We did introductions, then got right into things. We started with the sacred order of survival and the 7 points of awareness. Then we went out to the tracking box. The tracking box is the 3-sided sand-floored outdoor “classroom” space seen here. On the left is John, and Mike is on the right.
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We first did a string stalk to practice awareness. We were led blindfolded and barefoot to a string run through the woods, and we followed it while practicing various stalking and movement techniques we had just learned. Everything was wet (it was still lightly raining), and it was quite cold, but a really amazing way to start out. Then we came back to the winter classroom, where Mike had started a fire in the stove, and we journalled about our experiences and then shared out. After this, we got right into learning about shelter. We started with studying the shelter of our clothing, and how to stay warm and dry. Then we moved to learning external shelter.

The shelter we focused on was the debris hut, because it requires no knife, no rope, no fire, and you don’t have to kill any plants or animals to build one (providing you have a good location). Here are the whiteboards with our debris hut instructions.
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Debris hut is quite technical, because if you do it wrong, you’re way too cold. Built correctly, the debris hut will keep you warm to 30° below zero. We took lots of notes.

Then we went up to the sample debris hut area and studied one that had been built by a previous class. We chose a member of our group to be the guinea pig (Brad) for our group-built debris hut. We chose our spot, then had him lay down to measure the dimensions of the hut. Standing left to right is Tim (in the cowboy hat), Brad (laying down), Paul and John.
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Once we laid the ridgepole and the ribs, we started piling on the leaves. So many leaves to pile on! It doesn’t matter that they’re all wet; wet leaves insulate as well as dry ones when it comes down to it.
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Once it was built chest-height all the way around and 2′ of debris on the sides, it was done. It took us as a group about 40 minutes to cover it with leaves, including having rakes and tarps to help. Multiply that by the fact that there were 5 of us, and you’ll realize that it can take over 3 hours for one person to cover a debris hut with leaves, and that’s AFTER the ridgepole and ribs have been set. Here’s Brad inside the debris hut. Notice how small and snuggly it is inside.
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Then our big test: with Brad still inside, MIke dumped a 5-gallon bucket of water on the hut, and he had to stay in for a minute to see if there were any leaks. No leaks! If a 5-gallon bucket won’t get you wet, a rainstorm won’t, either.
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Then we learned about the dangers of dehydration and different methods of water disinfection. Later, it was time to head up to shelter ridge. It’s about a 15 minute walk from the main base. Last year’s shelters had been left up, so we could see them and learn what others’ mistakes had been. Then we each chose a spot near one of the existing shelters. I chose the one in the middle, next to a mother/daughter shelter pair (the two shelters faced each other). This is the site I chose, right near the path.
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So I laid down and measured the correct width (a hand-span from all the widest points of my body) and scratched it out in the dirt.
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I found a ridge pole that was long enough, and set it up in the right spot at the right height, supported by two forked sticks.
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Then it was time to set the ribs all along both sides. This took a lot longer than I’d have expected: finding sticks that weren’t punky and breaking them to the correct length was very time-consuming.
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In my searches, I found some bear scat.
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And I also found a hole, probably an old ground squirrel nest.
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I had just gotten one tarpful of leaves when we got called back in for the night.
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So the next day we were up at 6 and ready to go by 6:45. We started with awareness: when you enter the forest, you don’t see animals because they’ve long since been alerted to your presence. It takes 45 minutes for things to return to almost-normal again. We learned about the 5 voices of the birds and how to recognize them. So then we each took a spot in the woods and stayed there for 45 minutes and tracked animal noises and movements. By the end, there was a chipmunk that hopped up on my log and looked around, and that was neat.

Then it was back up to shelter ridge to have 4 hours (ended up being 3.5) to work on our shelters. I was pleased to see how pretty my shelter skeleton looked in the daytime.
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I raked up piles of leaves for the first hour and a half, saying I was going to do nothing but rake until 10:00. When I finished, I had about 15 piles of leaves all around. You can see some of them here if you look closely.
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Then it was piling time. I started by building up the foot area to chest-height.
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Then I continued that length all the way along. Notice the bug head net: the mosquitos were FIERCE.
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At 12:00 we were called in for lunch. I was almost done, but not quite. We found out Brad’s ridepole BROKE, so he had to start all over! Poor Brad.

After lunch, it was time to learn about water collecting containers. We headed out to learn to make pine bark bowls. Carving bark from a living tree trunk would kill the tree, so Mike felled this white pine to allow us to learn. After we had used it all week, it would be turned into benches. Here are (L to R) Mike, Brad, John and Paul standing next to the tree.
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Here I am, carving out a piece of bark for my bowl.
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Here’s the spot where I removed the bark.
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And here’s my piece of bark! This would make two bowls.
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Brad cut his finger using his giant knife, so we learned to make pine bark bandages. Pine pitch has natural antimicrobial properties, so just taking a bit of bark and putting it on the wound will help.
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From here, we came back and folded our pine bark into bowls. We first fastened them with wooden clothespins, then learned to make clothespins from pine branches.
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After this, I started to feel sick. At first we thought it was dehydration, but the more water I drank, the worse I felt. We came inside to learn about clay for making bowls. I kept feeling worse, and water wasn’t helping. Mike had me stay in and lay down, thinking it might be heat exhaustion. Everyone went out to make clay bowls. Mike was kind enough to take some blurry pictures.
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I ended up throwing up all my water (not a pleasant experience, for the record), and Mike came in to try to deduce what was wrong with me. I mentioned the problems I’d had before with this, and we figured possibly blood sugar. I took an Aleve, but after a half hour it still hadn’t helped. He brought me a Capri Sun, and after 30 more minutes I was fine, and then I was as if I’d never been sick. Guess it’s time to see my doctor about possible hypoglycemia.

Anyway, then we made tongs to remove coals from the fire. Here are my tongs, wrapped in cattail to keep them from continuing to split. (We later wrapped them in cordage.)
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That night after dinner, it was back up to shelter ridge. We got a primer on making a door for our shelters, but I wasn’t there yet. I had leaves to finish. I had just finished my leaf building when Mike stopped by and took some pictures for me. In this first picture, please note the GIGANTIC mosquito glowing in the bottom right… yeah, there were that many of them.
Here I am getting into the debris hut.
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Almost there, time for some wriggling:
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Inside!
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We were originally going to stay in the shelters that night, but since Brad was still trying to catch up (after the ridgepole incident), I had been sick, and someone else had mild dehydration issues, Mike decided we’d stay inside. No complaints here; I needed another good night’s sleep. Rest is awesome.

The next day it was time to study fire. FIRE! Staple of primitive living. I was very excited for this part. I had high hopes and low expectations, and was just excited to be trying. We learned about gathering tinder bundles and the ratio of gathering tinder to kindling to fuel. We then had to try to get enough material (in the wet, wet forest) in 15 minutes to light a fire that would burn through a string about two feet above the ground, and we had only one match to get it going. We didn’t do it, but we got it after a while. We learned different types of fire lays and what types of woods make good bow drill materials. Then later, we learned the intricacies of bow drill form.
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Here’s the troubleshooting guide to bow drill.
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Then it was time to practice… and practice…and practice.
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John has a coal! Can he blow it into flame?
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Yes, yes he can!
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This is me unsuccessfully starting a fire. Note the incorrect angle of my wrist on the handhold… I corrected this a few days later.
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No coal for me yet.

Then it was time to move on to throwing sticks. I loooooooved throwing sticks. Here Tim strips bark from a large branch for his throwing stick.
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Brad practices sidearm throwing:
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Here are two videos, one of Tim, one of John and I, throwing sticks at the target range. Tim requested that this first video be hidden forever, because of his unsuccessful throws, but he has great strength and so I included it anyway. I’m pretty proud of nailing the milk bottle on that first throw.

Then we went and played a stalking game. One person sits blindfolded, and there’s someone serving as referee. Each other person puts one shoe next to the blindfolded person, then their other shoe 15 paces away. The task is to approach the blindfolded person, take your shoe, and return to your other shoe without being heard. When the blindfolded person hears something, they point where they think a person is, and the referee says “Yes” or “No.” If the stalking person is caught, they must start over. This was SO much fun. Here are some shots when I’m the blindfolded person.
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In this one, Brad attempts a somersault ninja roll. He tried this about four or five times but got caught every time. He got a LOT quieter by the last time, though.
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That night, it was back to shelter ridge to finish our doors and shelters and actually sleep in them. The idea was not to “tough it out:” if we couldn’t fall asleep, go back to the winter classroom/bunk room. Don’t stay awake all night; we’ll iron out the kinks the next day. So I built my door. In retrospect, I know now to make it a lot thicker and make sure it fits more securely, but here it is.
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Mike had left us for the night, but we all sort of banded together to hang out, which was awesome. We knew Brad was still working on finishing, so individually, we all meandered over there to help. Here he is getting into his finished shelter to test out the leaf stuffing:
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Then we went to help out Tim, who needed more leaf stuffing in his shelter. We wanted to smudge the shelters for bugs, so we attempted to build a smudge, but it was unsuccessful, and we eventually gave up. For a little while, though, we had a nice fire.
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We then went to our own shelters and went to bed. I was good for a while, but I had built my shelter small (as it should be), and due to my hips, I couldn’t roll over so I was stuck on my back. I was warm for a while but started getting colder despite my layers. I had a hole above my door where it didn’t fit snugly, and I tried to stuff it, but couldn’t do too much for it. I heard Paul about an hour later, since the path passed right by my shelter. He had built his too small, and couldn’t get his arms in, so he was headed back.

Mike came by at midnight to check on us, and handed me my knit hat from my bag through the hole in the door, then helped me stuff my door. I was getting a little sore from just laying on my back with my feet together, but now I was somewhat warmer. Then, of course, I had to pee. I tried to rationalize it away, but that wasn’t working, so I got up, took care of business, put on a few more layers, then got back in. I managed to re-stuff the door somewhat. Now I was getting sore in my hips and knees. I said if I wasn’t asleep by 2, I was going back. Well at 2, I wasn’t asleep, so I crawled out, gathered up my stuff, and had one of the creepiest 15 minute walks I’ve ever had. The woods is a freaky place at two in the morning. So I went back and slept in my wonderful sleeping bag, dumping so many leaves on the ground I think I took half the debris hut with me.

(Continued in Part 2)



Primitive Skills approaches…
July 1, 2009, 10:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

So Chris and I just got back from Florida yesterday. It was a wonderful trip and it was great to see my parents.

But now we’re back, and I suddenly realized that I go off to Primitive Skills training next week! I leave the 8th and return on the 12th. Out of all the workshops, this is the one I’m most unsettled over, because I haven’t heard much about it. I hadn’t heard of the group before I started researching, unlike bigger organizations like EMS, Zoar or the AMC. That and aside from a fairly informative website and an email confirming that I was all set, I haven’t gotten any other word. They’re totally legit and all, but I’m going to email and ask for some pre-trip info. There’s a list of what to bring, but I want some specifics on what food to bring.

That said, I’m quite excited about it. I’m hoping there’s some solitude: I’m looking forward to some one-on-one time with me and the tent. I process best alone, so being able to work with a group and then practice in solitude appeals to me greatly.

On a side note, I’m eating a grilled cheese sandwich right now and it is DELICIOUS. Wow, amazing.

Anyway. I have a little more shopping to do before primitive skills. I have to pick up a bug head net and a personal cooking set. I already ordered my sheath knife (taking my military commando brother’s recommendation for a Mora knife, inexpensive but good quality) and I’m waiting for it to come in. Oh, and all my food of course.

I hope the weather holds out nice and cool, although the rain can absolutely stop and I’ll be happy. It basically rained for the entire month of June. Now it’s cool, as in 75° for a high, which is very odd for July 1st. But we’re saving money on air conditioning this summer, that’s for sure. I’m glad I bought a warm sleeping bag and that I have warm clothes for my outdoorsiness. Is that even a word?

I’ll hopefully update again before I’m off to Maine.