I am back at it. Alderleaf Wilderness College offered their online class for half off and threw in a couple extras so I registered. I was looking forward to being done with the Pathfinder School and now I'm right back to homework (even if it is funwork).
Transform your experience with the outdoors! Learn the core skills of survival - shelter, water, fire, and food - in a format that allows you to participate at home and at your own pace.More on this to come as it develops...
Become competent in taking care of your survival needs in the wilderness. See the outdoors with new eyes – such as which plants you can eat and what trees can be turned into a fire kit.
Come away with practical life-saving skills, a deeper relationship with nature, greater confidence, and resources to share with your family & friends for fun and in emergencies.
Congratulations to me. My Pathfinder Phase 1 Course Certificate of Completion arrived in the mail. It wasn't even mangled. That is a surprise. I have to do a wrap up video yet but here is my summary of the course that was part of the final assignment.
Deliverable 48- Write an essay on what you feel you have learned. Include your triumphs as well as any failures you may have had. Analyze you kit did it do the job you wanted it to or did you have to change items. Were you surprised by any of the research you did? Were some things hard, easy, demanding? Write these down for yourself, reflect on it what you would change and what you want going forward.Check out my Block 10 Signal Fire. Pretty cool!
Phase I has been an enjoyable learning experience. I came into the course as an experienced multidisciplinary outdoorsman and wilderness first responder and I can say there were some things that I hadn’t done before, some things I hadn’t done since boy scouts, and others that I had done differently. I wanted to immerse myself in the “Pathfinder way” so I picked a very conventional Pathfinder student kit rather than repurposing my backpacking gear. I used only my basic 10 Cs kit from module 1 throughout the course except where additional items were specifically mentioned in the exercises like additional fire making tools . I never added or swapped out anything. Everything performed as expected. I have since acquired a dedicated char cloth tin which I think is a smart way to store and make char cloth. And also have found or rekindled an interest in campfire cooking instead of over a backpacking stove.
The biggest difficulty was in setting up my tarp blind. That was also the biggest surprise no doubt because I’ve set up many a shelter in the dark without a headlamp. But of course “in the dark” and blind are two very different conditions. Set up had never been a problem before but my guylines were tangled and it took forever to untangle them and then the setup was loose and lopsided. My normal shelter is a Black Diamond Betamid and it is trivial to setup and bombproof. I think I will stick with that for a serious backcountry shelter. In a similar vein, I don’t foresee any of my backpacking gear changing after this course.
I cannot think of anything that sticks out as a triumph. I don’t feel like any of the exercises were difficult enough to feel that completing one was a triumph versus calling it a simple success.
The most interesting bit of research by far was the use of evergreen xylem as a water filter element. I was very happy to discover that as purifying water by boiling is time consuming and tedious.
There were things that I thought the course could and should do differently. The DVD set should be set up in the same format as the class. There should be an introduction, discussion of the syllabus and expectations, who the expected target audience is, what students should get out of the course, and of course videos for ten blocks that includes why something is being taught one way versus another way. Watching the DVDs should feel like going to class and they do not. The syllabus needs some heavy editing. There are misspelling and incorrect word choices such as poisonous instead of venomous (animals). And it just does not look professional. I found the deliverables to be too meager. If the exercise is two items then the deliverable should not be a photo of one. Furthermore I think all the field exercises should be video deliverables. I really do not think the current deliverables can demonstrate student competance in the task. And lastly there needs to be way better communication between student and grader. I understand how life can get in the way and things can come up but waiting weeks or even months for an email response is hard to fathom. You have a good course but it could be so much better.
Did you know that there are plants growing along creeks and hills in the Denver area that can be used to treat a toothache, help disinfect a wound, or make rope?
Plant knowledge is crucial information for anyone who spends time outdoors from the amateur hiker to the professional ecologist. Your nature experience is enriched when you can find and identify useful plants growing all around you. In fact, this knowledge could be used to save your life.
Spend a full day with Cattail Bob finding, identifying, sampling over one hundred edible, medicinal, poisonous (don’t sample these), tool making, and smokable plants that grow everywhere in the Denver Front Range.
After probably more than a decade of wanting to, I finally visited the weirdly named Wheeler Geologic Area in a remote area of Colorado. I forget where I heard about it first but it sounded interesting and never forgot about it. Jump right to the photos and video: Backpacking Wheeler Geologic Area
History from southern-colorado.guide.com
In 1907, Frank Spencer, the supervisor of the Rio Grande National Forest, had been instructed to identify areas that might be worthy of becoming a national monument. He had heard rumors of a hidden place in the La Garita Mountain which the Utes referred to as the “The Sandstones.” He began searching for what is today Wheeler Geological Area. After finding this unique area, Spencer traveled to Washington to push for making this area a national monument.The problem with visiting was that it is rather out of the way. It is a 5 hour drive from Denver plus time for gassing up and getting something to eat. So it is about 6 hours of travel meaning that an extended weekend is best but the site is actually quite small. For years I passed it over and did other things instead. There are a lot of potential places to go and things to see on a long weekened.
On December 7, 1908, President Roosevelt proclaimed Wheeler National Monument. It was named in honor of Captain George Wheeler who led the War Department’s surveying team through Colorado. Wheeler Geological Area was on National Forest Land so the Forest Service managed the area. It was recommended that a good road be built to the area so tourists could see it. This suggestion was not followed and the only way to view Wheeler Geological Area was by foot. After World War I a horse trail was developed complete with a cabin, corral, and picnic area. With the invention of the automobile and no road, very few visitors ever saw the unique formations. The park service was not interesting in building a road so the local people of Creede pushed for building a road. With a lack of money this road never materialized.
In 1944, M.R. Tillotson, director of Region Three of the National Park Service, visited Wheeler Geological Area. He did not find Wheeler unattractive but was much more impressed with the ride into the monument than the formations themselves. He felt that Wheeler was not outstanding enough to be considered a National Monument and urged that it be returned to National Forest. So on August 3, 1950, only 43 years after becoming a National Monument, Wheeler was changed back to a National Forest area and today we have Wheeler Geological Area.
At last I decided to make the trip over the Labor Day weekend. And I even planned to spend an extra day there to maximize my time in the area. Day 1 I would just drive out to the regular trailhead and camp out. That would let me get a relaxed start to the trip. Day 2-3 I would take the backpacking trail to the formations and spend the night there before returning to the trailhead and camping out again. Day 4 I would sleep in and leisurely enjoy the campsite before driving home.
The trip was a good one although I must admit it really is a small area of formations with only 1 great spot for photos. It is a surprise to me that it was ever a National Monument. Also surprising were how many people were there. Of course it was a holiday weekend but still it was surprising. Also the 4x4 road that has such an offputting reputation was totally drivable as evidenced by the number of stock pickups at the 4wd trailhead. When I backpack, I like my destination to be somewhere that you can't simply drive to.
Bulk loading to vidme is well underway. Until I am "verified" I have a 3GB cap per week so it will be a while yet. I have a handful of followers so far but hopefully that will increase steadily. That platform is so small compared to YouTube. That is good and bad.
I snuck out of work early for Secrets of the wild edible, medicinal, poisonous and useful plants of the plains. This was part of a wilderness awareness/survival skills group that I keep an eye on for interesting classes. It's only been the second one I've gone to in several years with this group. It was in a local park on the way home so super convenient. I invited Alana and we were both late but at least we made it and there was only one other person besides Andrew the instructor. It started off a little slow but ended up being very worthwhile. I learned to recognize several new plants so it was a success. Later that weekend I returned and picked some prickly pear tunas (which were past their prime) and then discovered some salsify gone to seed right there. I should have collected some of those seeds to plant in my sad little wild food garden.
Quality time with my sister this week. I think it stacked up well against last year's activities. Pictures to come. I would say I planned a perfect getaway.
Fun was had by all!
"One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more." — Thomas Jefferson