The last time you found yourself stranded in the woods, searching for whatever you could find to help you survive the night in the cold and rain…and you found a shoelace in your pocket, I bet you didn’t think to cut it up and leave “bread crumbs” to mark your trail! Or how about using it to hang your food where a bear couldn’t get it….or, get this, as a shoelace, should one of yours fail!
Each of these ideas and several more were generated out of a survival activity we did on our Fragrance Lake outing. The Raccoon Kits were divided into three groups: each group was given a shoelace and asked how they might put it to good use in a survival situation. Other ideas: secure the frame of an earth shelter; build a snare to catch dinner; create a bow drill kit to make a fire, and more. Very resourceful!
Resourcefulness is a key characteristic when in survival mode. Keeping a cool head is one of the most difficult things to do in that situation; the Raccoon Kits showed the capacity to think on their feet. I, for one, was surprised and pleased at their responses.
The reason we were able to put the boys into small groups for this activity was that we had an embarrassment of riches when it comes to group leaders. Wyatt is a student in Environmental Ed. at Western and joined us as a volunteer mentor as part of his course work. Jordan and Adrian are part of the Vespula Veterans, one of the oldest Boys Explorers Club groups. They were along as Explorers Club Mentor Apprentices (EMAs). Tim and I scrambled to make the best use of all that help!
Our opening circle was highlighted by an examination of a deer carcass discovered by the ever watchful mentor Tim. Each explorer was offered the chance to bring home a bone. Then on to the outing. Of course, the best way for Wyatt to learn about our program was to participate, so we immediately hooked him into games of Cougar Stalks Deer and Hide! as we hiked along the Interurban trail and onto the Fragrance Lake trail. A quick study, he was soon to be spotted diving into the ferns at the sound of “HIDE!”
After a short climb, we located two elements that would be important for our outing. First, a good spot to practice building shelters. The land at this bend in the trail features a large “nurse-boulder”, if you will, a muddy pit that one of the shelter teams put to good use making mud packs to secure their shelter, a ditch to explore, and lots of downed branches to use in shelter frames. Second, we came across the two Raccoon Kits who, after arriving a little late, managed to get in front of us on the trail, only to be U-turned after a hiker indicated to the rest of us that she had seen a few boys and a dad looking for a group of eager explorers. (Do you get the sense there was lots of positive energy on the Fragrance Lake trail on Sunday?)
Our work revealed that these boys have learned the process of shelter building, but that the sense of urgency and focus that are required in an actual survival scenario can be in somewhat short supply when we’re practicing. This is common for young boys and may also have something to do with the size of the groups. Six explorers and an EMA can sometimes get in each other’s way and can make for duplicated and confusing task organization. In a few weeks, we’re going to continue this effort and plan to work with smaller groups. We’re also going to bring water to pour onto the completed shelters as a test of their worthiness. Should be interesting.
Our work completed, we played a quick game of Hungry, Hungry Martin, then circled up to give thanks in our closing meeting. I can’t think of a better way to illustrate to a volunteer the values we hold dear in Wild Whatcom and Boys Explorers Club than to invite him to join us in this treasured tradition. We slow down after all that energetic play and work to share apples and voice out loud something for which we are truly grateful. Just as your sons are resourceful about using a shoelace in the wilderness, they’re often thoughtful and insightful about the gifts they’ve been given.
Before “packs on” for our hike out, we continued our discussion about a new name for our group. You might have heard me say that kits are babies. Last spring, I suggested to the group that they’re no longer one of the younger groups so they might want a new name, perhaps one that captures an experience they had as a group. They’re interested in a name that has something to do with caves because they found a cool cave at North Galbraith in the spring. I’ll present a few final options to them when we get together for our last outing of the fall, on November 14.
Click here for more photos from our Fragrance Lake outing.