Monday, February 18, 2008

The Bloggers Blitz

Hey Folks,

Today is a blitz day, as I've made many notes to blog but then didn't make any posts to go with them. My Professor declared in class today that our journals are due, and so now I must post many of my ideas and thoughts in order to make the midterm grade. Bit of a slip on my part, pretty much. But we'll see how it goes.

First off, I'm finally going to fill everyone in on my outdoor wilderness survival adventure. This was absolutely insane, by the way. A group of over 30 students from StFX, and several individuals from the community came up to this area set up by the Fresh Air Society and run by Antigonish native Jeff Gallant. A nice man, taught us what to do and later on helped us with our obviously lacking fire skills.

So its a Saturday - one of the rare ones where I'm not heading to work, and I wake up and it is pouring out. Not only is it pouring out, but Antigonish is a sheet of ice. However, the email said we were going rain or shine, so I geared up with all my supplies: back pack, garbage bags, shopping bags, duct tape, peanut butter sandwiches, nuts, knife, two coats, three tuques, two pairs of gloves, waterproof matches and several pairs of socks.

I make it to campus to find out that we're not leaving til 1 PM and we've lost about half the people that were supposed to come due to them being wusses and not wanting to go out in the rain. So 1 PM comes around, and we're on our way. It has stopped raining and the sun even came out a few times. It's not so terribly cold so we're in good spirits even if there is a bit of a dampness clinging to everything.

This is where the first surprise comes in. As they take us out for a 'walk' around the property, they're actually sending us to sites and making us believe it is where we'll be spending the night. So Megan, Lise and I find a high-point in this place that I can only describe as a bog and begin to build.Lise Putting touches on our first shelter

We were later told our shelter basically sucked. Too high, not enough wind protection, no ceiling. Basically we would have been cold, damp and unprotected. Learning curve though. We were collected after 45 minutes and told that this was just a test phase to see what people would do in 45 minutes. We were critiques then brought back to be taught a few lessons - now fully primed to listen.

We learned things such as successful fire burning, shelter creation and body heat maximization. 2 rules that must be followed in order: Minimize Heat Loss and Maximize Heat Gain. Heat loss is something that can be prevented with dry clothes, or wool clothes (wet wool holds heat so much better than wet cotton - still not comfy, but warm), wearing a hat (your hands are cold because your head is uncovered) and through isometrics. You don't want to work so much that you sweat, but when you're in for the night and cold what you do is tense your muscles for about 15 seconds then release and repeat. It keeps the muscles active and warms you at the same time.

Shelter Creation: After our first failure we became superb shelter builders. We were given a tarp to help us out (something I will carry with me if I ever head out into nature again). With use of our supplies, like my knife, some duct tape, the garbage bags and natural elements such as snow, bark, branches and leaves we were able to develop a fine shelter that kept us elevated from the ground and block wind on all sides.
our shelter from the sideview on the lieu side of a fallen tree. The root structure made one of our walls.

Together, the three of us huddled in here and attempted a fire. It was a disaster and we wound up smoking ourselves out of our shelter a multitude of times. We couldn't even get a proper fire started until Jeff came out and started it for us. After that we were able to keep one going until about 3 AM, but wound up losing out because with everything wet we couldn't stop the smoke from burning our eyes and throats. I think I suffered from smoke inhalation while in there. My eyes burned for days afterward. By the end we were cuddling with candles burning trying to stay warm until the morning, which we met with little success. We were all cold and sore, but we survived the night.

This holds relevance to ideas of 'Woodcraft' camping that we read about in-class. A huge method of camping these days is 'Leave No Trace' which is technically good for nature. But this concept of leaving nothing behind fits only in the local sense. On an overall environmental scale there is more damage that can be seen. By taking all of the products and gear that have been made through these different resources out into the wilderness with you, you are in fact creating a larger print than if you take a tarp or canvas, hatchet and some twine. It is the battle between too much and too little gear to bring into the woods and the amount of impact you would put onto it. I'm all about as little impact as possible, but with the realization that we are still part of nature and thus have an effect on it, albeit in the most part it is extremely large. I see no real danger in small fires and borrowing little parts of nature in order to have a true down-to-earth experience with out planet, rather than merely experiencing it through tent-flaps and toting in a heavy propane stove.

Anyway, just my views. And there are levels of gear that are proper and improper depending on the types of camping you do. Even after the misery that was our winter survival, I am confident that I would do better and be able to go out and survive with minimal impact while still gaining that connection with nature and my surroundings. I still find things like Survivorman extremely fun to watch and have desires, after more training, to be able to wilderness camp like that.

Cheers all

1 comment:

Dr. B said...

Why is Survivorman so interesting that you would want to do what he does? I think the term here is “primitivism.” What are the ideals that attract you: self-reliance, the craft ethic, the asceticism? Survivorman is also pretty individualistic, like Crusoe, but unlike hunting and gathering societies that we know of where people live in nature with the things that they fashion (collectively) from local materials. Does Survivorman embody modern political ideals?