Finding a guide: Three books of wildcraft and survival

Bushcraft books

“I’d love to hike in the wilds of Alaska.”

“I can help you with that.”

“You can”

“Absolutely.  Just one question.”

“What is it?”

“Do you want a guide or do you just want to be dropped off in the middle of nowhere?”

This opportunity was offered to me years ago.  As much as I wanted to go, I turned it down.  I didn’t think my wife would like me “camping” for six months without helping out with the bills, among other things.  The other reason was, I didn’t think I was skilled enough to last that long in the wild without support.

Oddly enough, I never considered the use of a guide, even though that was an option.  Hunters and explorers use guides all the time.  Their knowledge of the area is something I would not have going in.  It is an advantage that should not be ignored.

But what if you want to go it alone?  How do you go about learning the skills needed?  You could take some lessons.  There are schools that teach bushcraft or wilderness survival.  The classes aren’t cheap though.  They can start from $350 and go to $800 for a one week class.  (And that doesn’t include the destination cost, or the costs of food, hotel, and gear.)  Your class might cost more than your dream adventure.

You could check out Youtube for lessons, but what if the person you’d prefer doesn’t make videos?

You can educate yourself by reading their books.  This gives you the opportunity to learn new skills and work on them at your pace with a substantially lower out of pocket cost.  The downside is that you don’t have the instructor there to show you what you are doing wrong if you can’t get that specific exercise down.  (This is where having videos help.  More on that later.)

I currently have three “Wilderness survival” handbooks in my library and while there are similarities, the authors who write them had distinctly different styles.  This is both good and bad.  A person you might like from TV or Youtube might be too dry or too, “out there” in book form.  On the other hand, if you go in with no perceived notions, you will easily pick out the book that fits your personality.  This is a great advantage and will help inspire you to succeed.

Of the authors, two are widely known and the third is somewhat known.  They are Dave Cantebury, Cody Lundin, and Tom Brown Jr.  I’m going to start with Tom first

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Tom Brown Jr is the first person I heard about who was into Wilderness Survival.  It is the title of his handbook, but to say he is a survivalist would be wrong.  In the book, Tom talks about the lessons he learned from his adoptive grandfather and all the time he spends in the eastern pines of New Jersey.  His book teaches Native American skills for living in the wilderness while being a conservationist.  Tom spends many pages explaining the different shelters you can build, but goes further by describing where they should be built and what mistakes he made along the way.

 

 

 

Tom Brown Jr’s book is also the only book of the three to have a section on edible and medicinal plants.  Each plant listed has its common name, scientific name, a plate drawing, description, general habitat, (Don’t expect to read what zone or climate here) range, food, medicine, and other uses.  I’m very leery of any medicinal qualities of plants until they are cross checked for truth. The points of other uses for these plants, though, is worth the price of the book alone.   Knowing what plant is best for making a specific tool, helpful for fire, or an insect repellent is worth its weight in my opinion.

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Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival also talks about attitude, water, fire, shelter, hunting, trapping, fishing, cooking, preserving, tools and crafts.  All written as if the author is talking to you one on one.

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This is my first book on wilderness skills and is still one of my favorites.  I do recommend pairing it with a good tree/plant identification book with full photographs so you can better identify the plants he describes in his book.

 

Cody Lundin’s 98.6 Degrees (The art of keeping your ass alive) is very different from Tom’s and Dave’s book.  There are no plant descriptions here, no primitive shelter instructions, no animal track guidelines, and definitely no hunting skills.  Cody focuses on only one thing in this book, how to survive until rescued.

With such a singular focus, you’d think his book would be rather thin.  Nope.  It’s 215 pages long and is the only book of the three to have color photos in it.

 

Cody goes through the entire process of being lost to being found.  With a large amount of paper being spent on mind set.  He hammers home the fact that your outlook and attitude go a long way towards your survival when lost in the wild.  Cody brings up the truth about fear, how it affects the body, and how to control it. He talks about weather, hypothermia, starvation, dehydration, and how to avoid these problems.

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Cody guides you in making your own personal survival kit.  He keeps it basic and doesn’t include anything that a novice couldn’t figure out how to use.  It gives you the basics without breaking the bank.  (Or your back)

98.6 degrees is also the only book that mentions to not only tell someone where you are going and how long you will be, but also describe what you are driving, the gear you have with you and other ways of identifying yourself and your direction if you are lost.

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Cody writes his book in the same fashion as John Muir did when he wrote his famous VW repair guide for the complete idiot.  (John Muir the VW fan, not Muir the conservationist.)  His book is full of lush cartoon panels and interesting characters.  It fits perfectly with his Hippie image.

 

The last book is Dave Cantebury’s Bushcraft 101 – A field guide to the art of wilderness survival.  Dave’s book falls in between Tom’s and Cody’s.  It leans heavily towards early camping and long term living in the woods than it does survival.

Early camping, sometimes called bushcrafting, takes its roots back in the late 1890’s to 1910’s era of camping.  It was the first version of light camping though carrying a small amount of equipment and making what you need along the way.  Dave brings up the early eastern camping pioneers of Horace Kephart and George Nessmuk Sears and updates their philosophies to our modern times.

Dave divides his book into two parts:  Gear and camping.

In the Gear sections he defines what are the 5 C’s and ways of using the tools need for each category.  He talks about what was carried back in the day and how they can be used in today’s world. Dave shows you shelters made from tarp or branches, various useful knots, and how to make a stove stand.

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In the camping section, Dave talks about set up, hygiene, the different types of fire kays, navigation by compass, measuring distances, figuring time by daylight, tree identification and uses, trapping and processing game.

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Bushcraft 101 also comes with an appendix on edible and medicinal plants.  It is very basic.  There are no pictures or drawing of the plants, no scientific names or areas found, but it does have a wonderful description of poultice, infusion, decoction, and ash.  Something I wish Tom had done in his book.

Dave also throws in some camp recipes for your adventurous spirit.

If you want the textbook on Bushcraft/Woodcraft/Wildcraft, this is it.  If you’re hoping for a personal conversation with Dave, look elsewhere.  Dave wrote this book like speaking at a lecture.  Just the facts. Personally, I was disappointed by this.  I was hoping to have a little more one on one story time with Dave, like I did with Tom.  I wasn’t looking for what he learned from his father per say, but his lessons would hit home better if he attached a few camp stories with them.

The bright side is that all of Dave’s chapter and subchapter items can be supplemented by his videos on you tube.  You will have to search his channel to find them, but it’s a benefit that can’t be overstated.  Reading the book and seeing how he does it brings you as close to the classroom as possible without being there.

So there you go.  Three different books by three different authors with three different styles.

All bring up the basic survival needs:

  • Attitiude
  • Knife
  • Shelter
  • Water container
  • Rope
  • Lighter or other fire starter

Two talk about plants (one in depth, one extremely basic)

One talks about the proper communication needed before venturing out your door as well as having a way to communicate to others if needed for a rescue.

All will help you stay safer than you would without their knowledge.

All will give you more confidence in yourself as you practice the skills taught and the kits built.

All will make your time in the bush a little more enjoyable.

Anyone of them is worth the money.  All you have to do is choose which is best for you.

See you on the trail.

Decisions

“Hurry up!” I chided, staring at the dog as she reluctantly wandered around the yard. Rain was falling moderately as a cold wind blew from the east.   I pressed myself against the wall while the dog debated to go to the bathroom or wait and see if I would flip a magical switch to make the rain stop. The rain danced off the leaves of the palms in a loud sizzling pattern as if they were landing on a tent. I shivered involuntarily as a rush of cold as a gust of wind slid along the wall.  And then I wondered about someone I’ve never met.

His name is Mitch and right now he’s probably wondering if he made a wise decision. You see, right now Mitch is somewhere deep in the wilds of British Columbia filming a wilderness show.  He’s either under some sort of tarp or huddled under a pile of branches and leaves as winters frigid fingers stretch down from the arctic.  Mitch is under contract not to divulge much about the show, including the name of the thing, but did allow the facts that it is a long term-single person production.  That means he’ll be living in the wilderness alone for a long duration of time without a camera crew or support.  He is supposed to record events as they happen and then transport them to a post office to the nearest town where the “film” (could be a chip for all I know) will then be mailed to television company for editing and release. This is a risky way of trying to do a show.  National Geographic tried it once years ago only to have the host, whose name I can’t remember, ended up having to be rescued after nearly starving to death, weeks into filming.  (He also had the misfortune of losing an entire week’s worth of film when his canoe overturned while paddling to town.)  This is probably why the TV Company behind the show doesn’t want Mitch to talk too much about it.  He might end up in the same predicament and they want to make sure they have enough episodes in the can for at least one season before announcing the show.  (They also probably want to make sure the show is interesting enough to watch without the predictable/planned arguments and tension caused by throwing opposite people and drama queens together in close quarters.)

The company, whoever they are, did a better job at picking a host for this show than National Geographic did. They did some research and picked out a dozen or so youtube bushcrafters to see who would apply. Derek, who goes under the handle of “Sargefaria” posted his audition on his channel, “The Woodsman School”.  Mitch has his own channel called, “Nativesurvival”.  He posted his last video before leaving for Canada roughly three weeks ago.

While I do look forward to the show, I have to ask myself if I would take this opportunity if it was offered. Could I spend a year alone?

I’m not talking about, “in the wilderness”. I mean a year alone anywhere:  Sailing the open seas, floating around in a space station, living in a lighthouse, or even travelling the back roads of the world.  Could I cut all ties and live with myself for a year.  No friends, no family, no pets, just myself.  Could I live without my wife?  What about my father, brother, and other family members?  What happens if something bad happens and they need me?  Would I be allowed to stop what I’m doing and fly back to be there?  Would I even know of the event or find out about it when I came back?  What would my family think of me if I wasn’t there in that moment of need?  I think about all the soldiers that had to deal with these very thoughts and events these last ten years.  It couldn’t have been easy for them. Now imagine explaining how you couldn’t be there because of a show; because of money.  How selfish would that sound?

Mitch also has a daughter. I wonder how explained it to her.  I’m sure he’ll be sending private video messages back along with the footage the company will need, but will he be allowed to do more?  Will there be phone calls in town or even visits for the holidays?  Would they help or make it worse for him after they left?  And what happens after the show is filmed?  After living alone for that amount of time, will he be able to readapt to dealing with large crowds and the diplomacy of society?  Will he be able to compromise with his wife again after doing things his way for a year without question or debate?  (I almost think a show about the re-adjusting to society would be every bit as interesting as the show of living alone in the wild.)

There are many disadvantages and hardships, but the show is also a great opportunity. Mitch will have a season to sell himself to the audience, create a larger desire for those who might want to take any classes he might create after the show, read the book he will eventually write, and buy the gear he will be using.  If the show is a large enough success, some companies might even court him to use his name on their products for a commission. He could secure his business/brand security with this adventure.  There is a lot to be gained.

Would I do it? Would I take a risk like this and live alone for a year?  I don’t know.  In my heart I’d want to.  It would be a great challenge and adventure along the lines of George Washington Sears, Joshua Sloccum, and Jefferson Sipvey.  Money wouldn’t be a problem since the company sponsoring the show would have to cover my lost wages from my regular job just to get me to even think of the project.  No, the biggest concern would be my wife.  She would have to be on board with the project before I committed. Could she handle being apart for so long a time and could she accept the risks I would be taking whatever the challenge would be.  (She already thins I take too many risks just by hiking down various paths and trails when the opportunity comes along.)  Marriage is a compromise. Would this opportunity be one of those things that got lost along the way?

My thoughts are disrupted by the sound of my dog barking. She’s done doing her business and wants to go inside. It’s cold and raining, after all.

To build a fire

It may be September, but summer is still hanging on strong in Florida. It had hit the mid 90’s again that Saturday and the usual afternoon rain hit heavily. So, of course, around 8:00, I decided it would be a great time to start a fire.

Yep. High temps and ungodly, sticky humidity just cry out for camp fires.  No?  Actually, you’re right.  This was an act of complete lunacy.

Ok. It was crazy, but not that crazy. I did have a reason for doing this.  I wanted to test myself and see if I could get a fire going without using a lighter or matches.

For a few years I’ve been watching those “survival” shows as well as various camping shows on You Tube. (Kennith Kramm is great!  So is A lone wolverine 1984)  And I can’t forget my WordPress campers.  (Lookin’ at you, Girly Camping)

This let to gear gifts. I put tons of items on my wish list as well as buying many things outright.  I don’t know about you, but I hate the idea of having all this money spent just to let it sit around and collect dust. Uh-uh.  That’s not gonna happen!

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I’ve been playing around with a fire-starter that consists of a ferrocerrium rod and striker. You shave the ferro rod with the striker which gives off extremely hot sparks.  The rod is thicker than the one glued to a metal magnesium bar found at Wal-Mart, but is smaller than the ¼” diameter that Dave Cantebury uses.  I’d scrape the rod with the striker of the back of my pocket knife just to see the sparks fly.  It was easy to tell that the back of my knife did a much better job at creating sparks from the rod than the striker did.

I also had some shavings lying in my hat. (Part of a project from Bushcraft USA forums) And then there is the clothes line wrapped up in a spool sitting next to my router on my desk.  That should be good tinder.  Along with this is a nice bucket load of dry kindling sitting quietly in the garage.  This will work.

But can I make it work?

My idea was to start a fire using the clothesline and shavings, and then building it up with the kindling before adding on the very wet wood.

I cut off two pieces of clothesline, each an inch long. Then I separated the outside weaving from the inside and shredded the outside weave while opening up the inside. Tossing it in the hat, I took the supplies outside to the fire pit.

One minor problem here. The pit is so deep that if I place the shaving bundle and shredded rope into the middle, I’m going to be stretching really far to get that spark going.  If it was dry, I’d place it all on a palm frond.  Since they’re soaking wet, I cheated and placed it on a sheet of newspaper.  I figured since the paper is just for support and transport and would not be used to start the fire, it was ok.

Now I was ready.

I took the striker and pulled the rod against it. You’re supposed to pull the ferro rod against the bottom of the striker so that you don’t accidentally knock the kindling bundle away.

One. Two.  Three pulls.  Sparks flew lightly into the air, but nowhere near enough needed to get this thing going.  I set the striker aside and pulled out the knife.  I have seen some people use the sharp edge of the knife to strike the sparks, but I didn’t want to ruin the sharp edge I worked so hard to get on this.  I used the back spine of the blade instead.  Gripping tight, I pulled again.

One! Oops!  The bundle spilled into the pit. I had held it so tightly that when the knife pulled away from the rod, the hand holding the rod moved forward and knocked the bundle away.  I quickly grabbed the bundle off the wet soil and put it back on the paper.  During the move, I could tell that the moisture in the air is getting wicked up into the bundle.  It felt moist in my hands.  Not damp, mind you, but definitely wetter than it was when I brought it out.  I needed to get this thing going.

With this added urgency I took the inner part of the cotton clothesline and pulled it to open up its fibers.

One more strike.

Fhzzzzt!

Sparks flew heavily in a shower of light and catch of the mix of cotton and wood. A flame started immediately and started to consume the small bundle with alarming speed.  The fire is started and it’s hungry!  I quickly placed the paper holding the fire into the pit before throwing some very small splinter thick pieces of wood on it.  While those were consumed, I started to build a teepee around and over it with my kindling of dried palm frond stalks.  (Dried palm frond stalks and leaves are wonderful for fires!  They have natural oils in them that burn very hot.  It burns similar to pine, but without the fumes or odor.)

After building that up came the next challenge, using wet wood. The fire wood has been sitting uncovered for a year now and that wood has been rained on constantly over the summer.  Besides the rain in the afternoon, it had rain water soaking in it throughout the week.  Only one day out of the seven did it not rain.  This wood is beyond wet.  It is soaked.

Pulling the thinnest branches out, I started to break them into proper lengths. Some parts bent rather than broke.  Other thicker pieces just crumble in my hands.  They were so wet that they were rotting!  Placing these on top of the kindling, I worried the fire might not be hot enough.  The cure for that?  More palm stalks.  Dead palm fronds stood in easy reach.  The problem was that they were wet from the rain, just like the wood.  Would they work?  I grabbed a few from the palmettos and was instantly sprayed by the water that had collected in the pockets of the frond leaves.  This was going to be interesting.  Six fronds later and I was ready.

I placed them strategically in the fire and watched in amazement as they lit up. The oil in the palm fronds really helps out.  I relaxed as I watched the soaking wood dry out and catch fire.  Plus the mixed sound of sizzling water and cracking fire was such a treat.

Finally I pushed the limit and threw in a decent log. It was four inched thick and over two feet long.  The fire would have to dry it before cutting it and then dry it again to consume it.  Would it work?

fire

Yep.

So I succeeded in my experiment. I was able to get a fire going and was able to burn very wet wood.

Was it a true test of wet weather fire building? Definitely not.  I used dry tinder and dry kindling.  I didn’t try to carve out dry wood from the inside of logs, nor did I forage for dry inner bark of pine trees.

Did I start a fire in somewhat adverse conditions? Yes!  It was dark when I started the experiment and very humid.  The tinder was absorbing moisture very quickly and had a limited time of use.  I think I did well.

Did I accomplish my goal of starting a fire without a lighter or match. You bet. Even if I hadn’t gotten the wood to take, I had built and lit a small starter fire with nothing but a ferro rod and a knife.  That was cool.

Do I recommend using a ferrocerrium rod over a lighter? No way! Lighters are so much easier it just makes sense to use them.  This was a test of a new skill and an experiment to see what I could learn from it.  It was fun to do, but in an emergency I would rather have a lighter.

I had a great time with this experiment and when I was done, I was sweaty, smoky and smelly. I was also proud of my accomplishment.

My wife just thought I was crazy.

A conversation with the devil – part 1

 

The tree line stood in inky contrast to the background of the dull red sky as the sun’s rays slowly darkened into twilight.  Jack leaned forward, prodding the camp fire with a stick.  Satisfied, he leaned back and pulled a worn stone and his Buck knife from his pocket.  Spitting on the stone, Jack casually flipped open his knife and commenced sharpening it.

“Nice night.”  A voice said from behind.

“Yes it is.”  Jack replied, not pausing on the job at hand.

“Mind if I join you?”  The voice continued.

Jack motioned vaguely, “Not at all.”

Jack silently studied the man as he sat down next to the fire.  While clean shaven and appropriately dressed, something seemed odd with the man.  There was a harshness to him that put Jack on edge.

“Coffee’s still fresh.”  Jack said, nodding to the pot resting near the fire.  “There’s water to rinse out the cup, if you want.”

The man glanced at the offering, but passed.  “Not that thirsty.  Got a smoke?”

“Yep.” Jack said as he set the stone down and fished for the pack.

The stranger noticed that Jack kept a hold of the knife in his other hand.  “Marlboro?”

Jack shook his head as he tossed the pack.  “Paul Mall.”

A flash of disappointment crossed the man’s face as he caught the cardboard pack.  “Hmm.”

Flipping the box open, he pulled one from the ten remaining cigarettes and nonchalantly tossed the pack back.  “Thanks.”

Jack caught the pack with his free hand.  “Don’t mention it.”

The stranger took a piece of wood burning in the fire and used it to like his cigarette.

“Hunting season’s over.”  The man said behind the flame.  “Usually the woods are empty.  What are you doing here?  Poachin’?”

“Camping.”  Jack answered, patting his pack.

The stranger looked sidelong at Jack’s rig.  “Not much there.  You playin’ Rambo?”

Jack shot him a glance.  “Longhunter.”  He stated.  “I’m campin’ old school.  1800’s.”

“I don’t recall them smokin’ cigarettes and havin’ foldin’ pocket knives back then.”  The man coldly challenged.

“They didn’t.”  Jack replied, holding the four inch blade up for view.  “But they would’ve used them if they had.”

Jack folded up the knife and stuck it in his pocket.

The man’s shoulders relaxed a little as he took another drag of his cigarette.

“You?”  Jack asked as he flipped the pack open and pulled out one for himself.

“What about me?”  The man asked as his eyes darkened.

Jack clarified.  “Why are you here?  Like you said, ain’t huntin’ season and nobodies around.”

The eyes cooled and the man responded, “That’s why I’m here.  No one’s around.  I like my privacy and I can get it here; Usually.”

Jack smiled at the not so subtle comment.  “I won’t be here long.  Just the week.  You’ll have the place all to yourself soon enough.”

“It ain’t me you gotta worry about.”  The stranger replied.  “There’s a killer on the loose out here.”

“A killer?”  Jack echoed.

“Yep.”  The man asserted.  “And he is Rambo.”

Spring, the worst thing that can happen while writing.

As you may have noticed, there’s been a lag between postings in my latest story.  While this has been a more involved project than most, I have to admit that I have been very distracted lately.

One is my wife throwing out her back with repetition.  It first happened three weeks ago, and then every time she thought it was getting better, she’d over do it again. And then again.  Finally she’s gotten the message and is taking it easier.  (Notice I said “Easier” and not “Easy”.  She still has to do something.)

I’ve been doing more around the house which has been a double edged sword.  On one hand, she appreciates all the work I’ve been doing.  On the other, she’s been feeling guilty about not doing anything and wants to do more.  (I’ve found duct tape to be very useful in these situations.)

The plus side is that she is getting better, moving around more, and will not need any major medical procedures.  We might even try a movie next weekend.

But that’s the only real excuse I can quantitatively use.  The others are me letting my distractions get the better of me.

First is a book that came in the mail.  “The Way of the Scout” by Tom Brown Jr.

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I bought it used off Amazon.  Tom Brown Jr. was raised in Pine Barrens of New Jersey.  Somewhere along the way, he stumbled into an elderly man who was Apache.  Tom learned primitive survival skills from the man as well as the spiritual point of view of nature.  To clarify it, think of Cody Lundin but with moccasins.  You might also know of Tom Brown Jr. from the movie, “The Hunted”.  He was the technical advisor for it and the script was loosely based on one of his real life events.

I first heard of Tom Brown Jr. from a customer I met at my old job one day.  I don’t recall her name, but she did leave an impression.  With short cropped black hair, glasses, blue jeans and an athletic build; she reminded me of Janine Turner from Northern Exposure.

Wanting to talk to her, I saw this book she was carrying and asked her about it.  She told me that the guy had many books of stories as well as woods crafts.  Loving to hike, I thought it was worth checking out.  Nothing ever happened personally but I did find a new author out of the deal.

I read his “Woods Craft” skills books and bought three of them (In fact, they helped influence me towards landscaping) but I never read any of his actual stories.  In a way, I’m glad I didn’t.

Tom Brown JR. may have mad skills when it comes to living with nature, but there is a certain amount of arrogance in his words and a definite disconnect with society.  Psychologically, I can understand the disconnect.  Spending most of his formative years in the woods learning native skills instead of hanging out at the burger shop (trying to get the time-line right) will definitely create a gap between his viewpoint and the average suburbanite. His arrogance seems, to me, to be a defensive measure.  He seems to look down on city people and how they live their lives not paying attention to their surroundings and filling their lives with what he felt was unnecessary pressures.  What he seems to forget is that if society had chosen to live like he chose, the woods would be overrun with people and not be the place of serenity he finds it to be.  I wonder if he’s realized this fact since he wrote this book.

To be fair, the stories he tells is the book are entertaining.  I’m still flipping through the book and reading the stuff I haven’t read yet.  It’s just not what I was expecting.  “The Way of the Scout” talks of tracking and stealth raiding to scare away vandals or capture criminals hiding out in the wilderness with one story of exploring New York City thrown in for good measure.  I guess I was hoping for something more in line with Richard “Dick” Proennecke’s “Alone in the Wilderness”.  Maybe I’ll buy his book next.

This is also where I need to give you a strong piece of advice:  Never, never, never read a book that is totally different from what you are currently working on.  Not only will it distract you; it will inexorably change your mood and make getting back into the right mind set for continuing that much harder.

Finally came the last distraction and it was a legitimate one:  It was spring this weekend.

Ok, I know that sounds weird coming from Florida, but unless you’ve actually experienced late April and May weather here, it’s needs explaining.  April and May are completely different in Southwest Florida than most of the United States.  Instead of nice, cool mornings full of crisp, dry air and deliciously pleasant afternoon temperatures, we wake up to fog, high humidity, mid seventy mornings that quickly climb to high eighties or low nineties for the afternoon.  The rains have also come early this year and you can see steam issuing off the roads the moment the rain stops.  As the saying goes, Spring – “It’s like a sauna in here.” That is, except for this weekend.

We were so lucky this weekend.  It was northern spring weather.  Dry air, moderate temps, and good wind gusts.  I did a batch of serious yards work yesterday and was rewarded with even better weather today.  With light winds and temps only reaching the upper seventies, there was no way I was going to stay inside and write.  I had a major woods land hiking itch and I was going to indulge it.

There’s a park in the ranchette area of town north of me.  I hadn’t been there in years.  In fact I went online to make sure I knew what road it was on.  It’s a nice park with multiple trails for hiking, biking, or horseback riding.  There’s a “No dogs” sign posted on the placard along with other rules, but it seems to be happily ignored.  I ran into two friendly Border Collies and a West Highland Terrier during my hike.

A quick running, rambling stream is one of the highlights of the park, Having kids crash can lids together as their mother yells at them is one of the downsides of it.  (Hey, it’s a park.  Different people are going to do different things to entertain themselves.  You just have to accept it and move on.)  I moved rapidly to create some distance between me and the mother with the children.  Once I did that, the hike was nice.

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I spent my time looking at the different tracks trying to see if I could figure out what animals might have crossed.  I found horse shoe prints and a mountain bike track, that’s it.  I listened to the buzz of the horsefly, the chirp of the cicada, e crash of a squirrel, and some singing of a mocking bird.

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I smelled the air, felt the different densities of the ground beneath my sneakers, and picked out various possible sites for camping if it was allowed.  I made as little noise as possible, took pictures and, most of all, enjoyed myself.

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I’ll be able to write again no problem.

How was your weekend?

Luke’s Journal: Spring’s light, laundry, and supper

There is nothing so sweet as the first real days of spring.  The soft, warm rays of the sun appearing over the horizon telling you the long dark is finally over.

Those first few weeks of torture are now past.  The ice is broken, and the lakes are again free for fishing.

The air is perfumed with the buds of new growth and dull colors of browns and greys have been replaced with light greens, yellows, with speckles of blue and pink.

Now is the time of freedom.  Time to open the doors and windows and allow the fresh air to wash away winters musky stench.

It’s also time to take back my own personal section of the wilderness.  I clean off an area from leaves and twigs.  Then I build a fire.  Small at first.  My own little homage if you will.  Then I slowly build it up.  Relishing the mix of fresh, crisp air and the deep, rich smell of the hardwood as it burns.  Then I set up the tripod and hang the pot full of water to heat.  As the water warms, I take the old 550 cord and string it between two trees. I’ve used 550 cord, or paracord depending on how you call it, ever since my clothesline rotted away from a year’s use.  Once the water’s ready, I set myself to spring’s first chore.

My wash line is simple.  A pile of clothes to my left, the wash tub, the rinse tub, and then the line.  I take each item and wash them with care.  My washboard is glass so it will not rust and shred my clothing like a cheese-grater.  The soap is bio degradable and non-perfumed so as to not give away my position when I hunt.  When hanging the clothes on the line, I use a mix of surviving clothes pins and ones I have whittled myself over the winter from various spruce branches.

Once the laundry is done, I dump the water and set up for dinner.  Trout tonight!  A little salt, a little pepper, a little dried lemon zest from the rinds I saved last fall… Delicious.  And a cup of pine needle tea to wash it down.  I use the rest of the water to wash up.

Content, I sit back and watch the laundry billow in the wind like multicolored sails on a sailboat.  It’s wonderful knowing that tonight my house will not be crowded with the hanging of wet laundry as it slowly dries from the heat of the stove.  Yes the added humidity is good during the dark, but having to carefully duck and weave my way around gets old fast.  Freedom is movement.

I light a celebratory pipe while thinking about those words.  “Freedom is movement.”  Spring opens up the earth and gives us that freedom.