Monday, December 18, 2006

More Shafts and a Basket

I took a trip to Eagle Creek Park on Saturday to visit my favorite spot for harvesting arrow shafts. The Last time I went was during the late summer. At that time there was more sap in the wood. The arrow shafts shrank as they dried. This time more of the sap is down in the roots so I don't think they will shrink as much.

I carefully selected eight branches from various shrubs. Before cutting each branch I first checked with inner vision to determine whether I should take it. Using inner vision is something I learned at the Tracker School. It is a way of spiritually communicating with all of nature. It is useful for many things, but in this case I can use it to determine whether removing the branch will help or hurt the environment. The great benefit is that I don't have to rely on my knowledge of the ecosystem to determine this.

I could have easily harvested a dozen or more shafts if I wasn't doing it in a caretaking manner. There were many very nice straight branches that I passed on because removing them would have hurt the shrub. It's also worth noting that by limiting the number of shafts I harvest, I can give each one more attention as I straighten them over the coming weeks.

Before cutting I also gave thanks to the branch and shrub for giving its life for me. After I made my cut, I spread mud over the cut. The main reason I did this is so that it wasn't easily visible that someone cut a branch. The bright cut of the branch stands out in the dull brown of the landscape at this time of year. The shrubs were on a main path so people may walk by them often. I don't think it is exactly legal to cut branches in the park. I have no regrets because I am caretaking, leaving the woods better off than I found them.

The shafts I have are pretty straight, but I'll be bending them each night as they dry to make them straighter. I don't feel guilty watching tv if I spend that time straightening arrow shafts. They are a little thick, but after they dry, the bark is removed and they are sanded, they should make good arrow shafts.

With the excess branch parts that aren't going to become arrow shafts, I made a basket. I started the basket with the refuse from my earlier harvest. Last night I was able to finish it. It is made completely from leftover Arrowwood Viburnum branches. The handle is a little small so I probably won't be carrying anything heavy in it. I may either add a stronger handle or remove it entirely.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Fallen Oak

My friend Chad's Oak tree fell down last week. Luckily it fell the way it did. It could have as easily fallen on his house.

This was a good opportunity for me scavenge some wood. I didn't hear about it till the day the wood cutters came to chop it up so I couldn't get as much from it as I wanted. By the time I got there, only big pieces were left. I didn't have the chance to get wood for bows, baskets, throwing sticks, ax handles, etc., but I have some pieces to make bowls.

I sealed the ends of the wood with paint primer so that it doesn't dry rapidly and crack. Sealing the ends makes it dry through the bark more naturally. Once it's dried, I'll use coals to burn the wood away until I have a bowl. With a wooden bowl you can boil water/food by dropping in heated rocks.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Gourd Canteen

When I was home for Thanksgiving my brother and I worked on some gourds my mom had. He made a bowl out of one. I made a canteen. I would've made a post about this sooner, but it took me awhile to complete the yucca cordage. I made 8 strands about a meter long. This allowed me to make a decent netting around the body of the gourd. The middle of each strand is centered on the bottom of the gourd so 16 ends are used to make the netting using square knots to join strands. Once I got to the neck I took 2 groups of 8 and reverse wrapped them into a handle. I wove the ends into each other to complete the circle. Ideally the strap would be a lot longer so I could throw it over my shoulder, but I didn't really know how long to make the strands when I started. This guy holds about 1 1/2 liters of liquid. I still need to scrape out some of the gunk on the inside.

Monday, November 13, 2006

My First Indiana Hunt

I went on my first hunting trip in Indiana last weekend. I spent the weekend at the Receveur's home in New Albany, IN. Family and friends offered directions to many hunting areas, but I chose a place that I knew I could legally hunt. It is public land and they allow hunting. I've never been there before, but I found the location on line. It is the Clark State Forest. After getting a map of the horse trails in the forest, I found a spot that was as far from trails as I could find. It was also close to a lake so I figured it was a good place for deer.

I drove to this spot and parked. Signs said hunting was allowed to the left side of the main road. The right side is where the lake was. There was almost no one around which was a good sign. I found a trail and entered the forest. I was able to find a deer track on the trail. I thought deer probably bed up the hill during the day and come down to the lake at night.

I was having trouble finding a good spot to set up along the trail so at some point I decided to use inner vision. Since I couldn't figure it out based on my little knowledge and experience, I put it to my spirit to get me through. I was led along the trail up hill. As I got near the top I came upon a pretty wide trail. At the top of the hill was a large cylindrical tank so I thought the trail could possibly be a service road. The trail would have barely fit a car down it though so I wasn't sure. I followed this trail along the ridge. I was directed to a spot on the uphill side of the trail.

The spot seemed perfect. There were small beach saplings on the edge of the trail to use as cover. Beach trees are a type of tree that tend to keep their leaves during fall. While most of the trees around were bare my spot had leaf cover. Also the wind was blowing downhill which is the direction I expected the deer to travel so hopefully my scent wasn't going to be a problem.

I got settled in, picked out the shot I was going to take and made sure I had enough room to maneuver my bow. I put my back to the trail so that I could shoot after the deer passed me (refer to the picture below). This is a "quartering away" shot and is nice because it is less likely the deer will see you as you shoot. It's also easier to avoid hitting the deer's shoulder bone which will result in a non-fatal injury.

I next gathered materials to add to my cover. After all, a deer had to walk by me within 5 yards and not see me for this to work. Uphill were many more young beach trees. I now had the opportunity to practice the spiritual caretaking skills I learned at the Tracker School. I let myself be led to different trees. I was allowed to cut certain saplings and branches to use for my blind (cover). Some of the branches were from trees that dead trees had fallen on. One branch was entangled with the branches of a nearby tree. One sapling was the smaller of two that were growing together. I was able to take what I needed and leave the forest better than I left it.

After finishing up my blind I sat down. After a couple hours I heard the sounds of something coming down the trail. It didn't take long to figure out that it was a human. Deer generally take a few steps and then stop and listen. Humans just walk without pausing. It's completely out of the context of the forest. As the person walked by, I saw that it was a hunter with a shotgun. I expected to see him looking back at me but he must not have seen me. I was happy that my cover was good enough that he didn't notice me so close to him. On the other hand, he just left human scent on the exact path I expected the deer to travel and his noisy passing just guaranteed no deer was coming by for at least 20 minutes.

It was dusk now. I think it had been 1 1/2 - 2 hours since the hunter came by. The forest was alive. Birds came to the trees near me. I watched a Red Headed Woodpecker go to town on a branch to my left. A Great Horned Owl started hooting to my right. Then I heard brush crashing behind me. I new it was a deer. I was astounded because the deer didn't come down the trail like the hunter had, like I expected. It came from off the trail right towards me. It chose my spot to enter the trail!

In my last post I talked about the difficulty of shooting a deer from 5 yards. A big part of that is finding a place where you can intersect with a deer. I had just done that without ever being in this forest and the deer came to me not by a clear trail. To me, this was a big confirmation of my inner vision since it led me to this spot.

Since my back was facing the trail I couldn't see exactly what was going on, but I was sure it was a doe. It walked a few steps down the trail and got to the point where the deer is in my picture above. After a pause I heard it bolt up the trail. I turned in time to see its white tail.

I'd like to think it ran because it smelled the hunter's scent, but I can't help but think that I didn't have enough cover. Anyway, it was a success because I had a deer within 6 yards of me on my first solo hunt. I had used inner vision successfully throughout the experience to accomplish things that I couldn't do with my brain. The only negative of the experience was the poison ivy. I got it just by breaking a stem. There were no leaves to identify it. It's in a worse place than last time. Let's just say it's in a place I can't scratch in public and you get it if you concatenate two of the words in this sentence together: "The pen is black." Sorry, no picture this time.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Sacred Hunt

The second class I took at PAST Skills was called The Sacred Hunt. Since I have no experience in hunting, everything taught was new to me. I learned a lot! The first two days we packed in a lot of lecture and shooting practice. The last three days we were mostly out hunting.

The rule was that we could only take a shot if the deer was within 5 yards. The reason for this is so that we are more likely to get a clean kill with minimal suffering for the animal. I think another reason is that from 5 yards you can know what you are killing before you kill it. I think you really have to be there for the right reason to go through with it once you see how beautiful and peaceful the animal is.

It is incredible the number of skills involved in hunting in this fashion. Imagine having to find a location in the woods where a deer will pass by you within 5 yards. Then imagine not being scented, seen, or heard as the deer gets that close. I forgot to mention that your mind also has to be clear because animals can sense your mood even before their other senses come into play. Also don't let any birds or squirrels know you're there either because they'll tell the deer. Then try to draw your bow without being seen or heard and make sure you hit the deer in the right spot. Hopefully the bow and arrows you made from scratch are of good quality. Finally, you better know how to follow a blood trail or your hard work is for not.

After this the work really begins. You have to honor the deer by using as much of it as you can. That means butchering the meat, boiling the bones and extracting the sinew for tools, tanning the hide, etc.

As Billy said hunting is the reason for practicing primitivie skills. You have to be able to track, use camouflage, build bows and arrows, flintknap arrow points, understand bird language, etc. to be successful at hunting.

So how did I do? First of all I didn't kill a deer. I didn't even take a shot. I did learn a ton of stuff each time I hunted though. For the record I did have two does broadside at 20 yards that never knew I was there. If I was hunting with a rifle it would have been an easy kill. I was content to see deer that close in a natural setting.

Long before the deer showed up, I determined through "inner vision" that I was going to see deer but not shoot any. At the time I thought that meant I would see a buck since we were only hunting does. I forgot that the other possibility was to see does that were out of my range. The last day we hunted I had the same vision and a doe came through my area again. This time it was actually right in my shooting lane, the only problem was that it was sprinting through it since it had seen me moments before.

That doe had been shot by another student minutes before. I like to think that it's hyper-aware state was part of the reason I got busted, but I know my cover and camo was pretty weak too. Later we followed the deer's blood trail for probably 600 yards before we lost it. It was determined that the deer was hit in the muscle of the leg and would probably survive. Even from 5 yards there is no guarantee of a kill. It was a tough way to end our class, but we learned many lessons.

I didn't end up taking many pictures since I was out hunting a lot of the time. Here is a picture from a 3d shooting course. This helped us practice shooting through brush at life-like targets.

For fun we took shots at a bear target off in the distance. I estimate the distance at about 60 yards. One of the times we shot, I was 2 for 2. One shot hit the bear in the eye. I was pretty lucky but I felt cool. No one else hit it.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Flintknapping Workshop

I'm back from my trip. I took two classes at PAST Skills wilderness school. This is a new school founded by Billy and Kristy McConnell who used to be instructors at the Tracker School where I have taken most of my other classes. There are many attractive things about this school. The staff are awesome people and practitioners of primitive skills. The class sizes are small so you get a lot of personal attention. The atmosphere is very laid back. While not learning we all hung out at the house we stayed in. The food we ate was amazing. Among other things we had fresh duck and caribou. The meal of duck was basically like a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The first class was a four day flintknapping workshop. I learned way more than I expected. The class size was key. I had a front row seat to watch Billy break rock. One can learn a lot just from watching someone better especially that close. Each of us also got a personal session which was huge for me. Billy corrected my form which is going to have a major effect on my progress.

Here is Billy demonstrating. You can see that the piece is taking shape. He started from a big chuck like the one on the floor at the bottom right of the picture.

Another big help was the amount and type of rock available. Rock can get quite expensive not to mention hard to come by so it was great to have a huge supply of rock. I was never worried about wasting money with each strike I took like I was at home with my $25 dollar rock.

While not in lecture, we spent most of our time actually practicing. This picture shows our "knapping pit". In this picture everyone is pressure flaking on small pieces as opposed to striking them like in the first picture. Pressure flaking is used on smaller pieces for shaping, sharpening and notching.

I spent a lot of my time doing billet work since I had done a decent amount of pressure flaking before taking the class. I had almost zero experience in billet work going into this class so I chose to focus on it. Here are some of the pieces I worked on. The only one that is nearly finished is the gray piece at the bottom right. The gray rock is Dacite and the rest are Obsidian. The larger obsidian pieces on the sides are preforms that can further be reduced to become sharp points. These started as big chunks of rock. You can see I snapped one piece in half. I'm going to try to make an arrow head out of the top piece.

Another cool thing we got to learn about is cooking rocks. Some rocks are hard to work with naturally, but can be cooked to make them workable. We cooked rocks both primitively with a fire and in a kiln.

Here is rock called Ft. Hood Chert. We covered it up with about 2 inches of dirt and then built a fire over it.

The fire burned over night. When it was done we had usable rock. It was very fun to work with. It is very different from obsidian. You actually have to strike the rock hard to get it to fracture. With obsidian it is like lightly peeling off flakes of rock.

I didn't really complete any pieces at the class since I was focused on billet work, but I'll probably try to make some before the weather gets too cold. We got to split up all the cooked rock as well as a bunch of other pieces. I also bought some rock so now I now have plenty of rock to work with. I'll post pictures of any new points I make.

My next post will be about the second class I took which was a hunting class.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Luke's Wedding

October 14th was my good friend Luke's wedding. We were a little worried about the weather since it was cold and windy at the rehearsal Friday. The day ended up being beautiful though. Luke and Megan were married in front of the Carmel city hall.

Friday night at the rehearsal dinner, Luke gave the groomsmen Colts flasks with our names engraved on them. It's a pretty awesome gift, and useful. We carried them in our tuxedos all day. They came in handy for the preceremony jitters, during car rides and any other times when we didn't have access to alcohol.

After the ceremony we all rode around in a stretch hummer. We stopped by Marsh and bought several bottles of champaign to celebrate.

Here are Luke and Megan as husband and wife. The reception was awesome. We all did a lot of dancing and I got to see a lot of old friends from high school.

It looks like I don't have any pictures of me on my camera, but I assure you I was stunning.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Little Birdy Told Me

I stopped by the park after work today to listen to the birds. As I walked to my spot, I didn't hear or see any. I thought maybe they had all migrated. After getting to my spot, I sat for awhile without any action. Then a group of birds flew through my spot. I could hear them calling as they came. One of them landed on the tree across the stream. I'm happy to say that I was able to identify it on the spot as a Tufted Titmouse. I looked through my bird book the night before so I remembered what it looked like.

Just as I turned to leave, I saw a small sparrow-like bird fly into the bushes toward me from the open field. Seconds later I heard a high pitched note from another bird. I immediately thought someone is coming in 2 minutes. I got 2 minutes from the Bird Language cds I've been listening to. It's about the time it takes a person to walk to where the bird is that gave the alarm.

I don't really like to be seen coming and going from my sit spot. People might be suspicious of someone walking into or out of the bushes. The scout in me also likes to hide from people.

So I decided I would wait for 2 minutes before leaving. Not long after the alarm I heard the sound of a man yelling at his dog coming closer. About 2 minutes later they were pretty close. The man was throwing a frisbee to his dog so they were actually running around the whole field area, but they definitely came in my direction.

It was cool to know that someone was coming 2 minutes ahead of time without even having to hear or see them for myself.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Arrow Fletching Close Up

I fletched another arrow tonight. I think it is twice as good as my first two. My brother told me to try peeling the feathers instead of splitting them with a knife. It definitely made the feathers nicer to work with and took a lot less time to prepare them. A peeled feather has little to no quill which makes it less bulky and hopefully less noisy in flight.

I've been practicing shooting in preparation for the hunt. I have some rifle targets that have 8 inch diameter black circles in the center. This is the approximate size of the vitals of a deer. I've been practicing hitting within the circle from various distances, positions and with various arrows. So far I'm best from the sitting position. I like this position because it is comfortable, stable and I think it will be easier to stay hidden.

Monday, September 18, 2006

My New Arrow

Over the weekend I fletched my first arrow. Besides a little glue, everything on the arrow is natural. The shaft is Autumn Olive. It is one of three my brother sent me from the D.C. area. It is an invasive species there that outcompetes other native plants and trees.

The feathers are from a turkey. I used elk and emu leg sinew to bind the feathers to the shaft. The dark brown substance near the middle of the picture is pitch which is mostly made of tree sap. I used it to prevent the sinew from unraveling. I burnt in rings around the shaft for style and so the whole shaft wasn't so bright. I have yet to haft a point into it. I shot it and it was pretty accurate so far.

This is the finished bark cordage that I wrote about in my earlier post. You may notice that the cordage is thicker than the picture in my earlier post. I ended up reverse wrapping it all again, which basically doubled the thickness and halved the length. This was necessary because it was too thin to be much good and I didn't do a very good job of keeping the strands of even thickness. This is now a little over 22 feet of 1/4 in rope. I'm amazed at how much I got out of the materials I gathered.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Beer Olympics 2006

Saturday I went to the Beer Olympics. This is the sixth one I've been to. The first one I went to was way back when I was working at a camp in the summer of 97. In college I hosted one each of my two senior years. I passed the torch to some other guys that hosted it the following year. Last year my coworker and friend Diane mentioned to me that she was going to have one. I gladly shared my knowledge.

This was my team, The Four Nicators (actually five of us). From left to right (Me, Lauren, Brian, Steven, Kristin) Notice the beer stained shirts. That's not sweat. We ended up getting second place overall and could've won had some things gone our way.

This is all the people from work that participated (Craig, Me, Diane, Kristin, Brian, Jamieson)

This picture is from the Keg Stand Relay event. My team got third place.

Here are all the participants. Each team member had a colored buff to wear.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bark Cordage

This weekend I met some friends in West Virginia to go white water rafting. One of the best parts of the trip was the camping. We camped two nights at a camp ground close to the rafting place. The forest was really cool. It was pretty damp and there were lots of fern plants. To me it felt like the forest planet Endor where the Ewoks lived in Return of the Jedi.

I built a fire each night we were there. The first night I was able to light it with my bow drill kit. I got a coal in less than a minute. Unfortunately no one was there to see it, because when I tried it the second night in front of the whole crowd, I couldn't get one after four tries.

Anyway, when I was gathering firewood the bark just fell off of the branches since they were so damp. I was able to get 6-7 foot long strips. Long strips are nice because when you make cordage you don't have to splice in new material as often. So far I've made about 17 ft. of rope and I've used less than 1/10th of the material.

This is some of the original material I pulled from the tree branches. From this I peeled the inner bark to make cordage.

Here is the 17 ft. of rope I've made so far. On the bottom you can see the strips of inner bark that I twist together to make the finished product.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Jackpot: Arrow Shafts

In my last post I mentioned a class I'm taking at the end of April. The class is called The Sacred Hunt. I will actually be hunting deer the way the Native Americans did. This means I'll be hunting with all natural gear. I already made a bow, but I don't currently have natural arrows. I've never made any before. I'm most worried about the arrow shafts.

The first problem is getting them. I don't really have any idea where to find them. The second problem is timing. Being summer any shafts I find now will need to dry out for many weeks before they are ready to shoot. I only have till the end of October to have them fully prepared. Another problem is making sure the spine or stiffness of the shaft will match the strength of my bow.

Last weekend I went to Broad Ripple Park (where my sit spot is) and looked around and didn't find any shafts. So yesterday (Saturday) I drove over to Eagle Creek Park to have a look around. It is a far bigger park so I figured I'd have a better chance. I ate lunch in a picnic area that was next to a wooded area. Afterwards I walked into the woods keeping my eye out for potential arrow shafts.

I didn't take long before I spotted a large shrub with a very long and straight sapling shooting up. I couldn't believe how straight and free of branches it was. I looked at the leaves and berries so that I could later identify it. I took a few moments to think and feel whether the sapling was really what I needed and when I felt confident I cut it. I continued walking around the area and found many more of these shrubs. I ended up harvesting six shafts. I cut them down to size on site. To make the most use out of the sapling, I kept the excess material to make a basket.

When I got home from the park I tried to look up the shrub in a book, but couldn't find it. Today I was in Bloomington at a Tracking Club gathering and showed my friend Kevin a picture of the leaves from the shrub. He didn't recognize it, but mentioned the possibility of Arrowwood Viburnum. Once he said that I remembered the email my brother sent me about Arrowwood a week earlier. I had the feeling that my shafts might be Arrowwood. Tonight I looked up Arrowwood and the leaves and berries both matched exactly.

So to recap, I've never harvested arrow shafts before. I went to Eagle Creek Park where I've never been before. I chose a random place to eat lunch and then wandered into the woods. There I stumbled upon shrub after shrub of Arrowwood Viburnum, a plant so good for making arrows, that it was named as such. Jackpot! The best part is that I can return there in the future and harvest more.

My six super straight shafts and the basket I started with the excess material.

My task now is to "train" the shafts to be perfectly straight by taking out the bends as they dry. Basically each day I'll bend the bends in the opposite direction and eventually they'll stay straight.

Before I left the park I decided to stop by the Nature Center. On my way in a man was walking out with an injured Great Horned Owl. He said he thought it had been hit by a car. If you look closely, you can see the lack of feathers between his eyes. He was alive, but was pretty much out of it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Green Arrow Head

Unfortunately I didn't get to demonstrate a bow drill fire for the kids at Camp Delafield because it rained the night they were supposed to have their campfire. I did a fair amount of practicing for it though. I always learn something new when I practice the bow drill. This past time I was struggling to get a coal. As I was churning away my handhold started smoking. Apparently the lubricant had worn out. Once I applied some soap to the handhold, I busted out a coal quickly since the movement was so much smoother.

I've recently been working on flintknapping. I need to make some primitive arrows for a hunting class I'm taking at the end of October. So I figured I start with making the arrow heads. So far I haven't made any arrow heads out of the obsidian rock I have, but I did make one out of some fiber optic glass. I'm still working on notching. These notches aren't very good.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Volunteering at Camp Delafield

Last Wednesday I volunteered at Camp Delafield. It is a camp conducted by the Dyslexia Institute of Indiana. The children have academic tutoring and participate in recreational activities. I spent the afternoon there as a "mystery guest". In the past they've had fireman and police officers. I was there to teach a little about wilderness survival. It was pretty cool because I got to teach whatever I wanted. I came up with a pretty cool lesson plan.

I had the kids list the things they would need in a survival situation. I expected to hear some crazy stuff, but berries, a cell phone, and a grown up were about the craziest. They were pretty smart and listed all the important ones without my help. I wrote all their ideas on a dry erase board and then ranked each one for importance.

This allowed me to cover the Sacred Order of Shelter, Water, Fire and Food. I focused on shelter since it is the most important. After covering the importance of shelter location, I described the debris hut and how to build one. I asked, "So, are you ready to go build one?" The kids got really excited and immediately got to there feet.

I led them out to a site in the woods where I had already gathered the materials for a shelter. Then we all built the shelter together. It was cool to be able to actually illustrate the points I was describing in the lecture. The kids had a really good time. I heard a lot of them refer to it as a fort which is probably why they were so interested. Unfortunately there weren't really enough leaves around to even come close to finishing the shelter, but I think they got the basic idea.

On August 3rd I plan to go back to the camp for their campfire night. My plan is to light their campfire using my bow drill. Hopefully I can also teach them a little bit about fire.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Rough River

Last weekend I went to my friend Tim's lake house in Rough River Kentucky. I was there with friends Brad and Dan. We had a great time swimming, seadooing, boating, drinking, watching movies and eating. One of the cooler things we did was jump off some cliffs. There was one cliff that was a little over 3 meters high and another that must have been at least 5 meters high. This first picture is of us arriving at the cliff area in the new boat.

Brad, Tim and Dan. Notice how sunburned Brad and Dan are. They didn't use sunblock until it was too late.

Brad and I are seen here on the lower cliff.

If you look closely, you can see me jumping off the cliff. This cliff was high enough that if you didn't point your toes your feet would hurt when you landed.

Here is a dog who can surf!

I did a little crawling around in the woods and paid the price with some chigger bites and poison ivy. Luckily it's mostly on my forearms...mostly.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Urban Scout Class

Last week I attended the Urban Scout class at the Tracker School. Going into it I wasn't sure what to expect. The class had never been taught before and I didn't know how an urban scout class would be taught in the Pine Barrens. I was pleasantly surprised with how things went.

First, we didn't repeat any of the stuff I learned in the first Scout class. We basically picked up right where we left off. At the Scout class we spent a ton of time learning how a scout team works and practicing maneuvers. This time all we did was practice as a team for a couple hours to get to know each other and to refresh ourselves on the basics. We didn't have to worry about other scouts laying traps for us. We didn't have to live in scout pits and keep someone on watch all night. It was more relaxed.

We did some interesting exercises to practice moving without causing movement or sound. One night we had an obstacle course set up around camp. Each station had a person by it who was there to detect sound and/or movement. Our goal was to get over/through/under the obstacle without causing alarm.

Here is one of the obstacles. It is a wood pile covered by a tarp. The tarp made it a lot harder because of the extra noise it makes and because it blinds you to the instability of the wood underneath.

Another obstacle was to get into and back out of the back of a vehicle without the driver and/or passenger noticing. This meant you had to be low enough to not be seen in the rear view mirror and you had to get in and out slowly enough so the people couldn't feel the vehicle sinking/rising.

These and the other obstacles were a really good workout. The amount of energy it took to control my body for extended periods of time was astounding. It was especially hard when I had to exert myself and then control my breathing so it wouldn't be heard.

Another exercise we did was to open a toolbox and remove everything inside without making any noise. To make things more difficult we were blindfolded and couldn't talk to our partner. This box had an 8 ft rusty chain inside which made it difficult. The exercise gave me the feeling I was disarming a bomb.

We also learned some interesting uses of rope in a combat situation. We were taught a cool knot for making handcuffs. Hopefully I'll never have to use that knot.

The night that I arrived I was very happy to find out that we would in fact be going on some urban missions. Our first mission out of camp was to go into a nearby park and recon the buildings inside. The added risk was that there was a security guard that patrolled the park and police officers were known to drive by. What made it more risky was that we were not allowed to use primitive camouflage. As you can see in this picture, with primitive camouflage on you can become almost invisible day or night.

It was fun exploring the park having to stick to the shadows. In the woods, there is so much cover that you can get to if someone is coming. In the urban environment you've got some shrubs, trees, benches, and the shadows they cast. That's about it. There are also motion sensor floodlights, mirrors and video cameras to contend with. Obviously there are a lot more people around too which makes it all very difficult.

The two other nights we went out were to a Boy Scout camp down the road. One night there were boy scouts actually in the camp. Little did they know that there were about 60 scouts in amongst them. I didn't actually get into too much action when the boy scouts were around, but the other night was fun. At one point my buddy and I were crawling along the grass next to a parking lot on the right. We were right under a street light so there was no shadow. The ground was slanted so we couldn't be seen from the left. I whispered to him, "as long as no one comes from the right we should be ok." About 10 seconds later, car lights come on ahead of us. Luckily there was one car still in the lot blocking the car from seeing us. My friend ran in a crouch up to the car for cover and I slinked into the shadow the headlights cast on the pole of the street light. The car drove right by us without stopping. It was pretty exciting. I had to just trust that a normal unaware person would not notice me in the shadow.

Here is my team before our first mission.

To close, I have a funny story to tell. Today at work I was headed to the break room. To make my day more interesting, I was practicing walking quietly kind of pretending I was on a scout mission. So I opened and closed the doors to the stairwell without making noise. I used a technique for looking around a corner and seeing someone before he sees you. Since I wasn't being too serious I did it way too fast to be affective. So who was around the corner? None other than the CEO of the company. He totally caught me peeking around the corner. He said something like, "What are you doing there peeking around the corner, Pinger? Are you trying to be a spy or James Bond or something?" As we walked by each other he went on and on about it and I just laughed and said something stupid like, "I'm just making sure I'm not going to get jumped." That was the only time I've ever been caught doing something like that and it had to be the damn CEO that caught me. :)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

My Hawaii Trip Part 3

I didn't get to go camping in Hawaii like I'd hoped, but that didn't stop me from playing with the local flora and fauna. There were so many plants with long blade-like leaves. Every time I looked at them I wanted to make cordage. You can see how I did this in my previous post about making cordage from yucca leaves. I tested a few different types of leaves. Some were definitely too weak to be much good, but I was able to make a decent piece of cordage from one type I found at the beach.

While I was in Hawaii, I finished the bow I made for Jon. It was a little difficult to get it down to it's final weight because I didn't have a scale to determine the draw weight. My target weight was between 50-55 lbs and the only way I could really tell was from comparing it to what I remember my bow feeling like. That and I also shot the 50-55 lbs spined arrows to see how they flew. I think the bow may be a little heavy, but it shot pretty well. I put 4 of 6 arrows through a beer can from 15 yards. The bow is made from Osage wood. I finished the handle by wrapping it in leather and adding an arrow rest.

We set up a little range on the side of Jon's house. It was fun to shoot unopened Diet Pepsi cans. They had a case of them and no one at the house drinks diet.

Before I left for Hawaii, I made earrings and a necklace for Carrie. All three pieces of jewelry had a knapped piece of colored glass as the focal point. Here you can see the earrings with light blue arrow heads. I don't have a picture of the necklace, but it has an orange arrow head that matches Carrie's hair.

This was a cat trap Uncle Sam had in his front yard. There are lots of wild cats on Maui. I'm not sure what he does with them when he catches them. I don't think I want to know.

My last night there Uncle Moe came by after hunting that morning. He showed us the crazy guns he has. One was a cross between a rifle and a hand gun if you can picture that. He also showed us the mountain goat he killed that morning. He said he took it down from 173 yards. It's pretty big for the area.

Sunday I will start my 7th class at the Tracker School. This time it will be the Urban Scout class. I'm not totally sure what to expect since the class has never been taught before. I'll be sure to post something when I get back.