A Reverence for Tradition

In today’s times, there seems to be a lack of, or ever-fading, reverence for tradition. This is the case with regard to a variety of customs and ways in which things were once done. Technology, armed with a modern way of thinking, always evolving and pushing the pace, is essentially drowning out traditions that were once handed down from generation to generation. Again, you can apply this to most things nowadays, but I want to refer to something specific here, as it applies to something that a good many of us still enjoy.

The Outdoors

I can remember when I was my son’s age, now 6 and soon to be 7. The woods and waters were always a magical place for me. Coming from a large family on my mom’s side of 13 children, I had 8 uncles and 4 aunts to be exact. If I recall, there was only one uncle that wasn’t into hunting and fishing at the time, but he had done it earlier on as well. And so the traditions began. We always went to my grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas, carrying on traditions that would last decades. We would always go out hunting on Thanksgiving, coming back to the house with at least a couple of deer in tow, and perhaps even a couple of grouse. Watching my uncles and cousins skin them out and process the meat, typically with a fillet knife, was the norm. Eagerly watching and learning from them, I’d hoped that I would someday do the same myself. And that’s exactly how it is playing out. I now take my son out hunting, fishing and trapping some. He reminds me of when I was his age, watching and taking things in like a sponge. There’s a true fire in his eyes, and a strong desire for learning. For such a young lad, that’s impressive in its own right. I hope that someday he continues this with his children, carrying on an O’l tradition. I’m not too sure how many others in the family still get out and do this kind of thing, as I said, traditions tend to fade away over the years. Folks get older and get away from it, or are not able to do it anymore, and the new generation, having no desire to follow suite. I’m certainly thankful for all of those years, as they are some of my fondest memories, traditions, that I hope to keep alive.

The Maine Guide

The Maine Guide traditions are not dissimilar to my own story, though mine came long after theirs of course. Prior to March 19, 1897, where the state of Maine passed legislation requiring Guides to be licensed, the traditions began. The early European settlers used Natives to guide them through the wilderness and show them the ways of the woods and waters. After a time of this, the settlers became guides themselves, having the uncanny ability to read the landscape of the forest (being a good many of them were into the logging industry), hunt game and fish the waterways with remarkable success. Post industrial revolution, where most of the Northeast became less forested (with the exception of Maine), the Maine Guide became an icon for his/her knowledge for such wild places that still offered a tranquil escape from the fast-paced world. Years passed and the traditions were passed from father to son, father to son and so on. Like most traditions, these too seem to be fading to a degree. Perhaps due to the technological advances in equipment and gear, the simple lack of interest in carrying them on, or the possibility of not having anyone else to pass them on to. Another thing, through personal observation and opinion, that I think adds to this diminishing of traditional outdoor life for the Guide, is folks not understanding just what they do and have to offer. Again, the new age of technology and internet has questionably put the blinders on to just what an experience can be had with one of these prestigious tradition bearers. Of course not all guides carry these things on, but there are some that still do. I would encourage anyone to find one of these folks and embark on a most memorable experience.

So what do they do?

There are many things that a Maine Guide does. There are 5 different classifications in which they can be licensed to guide. Hunting, fishing, recreation, tide-water-fishing and sea-kayaking is what they are. So there are certain things that come with, or should come with, each category as far as what the guide does for you. Lets take one to talk about here briefly.

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So as a guide, in the classification of recreation we’ll use, what does the guide do pertaining to a canoe trip? I can assure you it is much more than putting folks in a boat and paddling a lake or floating down a river, though that’s all some folks believe it entails. The guide will (or should) have a good working knowledge of the area that they are bringing folks to, be it a water way in this case, or afield. Being they have experience in this place is only the beginning. There are still a lot of other things that go into a trip. There is safety of the clients, at the forefront. And then there are all the little details that go unseen in most cases in the public eye. The ability to provision food and cook for groups over an open fire, and for multiple meals on multiple days. I’m talking about good food, not your dehydrated meals in a bag. The skills and knowledge of canoeing, and being able to share that with clients in a way that they can get the safest, most memorable experience that they can is but yet another quality trait that the guide possesses. Reading white water, paddling techniques, covering and explaining safety concerns such as strainers and what to do if a rescue needs to take place are all things the guide brings to the table. Discussing not only the water they are on, but the mammals and other things on the land that most would just paddle by, are also a testament to the guide’s experience, and why they are unique to have around on trips. Catching a native fish and doing a traditional shore-lunch (as discussed in our last post) makes for an even greater learning experience and again would perhaps be lost if not for the guide.

Making sure the clients are comfortable is also most important to the guide. This is accomplished by sharing in the experience with them and making sure they are enjoying their time. It also comes by way of full bellies from good guide cooking traditions. The guide, typically the last to bed and first to rise in the morning, makes sure the coffee and breakfast are on and this is a daily ritual that often goes unnoticed as well.

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Why do I need a guide?

Truth be told, you don’t need a guide. You can simply get in your boat and do all of these things we have discussed on your own. Lots of folks do it all the time. Every year however, you see and hear in the news how someone took on a trip that was way above their skill level or know-how. Maybe this is due to being unfamiliar with the area, having little-to-no experience, or simply out there because they can. It’s nice to see that a lot of them typically make it through these instances, maybe with just a couple of bumps and bruises and perhaps a shot to their ego. But that is not always the case, and some, never to go on another trip. So you don’t need a guide per-se, but I can’t tell you how invaluable they can be, and what a greater, safer experience they can afford you. Maybe it was a good thing there was one around in this case. Not to put fault on anyone, as these things happen, but how good it is to know that there is someone there with experience to help you out if needs be.

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Carry on the traditions

Many guides today have started and carried on their own traditions, and that too is a good thing. It is my hope that I can continue to pass down some of the older ones and keep them alive and well for future generations to enjoy, so they too, can pass them down. I have come up with a couple of my own traditions as well, that I enjoy, but it is the reverence for traditions of old, which I truly hold in high regard. So get out there, take part in the old ways, the old traditions, and pass them onto your family and friends. Create your own as well, and see that they make a lasting impression on folks for years to come.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Pot, Calling the Kettle Black

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Something that I have seen over the past few years that gives me a good laugh is, yup, the pot calling the kettle black. Maybe it’s not the best of idioms to use here, but let me explain what I mean here in a minute. This has been, and is,  quite a talked about topic in the Bushcraft and Survival communities. You can find it all over peoples blogs and even some websites ran by the “experts”. Not only can you find it in those places, but you can typically see it across social media on all levels by some of their followers, that stand fast on their guru being the only one who could be qualified.

So the topic you ask? It is people wanting to know what other’s credentials are with regards to teaching. Maybe more specifically, what qualifies them to be teaching Bushcraft or Survival skills. It seems nowadays, that if you haven’t been on television, or written a few books, that you couldn’t possibly have what it takes to teach this stuff. The television folks really crack me up. Get a bit of publicity, and they are somehow the voice and pinnacle of “Qualified Instructors”. To be put on television, and in most cases, in a scripted scenario, hardly makes you qualified in my book. Even if the scenarios are not scripted, it is still television and is strategically and professionally edited to get the intended outcome, drama. So do One thing cool, and you are an expert! The world probably didn’t see all the nonsense that was edited out. Now I’m not taking away from the fact that there have been some good shows, I like to watch them too. And some of these folks are pretty crafty and entertaining, but qualified to teach, or experts? I would beg to differ…..but that’s just me. I would say that makes them, at a minimum a celebrity perhaps, not the authority on teaching.

Upon leaving the TV scene, some of these folks have created schools, and profess to be the voice and reason of the two communities. Maybe they had schools before TV, though not hardly as successful as they would like you to believe, I can assure you. So now they have the public eye, and pitch to everyone how they are more qualified to teach this stuff than anyone else. Yet, they started just like everyone else. Their television experience has somehow put them at a higher level than you. While you were living it, doing research perhaps, practicing in the field and so on, they became far more experienced by shooting a television show? Again, I would tend to think otherwise, but that’s just me.

Writing a few books gets somewhat of the same effect as the television scene, though obviously not as much. So writing about your experiences, or doing research to write your own conglomeration of things also makes you an “expert”, or better than everyone else with regards, again, to teaching this stuff? Because you have written about the topics, makes your credentials to teach it, greater? I would tend to disagree here as well. I would say that makes you a writer, not the authority on teaching.

Newsflash, being on television or having written your own books does not make you a teacher or an authority on the matter when it comes to teaching Bushcraft or Survival skills. Being able to teach folks, in a way that allows them to grasp the information, and in such a way that they can then use it, or even teach it themselves, makes you a good teacher. Adding in that the information is relevant, accurate and promotes safety, would also be good to note.

So why does this happen? Well, there are a lot of reasons for this, but here are a few. Monetary competition, ego, marketing and the likes all play a big part in this, as well as trying to be the best out there (which is not entirely bad, but is when you have to knock others to try and do so). Being a “Legend” or “Expert”, aren’t tags that you can ever give yourself, they are given to you by others.

So I guess the short of the long is, worry about yourself and not what others are doing, or trying to do (wise words by my Mom some years ago). Don’t feel the need to bash or belittle other schools or folks for trying to do what you do, because you started out just like they did. I know a gentlemen who has done all of the above with regards to TV, books, has a Masters degree in education and more, but you never hear of any of that from him, and he has been successful for the last couple of decades, far longer than any of the newer, self-proclaimed experts.

Rant complete.

Here is a great article that is worth your time and goes along with this pretty well: http://www.jackmtn.com/simplog/living-the-life/

 

 

 

Winter Wonderland Scout

I went for a late afternoon scout about my 40 to see what all was out there. It seemed I was the only dummy to be walking around the new snow covered woods. No tracks or sign of life besides me and the trees. Its still a magical time to be out walking the woods. A light snow still falling to add to the 4-5 inches of fresh, white-covered landscape. We got about 4-5 inches overnight, and then sleet for most the day which gave way into another light flurry. So amazing to see the trackless woodlands, with the crisp 15* air chilling your face as you tramp through.

Nearing the end of my journey, I came across another fellow that was sharing this frosty experience with me. Lets see if you can guess by the tracks, who or what he is. Both sets of tracks are coming towards you and you can see the glare from the light flurries.

Can you tell by the swooping pattern his feet make, what it is?

He is a little fellow, among three that I see here quite often on the property. I got within 3-4 feet of him before he noticed me. I wish I had the camera to take some video of him as he is pretty neat to see up close.

There he is, my little buddy the porcupine. Seems he enjoys the winter weather as much as I do!

What Survival/Bushcraft School Should I Go To?

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Picking an outdoor school to attend nowadays can be both easy, due to the abundance of them, as well as a pretty difficult decision, and for the very same reason. Here are some things I would consider, and also possibly disregard if it were me looking.

As mentioned above, there are just so many schools to pick from. What I would consider personally, when trying to find the right one, are several factors.

What does the school teach?

The very first thing, that may seem obvious, is what does the school teach/offer for courses and classes. Do they offer what I am looking to learn or gain from the experience? Due to the abundance of schools, and the community in general, a lot of them teach and offer the very same things. The difference in them may be the angle they are teaching it from, or their curriculum specifically. I need to decide which best fits my goals, with the following things in mind.

Is it affordable?

Another obvious factor would be what is their price tag, and maybe more important, is it worth it to me for what I am intending on getting out of it? Well, if my answer is no, I would stop here and find another school. If the cost is affordable and I like what they have to offer, than there are some other things to look at as well. If the school is close enough to commute to, or cheap enough to get to, without adding a lot more money to the price tag, than that’s a good thing obviously. If the course or class is a couple hundred dollars and I’m ok with that, but the commute would add hundreds more….maybe there is another school closer that would balance this out, without giving in a bunch to the other factors that must be considered.

Are they properly staffed for their allowable class limits?

If I am going to take a course/class and there is a 20-30 student limit, I need to know they are staffed to deal with this. The last thing I want is to go to a school to learn something, and they not have the time to teach me what they advertised they were going to, due to being under-staffed. I’m not the type that needs a bunch of one on one instruction (though it is great if you can get it), but I need to know the staff can provide this if needed. If I am lagging behind in a specific area, will they help me along so that it is achieved, or will I be left to fall to the way side? That is a big deal to me, and should be to you too.

Safety and Insurance?

Is the program run with safety as the highest priority? Again, that is, or should be a big deal! I don’t want to be someone’s guinea pig for a good idea they may have had. Safety should concern how to go about the different aspects of the program they are teaching, with the utmost safety precautions for me in mind. Moving on to insurance…

Insurance wouldn’t necessarily be a show-stopper for me. This has been brought up in the past by a few other schools, and much a marketing tool for them. I can’t say I blame them for that, as carrying insurance for your school, and more specifically, your clients/students, is a good thing. However, I don’t pay so much attention to that as I feel I need to use common sense and good judgment to keep myself safe. If I were to be told to do something completely unsafe, I feel it is up to me to bring that to their attention and not partake. So being that insurance is not a show-stopper for me, I would go on to say that it should certainly be considered when looking for a reputable school who has a certain interest in the welfare of their students. This shows, to a degree, that they care about You, and not just the money they are making.

In conclusion:

At the end of the day, it is totally your choice of which school you want to go to. But I feel these criteria that I laid out should be what you ask yourself at a minimum. If the questions asked can’t be answered in a simple way, maybe you need to look elsewhere. I hope you found this post helpful, and use your best judgment on picking a school that ensures you are getting what you want from them. Best wishes, and remember…..Some lessons can’t be taught, only learned through experience.

 

 

Frostbite Challenge Pictures

Frostbite Challenge Pictures

Hard to tell by the pictures, but we got a pretty good spell of snow. Just a dusting in the end, but 22 degrees and 30mph winds kept it interesting. Some pork chop sandwiches in the stamped steel pan were a hit and much needed before bed. Everyone did a great job, and we were happy to have you here!

The new Jack Mountain Expedition Tent was set up for emergencies and also to act as the guide shack so we could stay rested and do our rounds throughout the night for safety. The tent is amazing!

Survival Generalizations, and What They Mean to You

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In the Survival community, it is pretty common to see a bunch of Generalizations thrown around. This is no discredit really to the folks doing it, as it is hard to be specific when trying to teach or show things to the World. We all know there are certainly different bio-regions that all have uniquely different resources available for use. So what’s my point?

My point is that it is very difficult for the “end user”, you, to fully understand anything that is shown in a youtube video, written in a blog or a book, or certainly what you have seen on TV. Sure the “general idea” can be understood, but there is more to it than that in most cases.

Let’s take for instance the shelter pictured above. It is a pretty common shelter that is depicted in many survival books, youtube videos, television shows etc. Having built probably dozens of these over the years (this one by students of mine), I understand, at least in my geographic location, what it can and can’t do for me. I have built them with various different materials and spent nights and/or days living in them in different seasons. This is where you make your money, and get to fully understand this type of shelter, by “doing”.

I have made many debris type shelters over the years as well. One of them was the “spider shelter” that I made videos on. Though at first glance it appears to be a great shelter (and im not saying it is a bad one), there are things about it that you just can’t comprehend by watching a video or reading about it. The videos or books don’t show how that over time, they hold moisture, on the inside of them. Yes they are water proof if built correctly, and they are extremely warm. But over time, they are Wet on the inside! That is not a good thing.

On another note, I have read over the years, and heard folks say what you need to do when it comes to hydration. I have heard and seen a lot of generalizations when it comes to this topic as well. Anywhere from a quart a day to a gallon. So which is it? Well, that is all relative of course, but how do you know what works for you? Right, you must find out for yourself by “doing”. No different than any other topic when it comes to survival.

I have a good friend that said something really interesting. He said, “it is easy to build something that looks like a shelter, but does it keep you dry, warm, and offer you a good nights sleep? It is easy to build what looks like snowshoes, but do they allow you to walk on top of the snow, and do they hold up over time?”

These points are what I am talking about in this thread. So again, no fault of anyone who is teaching or sharing knowledge and skills, but you have to keep in mind that there is usually a lot more behind any given topic or skill. You Must “Do It” for yourself to understand what you need specifically, and what works for you.

So the biggest take away from this should be, what do you need to get a good nights sleep? To stay hydrated? To keep warm? To carry with you depending on skill level? etc… The only way to know is “by doing”.