Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pathfinder System Basics Class - Part 4

The morning of the third day came with a nice autumn chill. I got up around 0630 and one of the other students (Bearded One) had the fire already going. It was nice to see someone else getting it going even though I don't mind at all. Already some of the other students had figured out that the firewood doesn't just appear there like magic and had started gathering themselves. Breakfast on this last full day was trail mix and coffee.

The first lesson of the day dealt with edible and medicinal plants. We learned about some of the different kinds and how to prepare them, then walked around the meadows and found a few varieties. There are a lot of useful plants out there.

The next lesson was tracking and we learned about the many different ways animals leave evidence of their presence around. We took a hike through the grounds and found various tracks of the local game.

Traps was next and after seeing some demonstrations from Dave and Critr, we each set out to make three of our own. I borrowed some bank line and before long had three traps done. The instructors came and evaluated each, giving tips and tricks to make them successful.

I had dug out my GPS on this day and marked a couple way points as we walked around for later use when I downloaded the info to my computer. It was cool looking at a topo map of the land and seeing where the different caves and camp are.

I went to the car again to see if I could send a text to Lisa and saw lots of Touchdown texts waiting for me. It looked like the Steelers were kicking ass and later I found out, they were.

The last lesson of this day was going to be processing meat. Critr had brought 3 domestic rabbits and groups dispatched and dressed the meat for dinner. For our group, I suggested we stew the rabbit in a pot I had and it came out really good. We spit a couple pieces too and everyone enjoyed fresh cooked rabbit and lots of good fellowship. I used the juice from the stew and made some noodles later. It was very tasty.

As bedtime approached I had improved my shelter once more by bringing my sleeping bag for the last night. I slept pretty good this night and around midnight, it started raining again. It was a slow steady rain and you could tell it was going to stick around for a while. Around 0630 I looked out of my shelter and saw the fire was already going. This time Quiet Karl had got the fire going and it was already to go.

We all started to break camp and the last lessons of the class were how to make a rabbit stick and gig spear. We all took some pictures and a couple of us bought Dave's book and that was it.

I headed back to Pittsburgh in the rain, looking forward to a hot shower and some fresh clothes.

All in all it was a good class. There were a few things I wish were a little different, but it was a basics class and the price was very reasonable. I had a good time and learned a lot of good information.

I continue to practice what I learned and within a week I was able to get my own fire going using the bow drill at home. I keep building my different kits and even have a close by Personal Space (PS) that is a fun place to hang out and make a fire and practice Bushcraft skills.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pathfinder System Basics Class - Part 3

The rain continued off an on through the night. It was still quite warm when we all went to our shelters, so I used my wool blanket as a pillow and the fleece liner as a blanket. That worked for most of the night, but early in the morning it cooled off somewhat, so I had to use the wool blanket and then had no pillow. Shortly after hearing an owl announce itself I could see that dawn was approaching so I gathered some dry tinder from under my shelter and used some of the parts from my bow drill set to create some kindling.

I went to the fire area and prepared the site and Critr came over and lit up a smoke. I used his lighter to light my cotton ball and before long we had our morning fire going. Breakfast was MRE coffee and bread.

After breakfast, Dave gave us a run down on the day's events, but I misheard them. I took a walk up the valley and started looking for a good place to make a shelter later. I also wanted to get my piece of sycamore that I had used as a baton and part of my bow drill set. I came back to see the group already checking out everyone's shelters. We worked around to the hammocks and other shelters and I realized I wasn't there for my shelter review. I apologized to Dave and he came back to mine to give his review. It was very positive and I was glad I had made the shelter I had. Dave had given me a piece of advice to hold up the middle to keep water out of the poncho hood and it had proved helpful throughout the night's rain.

We headed to the cave and learned about shelters then into the woods for some demonstrations. We then put it to practice and in groups of four each made a debris shelter of our own. My group did head to where I had scouted and we made a nice shelter of sticks and leaves.

After lunch (where Dave handed out a lot of free goodies) we checked out each shelter and Dave and Critr critiqued each. All the shelters were good and it was a great learning experience.

The next lesson was cordage. Each team had to make 5 feet of cordage using natural materials. Brian, my partner was very experienced in doing this and we used the local yucca plants to as a perfect material to make our cordage. We each made about 5 feet of cord and the instructors were impressed with how they came out. Everyone had some good examples with using the local fauna to make cordage. This reinforced the need to carry the stuff with you to avoid having to make it.

The last lesson of the day was natural navigation. We covered a lot of ways to find direction and compass points. Most of it I was familiar with, but as always I learned a thing or two.

We settled back into camp and got the night's cook fire going. I decided to head into the nearby Walmart to get some food as my MREs were almost gone and I wanted a little change of pace since this was just a beginnner's class.

I drove into the nearby town and of course it was the last day of some festival and all the roads were blocked because of a parade. I finally got there and picked up some noodles, chicken and trail mix and traded a few texts with Lisa to update each other. I got back to camp around dark and we had a good time around the fire.

This night was a little colder. I had decide to improve my camp each night so after class I took my garbage bag into the woods and brought some leaves back to soften the ground some. I also made a pillow from some clothes and the stuff sack for the fleece liner and made everything up nice. I slept pretty good the second night, even though it was a little colder. A coyote howled just across the creek and up the ridge some early in the morning. It was cool.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pathfinder System Basics Class - Part 2

We arrived at the school site and pulled into a gravel driveway that led to an open field. We all parked in the field and started unloading. The field led westward into a small meadow, crossed a creek and into some woods with high ridges on each side.

When we got to the meadow, Dave told us to set up camp here if we had a tent or a bivy and the hammock guys were to set up in the woods across the creek. We set about finding a good place to set up. I had a military poncho which I wanted to try setting up in a lean-to fashion. I found a couple small trees near the creek side of the meadow on flat ground and set about setting up the poncho lean-to using bungies and freshly made stick tent stakes.

After everyone was set up, we took a little tour of the land. The path basically followed a creek (actually a slew from the mining times) and we got to see the caves of the school. There was one I called the trail cave. We just used it to walk to the classroom cave where we had most of our classes. These caves are man made from some sort of mining operation and are pretty cool. We also got to see the wet cave and a pond on the property. We walked some of the trails to learn the lay of the land and ended up at the classroom cave.
We had a class on fire making and a demonstration by Steve "Critr" Davis who showed us how hard it is to find wood, fashion it into a bow drill set and get an ember from your efforts. Only one of was successful in getting an ember, but we all learned a lot and from there we had a fire to learn our next lesson, char cloth. We all used our containers and made char cloth and that was it for class for day one.
We all headed back to camp and during a lull I had started to gather fire wood for First Fire. Dave had mentioned we would have a fire in the meadow which was just a bunch of grass. I picked a nice level area and started getting some rocks from the dry parts of the creek bed. Bill (Doc), one of the other students, helped me gather stones and before long we hand a nice hearth and some tinder ready to go. I used my fire steel and a cotton ball to make the fire and before long we were cooking our dinners and gathering in fellowship.

Shortly after dusk, it started raining lightly and before long we had all abandoned the fire for our shelters for the first night. Day 1 was done.

Pathfinder System Basics Class - Part 1

I finally made the decision to take one of Dave Canterbury's Pathfinder Survival Classes. Dave's classes are by far the most affordable and it looked like what I had been searching for for quite some time. Dave offers two classes; a basic and advanced. I signed up for the Pathfinder System Basics Class.

I had been doing some on-line research and found that Dave and others have a very large library of YouTube videos that do a lot of teaching on a lot of subjects. I started watching some and trying out a few things. I started buying the things I had been wanting for a while and finally got them off my to-do list.

Before I knew it, I had a new Mora knife, two ALICE packs, lots of parachute cord and quite a bit of other stuff. I had built my 10 piece kit and it had about 50 pieces.

I had signed up for the September 24-27 class in South East Ohio. I was ready to go.

The website and some of the communications with Dave and his family left a few things fuzzy and I had expected some kind of email or letter with final details that never came. Luckily Dave responds to emails pretty quickly when he isn't in the bush killing alligators and such. I had met a couple other students on Facebook and we compared notes and headed to the right spot on the right day at the right time.

The class location was a good seven plus hours from my home in MD, so I drove to Pittsburgh the day before class started and visited with the family. At 0230 Friday morning, I got up and headed to OH. It took about three and a half hours to get to the rest stop meeting place and I was there with plenty of time to spare.

I immediately started recognizing other students and we introduced ourselves and started getting to know each other. Before long Dave and his wife Iris arrived in his truck. We all signed a liability release, had a short safety brief and then we made a caravan to the school site about 10 miles away. Our adventure had begun...

Thursday, September 23, 2010


I have decided to use this blog to chart my journey into self-reliance. My work continues in a good direction, and that is good, but I want to write about what possesses me currently and that is survivability and self reliance. I have been a survivalist for a very long time, not the crazy eyed, shoot first, eat you later type, but the type that wants to always be ready for any situation and revels in being prepared for whatever shit hits whatever fan.

I have always loved the outdoors and being in nature is a natural thing for me. I have been hoping to attend a commercial survival school for quite some time and when I discovered Dave Canterbury and his Pathfinder School, I knew I had found my solution.

All the schools I had been monitoring and dreaming about were out in the desert Midwest and I really wanted to try something closer to my current home and in the environment I was used to; the eastern woodlands.

After seeing Dual Survivor on the Discovery Channel and doing some research on Dave Canterbury, I knew that I had found the right system and school for me.

I grew up camping and doing things outdoors. My brothers and I have spent many a time out and about in nature doing things like hiking, camping and hunting. I have always liked reeking of wood smoke and having dirt under my fingernails. I still marvel when someone asks me what poison ivy looks like as I thought that was the first thing you learned when you ventured into the outdoors.

I plan to chronicle my latest adventures into survivability and self reliance on these pages and maybe someone will actually read them.

Take care for now,