The adventure continues on our journey to become Registered Maine Guides! Our next step was an outdoor class day with Alice’s Awesome Adventures and other Guides in Training (GIT’s). We covered a lot of ground (literally) with topics including compass and navigation, outdoor survival, and learning about different cross country ski and snowshoe types. Joining us was newly Registered Maine Guide Tina, who offered a lot of helpful insight and added fun to the day!
You can’t choose the weather
Luckily it was raining for a good portion of the day so we got the full Maine outdoor experience. We had the opportunity to try and draw a map in the rain, then navigate terrain while taking compass bearings and measuring distances. I was happy I remembered to bring my rain gear! We learned the difference between steps and paces- a pace is actually two steps, and I had always thought it was one. Alice set up cones 200′ apart and we paced them out to learn how long our pace is. Mine is almost exactly 5′, which is convenient for someone who isn’t a math whiz!
Staying on course
Alice taught us how to work around objects and terrain you can’t walk through, like ponds and bogs, while still keeping your bearing. She set up a course using landmarks and we took bearings and measured distances by pacing some to see how accurate we were with the compass and our paces. I discovered that not standing directly in front of an object when taking a bearing can significantly alter your course. And when you give a compass bearing, always say degrees magnetic!
Guide coffee and a camping wok
At lunch time Tina fired up the alcohol stove she had made. I’ve never seen one before, but will be making a YouTube video soon on how to make one! It was the most lightweight, compact stove I have ever seen, and it was fun to watch her roast walnuts and make Guide Coffee over it. Chris brought his trusty 30 year old camping wok and made us an amazing stir-fry, and Henry tried out his new BioLite twig stove to cook vegetables.
After lunch Alice brought out her collection of snowshoes and showed us how a cross-country ski is different from a downhill ski. I have only downhill skied once and have never cross-country skied, so it was interesting to learn the differences. Snowshoeing is another type of outdoor recreation that I am not familiar with but have always wanted to learn. Alice explained the differences and purpose of each snowshoe. It looks like a new pair of snowshoes are in my near future, depending on the weather this winter! I really could have used a pair of snowshoes a few winters ago just to get to the car!
We then practiced more search and rescue using a compass, and tried to find a small piece of flagging tape on the ground using a grid search pattern. We also reacted to random medical emergencies throughout the day. After the grid search Alice gave us 20 minutes to go build shelters big enough for two people, using only what we found in nature and had with us in our packs. Many of the shelters were quite clever; we had some resourceful people in our group!
Fire starting challenge
Alice loves to challenge GIT’s. Next we had seven minutes to go into the woods and find what we could to start a fire. I grabbed white birch bark, pine needles, pine cones and small twigs. We were given three minutes to try and get a fire started in the wind and rain using only a flint. It was much harder than I thought it would be, especially since I had never used a flint before. I definitely need to practice! Most of us were unable to start a fire with just the flint. I learned a neat technique from Chris, who was able to start his fire quickly. He pulverized white birch bark to get “birch dust,” which is highly flammable. As long as you have the right material to go with the dust, you will have a successful fire in no time!
Despite the wind and rain we all had a fantastic day. We made a new friend and enjoyed our continued journey of learning the skills to become a Registered Maine Guide. The next step? Back to the books to learn more skills and working with Alice to fill in the gaps. Stay tuned!