Tag Archives: tent

Day Seven….Heading in to Olympia

Day Seven….hard to believe we have been on the road for a week. Having the ability to sleep in on Lopez Island and use it as a base was a good option. The island is very friendly and a far cry from the hustle and bustle of San Juan Island. It was also great to let my guard down and not worry about bears for a change on this trip. Instead there is an infestation of rabbits.

I really want to understand more about how this place has become a safe haven for the bunny population. Its seems there are no natural predators, never saw a single sign of coyote, fox, or even feral cat. Hawks and eagles were spotted, but not in enough numbers to diminish the population.

We did venture to San Juan island for a few hours. To ferry the Jeep over it cost about $24 for a round trip ticket. Once on the ground we decided to find sea food. With limited parking, dogs in tow, and a tight budget, finding a spot was difficult. We eventually wound up at a grill on the main drag. We picked up an order of crab sliders, beef sliders, and some sweet potato frys. The tab still came in around $40, but it made the wife happy….so I was happy.

We cruised around to the state park area to do whale watching. We had to buy a discovery pass, which is required for all Washington parks. A trip to the gift shop and $30 later we had a pass for the year, we will never use again. Glad I could chip in….

We saw a few porpoises but no whales. Still a good trip. We headed back to the docks, parked the rig in line, then used the two hours to walk around with my wife.

In our early dating life, we often hung out in harbor and inlet towns. Often she would tag-along when I was doing a class or working a wreck. After long hours of working a dive, I would decompress with her walking allot of the shops in places like Barnagate, Strathmere, and Long Beach Island. It was good to shop with her again. I even got real seafood. While she watched a glass artist, I scored BBQ clams. I slurped down two baseball-sized crustaceans while she looked on in horror.

Today it was on to Olympia to see Melissa’s cousin. This put us on the only interstate we have done on this trip (except 95….but its a two-lane road anyway). Going through Seattle was a nightmare. I was pretty shaken by the time we checked into a cheap motel for showers and down time.

At Kelly’s the pups had an opportunity to run free. Kelly has three young women who rent rooms, all highly intellectual and very conversational. We talked travel, lifestyle, education, environmental issues, and raising meat rabbits, etc.

More later….time to crash…..
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Terrible Tarping

Tarping is a lost art for so many reasons- and I have not pushed my daughter or my team to be experts at this critical survival skill

Tarping is a lost art for so many reasons- and I have not pushed my daughter or my team to be experts at this critical survival skill

It’s my fault.

We were in the woods this weekend practicing skills and learning or refining techniques for many of the things we teach. I was working on making a bowl with hot coals and a freshly cut round, and Abby worked on her fire skills. I decided to have Abby put up a tarp. This is something I have had her practice several times. It looked horrible. Stakes came un-stuck, the thing flopped in the wind, and if it had rained, she would have been soaked.

Teaching good tarping techniques is challenging at best. First, it is time consuming. Second it’s not a “cool skill” like making fire. Students get bored quickly and instructors get frustrated. However, it is a critical survival skill that gets overlooked. For one reason or another, building a shelter doesn’t appeal to most outdoorsman. Most (mistakenly) think they can build a shelter that would sustain them in bad weather. I can attest to a good shelter saving my skin on more than one occasion. A good shelter will keep you out of the rain and snow and is a fallback if everything else goes wrong, such as inability to get a fire going.

We have raised kids in an era where building forts is no longer cool. Even if it was, access to trees, roaming around after school on abandoned lots, and the over-protective nature (as compared to 30 years ago) puts kids in a disadvantage when it comes to constructing shelter. I don’t even teach it in most of my seminars and shove off to Dan or Travis at our day camp.

To really understand how to tarp well, you have to put one up on a regular basis. You have to do it when there is rain and snow. I had my best tarping students when I was an instructor for ground combat and survival training in Germany (where it always rains) and later at Ft Dix (where it rained and snowed). Here students were motivated to stay dry and comfortable and I was motivated to not write up a safety report for a kid going into hypothermia.

Here is where I failed.

  • I have had Abby set up her tarp using neatly set T-Post to simulate trees. Then she goes to the field where the trees are not so neatly set up. Different sizes, spacing, shapes, etc.
  • I have had Abby set up on flat ground, without 4 inches of pine needles or loose top soil.
  • I have had Abby set up with nice tent stakes and not make her own using her knife and thumb-sized pine branches.

I admit, in my own courses where I am often asked to teach at a school, or park, or other “pristine” location I have had to come up with my own simulated trees- thus the T-Post. I also admit that teaching students in the perfect conditions has been part of our practice. But this is changing as of today.

  • Abby’s tarp training will get re-launched immediately. She will learn how to cut her own stakes and putting up a tarp will be a regular routine. I will carry this over to my classes and when we have to drop T-Post to simulate trees, they won’t be so evenly spaced.
  • Trees will be planted at our base camp for the purpose of training tarping. It will take a few years to grow- but we need the landscaping anyway.
  • Tarping and shelter building will return as a vital skill to all our training.
  • All of my instructors along with myself will add this to our skill practice time- and will explore new ways to teach the tarping and shelter building skills on a regular basis.