We begin the day by arriving and taking a few moments to separate from our parents, thanking them for driving us to camp and scattering to toe fence and climb trees with the 14 other campers.
Soon the lead mentor gathers everyone into a circle, and we greet the sun and give thanks for the day, for bringing us together, and for last night’s rain that cooled things off! One student shares how he saw a fox hunkering in its den from the rain last night, and another says she loved watching how long it stays dry under a thick-needled Hemlock tree. One of the staff members gives thanks for the lightning that gave her garden a shock of green in the night. We all close our eyes and open our ears to the landscape, feeling the sun on our faces and hearing the buzzing and bird calls of the morning.
Then, we’re off! We head first up the hill to the ridge where we built a sun shelter yesterday, checking to make sure the roof is still sturdy and that the knots we tied with root cordage are still tight. Along the way someone spots fresh porcupine sign (hangers!) and someone else sees coyote scat. We all gather around to see what it’s been eating, and we walk like a coyote walks to see if we can spot some tracks in the wet ground. Eventually we make it up the hill and have a snack in our sun shelter, looking out over the valley and hearing Grandfather tell us a story about watching the sunrise every morning until he knew exactly which tree the sun would touch first on every day.
After our snack (shared all around), we get out our carving knives and work on our spoon projects. Our mentor promised us that we’d make a wild edibles soup by the end of the week but we wouldn’t be able to use utensils from our lunchboxes, so we’re all working hard on our spoons so that they’re useable by then! Some people are still using spuds to strip the bark off their pieces of wood and others are sitting carefully in the safety position and carving the handle. Sam is ready to use a coal from a fire to hollow out the bowl of the spoon, so she’ll wait until this afternoon to do that part. In the meantime she makes cordage–lots and lots of cordage! We call her the cordage queen; she can make cordage rope out of any natural bark or fiber that she sees!
We decide to have lunch by the stream and head down the other side of the hill to our favorite boulder spot. On the way downhill, one of the instructors yells “Camouflage!” and we all drop our stuff and instantly dissolve into the trees…Freddy practices his stalking and nearly sneaks up on the instructor while his back is turned and looking for the rest of us!
Soon we come to the creek and have lunch and splash our feet. After lunch, it’s time for sit spot, so we each go to our special quiet place nearby and listen to the creek, the crows and watch the sky for a little while. When we hear one of the staff members make a “Caw, Caw!” we head back to the boulder spot, where she’s ready to teach us how to noodle for fish in the creek. Wow! Everyone gets soaking wet trying to sneak up on the fish and catch them by hand. Nobody catches one, but someone who lives nearby shows up with his dog on a walk and the dog tries to noodle too.
All of a sudden, Grandfather shouts, “Five minute fire!” We run for the trees and gather wood to bring back to our fire circle in the pine grove nearby, hurrying to find tinder, kindling and dry logs after last night’s rainstorm. In no time at all we’ve built the tinder teepee and take turns trying to light it with one match. Finally Angela gets it, and we all cheer and gather near to dry off while we have our afternoon snack. Sam uses a coal to burn out her spoon bowl, and one of the LITs reads a “mammal mystery” from his tracking book while we try to guess what animal he’s describing. Fox? Porcupine? Jaguar? Rabbit? We may never know…
It seems like the day flew by, but it’s time to put out the fire and head back to the parking lot! We combine slow stalking with quickfoot running to get back in time to see our parents again. What a day At Home in the Woods!