Last weekend I took the Pathfinder Club on our annual spring camping trip. We camp four times per year, twice in the fall, and twice in the spring. Twice with just our club, and twice with the conference (camporees). Yes, four twices makes four, and I’m sure you can figure that out.

We had several goals for this camping trip. The first was to prepare for the competition at the upcoming conference camporee. We’ve been working on this during the last couple of meetings, but there were some parts that just had to be done on a camping trip.

For this competition, the kids are divided into teams. We will be fielding two teams. They are each given a series of compass headings, and if they follow them correctly, they will find their victim. The first order of business is to render first aid to said victim, who has suffered a simulated head wound, burned hand, and sprained ankle. Unlikely as that is, it could still happen.

While part of the team is doing that, another part of the team must build a fire and brew some pine needle tea (which is not bad!) They also need to build a shelter using a 6’x8′ tarp and not more than 25′ of rope.

Then they take down the shelter and use the tarp to build a make-shift stretcher, on which they carry the victim out.
They are judged by how well they do each task, not on how fast they do each task.

So we learned the first aid, navigation, and shelter building during the past three meetings. I saved the tea-making and stretcher-building for the campout.

I had seen plans for a DIY backpacking stove online and thought it would be perfect for the tea-making part. I asked the conference if it would be OK, and they said it would be, provided I sent an email out to everyone with a link to the plans (so it would be even). Here the link if anyone cares.

One of my friends works at a place where they build stuff out of sheet metal, and since I wanted a couple of these, I thought I’d build one, and ask him if he wanted to build one too. He passed the request to a co-worker who punched the plans into one of their laser cutters. Bingo, out came a dozen stoves. 🙂

We tried it out over the weekend, and it worked remarkably well:

Stove in action

Stove in action

The advantage it affords over a DIY alcohol stove is that you don’t have to carry fuel – it burns pencil-sized sticks, and those are lying around all over the place. The disadvantage is that wood fires make a lot of soot which blackens the cookware. So we’ll need some bags for these.

A second goal was that we invited Peter Wannemacher from the Limington Lanterns (a Pathfinder Club in Maine) to join us for the weekend and teach us the Sign Language honor. He is an excellent teacher, and we learned a lot of ASL. I almost think I could communicate with a deaf person. The kids really enjoyed having him, and they learned an awful lot as well. Some of them already knew quite a bit which surprised me.

The third goal was for us to finish the Wilderness Living honor we started last fall. For that we needed to collect drinking water using two methods. In the past we have collected rain water from a tarp, and we have filtered water from a stream. But I like to mix things up a bit and try new things. Since I was a child I have known about the solar still technique, but had never tried it, so we gave that a go.

To make one, you dig a hole, place a cup in the center, and add a bunch of wet material around the cup. Then cover with transparent plastic, weight the edges of the plastic with rocks, and place one rock in the center of the plastic sheet right over the cup. The sun evaporates the water which condenses on the underside of the plastic, runs down the the weighted center, and drips off into the cup. I bought a nice, large piece of crystal-clear plastic for $4.00. We got about a fifth of an ounce of water. Yeah. $20.00 per ounce is a little pricey!

Maybe if it had been hotter outside it would have worked better. Too bad I didn’t take any pictures of it.

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It looks like spring is finally arriving in New Hampshire, and with it, the opportunity to burn brush piles without a permit is fast evaporating. As long as there is snow on the ground, Northfield (and most other towns in New Hampshire) does not require a burn permit. So I got busy and lit one.

This snow is gone now

This snow is gone now


This brush pile was too big to light in situ. I was afraid the flames would climb a little too high and scorch the tree limbs that hang over it. I don’t think there were any tree limbs hanging over it when I started the pile, so that should give some idea as to how long I have been piling brush here.

Instead, I removed the brush from the pile and burned it in a much more controllable fire next to it. I thought I’d be out there until midnight, so I started the fire well before Beth was out of school. Unfortunately, it went quite a bit faster than I anticipated, and by the time she got home, it was nearly gone.

I saw another sign of spring on Thursday:

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)

Red Maple (Acer rubrum)


These are the first flowers I’ve seen, and were blooming on the banks of the Merrimack River in Concord. When I got home after taking these shots, I went out and took down my sap buckets. There wasn’t much sap in them at all, and it had more of a yellowish color, so I dumped it out. All in all, I think I collected 8 or ten gallons of sap. I have boiled it most of the way down, but it needs to go a little more, as it’s still a little too thin. As is, I have almost a quart, but it will be less than that when I reduce it some more.

And now for some big news – last week I wrote that we were treated to the spectacle of an American Woodcock outside one of the windows at church. Well, I suppose that bird has taken up residence, as it was out there again today. The kids who go to school at our church tell me they’ve been seeing this bird all week. One kid wanted to throw a dodge ball at it, but one of my Pathfinders stopped him (yay!)

But I didn’t know about that until this morning. I was going to the Pathfinder trailer to get the rest of a flag pole when I heard the woodcock stir in the bushes, startled (but not too much I guess) at my arrival. He didn’t fly off, so I fetched my camera.

American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)

American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)

It started bobbing while I was taking pictures, so I went ahead and shot a little shakey hand-held video while I was out there.

Today was also a pretty big day for the Pathfinder Club. We drove up to the Laconia Church to present the worship service there. We’ve been working on another Biblical newscast. This one was taken from the Gospel of Mark, and included pre-recorded segments for our “live action reporters” as well as live, on-stage performances with our anchor crew who would interact with the pre-recorded performers.

We were supposed to present this at our church in Concord first, but a week before we were scheduled to do it, the external hard drive containing all our footage was plugged into the wrong power supply and bit the big one. So we rescheduled for April 13 and re-shot all the video. This meant that our second scheduled performance would become our first performance.

I’d post a link to the pre-recorded segments, but since they rely on banter with live, unrecorded people, it would be pretty confusing. We intend to record the live performance part too when we present in Concord, so if I can get my hands on that footage, I will link you to it.

Yesterday Beth and I took a a short hike to visit our geocaches.  Hers had been reported as somewhat vandalized, and I wanted to drop a travel bug in mine.  The vandalism to hers was not severe.  Someone had found it and scattered the stuff in it around.  The cacher who reported this could not find the a log book.  So we went there with a new log book, and hid the cache somewhere else.  We need to add more toys to it though.

Then we quickly made a visit to my cache.  I dropped the travel bug in it, and also emptied all the trade items and arranged them in a pose.

I don’t know which if these guys is Little Cohas.  We bushwhacked to the cache (that is the only way to get there), but from a different direction this time.  On the way, we saw a log crossing Little Cohas Brook, and from the other side of the creek, it was only 50 feet or so to the railroad tracks.  So we crossed the log.

Beth went first.  Penny went last, but she decided to swim across.  It was much easier going that way, because there is a trail that dumps out onto the railroad tracks. 

We went home and I got cleaned up a bit.  Va and I had tickets to see the Granite State Symphony Orchestra (compliments of my employer).  They performed three songs, one of which I am well familiar with, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Russian Easter Overture.  I especially enjoyed that one.  Va liked that las piece they performed, Tchaikovski’s Fourth Symphony.  I may have liked that one better had I been familiar with it, and I guess that says something about me.

The next morning we had a Pathfinder meeting, and we resumed work on the cardboard boats.  Here’s where we left them:

I need to bring in a second set of sawhorses to put the kayak on.  It’s hard to work on it on the table (can’t get the rope beneath it very handily).  I am very well pleased with the progress of the kayak.  If we pull this off (and it looks like we will), I am convinced it will be the fastest boat in the competition in May.

We are getting close to the end of the Pathfinder year now. This is the part that I like to call the “sprint to the finish” as there are still a ton of things to do, a ton of things to schedule around, and not a lot of time left to do any of it.

We still need to teach knot tying, and I only have one week available for that. We are having a club campout in April, and conference Camporee in May.

We have been invited to the Laconia Adventist Church to present our “Plagues of Egypt” newscast, but it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to get the whole club there for that. But I would still like to do that for several reasons. It’s a lot of fun to do, the Laconia Church has asked us to do it, and they regularly record and broadcast their church services on the local cable access channel. Meaning it would finally be recorded on video and I could upload it to Youtube and link to it here.

Furthermore, the date they have offered for us is April 7 – which is the beginning of Passover. I can’t think of a more appropriate time to do our skit on the Passover than on Passover.

We also plan to take the club to a swimming pool to work on their swimming skills, and for the Camporee we need to prepare for two competitions. One is a race to build an A-frame ladder by lashing wooden poles together with rope. The other is – back by popular demand – a cardboard boat race. We did that in 2009, and I blogged about it several times then. We do not have a lot of time to get a lake-worthy boat ready, but I think we can do it. I have not been able to think of a better way to build a cardboard boat, so we’re going to do it the same way as before.

"The" Cardboard Canoe, next to my cedar strip canoe


In addition to all that, we still have two or three Honors we have started but not finished, plus we would like to pilot a new Honor that David has been putting together. From yesterday’s post, you might be able to guess what this Honor is about.

The things we have to schedule around include Easter weekend, Mother’s Day, and the conference’s annual Music Clinic which several of our Pathfinders (including me and Beth) will attend. Also the Adventurers will have their annual Spring Escape weekend which Va and I will attend too.

So the six remaining meetings we have are going to be full of frantic (but fun) activity.

Now that we have finished raising money to go to Holbrook Indian School, we need to begin raising money to go to the International Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. That will take place in two and a half years (August 2014). To that end, we will sweep the church’s parking lot (we always wait for our snow plow guy to turn in a bid for sweeping it, and then the club underbids him). We will also have our annual yardsale on Memorial Day weekend.

Then to wrap the year up, we will have our Investiture service (when we award insignia) followed by Fun Day (which is the last thing we do for the year). This year we might go to Canobie Lake amusement park.

So it looks like we will be running full out for the next two months. If I didn’t love doing this, I would be one miserable person. 😀

We woke up to about a centimeter of snow this morning.

Connor headed to breakfast


It was gone by lunchtime, but a lot of people here seemed pretty excited about it. Snow is not unknown here, but I guess it’s not terribly common either. I think the kids in our group learned a little more about the Desert Southwest – yes, it does snow here.

We ate breakfast and then got right to work on the bikes and window screens. At 11:00, it was time to teach the Adventurer Awards. I rounded up the kids who were going to teach Elephants and Owls, and we made it there right when we were supposed to. Except one kid was straggling, and I had to leave the classroom to track him down. When we got back, I found out that we could not teach the Owl Award. Owls are a taboo among the Navajo!

Ana and Natasha teaching an Adventurer Award

Natasha preparing to teach the Owls Award


That caused a bit of a scramble. I called Chris to see if she and Jane could get here quickly. She scrambled. Then I stepped out so I could go to the dorm and retrieve the insignia, and saw Shaun. He was in the queue to teach Sharks, and he was right there. The clock was ticking, and we only had an hour to teach the awards. I asked him to jump in, and he did. First he fetched his laptop from his room (right across the street from the classroom) and he began the slideshow/lecture portion. I called Chris back to tell her to resume her previous operations. It was good Shaun showed up when he did, because Chris and Jane were about to go to the girls’ dorm to fetch their materials and it would have been at least another 10 minutes.

But the scrambling was still not over. I had to track down Shaun’s craft supplies as well as his daughter who was also teaching. That took a little bit of time, and they didn’t get their supplies until 11:30. They didn’t manage to finish the crafts, but I’m sure they will soon.

At least Elephants went OK, except that Emma tried to pull up a video of elephants on her phone – and the first one to come up featured two elephants mating). Oops!

Then we had lunch. After we ate, we had a surprise for the kids. They have horses here, and arrangements were made for our kids to ride one of them at 1:30. So before we left the cafeteria,we told the kids we’d announce a surprise in 15 minutes. That 15 minutes was filled with incorrect guesses. At 1:15 we called them together, and Melissa told them, “At 1:30 we are going down to the barn.” Squeals of delight. Then I chimed in, “To clean out the stalls!” Groans! Every single one of them thought I was serious. Melissa let them in on my cruel little joke, and the squeals of delight returned. We headed down to the barn.

Beth riding on "Nano."

Beth riding on "Nano."


Two of the girls had never ridden a horse before.
Saralyn's first horse ride

Saralyn's first horse ride


Look at that smile!
Emmanuelina's forst horse ride

Emmanuelina's forst horse ride


Emmanuelina had never even touched a horse until yesterday. She enjoyed her ride very much. Technically, she’s not one of the kids since she’s 20 years old. She is serving as the counselor of the Companion group this year, and is just a delightful beam of sunshine.

Even I took a turn.

Karen Littell took this shot

Note the tether - I am not an experienced horseman


Horseback riding lasted about an hour, and then we got back to work. We finished making all the needed window screens, and we will install them tomorrow.
Melissa splining a screen

Melissa splining a screen


Warran and his crew have pretty much finished all the bikes now too. They were not able to fix this one (and one other). I think they could probably score some bucks if they sold this one on E-Bay.
1950's Model

1950's Model


Warran was then given a new task – periodic maintenance of some of HIS’s vehicles. Connor pitched in.
Checking the tire pressure

Checking the tire pressure

Tomorrow we will install the screens, and Jared the maintenance chief will find us another assignment.

With our work done for the day, we headed to the cafeteria for supper. I might add that I have enjoyed every single meal I have been served here. The kitchen staff is top-shelf.

One of the Navajo kids came up to us at supper time and asked if they would get to learn about owls. We told him we were sorry, but we couldn’t. If one of those kids went home with a patch featuring an owl, it almost certainly would have resulted in a beating. We asked him about the taboo, and he told us that it was related to “skin-walkers.”

I looked it up on Wikipedia.

Skin-walking is a form of shape-shifting (like werewolves), and people who are thought to practice it are considered the ultimate in evil humanity. I guess it’s their equivalent of Hitler. You can read about it at Wikipedia and know as much about it as I do.

And now… shower and bed. Tomorrow is another big day.

This morning we got the crew up pretty early for a 7:00am breakfast. Their instructions were to come to breakfast ready to get in the vans so we could drive to the Grand Canyon. And that’s exactly what they did.

Coral brought the lunch-makin’s she picked up for us on Thursday, and as soon as we were done eating, we made PB&J sandwiches and assembled our lunches. Then we got in the vans and drove 3 and a half hours to the Canyon.

What a place. The pictures I took are completely inadequate (and would be still even if I didn’t have dust and/or condensation on my camera’s sensor). The Canyon exceeds my skill as a photographer by a long shot. But I will share a few shots anyhow.

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When we were done taking in the canyon, Warran gave the kids a cactus tour. He, Melissa, and a few of the more tired kids had hung back during the last bit of hiking/canyon viewing, and he found several species of cacti being cultivated right there at the visitors center. Any die-hard Pathfinder will know that earning the Cacti Honor requires identification and either a photo or a sketch of five different cacti species. So we knocked that out then and there.

Then we set out for Flagstaff. The consensus was that we needed to eat some authentic Mexican cuisine while we were in the area, and since I couldn’t find a Taco Bell (ha ha!) we asked one of the park rangers for a recommendation. He came through in spades, but didn’t give us a whole lot to go on: “There’s a really good place near the Target store in Flagstaff.”

I got out the GPS and punched in “Navigate to, point of interest, in city Flagstaff, Retail Stores, Target” followed by “Navigate to, point of interest, near destination, restaurant.” That listed a Wendy’s, Chili’s, and a “Casa Bonita.” I figured that was it, so off we went.

We found the Target, but didn’t see the restaurant right away. I needed to pick up some innertubes and tire patches for our bike repair project, and the kids were out of van-snacks. So in we went. I didn’t find the tubes or patches, but we did find the chips. Meanwhile Shaun went exploring and found that the restaurant was right across the street, but it was named “Plaza Bonita” rather than “Casa Bonita.”

When we walked in, I requested a table for 22. That would be 18 of our group (Chris stayed behind), plus four from Karen Littell’s. They found us a room and set us up. The kids were really tired when we left the Canyon, but they perked up at the restaurant. The food was good, and the service was pretty great! While we waited for the check, Shaun went out again, this time looking for a Walmart to buy the needed innertubes & patches. He found them, so we’re good to go tomorrow.

Then it was back on the road again. We arrived on campus a little after 10:00pm. I think some people might sleep well tonight.

What a long day! I set out for Holbrook, Arizona with 18 other Pathfinders (including staff and chaperones), and we made it as far as Albuquerque. That’s OK though, since that was the plan. In the morning we will pick up three minivans and drive to Holbrook. But tonight, we’re sleeping in a hotel near ABQ.

Here are four of my girls at the airport in Manchester watching our plane roll in.

Watching the Plane Roll In

Watching the Plane Roll In

I like to turn on the GPS when I’m on the plane. It can receive the signal from the satellite if you’re near a window. Unfortunately, I had an aisle seat (I prefer a window, but we had several kids with us who had never flown in their living memory). I handed the GPS to Beth so it would lock on, and when it did, she handed it back. Once it locks, it tries pretty hard to keep locked, and I was able to capture this image:

Speed and altitude

Speed and altitude

Our first leg landed us at Midway in Chicago, and we had a three hour layover. I took a group photo:

At Midway

At Midway


Then we ate some supper, and after that, I decided I wanted some exercise. We walked up and down the concourse several times. The kids loved the moving sidewalks. We fell into the naughty habit of racing on them (nothing to do for three hours means we find ways to get into mischief). I ran along side the moving sidewalk, and raced some of the kids who were ON the moving sidewalk (giving them an advantage). I was able to beat Beth this way, but only managed a tie against Ennosen. Then my better judgment took over, and we resorted to just riding the sidewalks back and forth without running.

I did get pictures of our misbehavior. Here, Ana is racing Beth as Ennosen watches. Ana is winning, but there was a person standing on the sidewalk (the nerve!) and Beth couldn’t get around her. You can’t see her because Ennosen is blocking the view.

Ana racing the sidewalk

Ana racing the sidewalk

I don’t know what people thought when they saw a grown man running flat out in the airport laughing, but I didn’t really care. All I could think about though, was OJ Simpson advertising for Hertz rental cars.

Finally, we got on the second plane and flew into Albuquerque. We chose a hotel that a) was cheap, and b) had a shuttle from the airport. What we neglected to consider was that their shuttle would only haul six of us at a time, and we had a group of 19. Yeah, that’s 4 trips, and each one was about 20 minutes (round-trip). The mathematically astute among you will note that it took over an hour to get us all to the hotel.

And now I am tired. That will teach me to sprint through airports.