I attended a bushcraft course taught by Mors Kochanski at Tim Smith's Jack Mountain Bushcraft & Guide Service in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire last weekend. After the 15 1/2 hour drive through the Adirondacks from Toronto, I arrived - having been surreptitiously tailed by Decado - in a small field in the woods on the property.
I set up my tarp quickly, and a few of us settled down for a quick hot chicken stew in the darkness - the darkness brightened by a propane lantern hung just outside of the A-Frame building comprising the kitchen setup.
We assembled around a fire, and met one another, chatted and munched and drank. That night I slept poorly - while the drive had tired me right out, I woke up congested and feeling uncomfortable and awkward and aching several times.
I realized in the middle of the night that I had set up my tarp on a slight decline in the field, and that the opening - and the place I was to rest my head - was at the bottom of this decline.
Note to self - be more careful because fatigue is a very bad thing when in the backcountry (picture slipping with an axe, picture falling from a canoe, picture scalding yourself with boiling water from a pot hung over the fire...) and a nice night's sleep makes all the difference.
After I opened my food dry sack and made a quick breakfast of 3 instant oatmeal packages (cinnamon and apple flavour), with raisins, dried dates, dried mango slices, milk powder and boiling water in my camping mug, and a large instant coffee hit in a small Nalgene bottle, we all assembled in a finished room in Tim's house for lessons.
We started at 9:00 sharp, and Mors Kochanski began to cover off the concepts of survival and living in the bush, and what it takes to have a proper education in bushcraft and northern living. He is full of wonderful anecdotes and rapid fire stories and facts.
His passion comes out obviously during teaching. We each got a thick sheaf of notes and diagrams, some from his publications and other articles copied from magazines and newspapers. It was a great beginning - the theory and thoughts and opinions led by Mors and shared amongst us all reminded me that there are others out there who find this kind of subject matter interesting (i.e. we are not all nuts).
There were around 8 of us in total, each with different backgrounds. Decado and I were the Canadians (plus Mors Kochanski of course) and there was a deep sea diver, an ex-marine F4 Phantom pilot, a FedEx worker/long distance hiker, a bushcraft school teacher, an industrial equipment salesman, plus Tim Smith himself - others joined and left over the weekend. (Sorry if I haven't added all of your names in - leave me a comment on this post please or e-mail me so we can chat!).
At noon we assembled in the field and went off for a hike in the woods. I brought a Nalgene bottle of lemon aid, some beef jerky and a possibles bag to carry it all about in. We learned about mushrooms and plants, and how to identify them, what uses there are for them and more. I absolutely loved this - this trip has ignited in me a fresh interest in flora.
For example, on my 1 mile walk around the company campus where I work, I found a tree stump covered in Oyster mushrooms - edible and worth a good chunk of money (if I were to sell them on the edible mushroom exchange).
From polypore to bolete, from lycopodium to puffball - we saw what could be eaten and learned what to avoid. Herbs and medicinal plants are everywhere, if you look carefully enough and learn enough about the flora. I can't wait until my next trip into Algonquin Park.
I intend to buy a good book on mushrooms and a separate one on other flora of Ontario.
Mors recommended a good method to learn about plants - get a blank notebook and some contact film and collect plants and press them, and make notes on the pages. By doing this, you will soon become familiar with these plants and mushrooms and this is a good start towards a good education about flora.
I have more images from the weekend, stay tuned and I'll be posting them soon enough.