Hiho. Groovy has returned safely from the wilds of the woods and her much anticipated BASAR (basic search and rescue) Class.
I anticipated the class. What I did not anticipate was the pouring rain. Or the c-c-c-c-cold classroom. Or that I would forget my sleeping bag.
So much for being prepared!
However, I did remember blankets and we were uber blessed in that the campground owner felt bad for us and allowed us to divvy ourselves up into 3 cabins with beds and electricity. Since I am a member of the host team I got to stay in the big cabin, aka "The Palace". It had a kitchen, full bath, 2 large bedrooms and a loft with many beds and couches sprinkled throughout. It also had heat.
Of course, we did have to sort out how to separate the boys and girls, but it all worked out in the end. The first night I slept on the couch. The only problem with that is that this groovy gal is not a night owl. I am usually ready to crash around 9pm. Since I was out in the living room, it was a little awkward "going to bed". Around 10:30 I donned my modest jammies (aka long johns), plugged in my i-pod (aka my sanity saver) and actually went to sleep.
The second night I got to sleep on a bed/pallet sort of set-up in the "girls"' room - very comfy!
Most of our course work was classroom style: Lectures with Power Point slides and a few search or safety scenarios to work through. We took several breaks and I got to know people from all over the state. SAR draws out a facinating array of interesting folk. There was "Military Mike". He's ex-military (duh!) and has all the grooviest equipment - and he has so. many. stories. I followed him around like a puppy dog and hung on his every word. When I grow up, I wanna be just like him! (Except prettier...)
There were several college students (one of whom was a young lady who had finished the A.T. last summer), an ex police officer who wanted to train search dogs, several firemen and EMTs, a construction worker, a guy who wanted to be a forest ranger and the A.T. girl's dad, who did managerial stuff for a large company. There were also dogs there. Ripley was 1/2 beagle and 1/2 jack russel terrier and loved to eat yellow jackets. *snarl* SNAP*sting*YOWL!* He was just there for fun and we all enjoyed his company.
The former police lady brought two german shepherd puppies with her. They were 14 weeks old and SO CUTE!!! I was smitten. Alas, she was keeping one to train and was selling the other for $800.
My dog budget is, like 80¢. Ya know what I'm saying? *sigh*
Anyhoo, we did do some practical training outdoors in addition to the classroom work. We packaged pretend patients (aka "volunteers") and practiced transporting them in various types of litters and stretchers and what have you. We carried people up and down and over and around. We joked about leaving them strapped there...
On the last day we split into two groups. 1/2 of us learned how to build shelters and start fires (aka survival skills) and the rest of us practiced grid searching. I was pleased to find myself in the second group since I need more practice there. I've only grid searched once - and that was on an actual search. So a lengthy practice with much explanation and correction was quite welcomed.
Our team also added in an optional skills session on night navigation. That was the grooviest of all! We were sent out in teams of 2 or 3 into the dark night woods. We were given compass bearings and distances, patted on the back and sent on our way with the hope that we'd come out in the designated spot in a reasonable amount of ti
I was paired up with FiremanB. This was most fortunate since he was an experienced navigator and I can't find my way from point A to point B in broad daylight with a guideline and a map.
Happily, FiremanB was big and strong and, best of all, very patient. He had to be very patient because, while Groovy can set her compass and decide which way to walk, she absolutely CANNOT remember how far she has walked. EVER.
Is this important? Well, it all depends on where you want to end up. I can go west and get to the mountains of Maine or I can go west and get to the Rockies. Ya know what I'm saying?
At any rate, distance is measured by paces with each double pace equalling a certain distance. Keeping track of paces is every bit as imperative as following the right compass bearing. Needless to say, our woods outing was punctuated by FiremanB telling me how many paces he walked, then a moment later, after we'd reset our course, asking, "So, how far have we gone?" and my groovy self answering, "Ummmmmmmmmmmmm."
To his credit he did not roll his eyes and give up on me. He just stepped up the quizzing until I was able to bark back the right answer at least part of the time. Our conclusion? Groovy must needs carry a pen and paper when using a compass. Or...I could buy one of these:
These are "Ranger Beads". You use them like an abacus to keep track of your pace counts. Though I haven't yet figured out how they help you remember that our last count was, oh, say 27 since they work in increments of 10.
In reality, all of this was moot because, my dear friends, there was no way under God's beautiful sky we could have EVER gotten lost in those nighttime woods. Yes, there were streams and a bazillion look-alike birch trees and marshy areas and little hills and ridges that all seemed the same. But none of that matters when you have karaoke.
Bad Karaoke. LOUD Karaoke. Because, as you may have surmised, it was karaoke night at the campground. And the coveted karaoke campsite was located directly across from the picnic table where we both entered and exited the woods. They started caterwailing at 7pm and that's precisely when we started reviewing proper navigational procedures.
The karaoke started out with a fellow singing some rock and a whole lotta country in what was a moderately tolerable voice. But as the beer consumption continued, the singing quality suffered a marked decline. Other patrons began grabbing for the mic and it was a good thing there were no hunters out that late in the evening or someone may have been tempted to put those karaoke fiends out of our misery. It was extra special when several folk went to the mic together and belted out emotional tunes. In "harmony". Brought a tear to my eye.
No, really. It did.
At any rate, FiremanB and I came out of the woods EXACTLY where we were s'posed to. I was so proud! Nonetheless, I am far from confident enough to go out and try that in the woods alone.
Unless I have Ranger beads AND there's Karaoke...