Saturday, March 24, 2007

University of Scouting

I had an opportunity to attend the University of Scouting put on by the local Boy Scout district. For $10, I got a day full of training along with lunch- a deal that can't be beat. Here are the highlights from what I learned today:

I met a guy from Harrison that was so excited to meet someone else that can pole a canoe that he invited me to come down and pole the Crooked River in Harrison with him. This is exciting news as I have looked at the river on the map and thought about trying it. What better way to do the river than with a local who does the river all the time. I'll keep his number handy and take him up on his offer later this spring.

As for his Allagash advice, he recommends multiple coolers. You don't open the coolers that contain the last few days of food until the day they are needed. Pack the top of those coolers with newspapers to keep the cold in. He recommended the Little Ossipee River trip as practice for Chase Rapids. He also said the St. John trip was better than the Allagash! I have to find someone that is going on the St' John trip this Spring. Black flies won't keep me away (they may keep me from going back but they won't keep me away). He also recommended the water bottles with purifiers built in. That way the kids are sure to have clean water and they have a "cool" "wow" factor.

He has a Tripper XL and loves it on paddle trips. However, he doesn't enjoy poling it. This is good information and I really think I'll be buying an Old Town Tripper 17. However, I'll wait until after the whitewater training class before I buy anything. That should be a great opportunity to try a bunch of canoes.

My next class was all about cooking with Dutch Ovens. He didn't provide any handouts but I took note of a few things. Use more charcoal on top to bake and more charcoal on bottom to boil. Don't scour a dutch oven or you'll need to reseason it. Season it with mineral oil or peanut oil NOT olive oil. Olive oil goes rancid.

Ask churches for their wax candle stubs after Christmas. You can melt all the candles down and use the wax for firestarters, waterproof matches, etc. Lee Valley Tools sells Kelly Kettles for less money than Lehman's BUT you have to pay extra for shipping.

He had a very cool trick for his Pineapple Upside Down cake. He brought a circle of cardboard the size of the inside of his dutch oven. He covered it with wax paper and duct taped it in place. When the cake was done, one quick flip and the cake came out of the over and sat on the cardboard. Peel off the aluminum foil and voila- one pineapple upside down cake ready to eat.

The next class I attended was called "Mad Scientist" and it was about cool experiments you could do in the field. By boiling the outer leaves of red cabbage, you can make Red Cabbage Indicator which will allow you to see how acidic something is (it turns red) or base something is (it turns green yellow). She suggested checking the PH of river water on a trip. Still water in stagnant pools can become quite acidic she said. She also mentioned making a color chart based on known things like vinegar, lemon juice (sour acids) and milk, baking soda, tums (sweet bases). Things that stay bluish with Red Cabbage Indicator are more neutral.

Then we made lava lamp like things in a test tube with corn syrup, water, and oil. Then we dropped in a few pinches of salt. As it slowly dripped down, bubbles of oil would burp back up to the top. It was cool. Even better, then we dropped in a small piece of alkaseltzer and there was a lot more action.

On to lunch, they had a Major General in the National Guard as the speaker- here was his intro joke:
What is the difference between the National Guard and the Boy Scouts? Answer: The Boy Scouts have adult leaders.

After lunch, I went to "Wooden it be Fun!" where I got all sorts of ideas for making shapes out of wood to use as a picture frame. They'd make great souvenirs for trips. For example, a State of Maine shape with a cut out for a picture, wood burn on the date (or use a black marker) and insert a picture. What a great souvenir for your "sports" to take home with them!

In the Geocaching class, I got all sorts of ideas about making geocache courses and group activities that involve hiding containers with trinkets and a log book. GPS units have come way down in price and adults and children love to hunt for "treasure". I can think of a multitude of ways this could help a guide on a trip- think rainy day activity for example.

The last class of the day was on food dehydration. The lady had a lot of great information but she hadn't done a lot of food dehydration before. She recommended that we buy predehydrated stuff at the grocery store. However, we were able to taste test homemade vs store bought dehydrated bananas and apples. The homemade stuff tasted better but looked worse. She gave us handouts which described how to dehydrate vegetables, fruits, and how to make jerky. Her jerky was rubbed which meant it was VERY spicy. But with a little water and some dehydrated veggies, it would have made a great stew or soup! I hope I'm inspired to use that dehydrator that has been hanging around the house unused for years!

I asked if anyone had thought of dehydrating frozen veggies (think minimal prep time). No one thought it would work. However, I found a website here that talks about just that. So now I think I have to try it. By dehydrating my potatoes, onions, carrots, and corn, all I'll need to add is a trout or some jerky, with milk and or water, to make a stew or chowder.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Whitewater Canoeing

Last year, I had an opportunity to take a Whitewater trip with Kevin Slater down the East Branch of the Penobscot. I really enjoyed it and started to seriously think about becoming a Maine Guide. This spring, I'm not going to be able to take Kevin's class so I've signed up for a Class II clinic put on by the AMC group that calls themselves NH AMC Paddlers. I had to fill out an application form and go through an interview process on the phone. These folks are serious about whitewater canoeing and brave the cold Maine and New Hampshire waters year round to do it.

As part of the class, we had a 3 hour get together last night at the Boys and Girls club of New Hampshire so that we could try out gear in their pool. They had a discussion about cold water/weather gear and then the kayak folks had to demonstrate a wet exit. The canoe folks looked at and compared different brands and types of gear. They really seemed to recommend NRS and just about everything they make. One woman in the class recommended dry suits and said that Kayak Academy rents dry suits for $30 per day. Not a bad deal at all.

I tried on my wet suit before the class and discovered that sometime in the last few years, I have matured into an XXL from an XL. I can shoehorn myself into my suit but there is no room for polypro or coolmax or any other layers that the NHAMCPaddlers recommend.

Here is a listing of their recommended gear for training day:
Coolmax or other polyester undergarments
Polypro or fleece long johns
NRS Farmer John or Jane wetsuit
NRS splash jacket
Sealskin glove liner
NRS neoprene gloves
Sealskin or Wool socks
NRS neoprene booties

We did talk a bit about dry suits but the concern was cost of the suit vs insulation ability and durability- one rip and its over.

They recommend a fun little exercise at home for a gear check. Freeze some jugs full of ice. Fill your tub with cold icewater. Take a tub. If you are comfortable with your gear on- you are probably all set. If you are cold- buy more gear!

We took a look at the canoes that they use and I realized that these folks are in a different canoe world from me. These canoes were fully rockered (rounded from bow to stern). Every canoe I have ever paddled has been flat bottomed and designed for touring. Their canoes looked like a cross between a canoe and a kayak. They even have foam saddles, knee pads, and straps to help hold you in the canoe. I'm sure I will get lots of good ideas for touring, and hopefully don't get too addicted to solo paddling in the white water. It really looks like fun.

My first impression of these folks is that they are genuinely interested in getting people into white water paddling in either a Kayak or Canoe. They were very enthusiastic and serious in their discussions. Most of these folks have been doing this for years and are either retired or in some business that allows them the flexibility they need to hit the rivers when the rivers call them. I know I am very exited about the White Water Class II class coming up.....

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Red Cross First Aid Training

Part of the Maine Guide certification process, is the requirement that you be certified in Red Cross First Aid prior to sending in your application for the Maine Guide oral and written exams. Once you are a Maine Guide, your first aid certification can lapse and the state will still let you renew your license. From a liability standpoint, I would hope a Guide would stay current with their first aid skills just in case....

I had signed up for the class at the Red Cross office in Portland on Congress Street. The course included CPR and First Aid and cost $40. The last CPR training I had had was in the 1980's. The training was very different- first aid is now basically stabilizing the patient and dialing 911. When CPR is necessary, you get right into chest compressions quickly and only do 2 breaths for every 30 compressions. The trainer told us not to freak out if we heard ribs cracking while performing CPR. I'm not sure how I'd feel in that situation and hopefully I never need to find out.

They discussed liability and good samaritan laws in the class. You have to ask a person if it is OK to help them and if they say NO- you can't help them. You just dial 911 and wait for them to pass out. Once unconcious, you ask them if they are OK, and if they don't reply, consent is automatic. Also, if there is a kid that needs assistance, their parent has to allow you to help the child, if not, it is hands off and dial 911 again. The trainer said that this can make for a very difficult situation.

All in all, it was a great day. It is nice to feel like you might be able to actually help someone in an emergency situation. I wish everyone would go out a take one the Red Cross first aid class. I plan to every 3 years whether I decide to guide or not.