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.