Friday, July 8, 2011

Home Schooling - Alex's First Night Of Camping

Song:  Twin Peak's Theme

Artist/Composer :  Angelo Badalamenti

This was Alex's first experience in the outdoors overnight.

This was our Bear Box
 (all food must stay in the box unless being used).

This was our campsite.

This is the same park we had come to the previous week...
Calaveras Big Trees.

We were preparing the ground (picking up rocks and sticks)
for the ground cloth.

Alex picked up a charred piece of wood and had asked
what it was.  Well...I just couldn't resist.
I said it was Bear manure.
His face went to one of surprise, and then disgust...
as he threw it away.

He laughed when I had told him I was joking.

He is getting used to my kidding him.
He now looks at my expression first before reacting.

I used the fading sunlight to show him a basic
way of fire starting using common implements.

I took off one of the ends of a pair of binoculars
and used it to focus the sun on to a piece of wood.

After just a few seconds...
it had started to char the wood and smoke came out.

Although he had read about using a magnifying glass...
he had never used one.  

Our field trips are all about real life application
of basic concepts.

Alex, and I, unloading the van.

We are spreading the ground cloth in preparation for the tent.

Alex, and I, set up the tent.
This is a Coleman Instant tent.

The poles are all attached.
Just spread the legs...
extend the poles...
and in one minute...

The moon was showing in the daylight and into the night.

I taught him how to use the moon, in either daylight 
(in case the sun is obstructed)... 
or at night..
to determine a cardinal direction.

(Before midnight...the lit side of a partial moon faces west..
after midnight...the lit side faces east.  A full moon's direction
can be determined using aiming stakes over a period of 5-10 minutes).

I explained why...focusing on planetary relationships.

With a fundamental concept in mind...
whatever he forgets...
he may always figure out for himself.

Alex had been running ahead of us.

I decided to throw joke #2 at him.

As he was running around a bend...
I merely said to him that should he run in to a bear...
that he should just run back to us.

I, of course, knew he would look back at me 
to see my expression.
I kept my poker face on.
He decided to run ahead.
I picked up a stick and threw it into the forest just up ahead of him
(without his knowledge).
He, at first, froze... and then came running back.

Although my wife laughed...
as did Alex when he learned of the ruse...
he did not, however...
 venture far after that.

The possibility, in his mind
of a bear being out there somewhere...
was driven home.

Lesson given and lesson learned.
When faced with unknowns and possible
extremely bad repercussions...
err on the side of caution  :)

Throughout the walk...
as the path wove through the forest...
I asked him, again and again, for the cardinal directions...
and I asked him how he knew.

Even though the sun was gone from sight at some points...
I told him to look at the shadows.

I had later explained about the growth of moss on the trees...
and how he could determine cardinal directions from them
(at our latitude, the moss grows on the North side of sun exposed trees).

I also pointed out various means of impromptu shelter building
using the well as the concept of food gathering

(not specific at this point...just the concept of resource management...
not relying on hunting...but on trapping.  I explained that it is a game of
calories/time expended vs. calories received in a timely manner.  
I had just touched upon the idea of fish traps and stream damming 
and of using the great resource of the forest floor / underground...
grubs and worms).

Many people end up starving and dying for lack of shelter and food
when both are readily available underneath their feet.

I also explained the concept of economy in resource expenditure.

I told him about the Hobo stove...
a readily made stove which uses very little fuel (wood)
and directs the heat up...even in high winds.

It is basically a hole dug down a good foot or two...
then a 6", or so, wide trench dug outward from the base of the hole 
and angled to the surface a couple of feet away.
 A thick branch is then placed in the trench
and the dirt is then packed down on it...filling the trench.

The branch (stripped) is rotated and pulled out.

The resulting tunnel is the air pipe for the fire at the base of the hole
( The fire being 6" or so above the hole so as to be fed
with Oxygen and not having the heat taken away).

Being we were in a National Forest...
I could not demonstrate these concepts.

When we have our later, more advanced camping
in more remote areas...
I shall demonstrate...
and most importantly...
have him construct his own means of survival.

Although the main purpose of our outings is one of
practical application and love for the outdoors...
it doesn't mean that his formal learning comes to an end.
He still does assigned reading on the drive up and back...
and during part of his rest time in the tent.

Here he is reading a classic...
Huckleberry Finn.

We also let him use a handheld game unit and his laptop 
after his reading assignment.

Here Alex is having his first hot dog roast.

I first taught him the basics of building a fire 
depending on the usage.

For cooking campfires when fuel is plentiful...
I had shown him how to use finer pieces of
fuel to ignite the larger pieces...
and since time was at more of a premium than fuel...
I showed him how to teepee the wood.

I also explained how to feed a larger log (or many)
into a fire should length of burn time be desired...
by angling the log from the ground to a high wall surrounding the fire
so it may be just fed as needed with only the desired
amount being burned at a time.

The combination of controlled burn, with extended fuel supply
on hand, means not having to hunt for fuel after dark...
and letting the fire keep you warm all night long.

His first campfire hot dog.

He said he liked it.

We don't, however, feed him these types of food regularly.

He knows that camping is a time of special treats.

Alex's first time roasting Marshmallows.

Alex's first Smore.

He loved it...
but, this too, is just an occasional camping treat.

I had never had a Smore before either...
I found it to be too sweet.

Upon awakening the next morning...
we then travelled up the highway to Alpine Lake.

It is at about the 7,300 ft level.

Just above the lake, there is a restaurant with Al Fresco dining.

The lake is just in the background with the mountains just beyond that.

It was a beautiful view.

We just stayed a few hours as we will be returning
in a few weeks.

There is a star gazing event here at the end of the month.

We will camp out and attend it.  
The following morning we will rent one of the row boats and tour the lake.

The owners had a very friendly dog.  
Alex had always been afraid of cats and dogs.

He got over his fear with this one.

There was still snow in the mountains.

Alex, and I, walking toward the boat launch of Alpine Lake.

Alex wishing we could get the boat on this day 
instead of in a few weeks.

We explained that we needed to keep something special
to do when we came back...he agreed.

Alex was satisfied to just play by the water on this day.

He now has something to look forward to when we return.

On the way back home...
I said that we could plan another trip or two before the Alpine Lake event.

We had seen a sign, not too far from home...
on the way to the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
It was a sign for the Moaning Caverns.

Alex has read about caves and caverns.
He wants to see one in real life.

We will probably be going in a few days.

We are also going to start planning our beach camping trip soon.

During our time in the tent...
Alex said how much he loved camping...
and how much he would love staying longer.

He loves the outdoors...
he learned about the importance of the practical application 
of learned experiences
(it all comes to naught unless you can apply)...
basic survival concepts...
he hadn't missed out too much with his daily studies...
he had fun.

Mission accomplished.


  1. What a great camping experience for Alex! Not only did you pick a beautiful spot, but you are such a great teacher. His learnings, as well as his newfound love of camping, will last a lifetime.

  2. Thank you. I have been repeating questions on his camping lessons to ensure retainment. I am looking forward to having him actually build implements of survival in our future camping trips. I have gone over the various concepts of fire ignition through refraction and reflection of the sun...and by various forms of friction. I will then demonstrate...and have him build his own in the future. I will also have him demonstrate means of safe water gathering and purification using only forest materials and what he is wearing....among many other skills. We are both looking forward to it.

    Applied problem solving in an outdoor setting...he doesn't even realize that he is actually in school when he is having so much fun :)


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