Sunday, September 11, 2011


The boys are HOME :D

In spite of high heat, humidity, and bugs, they had an absolute blast.  Told us all about it, including much joking around among the cadets and officers.  They both sampled an MRE and thought that was wonderful (should I be worried?) and were told - by someone with personal experience that you'll thank me not to detail -  that you should very carefully inspect anything that looks like chocolate because some MRE's come with laxatives.  *ahem*

Apparently their training weekend had three components.  First, two volunteers simulated lost and separated hikers that had to be found and treated in (imagined!) 36F and rainy weather.  One had a "broken leg" and had to be splinted and carried out on a stretcher.  The other left a trail with slips of paper that said "candy bar wrapper", or "backpack", or "jacket", etc.  They were working against the clock with that one as he was simulating hypothermia (which can lead to irrational behavior, like dropping clothing and other important items), so they had a bit of pressure.

Next they had a night exercise involving working an orienteering course in pairs, with compasses and glow-sticks.  That was definitely more challenging.  It's hard enough to walk a straight line through dense brush/trees in the daylight, and much more difficult at night.

The following day (this morning) they were challenged to find a "black box" from a simulated airplane crash, using some kind of electronic devices - maybe something like avalanche transceivers? - and something they called a "bumblebee" that helped them determine where a radio signal was coming from.  This exercise also involved crossing a fairly substantial river (up near it's headwaters, where it's smaller) and the boys learned a valuable lesson.

They were able to cross the river on a couple of downed logs, using one to walk on and the other for balance.  When they crossed in the morning the river was well below the logs, but when they returned in the afternoon the water had risen to the level of the lower log, making the crossing a lot trickier.

I asked them if they knew why the river had risen, but they hadn't talked about it at the time.  Around here, where rivers are fed by snow-melt in the summer, you can expect the water volume to drop overnight (when it's cooler) and increase through the warmer day.  So if you're hiking in somewhere in the morning and planning to come back out in the afternoon you need to carefully evaluate any creek or river you cross because you can expect it to be significantly higher later in the day.  Meaning, if it's hairy in the morning it may be impossible later.  Just a word to the wise.

At any rate, they learned a ton and had great time.  They are really enjoying getting to know the other kids and adults in the program, and so far we're really impressed with these folks :D

Ironically, as I fired up the computer to write this I was reminded of how important this training can be to them, for their own safety and in service of others.  The local news reported that just in the last couple of days one hiker separated from his group and fell to his death over a 300 foot cliff, and (in a separate incident) another hiker was seriously injured by a log that was dislodged.  The local Mountain Rescue and Fire Department were able to get to her, and got a helicopter from Whidbey NAS (which we toured last spring) and airlifted her out.  The news blurbs read like entries in Accidents in North American Mountaineering.  It's for real.  But how cool that my boys are learning these skills to help others - I'm so proud of them!


Crystal said...

That sounds like awesome training. Makes a mom feel good.

leah said...

What great (and vital) training! I never thought about the river water volume issue.. we don't have mountains out here (just rolling hills), so once the snow melts in May, it is gone EVERYWHERE. There is nothing to feed the streams other than rain (which can cause its own issues, but we don't have the daily change in river depth)!

We are constantly teaching our boys about our own local dangers - poison hemlock looks like Queen Anne's Lace, for example, and nightshade grows throughout our woods with "attractive" purple berries - they would love something like SAREX when they get older.

melanie said...

It's such a blessing to ALL of us when boys are trained to be young MEN instead of irresponsible lifetime adolescents. Thank you!!!!

The dB family said...

I just learned a lot by reading this post! (Did not know that about rivers). I can understand now why your boys are so excited about this program. What an experience! Can I go too :o)?