Monday, November 22, 2010


I am not sure how time got away. It has been a while since my last blog.

Maybe it was the fact that the two weeks of staff training at the DCF Wilderness School were followed by four weeks shadowing the staff as they lead 5 day and 20 courses. Or maybe it was the fact that from Connecticut it was back to Ohio in time to pick up Rosemarie for an August vacation in Charleston, SC, to see Danielle and Douglas and prep our first grandson's baby room. Then back to Ohio drop off Rosemarie and back to Connecticut for the Wilderness School's September Reunion and more interviews, this time with Alumni. Then, back to Ohio, pick up Rosemarie and off to Charleston for Master Joseph Boone Palka birth. What a great summer!
While at the Wilderness School, the first time, I was constantly on the move, either checking in and helping out at the base camp's ropes course or running out to the 20 day courses with the Course Directors resupplying and talking with the field instructors as well as the students.

When at base Camp I got to sit in on the Officer of the Day daily briefings. The OD is a 24/7 job filled by staff rotation at base camp whenever crews are in the field. The designated OD is in charge of handling all calls from the field as well as parents/social workers. The OD gives the field staff a contact point for help as needed for interventions, medical follow-up, and resupply needs. Once the call is received and the need(s) defined the OD manages the situation to insure fulfillment. But it is not just the daily designated OD that gets involved. It starts as a team of three: the OD, the backup OD and a Course Director. But from there the job maybe directed to logistics, food services and/or the student's doctor.

There are two scheduled daily briefings where the on-going projects are updated. The morning briefing hands the duties to the new OD team and the afternoon briefing brings the team together to review. However, other meeting are held as the situation demands and its not just the three team members that attend. Other staff member will sit in and help work through the situations as they can.

Late one night during a particularly troublesome incident, I found the OD office filled with the OD on the phone talking to the field, a Course Director was kneeling on top of a desk checking out the route for a student pick-up. Meanwhile a staff member was reviewing the Instructor Manual, another was checking the Incident Flow Chart, and two more where off to the side discussing options. You can call it brainstorming or call it teamwork, they call it community.

I finished transcribing the last interview Saturday. Now I need to tear the interviews apart by categories and enter them into my database. So it one step down and another to start.

I promise to stay current. But first Ms Addy is calling for me to help.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Week Two Wilderness School Staff Training

The training finished Thursday night. What a filled two weeks it has been!!

We spent two day of this week on the water. For Monday we were on a relatively low rapid flow river as a tune up and refresher for the returning staff and a full introduction for the newbies. I had not canoed in years but it was like I never forgot how to do it. That stand-up paddle board adventure of April in SC helped a lot.

Wednesday got interesting as the release flow from the dam kicked the Greenfield River up several notches. It challenged the group's skills but was still within safety limits. We even got to run an unexpected Boat Over Drill when our canoe got caught broadside on a large rock and flipped. Cold water sure can wake you up.

Much of the week was built around procedures and policies workshops. It has been interesting to see the staff come together as they discussed and planned responses to the leaders questions. It is interesting how much experience is contained in this staff when you consider that they are all seasonal. There are multi-year veterans on hand.

At the close of staff training, Aaron opened the Appreciation Box. Staff members contribute words of appreciation for fellow staff members. A book could be written just from these comments. It is a testament to the fact that kinds acts, words, deeds do not go unseen.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week One Wilderness School Staff Training

Wonders never cease...I survived the first week. It was very insightful, thought provoking, educational, good food, and the staff is incredible.

All of Tuesday's hike was uphill in the hot sun and I cooked in my tick prevention attire. I got better as I unzipped my pant leggings, rolled up my sleeves and cooled down.

Wednesday was, like my skiing, all downhill. Actually, downhill hiking, if one is not careful as in hiking when carrying a full pack, can create problems for the knees. Many long distance hikers report knee problems which are not a pleasure.

Week One starts the process of bringing new staff up to speed, refreshing the returning staff, building a working team for the coming season. Field instructors, logistics personnel, and course directors are mixed together to learn and share. I was impressed by the work done by the returning seasonal staff to prepare and conduct workshops.

A very important element is the use of rituals. The group is called to "Circle" as a way of preparing for the next event, deciding how to proceed, reminding all of how to act and what to do. We circled at the van, for morning stretch, before and after each meal, for workshops, at day's end.

This is important for consistency and structure to a child who has little or none in his current surroundings. It is a way of keeping the group focused on the task at hand and the responsibility each has to themselves and the group.

The circle is formed with all standing shoulder to shoulder, arms crossed in front and holding each neighbor's hand. The discussion ends with a moment of silence while the pulse, a slight squeeze of the hand, is passed.

May the Circle Be Unbroken.

Tick Follow-up

Three things that I have learned since my encounter with the Virginia ticks:

  1. Even though you may promptly drop the living specimens off to the local heath board they forward them to a central lab. By the time the lab report is back you may well be into the ailments. It is best to see your doctor immediately and let me make the call on steps to take.
  2. The Tick Key does work on the smallest of buggers but you may need help getting the proper purchase angle. Things like hair and bony protrusions may get in the way of your attack angle but maybe overcomed by a helper.
  3. Too much long clothing seals you from the ticks but turns you into a furnace. Last Tuesday I hiked in 80 degree weather with long pants, long sleeve shirt, floppy hat, gaiters over the pant legs and boot tops and I sweat like I was in a native hot stone tent.

But no new ticks.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Wilderness Staff Training

Will be spending the next two weeks training with the incoming seasonal staff for the Connecticut Wilderness School. It will be interesting to see how well this old body stands up to learning new tricks. I am not sure of the exact format but I know it will be outdoors and hands-on. More details to follow.

The good thing about being in Connecticut is the state's secret food...Drake's Coffee Cakes. I am talking the big round cakes with "Natural Cinnamon Streusel Topping." Just add cold whole milk and it is heaven on earth.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Give Back

Recently while vising Adventure Links of Loudoun County Virginia, I met one of their field instructors with a very personal therapeutic wilderness experience.

Seems one night when he was 17 years old he awoke to find two escorts at his bed preparing to transport him to a program in Colorado. His family had decided a crisis intervention was needed. They were tired of his acting out, his poor school performance, his drugs, his abuse of himself and those that loved him, it was time to face and fight the devil.

At first he was oppositional as was his normal reaction to anything his folks offered. But in three weeks he found a sense of control he did not think he had previously. He no longer was lost and unable to cope but now found a sense of control over his life that gave him an opportunity to change.

In five weeks time he was the happiest he had ever been. He finished the course and returned to his family with a renewed sense of purpose.

Today he gives back by helping other youth learn from nature that the powers to control their lives are already in place within themselves but just hidden.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Addyson Elizabeth Pierce

Introducing our first grandchild ...... Addyson Elizabeth Pierce
7# 15 oz. and 20-3/4" long with a very healthly set of lungs.

That's Rosemarie, my wife, on the right with the big smile holding our first grandchild.

Life is Spectacular!