Last December, I found that Dave Canterbury had a $50 off sale on early sign ups for his Pathfinder Basic School for July. Not being able to resist such a good deal and great opportunity, I casually mentioned to my wife how cool it would be to go. She took the hint, and got it for me for my birthday. I really didn't do much to prepare for quite a while since I started writing this blog daily at about the same time.
By late June, the school was right around the corner, and I had gotten the syllabus and recommended gear list, so I took a few trips to Dick's, Bass Pro, REI, and even Wal Mart for a few things that I needed. My wife made me a bedroll out of canvas duck, and I rented a Jeep Cherokee for the trip.
Last Thursday afternoon rolled around, and I hit the road to Jackson, Ohio. It only took me about 5 and a half hours to get there, and I scouted out the meeting location for the next morning. I checked in at the Day's Inn and hit the local Bob Evans (his original farm was just right down the road) restaurant for a late dinner.
Friday morning arrived rainy and nasty, and I made my way back to the meeting site. As we gathered there, most folks were keeping to themselves, not much more than a head tilt or a "mornin'" as a greeting... That really changed by the time we go into the training. And then, Dave Canterbury rolled up with his wife, Iris. Not some Hollywood hotshot in a Cadillac Escalade or Eddie Bauer package Ford Excursion, but a regular guy in a regular 4x4. He looked and sounded just like he does on TV, and was extremely personable. We waited a little bit, then convoyed to the training location... A small farm house surrounded by acres and acres of thick woods, streams, mining caves, and some steep darn hills.
As we arrived, we gathered in the class area that had been strung with a variety of tarps. There, we met the other instructors, Chance Sanders, a former Marine with a growing YouTube channel; Chance's wife, Laura, the first female to complete the Pathfinder Advanced school; and Dave "Mitch" Mitchell, a primitive backwoodsman with the Native Survival website, training school and YouTube channel. Also on hand for the week were Dave's wife, Iris (a wonderful lady who was the chief photographer and super nice); his son, Justin (who Dave had running gear and supplies back and forth); and Pearl, the local stray dog who stays for every Pathfinder class, mooching food and testing out shelters and sleeping bags.
We started off with 30 students. Nine were kids, three were ladies, and the rest adult men. One fellow had some medical issues and couldn't stay past the first day. Of the rest of the group, we ranged in age from 9 to 60, with me being probably in the oldest 5 or 6. Two of the ladies were moms there with their sons, the other was a newcomer to camping and being outside, but her fiance is a big time outdoorsy guy in to rock climbing and hiking, so she came to learn the skills to accompany him. She was so hard core that she is already signed up for the Pathfinder Advanced course coming up in a week or so. Of the kids, quite a few were Cub or Boy Scouts, and the men covered every occupation including engineers and cops, with quite a few former military. The group came from California, Las Vegas, Arizona, Detroit, Indiana, Ohio, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana... just off the top of my head.
After introductions, we hiked up a tall, steep, wooded hillside to see some of the primitive shelters built by other classes, and stake out our own sites. Some of the parents with young kids and a couple other folks set up tents in the clearing between the cars and the class area, but I had to go up high to see what I could come up with.
That's enough of an introduction, I'll give you more stories over the next few days. I'll put my photos on a YouTube video this weekend, but you can also check out the Pathfinder School FB photo albums.