Pathfinder School Review - Part 4

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Night Ops

So, it's Saturday evening, dusk is setting in, and I'm looking forward to getting an early start to some sleep...  But nope, the learning continues...

Dave gathered us back together for a class on night navigation.  We learned a very simple, rough way to tell basic directions, and a more intricate method to determine a more accurate direction.

But before we could go out to the field and practice our directions, we had a drill to do in the dark without any lighting equipment.  I won't tell you what it was, but it always pays to keep your gear organized.  The top three in the class with the drill won a nice prize pack of gear, and a 12 (Oops) 13 year old boy was one of the winners.  When someone said it looked like he had been watching some of Dave's videos, he said, "only every single one, at least five times!"

We then went out in the field and did two night navigation exercises.  Contrary to popular belief, the North Star is not necessarily what a person wants to use to determine direction of travel.

After completing our tasks for the evening, I hiked up the hillside to my new shelter, looking forward to a restful sleep.  Once again, I found out too late that I had it on an angle... this time to the side.  It wasn't too steep, so I thought it would be OK.  I tossed and turned throughout the night, and when I finally arose at day break, I found that my bag had actually slid a foot or so down hill.  As I was getting ready to head to class, I realized that I had a crushing headache.  It wasn't dehydration - I had been drinking plenty of water.  As the day wore on, I realized it was from a lack of sleep and probably some caffeine withdrawal from a shortage of Diet Cokes (that's a problem I need to get kicked).  I spent much of the day with my shemagh soaked in creek water and wrapped either around my neck or over my head trying to ease the pain.

The first class of the day was on hunting tools.  We looked at the rabbit stick, gigs, spears, and sling shot.  Then, we each found and formed a rabbit stick.  That was followed by a rabbit stick course with several water and milk jugs set up as targets.  It's a lot harder than it looks, and will take practice to become proficient.

Next up, the adults went with Laura for a tour of the property to learn about wild medicinals while the kids stayed with Dave and built Swedish Spears.  The medicinals class was very informative.  It covered many of the same plants that we learned about in the edibles class the day before, but with multiple uses.

Back in the class area, we learned more about improvised weapons for hunting, places to look for animals, and seven types of animal sign.  We learned two types of traps, deadfall with a breakaway trigger and a spring trap with a toggle trigger. 

We broke for a working lunch with several deliverables...  Each team had to make both traps, and each individual had to find and explain three wild medicinals and complete the magnifying glass fire if it hadn't already been done.

My team split up so that one part worked on the toggle trigger spring trap, and the rest did the deadfall with breakaway trigger.  I worked with one other adult and two kids on the deadfall.  It took us well over an hour to get it so it would collapse reliably.  After that, I went and quickly gathered my medicinals, and was able to borrow a magnifying glass with just a few minutes left.  I got a nice big ember quickly, but couldn't get the fire.  I asked Dave if I could complete it on my own at home and send him proof, and he said that was fine.

Today I completed that task and posted this video (please check out the IfItHitsTheFan YouTube Channel for all of my videos).

Chance then gave us a class on the compass, and sent us out in small groups on a 10 point compass course through the property that they had laid out.  It was pretty challenging distances and terrain, but a great learning experience.

Before sending us out, Chance and Mitch noticed that I was not at a hundred percent and made sure I wasn't becoming a heat casualty.  I really appreciated their concern.  I told them of my sleeping problems and Chance suggested a location on a small sandbank beside the creek at the class area.  After my group finished the compass course, I hiked up the hill to collect my gear and then built a new shelter in that location.

When all the groups came in, Mitch went over a couple of alternative methods of finding direction that included using your watch and building a solar compass.

We closed out the day with a class from Mitch on making cordage.  There are quite a few yucca plants on Dave's property, so everyone went out and gathered materials to make 2 feet of cordage.  I really did not get it, and fumbled around just twisting the strands together, when all of a sudden it hit me and I came out with a nice looking, and pretty strong piece of cordage.  There is some yucca at my mother-in-law's house, so I'll definitely be keeping up this skill.  I'll also try other materials like some inner barks or grasses.

The last project of the day was dinner.  Dave brought out two big, fat rabbits.  He demonstrated killing one with a solid blow to the back of the head, then Mitch (Oops) Chance skinned and butchered it.  He then got a student who had never killed anything before to kill the second rabbit, and a couple others skinned and butchered it.  One rabbit went in a Dutch oven to become a stew and the other went on a spit over the fire.  Both tasted delicious.

I made another trip into town to WalMart to pick up some aspirin and two Diet Cokes... one to take the edge off right then, and the other for breakfast.  I felt like a million bucks after that, and bedded down in my creekside shelter to a soft, level bedroll and the sounds of a babbling rapid in my ears.  I finally slept like a log.

Monday morning dawned bright and I was well rested.  I'll tell you about the last day of school tomorrow.


  1. I cleaned and butchered the bunnys bro! Ha!

  2. cool video!!!! I think we will try our hand at it tomorrow!!!!! We have enjoyed reading all about your trip!!!!

  3. Great info. You gotta watch that slope on the bedroll! It may not kill you but it will wear you out! I always have a couple of the Folgers single coffee packets and/or the single drink mix tubes of tea for a shot of caffeine! I have that bad habit too! Great video and it is a little harder than it looks!


  4. It was really nice video and great blog.

  5. Chance, my appologies! I'll make that change!

  6. that 12 year old was 13 and it was good to have you on team 2

  7. My appologies Michael! I've got all kinds of details goofed up! Team 2 Rocks! I realized after I headed down the road that I still had you all's magnifying glass. Please ask your mom to shoot me an email at ifithitsthefan@gmail.com with your address and I'll get it back out in the mail to you.

    Thanks for reading!

  8. donald consider it a gift from us and your video was better than mine

  9. Thanks Michael! It was great working with you and your mom. If you want to link to your video here, I'd be glad to give it a plug. You know your stuff, and I'm sure a lot of folks would be inspired by what a young guy is able to do and teach others.

  10. Sorry Donald I made a typo I meant your fire was much better than mine and it was a pleasure to be on a team with you.


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