Survival TRAINING Weekend.  Saturday & Sunday, June 3 & 4, 2017

For Christmas, Susan bought me to passes to Thomas Coyne Survival School.  They are one of the United States premier schools for survival training.  Their courses are all certified.  Even though she told me to invite 'one of the guys'; I really wanted her to go.  We planned it on June 3/4.  I figured it wouldn't be too cold or too hot and no rain.
That weekend, the weather turned out perfect - 78 or so, sunny and clear.

We had no idea what lie ahead.....

It was very tiring, fun and a major learning experience.  We wouldn't have changed a thing.  Sunday afternoon we both came home with certificates.

We arrived at 9:00 am at Camp La Verne, near Jenks Lake (above Angeles Oaks) off Highway 38.  Highway 18 is "the front way" to go up to Crestline, Arrowhead or Big Bear.  Highway 38 is "the back way" to go up.  It starts in Redlands and kind of follows the Santa Ana River until it forks into Cienaga Seca Creek.  It continues up and around Onyx Peak, past Baldwin Lake and drops you onto the east end of Big Bear Lake.  It then winds around the north shore and joins up with Highway 18 at the dam.  Below, was our schedule, what we learned and what we had to try. In order to get a certificate, each person had to fully understand what was taught and be able to explain it.

Saturday, Day 1 Training:

Introduction to the course (1 hr. +/-) by Tom Coyne
Initial group was 18 people.  3 father/son groups, 3 just out of college girls, 2 couples (including us) and 5 other guys.

Discussed Fire Making:

The #1 thing they said was to carry storm proof matches.  These matches burn in wind, rain and snow.  Once lit, they'll even burn buried in dirt.
The #2 suggestion - a flint stick and accelerant - we all tried it out.

The #3 suggestion started with a hike down the Jenks Lake trail to locate bow, drill, baseboard and top board.
During the hike we learned how to do a 2 man carry.  If the 3rd person is unable to walk, the other 2 pick up a heavy (baseball bat thickness) branch roughly 4 feet long and carry it between them.  The 3rd person sits on the branch between and is carried by the other 2.  Of course, when I volunteered with one of the instructors, we carried the heaviest guy there (besides me) that was one of the other insturctors.

On the hike back, we learned about sage, its medicinal properties (natural bug repellent) and that it can be made into a tea.  The bark is very stringy and fine, which rolled between the palms, makes a good tinder bundle for the bow-drill.

Once we got back tp camp, we headed for the fire pit area, assembled bow-drill and attempted fire starting.  I got embers twice, but didn’t get it into fire.  Susan didn’t get embers.  Another 30 minutes and we both would have done it.  Fire making training ended about noon.

Lunch Break until 12:40

We'd purchased KFC chicken, tater salad, water, diet coke and had that for lunch.

After lunch, we learned Shelter Building:

We hiked about ¼ mile down Jenks Lake trail and then listened to shelter building instruction by Denny and Justin.  Then they sent us out to build our own.   We were told to build individual shelters for each of us, instead of one for both of us.  The reason for that is most people build "double wides" much too large, which would make them not hold the heat in.  We built one for the 2 of us anyway and kept it within the specs they told us to use.   When we were nearly done, both Denny and Justin came over and said it was the best 2 person shelter they’d seen built.  No sunlight came through, which meant it was water proof and it wasn't too high, like most build "double wides".  We did good.

Then we hiked back to camp and relaxed until 5 pm.  We thought we were done for the night and this 20 minute break would actually be the all night break.  We were wrong.....

Dinner Break:

Dinner turned into training on survival cooking. Denny instructed us on how to make ash cakes – flour and water mixed to a pizza dough consistency – and then put directly onto the coals to cook.  We also had cheese filled brats and corn on the cob (still in husk) and both cooked directly on the coals. Cooked long enough and you have a bready cake.  The ashes didn't stick to them much, at all.  Plain tasting, but had we added honey or berries it would have been excellent.  Eaten with the corn and brats and it was yummy.

End of Day 1 Training about 6:45 pm. 

We decided not to sleep in our shelter due to dirt, bugs, etc.  We were so tired, we didn’t even put up our tent, but cleared out the back of the truck and slept (?) there.  Sleeping was difficult as there wasn't much padding and we couldn't get comfy.


Day 2 Training:

We woke up Sunday morning to find out that the other couple left in the middle of the night.  It had to have been an emergency because they left their tent and camp site set up.  We certainly hope they're OK.
Breakfast for us was some fruit and protein bars washed down with a diet coke and water.  Denny mentioned that with all the sweating we’re doing, we should make sure we replace our electrolytes.  He then produced a can of Gatorade Powder and we both added it to 2 water bottles.

Water purification training:

About 8:30 am – We went to the fire pit area and Denny instructed us about boiling water right over the fire in a pot.  This is the #1 preferred method. For the #2 method, he showed us how to heat rocks and put them into a plastic bag to boil the water.  Place the rocks into the bag (not drop them in), so you don't damage the bag and create a leak.  For every 3000 feet of elevation, 1 minute of boiling is required – err on boiling too long side.  We were at roughly 7500 feet, so 2.5 – 3 minutes and the water is safe to drink.

Then we hiked down to the creek, below the training area and learned about various water purification methods:

Next, we discussed Rescue Signaling:

We learned about contrast and the triangle.  Make a triangle where the sides are as long as you are tall in the dirt (or ground).  Add contrast on all sides of the triangle, the inside, as well.  If dug into the dirt, then add different colors on the outsides (insde, as well) of the triangle - grass, anything a different and contrasting color to the dirt.  Denny even suggested to carry plastic ribbon (like police tape) with you.  Then you put it in the triangle legs, even a stick in the middle standing up with a ribbon tied and blowing in the wind.

We were taugth how to signal easily with a mirror.  Holding your hand up, use the V formed by your thumb and index finger to point the reflection.  Keep the reflection so its sides show on your hand V and that's where the mirror is pointing.

We learned about pen flares – packs of 3 and the size of a pen.  They shoot up about 300 feet into the air and are a mini-flare.
He also discussed using rescue beacons (I already have one).  They have to be registered by serial number, with your name and address and pertinant info, so they know who owns it.  If you activate it, a rescue team is sent to the coordinates of where the beacon is located.  Don’t accidentally set it off or it will cost you $10,000.

Then we hiked to Jenks Lake to learn 2 things.

We collected tall grass found around/in water’s edge.  Denny taught us rope making using the grass we just collected.  Kind of a reverse braid.  It was rather strong and when fully dried, even stronger.
This grass also has seeds later in the season that can be separated from its husk and ground up to make ash cakes.

Using the cordage we just made, we learned how to make dead fall traps:

We collected 2 sticks from willow branches.  We had to cut and shape them accordingly.  Next, we located a rock that was large enough and shaped properly for the dead fall to work. Using the grass rope we just made, we tried to assemble our dead falls.  To the untrained person, it doesn't look that hard to do.  Watching Denny do it, it looked like a piece of cake to do; doing it myself - IT'S NOT!
We then had about 30 minutes to assemble and get our dead falls to work.  Just as Denny was telling us to gather up to leave, I got my dead fall to work.  YAHOO!  Susan wasn't quite as lucky as I.

Then we hiked back up Jenks Lake trail

Upon arriving at our shelters, we were instructed to tear them completely down.  What?!?  They were told by the forest service that all shelters must be destroyed, so we knocked our hard work down and spread it around. Then we finished the hike back to camp for lunch break.  KFC chicken, tater salad, water and diet coke.....again.

After lunch, we had some rudimentary First Aid Training:

In the lodge, Justin and Denny instructed us on the basics of what we’d most likely see – sprains, dislocations and lacerations.

Then we practiced on ourselves.

After all of that, we received our certificates for completing all stages of the course.  About 1:40 pm, we left for home.

Because there was so much covered in a day and a half, there wasn’t hardly any free time.  Each section was taught and trained quickly and any hiking was done with a purpose – to get there quickly.  There wasn’t much time for picture taking or dilly-dallying.  All 3 instructors were very cognizant of the fact that all of us paid money, so we started on time and if others showed up late, they showed up late.  All 3 instructors - Tom, Denny (main instructor) and Justin were very cool.  In a brief time early Sunday morning, I got to chat with Denny a bit.  He is way cool, very down to earth and loves training people in survival.  We couldn't have asked for better.

After everything is said and done, would we do it again?  HECK YEAH.  Susan loved it and whole-heartedly agrees.  We're thinking about doing a few other courses with them.

Check out the pics - Survival.html