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After wrapping up the river section students were briefed and prepared for Caving and Primitive Skills. Most students were unsure what to expect but from the stories and experiences they shared you can tell the experience was a blast! But really, what’s not fun about playing in mud underground? Or learning skills to help your survive in the wilderness?
We started out this section with Primitive Skills. This semester Primitive Skills focused on the 4 W’s of survival: Water, Wind, Wood, and Widow-makers… these four W’s help students to remember what needs to be a priory when it comes to a survival situation. #1 – Water is the most important because you can only survive 3 days without water. #2 – Wind reminds us to make sure we have shelter from the elements around us. This is where the students learned how to build a basic debris shelter. A debris shelter is one of many different types of shelters you can build to help keep you dry and warm in a survival situation. #3 – Wood refers to getting a fire started for warmth, cooking, and purifying water. Lastly, #4 – Widow-makers, being aware of your surroundings and not setting up your camp under dead limbs or trees that could be fatal to you if they were to fall.
During Primitive Skills our students had the opportunity to put their new skill set into practice during their 40 hour solo. We set the students out alone in the woods for 40 hours. Most students decided to fast during this time to really focus and rely on the Lord. It was so encouraging and exciting to hear about all their individual experiences when it was time for pick up. One of the biggest take aways this semester was the importance of time management. Some students felt like they went into the solo with a good plan of how they wanted to use their time to the fullest and others left wishing they had planned ahead better. Either way the solo was a positive learning experience for everyone.
After the solo we set off to the caves! Caving is a well loved section by both students and instructors. We travel from cave to cave and campsite to campsite exploring the underground playgrounds covered in mud. Our students got to enter 4 different caves. One student’s curiosity lead to the discovery of a new room in one of the caves. In this cave students waded through a small wet tunnel that opened up into an big room that was home to an underground spring. This new room is now called “The Forgotten Spring.”
Every cave is unique in its own way. Some of the features our students got to experience were underground waterfalls, muddy floors, streams and rivers underground, huge open rooms with ceilings as high as 40 feet, breakdown mountains that required climbing and scrambling over, tight squeezes and areas we like to call the pancake or the z-bends. Another favorite is the panic room where you enter through a tiny hole and try to fit all the students inside this one tiny hidden room inside the cave. All these and more were challenging in some way to the students. After cleaning and rinsing our caving clothes one last time we returned to base camp for a few days of rest before we headed out to experience the vertical world of rock climbing.