After checking in, and stopping to check out some salamanders near the gazebo, we headed towards the vernal wetlands. Once we got to the access road, we reinspected the Perilla and Jewelweed as it is always important to be able to identify plants as they change throughout the year. Right at the trail head on the access road, we spotted a dead deer mouse! Deer Mice (Peromyscus maniculatus) are very important food sources for many predators including Owls, Coyote, Bobcat, Snakes, Foxes, Skunks and Weasels! They are omnivorous and will eat caterpillars, spiders, arthropods, and stinkbugs, as well as seeds, fruits, leaves, and fungi. Most deer mice live up high in large hollow trees! You can always learn a lot from a dead animal, and most children before they are taught to be afraid, or that dead things are yucky, love to inspect them. It was particularly interesting to our group that the mouse died with a nut still in his mouth!
Before heading down the trail, Kelly and Henry taught us a really fun game called everybody’s it tag. It is a tag game where everyone’s it, and if you get tagged you have to sit down. If the person who tagged you gets tagged, you can get back in the game! The game ends if one person single-handedly tags everyone. Disputes are settled through rock, paper, scissors! While, it is pretty hard to win if there are a lot of people, it is still very fun and has you rooting for people to get your tagger!
We then took some time for snack while I read the epic story of how Tom Brown Jr. learned to build a debris hut with his friend Rick. Their Mentor, Stalking Wolf whom they affectionately call Grandfather, taught them to ask the squirrels if they wanted to be able to stay warm and dry! After a few nights of trial and error, they finally figured it out after Tom climbed up a tree and actually inspected the house of a squirrel! It’s a pretty funny and inspirational story, as well as fascinating if you are interested in old ways of learning and how deep your nature connection can go.
Afterwards, we headed down the trail to play a few rounds of camouflage before making our own debris hut! We found a spot away from the main trail where there were no major widow-makers, AKA big trees with limbs that may break in a storm and fall on you! A definite No-No in a survival situation. Victoria volunteered to be the model for our shelter. I taught how you want to make the ridge pole as long as your body, but no longer as you don’t want to waste time insulating a shelter that is too big for you. We then gathered a bunch of sticks to use as the ribs of the structure to support the weight of all the debris! Unfortunately we ran out of time before putting on the debris, but in the coming weeks it should start to look pretty epic!
I hope you all are taking some time to jump in some leaf piles before it snows!
Till next time,