Lost in the Wild

IMG_4851We are not the Robinson family, although we do like to explore. We try to experience something new on our new country, when we leave the house, ever since we moved here.  It has been an absolutely fantastic adventure, despite some minor less fantastic moments – but let’s not dwelve on the darker times.

In recent months, we have talked a lot about getting more familiar with the great outdoors.  We live in the mountains, next to a huge state park, and pride ourselves of having joined the great scouts organisations for both girls and boys.  As such, we must learn and explore!

Last week we finally build up the courage to face nature head on, and go into the great wilderness – well armed with bug sprays, water, pocket knife and of course iPhone.

We found what we thought would be a good beginner and family trail, in the majestic Bear Mountains which is over 5000 acres of trees, lakes, rivers, wild life that will kill you and of course animals.

For this virgin trek, we even brought our loco brown 2 year old Labrador.  She hates other dogs, gets extremely hyper when she meets people and pulls like a bull.  It would be good for her to burn some energy and at the same time train walking on a leash like a normal dog.

The family SUV took us to the starting point and we prepared ourselves for a “short” trek around in the woods.  My dear wife sprayed all of us with insect repellent.  With the amount she used, mosquitos quickly became an endangered species in a 5 mile radius.

Hi Ho Hi Ho – off we go … we are family … we will survive” were tunes that we spontaneously started singing while climbing our first little ledge.  I personally prefer the soundtrack from “Sound of Music” but perhaps not relevant at that very moment.

The girls climbed large rocks, ran into the wilderness, looked at all insects and screamed by the sight of most insects.  It was a true family bonding moment.  Our son was less impressed as her prefers so watch movies about outdoors, and not being inside it.

Marking a tree in case we don't make it back!
Marking a tree in case we don’t make it back!

I felt awesome.  Putting my scouting experience to use and explained random things to the girls, hoping they would pay somewhat attention.  I showed them the markers on the trees, showing the trail we were on (little did I know that these would become essential for our survival 2 hours later) and was skipping along the path in my trekking sandals.

In hindside, none of us had selected the best footwear for this outing, but we still managed and took our time as we scaled various cliffs and streams.  We had fun and that was important.

As we got deeper and deeper into the wilderness, we encountered less and less people.  They obviously knew something we didn’t or had better trial maps.

2 hours in we finally met another family.  They asked us for direction and we joked that we were heading back to the car and pointed towards a wider trial.  It was only when their lead scout shared his map that I realised that we were slightly of course.  In fact, had we stayed on the trail, we would’ve ended up 10 miles from our starting point and car.

somewhere here
somewhere here

I tried not to panic in the presence of our kids, who all looked at me for guidance.  A nervous giggle emerged from my throat and I proudly pointed towards the path we just came from and exclaimed with a trembling voice “we are going back on the trial we just came from“.  Inside my head I as screaming “we are lost and will die!

Thankfully the kids did not argue and simply turned around.  They just turned, faced the path and started walking while humming.

The good thing was, we knew the path challenges already, and we could easily find our way back to the car as we followed the trial markers. I told you they were important!

Soon we could hear cars again and suddenly I spotted our car in the parking lot, and we had one bar coverage on cell network. It was a joyous and emotional moment being back in civilisation.

Part of me doubted my tracking skills, but my fatherly GPS senses kicked in and navigated us back to safety.  My wife actually kissed the car and hugged all of us with tears rolling down her face.

What did we learn from this family bonding adventure?

  • My youngest daughter knows how to pee in the wild
  • We need to wear better shoes
  • Would be ideal to have a trial map and compass
  • Bring more water and perhaps snacks
  • Prepare to be lost better!
  • Bring pen and paper to write letters home
  • The loco Labrador can actually work nicely (probably exhausted too)

All in all, it was a great afternoon spent with the family and we are absolutely returning to the wild in the near future.

Days of Pinewood Thunder

Pinewood-Derby-LogoI’m new to the Boy Scout movement, and all the activities that comes with it.  We felt it would be a great idea to join the local den, allowing my son to interact with other boys his age.  And, it has been absolutely brilliant for him.

Being born with Down Syndrome, it is sometimes not easy to fit in.  But, the boys in his den have been super.  They involve him, cheer for him and hold hands with him.  He absolutely loves it.

When the opportunity arose to participate in the cult like event, ‘Pinewood Derby‘, we simply had to sign-up.  I had no idea what it actually was.  Reality soon hit us!

All boys were given a small piece of pinewood, four nails and wheels.  Instructions were simple.  Racers had the same starting point = a piece of wood!  You cut, sand, carve, scratch, bite, kick, spit, paint, meditate to slowly shape it into a super fast and awesome pinewood racer.

One minor catch.  It can only weigh 5 ounces.  Anything above 5 will be disqualified and anything less would be slower.  The key is to get the car to weigh exactly 5 ounces … nothing more, nothing less.

There’s a huge industry behind pinewood racing with online shops, communities, competitions, tips, tricks and plenty of how to.  Here’s one site I found.

How hard could it be to build a fast pinewood racer?

monster pinweood racerWhere I took a slight detour was when I  wrongly assumed that the boys were building the cars themselves, with some minor supervision from their fathers.  Basically provide parental cover for usage of heavy machinery, saws, drills, quantum physics and a bit of NASA research.

I’m a full-time employee at a major firm, and honestly find it difficult to spend much time on this activity.  However, I sat aside time every evening to prepare the car.  Spending 30-40 minutes with my son, while trying to get it ready for the weigh-in.

I was very proud.  My son’s car looked like something he had created.  It had rough edges, one funny wheel, some strange colours and yet elegant and aerodynamic.  A masterpiece the Dodge brothers (John and Horace) would be proud of.  There was a remote chance that he could win the race.  The pinewood racer had his personal touches.

On the weigh-in, the tensions were high.  Every father in the room were anxiously looking at the competition.  Smirks, taunts and even a few “better luck next time” were thrown around the room.  In one corner, the pit crews were working to bring the car to the desired 5 ounces.

Suddenly, a scream echoed from the weigh-in area.  The master scale was off by .2 ounce, which meant some cars had to be adjusted or face the disqualification … wash-out lane was being lit up, and one boy was whimpering while holding his father’s hand.

Battle stations!!!  Distraught fathers rushed to the pit crews to add or remove weights.  Boys were screaming at their fathers to hurry up, despite having several hours before the weigh-in finished.  And of course we all made it 🙂

All race cars were securely locked away until the event, ensuring no father could apply some magic to their car.  Now it was just a matter of waiting for the day to arrive.