Monday, January 25, 2016

Snowmageddon 2016- lessons learned.

The threat is that people might be snowed in for up to 3 days. Power Might go out for a night. No Armageddon, no threat of widespread panic, no DHS threat upgrade, yet the store shelves are empty!

Had this been a true emergency, imagine how the general public would have responded. Instead of just bare shelves, you would have bare shelves, murder, rape and pillaging. People aren't reasonable, they have zero survival skills past the next 24 hours. Just peruse facebook for a few hours. I see people I know that work menial jobs wearing 600 dollar outfits and driving a new jalopy every few months from the buy here, pay here lot. No thought of the future, no idea that the money faucet would ever end up dry. They always have the new Ick phone 47 and the latest fashion and never consider the idea of going without should there be an event to disrupt society. Uncle Sugar will always be there to make it right is they get too stoned to get up and go to work, thus losing their job.

These are the Zombies. The dangerous, nothing left to lose, hungry, insolent masses that will be out to get you when the chips are down and survival comes down to the prepared and the Zombies. Things are good right now, Keynesian economics has fooled everyone into a false belief that the US is doing great and money is flowing into the middle class. We still have people fighting to the death over sale items on Black Friday. Urban youths continue to strike innocent subjects for fun. The Knockout game is now the Cut your face game and not a soul is worried about it. Remember Ferguson when the police pulled back? I had friends on the ground protecting some infrastructure and stores when the police went away. They won't be there when things fall apart and it's wide spread.  It's all a foreign problem to suburbanites. Imagine the depravity that would ensue in the aftermath of a coordinated electrical infrastructure attack. Think of an attack like the one on Silicone Valley in larger scale.

I recently read a book that explained the effectiveness of a coordinated mortar attack on several refineries using time delayed mortars from 2 angles. Genius to say the least, but catastrophic to the economy if it happens. Think about 10 dollar a gallon gas and it's impact on the economy. The 2007-2008 financial meltdown was triggered by fuel prices. Our current economy is on the razors edge, now would be the perfect time for an attack to have the greatest impact.

How would you survive? Would that $3k 1911 keep your family fed? Do you have enough fuel to put in a garden in the spring? If today was the last day you could make it to the grocery, would you make it til spring? Can you even heat your house without the utilities you rely on?

A snow storm is a non event. It's a hiccup and not a heart attack, yet the shelves are bare and people are acting like idiots. When it really happens, people are going to come unhinged in the first 24 hours when they can't nuke their corn dogs and the VP runs out of their brand of cigarettes. Prepare accordingly.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another Frigid Weekend Afield In The Books.

Spent the entire weekend out in the woods at a winter scout camping event. A few new twists that I hadn't counted on came up.

1. Frozen wet wood- It's about the hardest thing in the world to process. Had I needed to process it in the field and split it, I would have only been able to split 12-14" long pieces. It's rather tenacious when frozen in in the teens. We had to set up the split wood near the fire to dry it out prior to burning it.

2. Frozen shoes- Getting into a frozen pair of shoes after sleeping in a cozy Hammock was brutal to say the least. Drying them prior to sleeping was impossible. It was just too cold to keep them in my sleeping bag.

3. Frozen ground is hard to dig- Had we needed to dig a latrine, it would have been nearly impossible. Luckily we had pit toilets so it was less so. I will say that a pit toilet is best used when it's frigid. The stink is gone, as well as the bugs.

4. NEVER TRUST A WEATHER MAN. Temps dropped to 10 degrees below the forecast temperature. Instead of 21 degrees, we hit 10 above with low single digit wind chill.

5. Keeping food in frigid weather sounds like a snap, right? Nope. We had to keep eggs and milk in the cooler and throw a bottle of warm water in them every once in a while to keep it from freezing. French toast in the teens is a struggle. The milk and egg mix would constantly freeze. We made a cake for the cooking competition and it was pretty hard to get it fixed prior to freezing solid. Then add the temperature differential into you dutch oven cooking calculations and it took an additional 25% cooking time. I still won, but it sucked. Had to be a corn product. I made Corn cake with cherry chocolate drizzle. Cost me about 5 bucks to make. Bragging rights, priceless!

6. Bring backups to your backups. By the end of the weekend I loaned out 2 military sleep systems, 2 pairs of socks, a pair of gloves, a pair of boots and a bunch of toilet paper.

My scouts did well with their skills tests this weekend. They had to bring their own supplies and use them to do various skills as required. They weren't given specifics besides they would need to use orienteering to find the stations. They had to make a fire after getting wet. All items used to make fire had to be dunked in a bucket prior to use. They had to then build the fire that would burn through a line suspended at 24" for a timed result. There were other various skills related to survival and they came in 2nd over all with only 2 scouts present with high ranks.

I didn't get much sleep at all. The air was so cold that my throat would dry out and the pain would wake me. Add in the full moon and it was a rough night. I'm a very light sleeper as well and the coyotes were making some noise! We had to hurry home for my boys' birthday party. Their birthdays are about a week apart so we usually hold the party at the same time. Oddly enough, my eldest received a new 20 degree Kelty speeling bag.... Perfect timing for our next camp out in February.

The upcoming week is going to be super busy, I'm not sure how much I'll be posting. Hopefully a little because I have some review updates to make and some field use to write about.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Big New Year For Me.

Last year I taught and assisted with the training of around 300 people, both youth and adults, in firearms safety and use. I learned a lot from my mentor about firearms instruction and how to motivate change in complacent skills. He is a retired special forces team sargent so he's very familiar with teaching people how to fight when he doesn't even peak the same language. This skill has taken me by surprise due to the ease at which I was able to emulate his teaching style and interpret some of the military skills he teaches to civilians. It's so much different than the NRA instructor course I took 2 years ago. Blending the two has seen a marked improvement in skill dissemination and retention in the students we taught last year.

This year we will be teaching far more classes and in a few extra disciplines than we had taught prior. My partner was on a code word anti terrorist team and he was able to learn some skills very few outside of delta and the seals get to practice. After the military, he took some executive protection courses by a well know school in Cali, then came here to work for the local big town sheriff as their building security expert and for protection of foreign dignitaries. He got bored and tired of politics so he quit that gig. Those skills he was taught are very sought after, even though he's pushing the age to be able to display the athleticism,  he can still perform the necessary drills. This has allowed me to pick up on some very interesting and tactically sound skills.

The biggest shock to me was that trigger pullers are a dime a dozen. They have their place in the field and are indispensable for violence of action needs, but the real difference is made in the intelligence and communications field. Those two disciplines are responsible for the victory when things go right. Choosing your battles and fighting where you choose to is far more valuable that I had ever considered. Drop 50 of the best troops in an open field and a group of 5 moderately talented snipers can decimate them and make their unit non functional in minutes. It's all about applying force in the right manner and at the right time.

Intelligence can be little items as much as large caches of info. Noticing that the man that take interest in you has baggy pants or crappy shoes that he can't run in will determine your fight or flight response to an attack. Which hand they wear their watch on determines their dominant hand and you can watch it more closely if you feel a threat escalation is coming.

Communications is critical in a force on force engagement. Combine that communication with intelligence during a fight and you can become almost prescient while deploying your violence of action. That keeps you from just reacting and fighting your opponents battle, not yours. Communication can be as simple as hand signals and verbal interaction, or as complex as electronic burst transmission, but it's all critical when you don't have it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Start The Year Out Right

With the new year we have an opportunity to not only file our taxes, but to evaluate our investments. Look back at 2015 and see what gear you invested in and determine what of it you would purchase again. I'm not talking about surplus gear or barter items, I'm talking about that high end knife, new computer, the china your wife bought and just about everything you invested time into. Money is time you sold, so look at it in that sense as well as in greenbacks.

You may want to start using that premise in the future as well. If you deem an item worthy of a month's salary, be sure you are getting your priorities straight.

New Years resolutions are bunk. If it wasn't important to you prior to January 1, it's not that important after that magical date. If you want to set a goal and stick to it, so be it, but don't give up the first time you break that goal. If you swear off ice cream and you binge eat some Haagendas after a rough night, the struggle isn't over. Don't just give up and start buying it back on the regular.

Evaluate with your mind, not your heart. Cut the cord on a bad investment.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

When Murphy Shows Up For Laughs

Ah yes, it's that brilliant time of year when business slows down and I can get some free time to get away with my boys. Unfortunately one of my boys is injured and couldn't make our last outing. He had an interesting interlude with an elliptical machine on New Years eve and is recuperating on crutches. The oldest man child is feeling just fine, so he and I decided to take a trip to our favorite patch of woods and scout some new camp areas and test some new equipment. The weather forecast was less than inviting with constant rain and cooling temps, but Momma wanted us out of the house for the weekend so we acquiesced.

Friday Morning I was perusing the weather forecast and seeing that if we left early on Sunday, we would be fine to miss the most inclement weather front of the year so far. A big Alberta Clipper is heading straight towards us. It looks like we were going to wake up to light wind and some flurries as the temperature dropped all day. Not a huge issue, but something to be aware of. We packed accordingly and layered in proper fashion for the temps and rain. We both chose to forego a rifle for hunting and instead packed a pistol in case a ferocious tree rat attacked or we tripped on a rabbit.

For shelter,  he chose my old el cheapo backpacking tent and a jungle bag with and added fleece liner. I went with my standard Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter hammock and Browning 20 degree sleeping bag. I also brought two SilNylon tarps. A large 14 x 12 for shelter in the rain and a 10 x 7 lightweight model for my Hammock cover. My son decided to upgrade his ground pad for the colder weather so he dropped his lightweight summer closed cell pad for an inflatable 1" thick pad. I used the Klymit Static V Lightweight inflatable pad that has been nothing short of brilliant for insulating the bottom of my hammock from the elements.

The trip consisted of a 1.5 hour commute that turned into 3 hours with construction, followed by a 3.5 mile backpack slog in the muddy terrain. We arrived at a camp we've been to before but never used. Being that the season is over we expected to be alone at the furthest marked camp from the entrance. Someone had done some upgrades to the seating and fire ring so we decided that this was the place to be. Our regular location was another 1.5 miles but the dark and wet muck made us decide to change venues.

We set up camp, got a great fire going and started processing wood with our new tools. My son struggles with making a fire so I helped him process and baton enough wood for a decent start. Everything was soaked so I started splitting a chunk of cedar I found for some decent fire starter. He started the fire all by himself and did a great job.This is the first outing for my new Husqvarna small forest sized axe and folding buck saw so we quickly made use of them for the task at hand. My son's headlamp went dead twice during this procedure and he was quickly out of batteries. It seems he forgot to charge them after his last outing. This brings us to our first issue of the trip. I offered him my last set of batteries and had one extra set for myself. We ate a small meal and turned in. Winter brings early bed and late mornings.

We both got up at dawn and immediately got the fire going again. Our processed wood from the night before was soaked from condensation and hanging fog. We split some new wood and processed it out to tinder and kindling so we could get breakfast going. What a glorious breakfast it was!
See that cedar on the bottom left? Cedar smoked applewood maple bacon. The 13 year old ate his weight in bacon and even downed a pop tart as well, I stuck with just bacon and English breakfast tea.

After breakfast, we went on a great 3 mile hike to see some new camping spots I'd heard of but had never seen. They were breathtaking. Huge ridges overlooking the river and a few lakes. One in particular was very inviting with a single narrow entry point and sheer vertical drop offs on all other sides with the river directly below.

 We returned to camp in the early afternoon and gathered wood for our evening meal and the expected rain and chill. We had barely began when the rain started. It was light at first but soon transformed into a monsoon like deluge. At the first sign of rain I set up the large tarp for shelter at the edge of the fire ring and covered the wood processing area as well. The large tarp was almost too large and was difficult to get set up right in close quarters where the seating was. The fog rolled in and made for a interesting accommodations.

 My son begged me to let him sit in my hammock for a while to relax and I heard snoring shortly after dark, which is near 6 this time of year. I processed wood most of the night and found a rather large white pine that was perfectly seasoned and barely large enough for me to carry to the camp site. It had a lot of resin in it and kept me warm until 11pm when I kicked my son out of my hammock. I threw on a bunch of wood and watched the fire from inside my hammock. I set up my son's jackets to dry in the heat of the fire. At about 11:30 the wind shifted and sent our jackets into a large puddle near the tarp shelter. This was bad. Issue #2. We now had soaked jackets. Mine is a synthetic Carhartt, so not a big deal for me, but he had a cotton hoodie and a rain jacket. I had sent him to bed with my under armor cold gear base layer to keep him warm so that was the only up side.
 Foggy and dark campsite. Our jackets are hanging on a stick under the tarp.

Fast forward to 3:30am. My feet are FREEZING! What the heck is on my feet? I kick up and feel the tarp has water or something in it and has stretched down into my hammock. Kick again and hear an odd sound. That's not water! It's SNOW! I look out of my shelter to see 3 inches of white stuff covering everything. Evidently, the weather forecast changed and my wife had sent me an update, but there is little to no service in the area I'm in. It's 20 degrees out and falling fast. All my equipment is soaked and frozen solid. My son's jackets are frozen solid. This is bad.

I kick his tent and wake him up. He's cold. He left his headlamp on and it's dead. I'm on my last set of batteries as well. The snow is blowing sideways. I start striking camp immediately. He's getting his things together in the tent and I tell him not to come out until he's all packed up in there. Everything is swelled up with ice and snow. My tarps don't fit back in their containers, my paracord knots are frozen solid and won't come undone so I start cutting them free. My knit hat is soaked but I keep a spare in my sleeping bag. I put it and a wide brimmed waterproof hat on and hand the Carhartt jacket and gloves to my son. His gloves were also soaked and frozen in his tent. I have my synthetic fleece base layer as a jacket. We get everything packed and head to the truck at 4am as the temperature steadily drops and the wind howls. This was the best decision I made the entire trip.

The wind, snow, water and ice has conspired to drop numerous trees onto the trail and fire road to further impede our progress in the 3" and counting snowfall. I kept a blistering pace to keep us both warm. My son is in an after school running club so he's having no issue keeping up. I'm carrying a pack that weighs close to 60 pounds due to the added weight of snow, water and ice covered gear. There is also flooding from the torrential rain the prior night. My son used my Phone to light his way and we made it easily but my hands were pretty cold from the wind with no gloves. We stripped off our wet tops and climbed into the truck. The 10 mile trip to the highway was the most eventful drive of my life. Trees were down in the road and we had to drive around and over them multiple times. My Phone was pretty spent, so no pictures of the snow or travel home.

Here's what the storm looked like after it passed my area. Joe lives north of me in the great white north, but the storm tracked right to his area.

When Murphy shows up, you better have a plan, because I know many people who would have hunkered down and gotten themselves in trouble in the same situation. It was 16 degrees when we returned to the truck and in the single digits that night with a -15 windchill. The only reason we didn't get in trouble was because we sped up when we were cold and slowed when we started sweating. This was the perfect situation to show that training and knowledge can be the difference between discomfort and disaster when things go wrong.

What went wrong?
Weather changed drastically.

Why did that impact us?
- Didn't take proper care of our equipment. Frozen jackets, hats and gloves.
-Not enough batteries.
-Marginal sleeping gear

Consider a time when weather forecasting was non existent. People prepared for the worst all the times. We no longer think in those terms. The "known" trumps the unknown. Sometimes it can bite us. In 2 weeks I'll be camping near the same area and I plan to make some adjustments to my kit.