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Hoods In The Woods

Wow, the time has gone on, I ended up finding this article in the press (on line) about the program I worked with for 6 Years… I spent an average of 145 days in the Woods with this program… Hiking, Canoeing, Camping and more… How many we saved and some that we did not.

As an Eagle Scout, Navy Veteran and prior EMT, I would like to say THANK YOU to all those who put themselves on the line each day for our family, friends, and country. For the people of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Hawaii and the places affected by Wildfires in the west and all the places too many to name… I offer you my prayers on behalf of myself and my family – concern, and Prayers for your recovery and strength – God Bless!!!

John Elden Gibbons

From the Press

Press Articles 2

Tracking: a pastime with varied purposes

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

While I was walking through the woods with my 5-year-old son Jared     recently, we were checking out animal tracks. The day before, he had asked     me when we were going back into the woods.

Jared and I have been tracking since he was 3. Tracking is an activity     for both young and old, but especially for kids because they are so curious.     That leads to the question: What is the goal of tracking?

Tracking can have nothing to do with hunting or trapping, as it is so     often thought. However, that skill is useful for both. The first goal of a     tracker should be to identify the animal and then try to figure out what the     animal is doing. Consider how it walks, where the tracks lead to, then maybe even track the animal for a while. Winter is an excellent time to do this  because there is snow on the ground.

Tracking is useful for identifying animals in your area. The first step     is to make a list of all the animal tracks you find in one outing. A good     book on tracking, such as Peterson’s field guides are great places to start.     These books illustrate the tracks and help you identify them. Next, get a     book on good techniques of tracking, like one by well-known survival writer     Tom Brown Jr.

The most important thing is just get out there and learn the easy tracks     like rabbits and deer, then identify as many more as you can. The rest will  follow.

With knives, size matters

By JOHN GIBBONS, Outdoor Tips

In the woods, tools can make your life easier. If you want to build a     fire, you need a saw and an ax.

A saw alone will help you do a lot of work. Splitting wood with an ax or     hatchet will make your fire burn better.

Always gather dry hardwoods. A winter night camping with a hardwood fire     made from hardwoods like beech, oak or maple makes for a great atmosphere.

This brings me to thoughts on camp knives. What would be the best     selection of knives to take on a camping trip?

Many types of knives are useful in camp. A pocket knife will do 80     percent of the work needed around camp. It can cut up game, cut rope, used     to whittle or do kitchen chores.

A good multi tool comes in handy to fix stoves and lanterns. A multi tool     will work well as the only knife because it has a pocket blade in it.

If you want to split wood into small kindling, an ax or hatchet will do a     good job, but a large fixed blade knife can be used for this job. A sheath     knife or folding lock knife with a larger blade of 4 to 6 inches can do all     of the chores a pocket knife will do.

However, a pocket knife is not going to be useful to split wood when you     really need it. If the wood is wet or if you need fine kindling wood, a  large knife can tackle this job. If I could only have one, I would take a     large sheath knife or folding lock blade knife.

Many people do not like lock blade knives. I like the low profile they put out when carrying them in public.

My pick for the best all around knife is a large folding lock blade  knife. Or why not take all three with you if you can?

In the end, the best knife for you is the one you have on you. It does     you no good if you leave it at home. Many people will argue with me about     which is the best knife. I expect this. We should agree, however, on one thing — your knife needs to be sharp.

In a survival situation I want a larger fixed blade knife 5 in minimum.

Dine on pine: needles, bark

By John Gibbons, Outdoor Tips

With Christmas fast approaching, my thoughts turn to evergreens. I wonder  have you ever tried pine-needle tea?

The white pine is easily identified by its five needles in a cluster.     This tree is found throughout the North Country.

To get started, clip about a teaspoon of the ends of the new growth     needles. You can use any part of the needle, but the new shiny green growth  is the best for tea.

Next add a cup of boiling water to the clippings. Steep this tea for  about 10 minutes. It is best to strain the water into another cup. This separates the needles from the liquid. Use a metal strainer for this operation.

Sweeten the liquid as you would any other tea, and you have a     surprisingly tasty beverage. This tea does not taste like turpentine or     something equally bad, and it is high in vitamin C.

In a survival situation, the pine tree will also provide food where no     other is available. Take a cue from the native Americans who inhabited this area: Adirondack means bark eater. The inner bark of the white pine is edible.

Start by taking a hatchet and pounding on a square section of the tree     with the blunt end. Next cut a patch of the bark in a square. Do not go all   the way around the tree. This will kill the tree.

Then, peal back the bark, exposing the inner bark. Many times the inner     bark will come with the outer bark of the tree as you peel. If not, pull the inner bark off the tree.

This inner bark needs to be dried or boiled to process it for use. If     boiled it can be eaten as is or with other things such as bullion for     flavor. This makes kind of a wild noodle.

If dried, the bark can be pounded into flour and used to make ash cakes,     a dough cooked in the ashes of the fire to make a biscuit. It can also be     eaten as it comes off of the tree.

However, processing it makes it more palatable.

Have a great Christmas and don’t forget that white pine. It is not only     for decoration. It could save your life.

Campfires: Here’s how — and how not

By John Gibbons, Contributing Writer

A long time ago, the only way to cook food in the woods was with a     campfire. Now we have backpacking stoves and liquid fuel. Campfire cooking     seems to have become a lost art. Some say this is a good thing.

Campfires can cause forest fires and deplete the forest of wood in     overused camping areas, and campfires are banned in some areas of the     Adirondacks.

However, to be skilled in the outdoors, a person needs to know how to     build a safe fire. Fires are indispensable in an emergency, to say nothing     of the feeling you get from standing around one. Though I have gone several     nights in the dead of winter without a campfire, the nights with a campfire     were always more cheerful.

It is important to keep the area around the fire free of debris. This     creates a safety zone. Piling mineral soil onto a tarp will create a base     for your fire that can be scattered after use.

You do not need to put rocks around in a ring. This just creates scarred     rocks. Remember to keep the fire small and never burn wood larger than your     wrist.

Gather only dead and downed wood. Do not peel birch trees for tinder.     This hurts the tree and leaves a scar. You can usually find birch bark on     the ground. Consider using other tinder. Fine-shaved pieces of wood from     dead and down trees make great tinder. A saw and an ax or hatchet will go a     long way to help gather and, if need be, split good dead wood.

What is the best fire? A tepee fire or a log-cabin fire is what I     recommend. A tepee fire has sticks piled vertically in a circle to form a     tepee. This fire is great for making a hot fire or producing good cooking     coals.

Always cook food on the coals of a fire. The log-cabin fire is formed by     placing sticks horizontally in a criss-cross manner. This fire puts out a     lot of warmth. It burns slower and is a good fire for sitting around. So     what is the best fire? It depends on its use.

Bean-hole beans: a campsite staple

By John Gibbons, Outdoor Tips

No camp experience would be complete without making baked     beans in a bean hole. In days gone by, beans were a staple of camp life. Now     we have dehydrated foods and lots of canned goods.

In the old days, you used dried goods in camp. If you     want to reach for a little piece of history, make some camp beans. Don’t     forget the bannock, bacon and coffee to round out that traditional     experience.

To begin, Take a pound of dry navy beans and wash them.     Be sure to pick out any stones.

Soak these beans in water overnight. In the morning, put     the beans in your pot and cover them with two inches of water. Put the     kettle on to boil.

Simmer the beans until the skins pop open when you blow     on them. Take them off the stove and drain the water. Reserve two cups of     the bean water.

This should take about 45 minutes.

While the beans are boiling, dig a hole in the ground.     The hole should be one foot deeper than the size of the pot and 1½ feet     larger in diameter.

Line the hole with rocks. Do not use river stones, as     they may explode.

I get asked the question: Do you have to line the hole     with rocks?

The answer is no, but it will work better with the rocks.

Next, build a fire in the hole. Let the fire burn down to     coals. Shovel out the coals.

Next, add the following to the beans:

Now, add the two cups of water, plus enough to cover the     beans. Stir the mixture up and place the pot with the lid on it and handles     up in the hole.

Shovel the coals back in around the pot and cover with     coals and a layer of dirt. Leave the handle out so you can find it.

Cook for six to eight hours.Carefully uncover the pot. If     you have never had beans cooked this way, you are in for a treat and you     will experience a little piece of history.

The cattail can be the staff of life out in the wilds

By John Gibbons

My grandfather, Euell Gibbons, was enamored of the common cattail. I was     thinking about this as I was hiking around the Paul Smiths Visitor     Interpretive Center early last fall. I was impressed with the number of     cattails in the bog area.

If you want to enjoy wild foods, you really need to learn about only 20     plants. A good place to start is by reading Grandpa’s book “Stalking the     Wild Asparagus.”

The first and one of the most important wild foods you should learn is     the common cattail, Typha latifolia. Grandfather called these plants     “the supermarket of the swamps.”

You will find these plants in wetland areas. They are common in the     Champlain Valley but harder to find in the Adirondack Mountain areas.

The cattail is easily found by locating last year’s stalks, which are     long, sword-like leaves. Then look for a cigar-shaped, furry seed head     sitting atop a slender reed, a sign of last year’s crop. In the spring and     summer, the cattail leaves are green, but they turn brown in the fall.

The cattail has five edible parts.

The young shoots can be cooked like asparagus. They are referred to as     “Cossack asparagus.” The green seed pods can be boiled like corn on the cob     and are called “cat on the cob.”

The pollen that forms on the seedhead can be mixed with flour to form a     great additive. The rootstock, or rhizome, can be opened and mashed in a     slurry of water. The water is then poured off, and what remains is a wet     flour that can be used to bake with.

Finally, a soft spike at the end of the rootstock can be boiled and     eaten.

The cattail can provide food in a survival situation, either raw or     boiled. It can provide a source of flour and an additive to extend flour.

It can also help in other ways by providing reeds for baskets or mats.     The fluff that forms on the seed head can be used as an insulation in the     fall or winter by stuffing it into your clothing.

The same fluff will help catch a spark when using spark-based fire     starting. Add a mixture of birch bark and fluff together to get a fire     started.

The cattail is an important plant. It is one of the first     you should learn.

Take no chances: pack survival kit

By John Gibbons, Contributing Writer

I am writing this with a hot cup of coffee in hand. I think about how     warm and content I am. Instead, I could be outside, cold and in need of     protection. This got me thinking about what we really need in an emergency     or survival situation. It also made me think of the statement, “Anyone who     goes afield should take a survival kit with him or her for emergencies.”

Why take a survival kit? A good survival kit will provide the necessities     when you really need them. Every good survival kit should start with     clothing. Start out by wearing and taking clothing that will keep you warm     and comfortable during a night out in the woods. This may mean carrying a     down jacket in a day pack. Always layer your clothing so you do not overly     perspire. Getting wet cools you down. Carry a wool hat and mittens.

Many people have died because of exposure. Exposure is hypothermia, a     cooling of your core temperature to the point of death, or hyperthermia, the     heating of your body temperature to the point of death. Exposure is the No.     1 cause of death in a survival situation.

The next important cause of death is dehydration, lack of water. If these     two problems are taken care of, a healthy person could live several weeks     with hunger as the side effect. Learning to fish, trap and gather wild foods     will aid in preventing hunger. However, it is no guarantee of eating.

So what should you bring? The correct clothing, a multi-tool knife, a     collapsable water container, water-purification tablets, a magnesium fire     starter, fire-starting fuel (Vaseline and cotton), 50 feet of parachute     cord, a small compass, two large garbage bags (contractor’s size) for     shelter, 25 feet of wire for snares (22 guage), 25 feet of fish line, fish     hooks, two rubber worms, sinkers, a small metal pot or cup and a bandana     that can be used as a bandage. Add more if you want. When you think about     what could happen to you, a survival kit just makes good sense to take     along.

Sparks can fuel the flames of survival

By JOHN GIBBIONS

Fire is very important in a survival situation. Without fire you cannot     purify water, regain lost heat or cook food.

I remember the first time I made fire with flint and steel. I struck a     small piece of flint that I purchased from a black-powder dealer to a steel     file. The spark shot down onto a mixture of Vaseline and cotton. It lighted     right away. The key is to guide the steel down across the flint. In this way     you can aim the shower of sparks.

You can make the Vaseline and cotton mixture by smearing a gob of     Vaseline onto three all-cotton cotton balls. Then simply work the Vaseline     into the cotton. I store my mixture in an empty 35 mm film container. I keep     it in the top pocket of my vest with an artificial flint called a magnesium     fire starter. If you have never used one of these little gems, I suggest you     buy one. They are inexpensive and can be found at many sporting goods     stores.

The magnesium fire starter takes some practice, but once you learn to use     it, you will never want to be without one. The fire starter has an     artificial flint imbedded into a block of magnesium. Magnesium is scraped     off a block on the starter with a knife or quartz rock. These scrapings are     best piled on to a small amount of birch bark.

Buff the bark by rolling it back and forth with your hand against your     pants leg. This will break up the fibers. Now make a little nest with the     bark and scrape the magnesium onto the bark in a little pile. Using a knife     or quartz rock, scrape across the artificial flint to make a spark. Direct     the spark onto the pile of magnesium. This takes a little practice. The pile     will light and set the birch bark ablaze.

Why not just use a lighter?

I have found in windy and wet conditions that using the Vaseline and     cotton mixture with a fire starter will work every time. A lighter tends to     blow out, can run out of fuel, and will deteriorate with age. The magnesium     fire starter will stay ready when lighters and matches become ruined.

The next step is true flint and steel. By learning these skills you just     increase you chances of starting a fire when you need one. But remember, you     have to practice.

Bread on open fire rounds out breakfast

By JOHN GIBBONS

Taking an old-time camping trip can be a great way to     appreciate how our forefathers did it. A couple of years ago, my friend Rick     and I canoed to Little Square Pond in the St. Regis Canoe Area for a     three-day trip. We were going in by canoe, and we carried only a tarp to     sleep under and planned to cook on an open fire.

We brought with us only the basics that included the     three traditional old-time camping staples — beans, flour and bacon, the     latter the cured kind that keeps well.

At camp, I boiled the bacon in a few inches of water in     the frying pan and then fried it to a golden crisp.

Then I made that traditional trail-bread bannock for our     morning meal to go with the bacon. The recipe is really simple. Here are the     ingredients:

To make the bannock, combine the dry ingredients and work the  water in a little at a time until you have a stiff dough. If it’s too soft, work  in a little more flour. Make it into a ½-¾-inch-thick round loaf about the size  of the bottom of a medium frying pan. Drop the loaf into a hot, well-oiled fry  pan and cook. When the bottom is brown flip it over and cook the other side. If  you have an open fire, you can prop the pan up on a log and cook the other side  without flipping it. Expose the uncooked side to the heat of the fire while it’s  still in the pan.

I like to use my pot lid over the frying pan while the bread  cooks to make a little oven.

The bannock tastes much like an English muffin. Use a  toothpick or wood sliver to poke into the bannock to check for doneness, much  like a cake. Try this at home in your kitchen. If you add more water to the  mixture you get a passable flapjack recipe.

John Gibbons is the grandson of wild foods legend Euell  Gibbons. He is the author of “An Adirondack Guides Cookbook.”