Posted by: wolfcampcollege | September 14, 2010

Wolf Journey Fall Classes Begin with Bellingham

It was fitting to begin the fall season, and the first full school year of Wolf Journey classes since moving south in 2003, in Bellingham where it all started in 1996. Kim and I are looking forward to redeveloping a full slate of classes throughout Western Washington, once-a-month in each location, with homeschoolers joining us from 1-3 p.m., afterschool youth from 4-6 p.m., and adults in the evening from 7-9 p.m.

It was also fitting to meet outside of Village Books, on a beautiful, moonlit night overlooking Bellingham Bay. Village Books was the first store to carry Wolf Journey when it was a printed book. Now we’re converting it into an online course, but we still try to purchase our books from this incredible independent bookseller which is a real pillar of the community.

We haven’t promoted the Wolf Journey classes yet, but six of us showed up anyway to kick-off our field studies by practicing how to sketch plants and landscapes. Then, by request of a student who came across a deer hide recently, we reviewed how to tan hides.

Check out the Aplodontia pelt ready to tan and the goat hide that Skye is sniffing.

Guide books, colored pencils, sketch books, hides and tanning tools, including a flesher with red handles, a scraper, and a rubbing stick.

Here's my sketch of the waxing quarter moon over tree on Bellingham Bay.

On to our next classes, including Olympia & Snohomish which started along with Bellingham last winter, Puyallup & Seattle which got underway in the spring, and soon Mt. Vernon & Vancouver/Portland which already have some new registrants. Last will come Ellensburg and Port Townsend which we are getting ready to promote later this fall. Hopefully by spring we’ll have full classes in every location!


2010.09.03 – Study Site (& bald-faced hornets) Found!

I saw the slug.  It was surrounded by carpenter ants and I wondered why they would go after a slug.  Was it for food?  Should I save it?  Wouldn’t the slugs natural slime defense protect it from them?  Was the slug considered an invader for some reason? 

Slug & ants that lured me to my site.

As I squatted under the willow for a closer look I realized that they weren’t really interacting with one another other than happening to cross paths.  By the number of ants around I figured this must be near their home or on one of their major travel routes.  The slug was turning, tentacles at full extension, and moving slowly (or was it quickly) on its way.  As I watched the ants move in what seemed a completely chaotic manner it dawned on me that there was a lot (by that I mean an alarming amount) of buzzing going on in my immediate vicinity.  As I slowly raised my eyes I saw hundreds (ok, more like 15, but it sounded like hundreds) of bald-faced hornets (Dolichovespula maculate) flying all around me.  Now I don’t know how most people would feel, but having walked into an angry swarm of disturbed ground-nesting yellow-jackets in my time I was freaking out just a little.  Should I move?  Can they sense fear?  How did I not notice this before squatting right in the middle of it?!  Take a deep breath.  As I sat, I realized they didn’t mind me at all – they were busy on a mission of their own.  And, I had found my study site. 

 The ants were farming aphids for their honeydew and the hornets (and yellow jackets too!) were hunting the aphids and gathering the honeydew that was falling from the aphids onto the willow leaves and grass below.  I stepped back a dozen feet and watched through my binoculars as the hornets landed on the leaves and grass and collected. 

Bald-faced hornet foraging for honeydew on the grass below the aphids.

They definitely don’t like other hornets in their vicinity because they would attack others as they got near.  They’d tumble together to the ground then fly off to different parts of the tree and do it all again.  I checked out the other willows in the area but this was the only one with the aphids, ants and hornets.  I wonder which came first, the ants or the aphids.  Was this particular tree weaker than the rest?  Did the aphids take advantage of that weakness and eventually the ants found them and began farming?  Or, did the ants do something to weaken the tree which brought aphids for them to farm.  Or, did the ants bring the aphids from somewhere else and put them there?  Whatever the answer, the ants were definitely defending the aphids.  I watched a hornet fly up to grab an aphid and an ant run down to confront it.  The hornet dove toward the ant, the ant reared up at it and the hornet flew crazily away.  Not sure if they ever actually made contact or not but it sure was amazing to watch. 

The aphid farm.

Earlier in the week I found the actual bald-faced hornet hive in the tall grass a few yards off our driveway.  Fortunately I hadn’t thrown our dog’s ball over there for her to find.  What a find that would’ve been!  My first thought was to destroy it (I know, pretty awful right).  But stinging insects are scary things since they, ya know, sting.  And the baldies are gigantic which makes them even more intimidating.  So I jumped online and googled the many ways to take care of the problem – hire an exterminator, come in under cover of dark and spray the nest hole from a distance with toxic chemicals then run, hook up the shop-vac and suck them all in along with some Raid.  Then I read that bald-faced hornets (not really hornets by the way) are actually only aggressive when their hive is attacked.  Otherwise they’re just going about their business foraging for other yard insects and nectar and occasionally pollinating flowers.  So, I decided to leave the hive alone.  I watched them every time I went by and wondered where they all went.  Well, now I know at least one of the places – to the willow in my study site.

This is the hornet willow and nearby snag. The bricks from our garage wall are visible through the tree branches and the split rail fence is the boundary between our yard and the wetland.

It was getting late but the baldies were still after the aphids and honeydew.  I went inside for the night but could hardly wait until the next morning to head out again to observe and explore.  1930, 60 degrees, mostly clear with a few scattered clouds 

Sunset over my study site - my peaceful place.

2101.09.04 – Study Site Explored

I was so excited to head out and explore my site this morning.  I was not disappointed.  Right off the bat I found a spider carrying her egg sac beneath her abdomen.  I suppose that beats carrying the live babies on her back, though some spiders do just that.  

This amazing little spider carries her eggs beneath her abdomen.

Then, binoculars and camera in hand, I cut through the garden and jumped the split-rail fence near the “hornet willow” as it’s now affectionately called.  Sure enough, the critters were out there buzzing around, harassing the ants and collecting honeydew.  I watched for about 20 minutes then decided it was time to explore a bit, see what I could find and choose my site boundaries.  My site is in my backyard and the wetland beyond. 

Rosehips abound at my site. Looks like it'll be a fabulous harvest after the first frost.

 The west side of the site begins just behind the garage.  There’s a row of small trees that create an edge between the building and the grasses of the wetland.  Continuing east past the building, the yard opens up to some blueberry bushes and apple trees and a large expanse of lawn with a straw bale garden right in the middle just prior to the house – my south boundary. 

This is a red ozier dogwood that was planted in the wetland. Interestingly, the same tree had clusters in full bloom, gone to seed and well past their prime.

On the north side is the open grass of the wetland interspersed with some plantings (including the hornet willow), snags and coarse woody debris (cwd).  There is a split rail fence that divides my yard from the wetland running through the center of my site from west to east.  The eastern boundary has yet to be determined.  It could run as far as out to the road or I may decide there’s enough going on and the area is large enough and end it  just east of the house.  We’ll see.  

I found this huge stinkbug on a bull thistle near the hornet willow.

As I wandered the area I found and photographed several insect species, an owl pellet beneath a snag, some rabbit fur beneath another snag, raccoon scat with plum pits, common yellowthroats and song sparrows and many kinds of plants and trees. 

Raccon scat found near the east boundary of my study site.

 As I was heading out of the area to return to the house I noticed a huge bumblebee sitting on a stalk of tall dry grass.  Figuring I’d better take a photo of it, I approached with my camera ready.  As I got closer it looked less and less like a bumble bee and more like some sort of a cross between a bee and a giant fly.  I snapped a picture and it took off with a loud buzz.  I had never seen anything like it in all my years running around in the woods. 

A Peromyscus (deer mouse) botfly I found in my peaceful place.

There’s a really great website I’ve perused many times called  There you can look through thousands of pictures of insects and even send in photos to be identified.  Since I had a UFI (unidentified flying insect) I created a user name and password and sent my picture.  Within hours I learned I had found a botfly!!  I am still so excited about that awesome find.  Turns out this little critter lays its eggs on deer mice (not humans, dogs or cats thank goodness!).  And my photo was the first they had received of one.  Unfortunately they couldn’t tell the sex because I only had a side shot.  Nonetheless I was thrilled and really enjoyed telling my family and friends that I had a botfly in my yard.  If you want to check out my picture and more information on bugguide, go to .  So, I’ve started an Excel spreadsheet to list out the plants and animals I find in my area.  Next will come the mapping.  1000, 55 degrees, mostly cloudy but bright

 2010.09.12 – Study Site Visited (but not by me)

It was about 2am and I was up working on a project.  All of a sudden the still night air erupted with coyote howls.  I jumped up from the table and ran to the window.  It was so dark I couldn’t see a thing but there were at least 2 coyotes in my study site (less than 50 feet away) calling to a 3rd that was further to the west.  Their yipping and howling was piercing.  I listened intently as they continued for at least a minute.  I wondered whether they found a prey item, were responding to a distant siren or were just communicating their location to another of their pack.  They stopped as quickly as they had started and the night silence returned.  0200, 50 degrees, cloudy

Wolf Journey Journal Cover Page for Field Exercise # 005

Name of Field Exercise: Chapter One Celebration

Dates & Times of Study Site Visits:
September 3, 2010
1800-2000, September 12, 2010

Plants, Animals, Minerals Experienced: (make up a name / give it a number if unsure)

I’m not sure whether it’s the season, whether my senses are keener at the end of a summer camp season living outdoors, or if I am simply more familiar with my study site now, but there has been so much action lately! I couldn’t help but to mention much of the action in the title to this post, as you can see. First, I’ll mention the species that I got photos of:

I couldn't believe it when the skiddish nuthatch came to the feeder, and then it came again and again, every 15 seconds while I worked just inside the window!

I lost my breath when I saw that I had gotten this photo through the window - the nuthatch seeming to look forward with a seed in its mouth!

I was re-building the fence which intersects my study site - between the driveway and the foreclosed house if you look at the map below - when a juvenile grey squirrel came super close to me and Skye Dog in order to eat the lushious invasive himalaya blackberries growing along the fenceline.

The rude aka smart sibling of the bold aka stupid grey squirrel stayed up in the hawthorne tree and scolded us! Did I mention that over the summer a couple built a nest in the furthese hawthorne tree? It's an amazing sphere of leaves. They don't bother the birds at the feeder much.

Can you identify the two birds of the same species in this picture taken from inside my window? They are one of my favorite, if not the favorite, bird species!

Here's the male close-up for easy identification!

And if you didn't figure it out already, it's in the woodpecker family (they love suet) and they're the ones with those distinct orange feathers you can see here. Also notice the female black-headed grosbeak hidden in the foliage as well as the sparrow on top of the suet.

Kim is awesome at finding insects and other little critters, as you can see in her Wolf Journey post this week. Here, she's holding a grasshopper in my study site, which is a big deal in a climate like ours which is always very temperate.

Kim grasshopper in hand, and of course Skye with her pink squeeker. Picture taken from same location as ones from spring which show the yard in its dormant season.

Where Seen, Status and/or Health, if known:

Yellow Jackets: Besides the above photographed species, we’ve been dealing with a nest of yellow jackets just above the doorway. They don’t bother me at all, as I simply capture any annoying ones under a cup on the table and then release them when I leave the area. I’ve never seen anyone get stung by these critters, but I suppose it happens.

Mammals In & Under House: Skunks have visited a couple of nights this past week, and it’s interesting to me that they only show up once in a blue moon. The raccoons have lived in the trees all summer, being a bit of an annoyance to summer camp staff who’ve been living in tents under the cherry and poplar; however, every time it rains at night, the coons go back under the house, and we know right away because Skye Dog gets agitated and starts sniffing the floors. I was also a bit smug wondering why rodents haven’t left any sign of their presence in this old house while no one was living here, but two pair of rats moved in during the summer when our compost was ripest and camp staff was messiest; a Barn Owl even left one as a gift in the yard, so we took its cue and trapped the ones in the house. Fortunately, they hadn’t yet reproduced, and we’ll do an autopsy soon to determine health.

Mammals in the Field: Coyotes have started to bed down in the now-dry field just off the NW corner of the garage. In fact, they have been howling almost every night, much to the sleep-deprivation of camp staff. One night, I heard them near the garage, but was busy so asked Kim to go and see exactly where they were. She went to the edge of the garage, and was close enough to hear one of them sniff! They also got into my meat-waste-hole, but it was my fault because I buried it there before noticing their lays – about 5 feet away just over the split-rail fence!

Birds Migrating: Finally, bird-expert Kim pointed out some neo-tropical migrants passing through the feeder area, including a warbling vireo. The swainson’s thrushes have stopped calling in Clark’s Creek Park, but I wasn’t there enough to guess when they migrated away. Being busy this time of year makes it even harder to notice the silent departures of birds:(

Description and/or Drawing/Photo of Individual, Track or Sign: Today it was actually my goal to finish Field Exercise 005 – Chapter One Celebration, which included the experience of “wandering”, reflections on Ishi, and drawing a new study site map. Wandering around my site was wonderful after a busy summer season, and it grounded me into my focus for the academic year, which is to re-develop Wolf Journey classes and curricula. Here we go! Also, I didn’t re-read Ishi, and his story is controversial due to departmental politics at UC Berkely, so I’m not sure how to present that when I re-write Chapter One. However, I did re-draw my study site map:

Approx Temperature when you were at study site, plus today’s high and low, if known: Lows have been in the upper 40s and highs have been in the upper 60s. Perfect weather, with a couple days of rain. People have been complaining about the summer being cool, but I think it was perfect. Living outside, and visiting my study site so often, I think I have a slightly better perspective than the average bear. I bet outdoor workers, roads maintenance people, etc. would agree with my assessment of the summer. It was different than ever before, though, so we’ll see if that was a harbinger of climate change.

Wind direction and strength when you were at study site, plus other wind factors today if known: Well, the Puyallup Fair started last Friday, so you can really tell which way the wind is blowing depending on the smell and sounds. If it’s coming from the east, like on Friday, then it smells like candy-corn and sounds like people are in the throwes of death with screams from the scary rides. If the wind is from the west, like today, then it sounds like town noise and a slight whiff of marine air.

Describe any precipitation and cloud cover while at study site and at other times today if known: I dug a couple holes around my study site last week to see where the water table is during our annual dry season. For 10 months of the year, it’s pretty much on the surface. What I found while digging holes amazed me. The water table was 4 feet down, and the ground layers largely consisted of 1 foot of soil built up from when this was range land, 6 inches of natural soil from when this was an old growth rainforest, 1 foot of clay-laden soil from when this was a bunch of decaying wetlands, followed by seeminly endless river sand from when this was the Puyallup River. If I kept going, I would probably find a thick layer of Lahar cement from the last time Mt. Rainier really blew up. It’s only a matter of time before all these cycles repeat!

Approx. Humidity while at study site, plus any changes you noticed: 50% average.

Barometric Pressure, if known: 30.12 in, falling

Ground water level, lake/stream/river level, or tides: 3.0 foot under surface since it rained

Degrees above the southern horizon the sun was at noon (1 p.m. DST), or where it rose or set on the horizon as viewed from your secret place: 46.8 degrees above southern horizon at 12:05. Hoping I remember to watch the sunset and mark where it goes down tomorrow, and sunrise as well!

Phase of the moon, and where it rose or set on the horizon as viewed from your secret place, or degrees above the southern horizon at midnight (or 1 a.m. DST): Waxing 20% Crescent; Rose at 11:35, Sets at 20:20. It’s amazing how low in the southern sky it is when it sets as the sun seems to move south, and how high in the sky it will be when full in the winter. Amazing how perspective changes!

Describe and/or draw in any extra space above the arrangement of the planets you saw in the sky (and if possible, what constellations were overhead, rising or setting) and at what time of night: It’s been interesting living in town lately, as teh nighttime skies have been less apparent, but I’ve been watching Mars and Jupiter and Venus all year, but haven’t in the last couple of weeks. I’ll have to get on that!

Were you prepared for this field exercise? Did you start and complete it at good times? Did you accomplish what you set out to do? Yes, and I’m loving it!

Write if and/or how you are progressing toward the goals you wrote before this chapter. What were your best achievements and greatest challenges today out in the field, while studying, or while working on a Wolf Journey project. Name at least one achievement. Getting a map done that doesn’t look like I’m in kindergarten!

How are your physical health, emotional feelings and mental attitude today? It may be best to put any further feelings about yourself or others in your diary, unless it has to do with a large turning point in your life as an earth skills specialist. I’ve been working out since the end of the summer camp season, so I’m feeling pretty good.

Further observations, field experiences, uses and research of species/minerals studies: Psyched that I’ve gotten to learn more about soils as well as insects since Kim has been studying permaculture lately and she’s also so great with the little critters!

Further comments on your your goals, achievements, or planned research if you need to do additional work or study site time before completing this field exercise: Time to write my goals for the Fall:

1. Do a field exercise every two weeks during the fall in order to learn more as well as set an example for those wanting to complete Wolf Journey using this online blog system.

2. Develop Wolf Journey Classes so that by November they are running as we would like.

3. Look forward to winter when I can re-write Wolf Journey Parts 1-3 as well as Part Six – Trail of the Environmental Educator in time for that book to be in use for staff next summer!

Additional drawings, photos, etc:

Posted by: wolfcampcollege | August 27, 2010

Epic Fishing Camp


Rising at 5:00 a.m. to fish in the lake.

Caught a whopper of a crawdad!

Doing the salmon stretch for our hands before casting.

Next we tried fishing in the Snohomish River for Steelhead and Trout

We caught one from the river, but not a keeper!

Back at the SongCroft Farm

Marilene Milking the Goat

One of the many things we caught at the ocean pier was this awesome rod!

We also caught two crab pots which came in really handy!

Here's youth mentor Torrey Burke catching a real fighter - a Ratfish!

Then we really started to pull them in with this Flounder, sp. similar to a Starry Sole but with white stripes.

We also snagged a lot of Sun-Stars and gently released these beautiful creatures.

Sometimes our lines would get caught but we even had fun then!

One of the best catches was this delicious Dungeness Crab!

Another great set of catches was all the delicious little perch!

We also went on an epic wilderness lake fishing hike and caught lots of trout by fly-fishing as well as worms with power bait. So good breaded!

Finally, we gave a great presentation to the parents on Friday.


Posted by: wolfcampcollege | August 13, 2010

Stone Age Artisans and the Wolf Journey Arts & Music Camp


Lead Insructor Andrew Twele and I with Hide Ready to Tan

This was the week of Stone Age Artisans and the Wolf Journey Arts & Music Camp at Dash Point State Park in Federal Way.  We had a huge campsite to ourselves and eleven kids came to share in the fun of making useful things the stone age way.  Andrew Twele was the lead instructor for this camp and I was assisting him.  Andrew has many skills and was an excellent teacher of them.  The week was set up to explore the gifts of plants on Monday, animals Tuesday,  stone on Wednesday, and fire on Thursday.  On each day we shared stories about these gifts that the Earth gives us and we took time to share in thanksgiving for these gifts.

Camper Drawing the Wheel of Four Directions we Followed This Week

On Monday the day of plants, we began with knife safety skills since being an artisan involves constant use of a knife.  To help us with our carving skills we first made rabbit sticks.  Rabbit sticks are used in survival when you need to take the life of a rabbit so that you can feed yourself.  It is essentially a stick that you throw to stun a rabbit so you can catch him.  We had lots of time to practice throwing our sticks at stuffed animals.  All the kids really enjoyed this activity.  The next activity was the making of bamboo spears.  We first split one end of the bamboo so that we could separate it into four sharp points.  Then cordage is wrapped around the splits, the ends burned in the fire, and finally sharpened with a knife.  The last activity on the day of plants was the making of our bows.  Most of the kids were super into this.  We all started with sticks of vine maple.  Vine maple is a strong wood that can take the bending without breaking.  We learned how to choose which side of the stick should be the belly and back of the bow.  You want the back of the bow to be free from anything that could weaken it causing it to break during use.  We all found the middle of the bow and began carving out from the middle towards the end with a gradual decrease in the amount of wood left so that you get a nice bend.  This would be a project we would continue to work on throughout the week.  Making a bow takes lots of time, especially when doing it all by hand.  We spent the evening around the campfire singing songs.

Tuesday was the day of animals.  This day included the beginning of tanning a deer hide.  Four people volunteered to take on the tanning as a project.  The tanning would take many hours and we worked on it for a few days.  We also made beef jerky by first hanging it in the sun and later smoking it over the fire.  Andrew spent time teaching the kids how to make dead fall traps which is something they all requested to be taught.  I missed most of this lesson because I was helping with the jerky preparation.  We got to practice throwing our rabbit sticks some more and later we brought out the leather for leather working.  Some kids made pouches and other things.

Carving Soapstone

Wednesday was the day of stone.  Andrew shared a really awesome story about a stonecutter and the power of being able to make things out of stone and I shared some geologic facts about the how the earth formed the stones we would be working with.  We spent most of the day working with soapstone.  One of the campers had brought a huge slab of soapstone for all of us to carve.  The kids spent most of the day with the files in their hands turning the stone into art.  A well loved activity by all, including myself.  The afternoon was spent learning the art of flintknapping.  This art takes much practice, skill, and patience.  I missed most of this lesson, but some of the kids were able to get some really nice pieces to break off the obsidian chunks.  One camper made an awesome knife that I was really stoked on.

Thursday was the day of fire.  On this day we finished smoking the jerky over the fire and hard work was put into finishing the hide.  After the scraping, soaking, and stretching of the hide comes the smoking which gives the hide a nice coloring and also prevents water from getting in.  I was impressed by all the hard work put into the hide and how nice it turned out.  Each of the four people who worked on it got to take home a piece of it.  During the swim break, Andrew and I prepared the archery practice area and the afternoon was spent shooting arrows.  We spent our last night roasting hot dogs and smores over the fire and singing songs and sharing of the week.

Smoking Jerky over the Fire

Friday we packed up and headed to the Wolf House in Puyallup where we prepared presentations for the parents.  The parents arrived in the afternoon and we all shared in potluck and the kids blew my mind with their awesome presentations.  They had learned so much over the week and it really showed when they presented.

This week was one of my favorite camp weeks.  I loved learning these new skills and how we all sat around working so hard on projects.  It was a nice way to end a busy summer.  Next week I leave Wolf Camp and head off on new adventures.   I am grateful to have spent my summer here and am looking forward to taking all of these new skills learned to a deeper level.  Being proficient at earth skills takes more than just a few months.  Thank you Wolf Camp!



Me leading the campers in streches:)

Each morning of the week began with us all warming up the mind and body with some games and stretches.  Only two children signed up for the herbal camp so I was able to do different activities that interested them.  They loved wandering around the park looking for berries, eating jewelweed seeds, and anything else that tasted good.  Stinging nettles was a plant that the girls got to know well.  We made many things with nettles, like shampoo, hair rinse, yummy buttery cooked nettles, and my personal favorite, nettle pesto.  Nettles are the ultimate wild food and medicine, you just have to watch out for the sting.  Other herbal goodies that the girls loved were the salve that we made from collecting fresh plantain and saint john’s wort that were all growing in the park and all the teas we got to drink.  Even though only got to train two new little herbalists, the week was full of fun and yummy herbal goodies.

Me leading a game of Bear-Salmon-Mosquito

Now we're just a-runnin!

Me with one of my delightful little herbalists!


Posted by: wolfcampcollege | July 30, 2010

Secrets of the Ancient Scout


Kim and I ready for All-Night Capture The Flag

This week was spent on the Olympic Peninsula learning the ways of the scout.  Patrick was the instructor for the camp and Kim and I assisted him.  I loved the energy of this week and all the fun activities we got to do.  The way of the scout is about awareness, service, integrity, community, and stealth.   This week included the elements of practicing moving invisibly through the forest, being aware of what’s going on around you, and pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.

Stalking with Awareness

One of the first lessons of the scout is awareness.  We practiced our awareness skills by first learning the fox walk, deer ears, and owl eyes.  These three things are essential to the scout.  Kim and I set up the activity observation alley to assist in the learning of these awareness skills while the campers played the game fox and hare.  Observation alley is where you set out unnatural objects along a trail in obvious and not obvious places and you then fox walk with owl eyes through the trail and see what you notice.  We took the campers through a few times so that they could really practice.  I think this is a great activity for awareness.  We learned the fox trot in case you need to run without being seen and the evasive run so you can run without being targeted.  Another important skill we learned were hand signals so we could communicate with each other without having to talk.  These skills would be needed for the scout missions that would happen over the week.

Fox Trot in preparation for Evasive Running

Other skills that we developed over the week were endurance building and the ability to push ourselves outside of our comfort zones.  Each morning began with stretches and endurance building and after lunch each day the campers went into the no warmer than fifty degree ocean.  The learning of scout breathing was essential for entering the ocean.  One of my favorite activities that happened over the week was the drum stalk.  I love being blindfolded and barefoot in the forest and forced to move around slowly, it really heightens your awareness.  Many team building activities happened over the week as well.

Scout Fighting on Log with Scout Instructor Patrick Wiley

The first scout mission that happened was candy gully and my favorite of the week.  While the sun was setting, we divided up into scout groups and went over hand signals and discussed our strategy.  In candy gully a parameter is created where the instructors  patrol with water balloons while the scouts try and get close and take the bags of candy that are set up around the parameter of the patrolled area.  If the instructors see or hear you they try to hit you with water balloons and you have to start back over.  This game takes stealth, patience, and the ability to move slowly and quietly.  I laid in one place for atleast forty-five minutes without moving.  That wait was well worth it because I was able to grab a bag of the candy right at the end of the game.  Grabbing the candy sure was an adrenalin rush.  I loved everything about this mission.

Walking Blindfolded on our Scout Log

The second mission happened on Tuesday night, a fire stalk.  This mission was a lot of fun too.  The object is to stalk up to the fire and take marshmallows without being seen by the instructors guarding the fire ring.  The light of the fire makes it hard to see out away from it.  The reward of the mission was the roasting of the marshmallows.  My team was able to get a few handfuls of marshmallows.  I was impressed by their stealth because I got caught a few times.  I wasn’t as patient as I had been the night before.

Campers Camoed Up. Can you see me?

The third,  final, and biggest mission happened on Wednesday night…capture the flag.  We had spent the day perfecting the art of camouflage, learning how to cover our shine with ash or dirt and how to use charcoal to cover our skin so we blend in with the environment.  The previous missions had prepared us for an all night adventure.  There were three teams each with their own flag.  We were to hang our flags with a light because it was super dark and we were to keep ten feet around the flag clear.  We were to have some team members stay and guard the flag with the others went out to scout the other teams’ flags.  I had one really successful outing but being able to take a flag was almost impossible.  Not to mention the terrain was full of crunchy sticks.  It was very hard to move silently.  I’m not even sure how the game ended, all I know is it was past three am.

By the end of the week a really sweet community had been formed with all the campers, which were all boys.  They had really started to embody the ways of the scout and I was happy to have been a part of this fun filled week.  Nothing is more fun to me than being able to move barefoot in the forest for hours at a time trying to not be seen or heard!



Youth Mentor Parr Stover, Instructor Aldin Huff, and Camp Dog Skye Chisholm enjoy the fun at Edgewater Park

It was our first pilot day camp back in the Whatcom-Skagit area since 2003 and what fun it was! One of the many special things about this week was that it was the first lead-instructor role for Aldin Huff who first camp to day camps in Bellingham when he was a wee 7 year old kid, and the most amazingly natural tracker we ever met. In addition, it was the first time Parr Stover (14) took leadership, assisting as a Youth Mentor. Parr first came to camp as a wee 7 year old himself, and his family holds the world-record for the most successful referals to Wolf Camp in our history, so we are incredibly grateful to have Parr in our lives!

It was also the first time we held camp at Edgewater Park, as it offers some of the best wildlife tracking, incredible birding, endless backwater wading, fun and natural sand eddy swimming in Skagit County. Plus, it is perfectly convenient to serve Stanwood which is just 15 minutes away, Bellingham, Arlington, Anacortes & Oak Harbor which are just 30 minutes away, and Marysville & Everett which are just 45 minutes away … all close enough for kids in our vans to have a good social time with friends before and after our busy camp days.

The group of campers this week was incredible. In fact, we had our youngest-ever camper riding the van with us every day to and from Bellingham, where Kim and I spent the week on Lake Samish at the house of board member and friend Scott Davis whose delightful children used to attend camp as well. We also visited with my brother and his family, plus all my old friends from the early years of Wolf Camp. Aldin and Parr did a great job teaching this week, which gave Kim and me a chance to catch up on some work, pluus rest a bit during my 41st birthday on Thursday while supervising from a close distance:)


Posted by: wolfcampcollege | July 16, 2010

Wildlife Tracking & Herbology Camps


The week of tracking and herbal overnight camp at Millersylvania State Park near Olympia included some epic adventures and lots of learning about the ways of the plants and animals. 

Gathering Yarrow at the Wolf Haven Oak-Prairie Mima Mounds

Leading the Group in Yoga

Studying the Wolves at Wolf Haven

Rare Mexican Wolves at Wolf Haven

Practicing Animal Forms is Key to Understanding Tracks

To learn the art of tracking you must first learn to become the animal you are tracking.  We practiced this by doing animal forms.  We learned the different gates that each animal family does.  Some animals gallop, some bound, some pace, and some scissor walk.  Knowing the different gates is key to understanding the tracks you are looking at.  

Digging for Clams on the Beach

During the week we took some awesome field trips away from our campsite.  We were able to spend the day on the beach exploring and digging for shellfish.  Digging down to find one is not easy so we didn’t have too many to go back to camp with but the ones we could get were cooked when we got back to camp.

Giant Bull Whip Kelp on the Beach
I really enjoyed tasting all the different kinds of seaweed.  I love the salty flavor and they’re packed full of minerals for the body.

Checking out a Sun-Star we found with the Incoming Tide

Goofing off for a group pic at the beach.

One of my favorite parts of being at Wolf Camp are all the awesome people to connect and laugh with.  All the kids are such fun to be around and many of them have been coming to Wolf Camp for years.  It’s great when the kids come more than one week during the summer so you really get to know them.

Group pic at the start of our field trip to the Old Growth Rainforest

Following the Sign of a Cougar Kill through the Old Growth Rainforest

Tracking the mountain lion was the most epic adventure of the whole week.  We took a field trip to the Old Growth Rainforest with hopes to find some good tracking.  Patrick, the instuctor, had been dreaming of tracking a mountain lion and had put this intention so strongly out into the universe that it actually happened.  I was not expecting to come around the corner of a dry river bed to see fresh, wet blood of an elk dripping off a log.  We spent hours moving all over the land in search of the elk or mountain lion but we never found it.  Even though we didn’t find either, we still learned so much and got to experience this awesome thrill.

Instructor Patrick Wiley bringin’ together plants and tracking with an Epic Improvisational Story

Hangin' with the Older Teens at the Artesian Well in Olympia

The week ended with all walking away with greater knowledge about the animals around us and many hours of dirt time staring at the ground learning all that we could about who made the little dots on the ground.

Some of the Herbalists Showing Off Facials with Instructor Megan Damofle


Posted by: wolfcampcollege | July 9, 2010

Day Camps at McCollum Park serving King & Snohomish Counties


Herbal Day Campers

This week I assisted Megan, the lead herbal instructor with the herbal day camp held in Everett, WA, north of Seattle.  We had an awesome group of young girls to teach the ways of the herbalist.  Being an herbalist myself made this a super fun camp to be a part of.  I enjoyed Megan’s energy and it was nice to spend time with someone who loves the plant world as well.  Each day was filled with the making of many herbal goodies for the girls to take home.  They made journals on the first day which turned out to be their own personal herb books in which they loved spending time writing recipes, plant uses, plant sketches, and decorating.

Monday was spent wandering around the park discovering plants that grew there.  Megan did a blindfolded activity to help the girls get to know the plants by feel and smell, not just sight.  We spent time talking about how to harvest the plants in a kind way and why it’s important to thank the plant and give some offering.  Plants are living beings just like us and need to be honored.  We made a tea and everyone went swimming.Giving Camper a Dose of the Glycerite We Made Together

Tuesday started off with a digestive tea that the girls named tummy tea.  They liked learning the benefits of each of the herbs in the tea and writing the blend in their journals along with their healing properties.  They always enjoyed working in their journals.  We didn’t have to go far to find plantain which was to be added to the salve we were preparing.  Plantain is not a forest dweller, but can be found in grassy places near gravel lots and sidewalks.  The girls really enjoyed learning all the ways plantain can be used.  They liked knowing they could chew it up and place it on bug bites, cuts, and splinters.  One of the girls had a splinter so we got to practice some herbal first aid.  The plantain worked so the girls got to see the medicine in action.  I doubt any of them will ever forget this plant.  We made the skin healing salve with plantain and other dried herbs like calendula.  We spent the rest of class making a yummy cough syrup.  The honey in the syrup is a definite hit.  Then off to the pool and then home.

Wednesday was full of more herbal preparations and gathering of edibles in the forest.  We made a glycerite that I named happy juice.  The herbs were all gentle nervines and digestive aids.  The girls went out and harvested fresh douglas fir and western hemlock tree needles to make into a vinegar.  Apple cider vinegar is a great way to bring out vitamins and minerals from the plants and can make a nice salad dressing.  All the girls were so open to trying all the plants and things we made.  I would have to say that the girls got most excited about the harvesting of the delicious berries that were all around.  Megan was saving the berries collected each day so that a jam could be made at the end of the week.

Survivors, Trackers & Herbalists Circle Up to Eat Chocolate-Covered Insects

Thursday was herbal spa day. Everyone made their own tea mixture out of the herb choices.  Then we made a face scrub with oats, white clay, lavender, mint, yarrow and honey.  The girls did a mint foot soak as well. We also made a simple tooth powder and herbal shampoo.  The girls also gathered Oregon grapes, huckleberries and salmonberries in order to make a jam. We didn’t have quite enough so Megan fortified it with strawberries.

Friday was wild edibles day and the day that parents come and get to be a part of what went on that week.  The girls wrote on the front cover of their journals “Northwest Herbal Cafe” and prepared a menu and presentation for them.  I had spent Thursday evening gathering nettles and making nettle pesto so that we could share it with the parents. On the menu was dandelion coffee that we made this morning by roasting dandelion roots, nettle pesto, pickled nettles, and the yummy jam.  Each of the girls picked one herbal preparation from the week to talk about and one herb to share.  The parents really loved everything.  Megan and I were so grateful to have had such an awesome group of young girls.  They really made the week a success.  I got to hear a story from one of the parents that made me so happy.  The youngest girl in the group was seven, sweet little one, but a bit shy.  Her mother came up to me after the presentation and said that each day the little one had come home and gone out to the backyard and made her mom and dad teas.  The little girl had asked her mother, “How many herbalists do you know?”  The mom answered, “Three.”  The little girl said, “No mom, you know four…me!”  How beautiful is that.  On the last day I spoke to the girls about this ancient knowledge of healing with plant medicines that is being lost in our world of pharmaceutical drugs.  I wanted them to know that it is important that they keep this wisdom alive.  The week was a success!


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »