Vol 30 May 2020
Author: Bill Morse, Solar Outdoors Historian
‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.’
- Robert Frost
Solar Outdoors was founded in 1976 for adventurous people dedicated to the enjoyment of nature and outdoor activities. Group members organize events, which can range from day hikes in southeastern Michigan to trips to distant places, and everything in between. We’re going to open up the club’s historical records and look at one trip in 2007 that was organized by Jen Tislerics and Pam Schmelzer.
BRUCE PENINSULA BACKCOUNTRY ADVENTURE
Excerpts from the SOLAR Ray, July 2007:
A group of SOLARites (Jen, Pam, Donna Beltran, Jim Coe, Tim Davis, Grey Ivanov, Caroline Kudwa, Brian Nordhaus, Joanne Sarrasin, Conchita Snuverink, Cindy Taylor, Ati Tislerics) recently spent a few days in Ontario, exploring a section of the Bruce Trail along the western shore of Georgian Bay. The Bruce Trail runs from the Niagara Region to the northern end of the Bruce Peninsula. The area we explored was only about 15 kms, but it is considered to be the most rugged and beautiful section of the trail.
The drive up on Friday was under a mostly cloudy sky, but by the time we arrived on the Bruce Peninsula the sun was shining, which boded well for a great long weekend.
Even though the hike to Storm Haven (backcountry campground) is quite short, it can be an ankle-twisting experience with fully loaded packs (or even without a pack). Some sections of the trail run on the boulder beach along Georgian Bay, so we needed to pay careful attention to our footing. But we had the beautiful blue-green water of the bay as a constant distraction, so we couldn’t just keep our heads down all the time. Other sections of the trail are in a dense forest of pine and cedar trees.
Sleeping arrangements were made upon arrival at Storm Haven. The backcountry campgrounds are equipped with wooden tent platforms, bear poles and composting toilets – pure luxury! The tent platforms compensate for the total lack of flat ground and reduce the impact on the ecosystem, and were the perfect size to fit two smaller tents or a larger one.
Some people spent their days at Storm Haven catching up on reading, some scrambled along the boulder beaches, and others hiked.
We saw other SOLARites everywhere, either from our own group or Leslie (Cordova’s) group doing day-hikes down the peninsula.
The Ray article mentions that the gang met in the evenings for dinner, games, conversation, and viewing the sunset. It ends with this suggestion: Next time you hesitate to sign up for a trip because you don’t know anyone else, sign up anyway. Remember, this group is made up of like-minded individuals and you are bound to have a good time!
BASIC LAND NAVIGATION
In addition to setting up activities and going on trips, Solar Outdoors members share their knowledge with others.
Club member Deb Ritter talks about a learning experience she had last year:
Think about your recent adventures. Has there been a time where you came across a trail that looks like the one to the right and you shift your map around to guess at the next ‘logical’ step? Maybe you encountered a big hill and thought ‘Gee, this looked flat on the map! How long will I have to hike up before this misery ends?’ Regardless of the level of hiking and outdoor experience, the difference between an enjoyable adventure and a potential catastrophe is knowing how to use a map and compass to help navigate the way.
Each spring, Solar Outdoors members teach others about Basic Land Navigation. The course provides a thorough introduction to map and compass navigation learning, which includes:
- Map reading and terrain visualization
- How compasses work and how to use them
- Finding your location using triangulation
- Declination and how to account for it in order to navigate accurately
- Navigation strategies and route planning basics
This class provides hand-on experience navigating in a wilderness environment, including a trail hike focused on topographic map/terrain recognition skills and culminating with a cross country route finding exercise. The route finding exercise helped tie everything together as my partner and I ‘bush-wacked’ through the forest using a map with contour lines and compass to find hidden orienteering flags. The skills learned in this class will carry students far in any wilderness adventure.
If you ask Deb or anyone else the best thing about the class, they’ll probably tell you it’s the instructors. Jeff McWilliams and Tim Davis, the lead instructors, have been teaching the class at least once each year since 2010. Other excellent instructors assist. Class size is limited to assure a beneficial student:instructor ratio. The class is spread out over several days and includes extensive and varied practice exercises, to help students comprehend and retain the material.
I had the pleasure of taking the class in 2009. One of the instructors then was Ati Tislerics, and he was still instructing in 2019. That’s dedication, and Ati knows his stuff!
BACK TO 2020
Another Basic Land Navigation class was scheduled for this spring. That class, along with various activities, was unfortunately canceled due to Covid-19. We look forward to seeing our friends again some time, and meeting new friends. Meanwhile, please stay safe.
Have you been to the Bruce Peninsula? Or gotten hopelessly lost on a trail somewhere? Or better yet, found your way back? You’re welcome to share your thoughts!