´¯`•. August 01, 2016

Questing:  Leave No Trace

One of the biggest problems I have with Quest is that for many of the badges, another badge is required first (or as a part of the badge in question).  We ran into this right away with our group: the leader had wanted to do ‘Backyard Camping’, but there was a requirement of ‘Campfire Safety’ that had to come first… which is why our first badge was ‘Campfire Safety’.  ((<< That and the group thought it would be good to have, in case we wanted to have a fire at whatever park we were meeting at.))

So I balked a little when our leader decided we should do our hiking badge… because the very first requirement of it was “Earn your ‘Leave No Trace’ badge”.  To me, it made more sense (and followed protocol) to do the ‘Leave no Trace’ badge, first.  I may or may not have mentioned our leader was a self-proclaimed ADHD.  I may or may not also have mentioned that she’s doing a 100-mile challenge this summer with her son, so this was more of a personal goal for her than one made with a group mindset.  She was very much about the hiking, and not interested in the  least in the ‘Leave No Trace’.  Which is a bummer, because it would’ve been fun to ‘adopt a road’ together, as a group.  Never did that, before…!

Anyhow, without going into too much detail, the ‘hike’ she chose fell through, every single family begged off of it (except the leader) and there was some ugliness –  not related to the ‘Leave No Trace’ badge – but it was so much so that we felt compelled to leave the group.   Kinda saw it coming.  Can I also just say that going from seven to five families in just three weeks is probably not good for a newly formed group, statistically speaking?  Isn’t that like a thirty percent loss – a third gone in less than two months?  Just… sayin.

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Oh, don’t misunderstand me – we did go hiking on the day slated for the hike.  We just went alone… and in a different place… but with a different objective: to learn the eight principles of ‘Leave No Trace‘!  I’m methodical, thorough, and a little anal… this is no secret.  As for my family, they were grateful not to be on a paved rails-to-trails, one-way nightmare with little to no shade on a 90-degree day in July at two in the afternoon.  ((<< A walk, not a hike, btw.  Hikes involve natural paths with varying terrain and some strenuous effort.  You could do the same as the rails-to-trails on a high school track.  But I digress.))

ANYHOW!  There are eight principles of ‘Leave No Trace’, and we were to memorize them.  Me being (well,) me,  we used hand signs as memory aids… and they worked perfect in helping us to learn and retain the rules.  Here, lemme share:

1. Always stay on the designated trail.
One finger, moving in a curving path motion.
2. Remove obstructions from the path. 
Two fingers, scissor-cutting fallen branches.
3. What you bring in, be sure to take out!
Thumb and two fingers, picking up stuff.
4.  Always respect Nature: be kind to plants and animals. 
Four fingers, petting a critter gently.
5.  Don’t take anything that isn’t yours.
Five fingers holding down the things you don’t take.
6.  Fires are only in designated pits, please. 
Five fingers as the pit, one as the flame.
7.  Camp in clearings or campsites, only. 
Five fingers as a campsite, two upside down as a tent.
8.  Know the rules.  Five fingers over your heart,
thumb and two fingers to your forehead in a ‘know’ sign.

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The trail we took went thru a wild blueberry patch, into a pine forest, through a deciduous area, and then through a fern glade.  We were very grateful for the shade!   And the really fun thing about this trail is that it had identification  signs to give us hints on telling the different species of trees, ferns, and other plants apart.  So not only was this counting towards our LNT badge, but also our tree identification badge, and hiking badge, too.

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The kids were seriously excited, because we all agreed that this is going to be our ‘adopted’ trail for the summer – for July, August, and September we’ll be keeping our area clear and clean.  And they got a good head-start… we had to move a branch off the trail, and just look at the debris that they collected on our walk!  It was almost like a scavenger hunt.  But we don’t get to earn our badges until the three months is complete… so we have some time to put into this, yet!

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Ironically, we’ve been studying Oceans in our normal homeschooling (and of course also whittling away at our ocean badge), and one of the requirements for that badge is also “apply the principles of ‘Leave No Trace’ to the sea and life therein”.   So it’s double-duty, for us – we’re able to apply this to yet another badge, too.  Hey, it works for me.

As our final wrap-up to this whole thing, we went out one morning and collected leaves for our Tree Identification badge, and before pressing them as our specimens, we did leave rubbings and made ‘Leave No Trace’ posters for our Nature Notebooks.  A good review of the principles, to help solidify them in the kids’ (and my) minds!

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So there’s the news:  we are no longer in our Quest group.  But it doesn’t really matter – because I have a family membership, and two-thirds of the badges we’ve been working on are outside of the group, anyhow.  So we’re by no means stopping in our adventures with this.  It’s been fun for all of us, and we’re learning so much.  And really, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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