SROM Blog: Wilderness, Ministry, Leadership

Hills and Valleys

May 23rd, 2019

Mountain Top Experiences to Daily Life

“ ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’ ” – Isaiah 57:15

 

There is always something about mountains that make me stop and stare at them.  Like every part of my being just has to pause and breathe and just look at them for as long as I can. They inspire so many different feelings inside of me and it doesn’t matter how many times that I see the same mountain or mountain range, I still stop and stare. 

Many of the same reasons I stop and stare, are often similar reasons why we go to the mountains. To experience the awe, wonder, and challenge of being in such rugged terrain that cannot and will not be tamed. There is something inside of each of us that begs to go and attempt what seems impossible. 

This is a part of why wild places are so amazing! They are a reminder to us of our smallness, and that we are not the ones in control, but that God is.  These high places and mountain top experiences are so powerful and so incredible! And we each seek these experiences to grow, learn, and test ourselves against the power that Creation and the Creator provide.

But can a person live on mountain top experiences alone?

 

Let’s take a look at mountain tops. What is there? Snow. Rock. Lichens. Ptarmigon. Pikas. Bugs. Maybe some grass. Truly, there’s not a lot of things that can survive and thrive in this rugged terrain. There’s little to no nutrients or soil and thus, it cannot sustain a wide variety of living things. 

The opposite of these high mountain tops, are the valleys below. Lower in elevation, they are often teeming with life. There is water, nutrient rich soil, a wide variety of vegetation and animals that flourish. We often try to push through these valleys in order to get to the high peaks and places where we can see for miles. But what are we missing when we rush through the valleys?

 

Mountains and Valleys each offer us opportunities to learn more about ourselves and about God.

 

“High Places” have always drawn people to visit, worhsip, and to sacrifice on them. People in the Old Testament worshiped God on the high places (Ex. 19; 1 Sammuel 9). But people also worshiped pagan dieties on high places that God even commanded Israel to destroy these spaces (Deut. 12:2; 2 Kings 18:4). 

It seems pretty apparent that there is something within us, both past and present, that seeks the devine and seeks God on these mountaintops and high places. But as we have explored, there is very little to live on and survival is incredibly hard on the mountain tops. And yet valleys seem dark, and hard to walk through sometimes in our lives. So why do it? Why do we climb or hike to these high places?

René Daumal expresses it well:

     “You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come  down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but that is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.”

It is not in the climbing, in the summit, the pride or sense of self and acoomplishment that we feel when we climb mountains. All those things are not bad things unto themselves. But it is in taking the lessons learned and the experiences from the action, and bringing them into the everyday, the mundane, and the “valleys” of life.

And actually do what Daumal says that when we return to our day to day,  we no longer will see with our eyes but we will know deep down in our spirit the lessons that God has taught us on the mountain. 

WANT TO EXPERIENCE MORE?

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Laura Albert

Laura Albert

Laura has been full time with SROM since February 2017. In addition to writing, she and her dog Lily enjoy going on adventures and pushing the limits of “the norm” in their daily rhythms. Most recently that includes the building of their own Tiny House on wheels this May. 

To learn more about Laura, click here

Creating a Culture of Honor

May 16th, 2019

Honor: The What and the Why

Josh Horak has been on staff with Solid Rock Outdoor Ministries for over a decade now. He is one of our directors and also pastors a local church here in Laramie. This week, we will hear from Josh about why Honor is so important in the Body of Christ. 

WANT TO EXPERIENCE MORE?

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Staying Found

May 9th, 2019

How to not get lost in the Wilderness

 

In our world today, there are many places we go where there are clear directions and we have technology to literally direct us where to go. All we have to do is punch in the address of where we need to get to, and Siri (or whatever system you use) will talk you through how to get there step by step. It’s gotten to the point now, where most people under the age of 20 have never heard of a Road Atlas let alone used one!

But what do you do when you’re not on a road? Or a trail? What happens when the signs that should be there directing your travel are either un-readable or literally don’t exist where they should? How do you not get lost then?

I mean, getting lost is a big deal. So how do you not get lost, but Stay Found?

Staying Found is different than not getting lost.

 

What does it mean to “Stay Found” and how is that different than not getting lost?

Well, like most things in life, it’s about prevention. Staying found is something we teach on our SROM courses in addition to basic orienteering (ie map and compass reading) skills. Because map reading has become vintage in our world full of technology, this much needed wilderness skill takes some getting used to for most people.

Staying Found is a major part of this skill. It is using the map, the compass, and what you are seeing around you to keep yourself and others on the right track. It is an active process that you use moment by moment because depending on your path, your view of potential landmarks can be skewed or blocked.

Here are a few steps you can take to practice Staying Found in the wilderness.

 

Study the Maps Together

Studying the maps yourself AND including everyone in your group to study them is really important. Because you are all on this adventure together! So getting everyone on the same page on where you are starting from that day to where you are going is really important.

You will want to do more than a basic run down.You should be going over a detailed plan all together on what route you are taking to get from Point A to Point B. This includes:

  • Elevation gain and loss – and how you identify that
  • Major landmarks to look for. Like an unusual rock formation, ridgeline, a river, lake, or canyon
  • Milage for the day. Not just the total milage, but the short ones too. Such as, “It will be around 2.5 miles to this unusual rock formation.” By knowing the distance to those features, it will help you and your group stay connected with both the landscape and the map.

 

Watch Out for Comfort Traps

In many places that you go into the wilderness, you will stay on a trail. But there are also many places where you will find yourself route finding between trails or off the trail completely. In either case, it can be easy to get comfortable following a trail or trail-like feature blindly.

You may end up following the trail so far and trusting it so completely that when you stop, you have no clue where you are at.

It is so important to check in with the maps and keep looking for those easy to spot landmarks along your ENTIRE route for the day. Just following a trail doesn’t mean you can’t still get lost. So make sure that you are checking in with each other and the maps often.

 

A Culture of Communication

It’s not just you on this adventure, there’s your entire group! And many pairs of eyes are better than one! So encourage each person to keep not just their eyes out along your route, but to speak up if they see it. Because, let’s be real honest, you can miss things along the way. And if you encourage each person to take up the mantle of keeping a lookout, you are less likely to miss the landmark and increase your ability to Stay Found.

When you take the time to practice Staying Found, you create this great opportunity to grow and develop a strong community that values communication and teamwork. Because we all aren’t good at this skill right away. But we all have the ability grow and develop in our skills on these adventures.

And in practicing the art of Staying Found, you are not only reducing the chances that you will get lost. But you are also fostering an environment where you and your group of intrepid adventurers can achieve great things that you maybe wouldn’t have done alone!

WANT TO EXPERIENCE MORE?

Check out an opportunity to learn and grow on a wild adventure – connecting with God, others, and your purpose.

Laura Albert

Laura Albert

Laura has been full time with SROM since February 2017. In addition to writing, she and her dog Lily enjoy going on adventures and pushing the limits of “the norm” in their daily rhythms. Most recently that includes the building of their own Tiny House on wheels starting in May. 

To learn more about Laura, click here

An Attitude of Gratitude

May 2nd, 2019

How Daily Gratitude Keeps Us Relational

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.” ~ 1 Chronicles 16:34

 

When I think of gratitude, I think of this moment in the movie White Christmas, where Bing Crosby is singing to Eleanor Clooney a song called “Counting My Blessings.” (see video below)

And I get it, it seems a little cheesy. But here’s the amazing thing: when we focus on gratitude or as Bing puts it, our blessings, there is a literal change in our brains! Like a switch that gets flipped from being in the ‘Off’ to the ‘On’ position. Just from spending a moment in gratitude helps you to reconnect to peace, joy, and to others quickly. 

Is it in the ‘Off’ or the ‘On’ position?

 

You might be wondering, “Why does it matter if my switch is off or on?” 

Well, that “switch” in our brains is what helps us connect, engage, and develop healthy relationships. Because truly, that’s the whole point! God wants a relationship with us! And even more, He wants us to build healthy relationships with others in our communities and families too. But how do we do that? I mean, there’s so much pain and hurt! How can we even begin to build healthy relationships when all that is out there?

Well, we can start with ourselves. In re-learning what it means -in the simplest ways- when our brain disconnects and how we can teach ourselves to reconnect and stay connected in difficult situations. 

First things first, how do you know if your switch is on or off? Here are a few questions or indicators the Life Model  developed to ask yourself whether your relationship switch is turned off:

1: I just want to make a problem, person, or feeling go away.

2: I don’t want to listen to what others feel or say.

3: I am dwelling on something or a situation that is upsetting.

4: I am not willing to hear what others feel or say.

5: I cannot feel gratitude or appreciation. ¹

 

If you answered yes to any of these questions, in any particular circumstance or just in general, it probably means that your relational switch is in the ‘Off’ position. Hey, it’s ok. We all end up there from time to time. But if you are in that place, you are missing out on so much by living in that state. With your switch turned ‘Off,’ you are in survival mode. Instead of just surviving, God wants us to thrive! And it starts with a flip of a switch.

How Gratitude flips the Switch

“Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said to the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them.’” ~ Psalm 126:2

 

There are several things you can do to help turn that switch into the ‘ON’ position and reconnect with God and with others. Engaging in an attitude of gratitude is one of them! By taking a moment every day to have a gratitude moment will help you to reconnect to many of the fruits of the spirit: joy, peace, kindness, and others.

It is a way to reconnect with God for the blessings He gives us. It is also an act of worship and spiritual warfare. For our enemy wants us divided: from God and from each other. But when we intentionally engage in gratitude, it flips our switch from the ‘Off’ to the ‘On’ position and we are then able to connect so much more with God and with others around us. It is from that deep well of relationship with God, that the peace that surpasses understanding flows freely from us. ¹

I know, it’s hard in moments of stress, to stop and have a gratitude moment. But I can promise you, that when you’re stressed, worried, or ______ (pick any other negative emotion you can think of), pause. Breathe. And express gratitude, appreciation, or thankfulness to God for one thing from that day. Just one thing. Then take note of how you feel.

I am putting it you: The 30 Day Gratitude Challenge.

Try this for 30 days in your own life. Just finding one thing to be grateful or thankful for that happened that day. Just one. And see the difference that it makes for you in your relationship with God, and in your relationships with those around you at work, at home, in church, on a bus, in an elevator, wherever! Because why wouldn’t you want more peace and joy in your life?

 

Resources:

 ¹. Brown, Amy & Coursey, Chris. Relational Skills in the Bible. Deeper Walk International. Carmel, IN. 2019. pg 15-28

². Life Model Works. https://lifemodelworks.org/

 

WANT TO EXPERIENCE MORE?

Check out an opportunity to fully unplug and go on a wild adventure – connecting with God, others, and your purpose.

Laura Albert

Laura Albert

Laura has been full time with SROM since February 2017. In addition to writing, she and her dog Lily enjoy going on adventures and pushing the limits of “the norm” in their daily rhythms. Most recently that includes the building of their own Tiny House on wheels starting in May. 

To learn more about Laura, click here

Please Welcome our 2019 Interns!!!

April 25th, 2019

Taking the time to do an internship is a really big deal. And we want to take this moment to welcome and introduce these two amazing individuals into the SROM family!

Andrea Belcik

Summer Admin Intern 

Andrea is our first ever Summer Admin Intern! She is pioneering the way this summer with this new internship being offered by SROM. Here’s a little about this amazing woman of God:

“Hi, I’m Andrea Belick from Jacksonville, Florida. I am a caring person, especially when it comes to family, friends, and dogs. A person who enjoys being a big ole goofball (I got on the Colorado Rockies jumbo-tron for my silly dance moves.. twice). A person who loves going on new adventures, but also freaks out about them sometimes. A person whose facial expressions usually let you know what I am thinking. A person who appreciates the outdoors.

I applied for the SROM Internship because I appreciate the value of becoming a better instrument for the expansion of the Lord’s Kingdom. Combining that with getting away from worldly distractions is my life mission so I really resonate with SROM’s purpose.

My favorite wilderness memory was hard to choose as there have been many awesome outdoor adventures, but I will have to go with one of the first snowshoeing adventures. This was my favorite because I love the snow and hiking so snowshoeing is a great combination. Anytime I am around that delightful frozen water the little kid inside comes out in full force (especially because I live in Florida now). This particular occasion was super fun because I was with my cousin and some good buddies when we came across this short steep incline. We all looked at each other and were like yup.. We are climbing that gem. As we were climbing, we did a little bit of intentional sledding and a little bit of accidental sledding, but we kept on trekking to the top. Once we finally made it to the flat surface we were striving for, we stumbled upon some large chunks of snow. Naturally, my cousin and I decided to throw them at each other and karate chop them in half (my karate chops are top notch). It was a simple outdoor adventure, but definitely one of the most fun!”

 

Josh Gilmore

40/40 Field Intern 

While Josh isn’t our first 40/40 Intern, it’s so amazing to have him as a part of the next generation of SROM! Especially as Josh’s dad was one of the FIRST SROM instructors back in the day! We are so excited to welcome Josh and see the legacy that he is bringing with him! 

I’m Josh Gilmore and I am going to be an intern this summer for SROM on the 40/40 Field Internship! I’m from Jackson Wyoming, but I have been living in Grand Rapids Michigan for the past four years while I have been at Calvin College. As I was finishing up my degrees in Physics, and Business/Mathematics. I ultimately decided to do the internship so that I could have time to reflect on my time in college, as well as pray for guidance about what to do next, and I never feel more connected with God than when I am in the wilderness. 
 

I connected with God strongly in the wilderness this past January, in Panama National Park in Honduras. Myself and a group of students had a worship service in the middle of our hike and as we were singing the dense fog that had been there burned off and we got to look over the spectacularly serene Lake Yojoa. 

My favorite experience is hard to choose, but it was this summer when I hiked with my mom to Lake Solitude, that she thought she might never get to again before that day. As well as it being amazing that we were able to do the hike, we literally almost ran into a moose, as well as a bear later down the trail. They were both rough blind corners, but it made for a very memorable day.” 

Want to Experience More?

Check out an opportunity to fully unplug and go on a wild adventure – connecting with God, others, and your purpose.

Join Us for the Annual Food Throw!

April 11th, 2019

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” ~ Psalm 34:8

 

 

It’s that time again… 

 

SROM’S ANNUAL FOOD THROW!

” ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my Sheep.’ ” ~John 21:17 

 

When: Saturday April 13th, 2019

What Time: 9 am until we finish

Where: The SROM Building, 617 Plaza Court Laramie, WY 82070

Why: To Feed the Hungry

Our students often connect on a deeper level over meals with each other, their instructors, and get to experience the Love of Jesus from each other and YOU while on their course!

 

Our annual food throw is an opportunity to feed those that are hungry and minister to our students while they are out in the wilderness. And we can’t do it without you!

 

So please come and join us this Saturday to help us prepare for our 2019 courses by pre-throwing their meals for them. It is an awesome time of fellowship and an opportunity to sow into the Kingdom for the incredible Harvest our God has planned for 2019!!

 

We will be providing coffee, snacks, and pizza for lunch to all who come and participate. This is a family friendly event, so kids are welcome to come! Looking forward to seeing you all on Saturday!

WANT TO EXPERIENCE MORE?

Check out an opportunity to fully unplug and go on a wild adventure – connecting with God, others, and your purpose.

Experiencing God as Good Every Week

April 4th, 2019

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” ~ Psalm 34:8

 

Are you ready to experience some of the goodness of God? Are you tired, stressed and over worked? Do you feel like your life is lacking purpose but you have to keep going? Where to? Who knows.

I would like to invite you to taste the goodness of God and get a taste of what we specialize in here at SROM – experiential learning for spiritual development.

 

 

REST & REVIEW DAY

“Be still, and know that I am God;”
~ Psalm 46:10a

 

It is incredibly hard in our culture to be still. The pace and pressure demand that we Go! Go! Go! Computers and technology can keep working 24 hours a day but we cannot. We need rest. God knew this and in fact, he knew that we would need extra rest every week. That is why he designed the rhythm of taking a Sabbath every week.

And man is it good. I know it is hard to get in the rhythm but I challenge you to trust God a little bit more and take some time to rest this week. The goodness of it will slowly pull you in. You may just start with two hours. I would challenge you to start with a half day to really get the taste.

 

1: CHOOSE A DAY

This may be a traditional Sunday or it could be another day of the week. I do think we would see some big shifts as a culture if we really took a Sabbath together each week. I more often than not choose an even more traditional day of Saturday and the traditional Jewish time frame of sunset to sunset so Friday sundown to Saturday sundown. I find I am very tired come Friday and very ready to rest.

2: REST

Unplug everything. Turn off your phone. Turn off all electronic devices.

Sleep in and take a slow morning.

 

3: REVIEW

After I have slept in and slowly start to wake up, I get cozy with some tasty breakfast food and a journal. This is where the experiential learning comes in. You see life can be experiential learning, if you take the time to review. With experiential learning you also need a guide to facilitate the experience and debrief it (ask good questions). I will be your guide.*

 

In your journal write out responses to these questions:

 

What is driving your life in the last hour, day, month, and year?

Last hour:

Last day:

Last month:

Last year:

 

How have the choices you made played out?

>> Thank God for what you are shown <<

 

 

 

What are your intentions now?

 

* Questions taken from FORM: Breadth & Movement. A yoga flow set to Psalms 23. Also a great idea for your rest and review day!

 

4: KNOW THAT GOD IS GOD

Take a look at the context of the verse “Be still and know that I am God”. The Jewish understanding of the word know is not an intellectual understanding it is an experiential understanding. When you are able to do then you know. When we take a rest day we are trusting that God can still keep the world going without us and he is strong enough to be our refuge, not us.

 

Take time to praise God for who he is.

Taking your place with the rest of creation:

REVIEW NO. 2

Q1: How was this experience for you?

Q2: How were you able to experience the goodness of God?

Q3: Where you able to turn off all electronic devices and fully unplug? How was that?

Please add your comments below. We would love to hear how it went for you.

WANT TO EXPERIENCE MORE?

Check out an opportunity to fully unplug and go on a wild adventure – connecting with God, others, and your purpose.

Everybody Poops

March 28th, 2019

Poop School Basics & Why 

By: Audrey Stelzer

The Lord set the standard for how to poop when outside. Deuteronomy 23: 12-13 says,

 

“You shall also have a place outside the camp and go out there, 13 and you shall have a spade among your tools, and it shall be when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and shall turn to cover up your excrement.”

 

Everybody poops! When going on an adventure outside, people will have to perform daily functions like going to the bathroom. The majority of folks do this well in the frontcountry, but in the backcountry the standard for going to the bathroom, especially going “number two”, is very low. Yet, if everyone will have to go poop when in the backcountry, why shouldn’t we talk about how to do it and how to do it well? Today’s blog will be bringing “number two” into a number one priority.

 

THE WHY:

In Deuteronomy the nation of Israel may not have known the poor health effects of having their waste above ground, but the Lord protected them from disease, smell, and even the sight of their own excrement by having them bury it. Today we know that human waste can spread germs like norovirus, shigella, E. coli, etc. when it reaches water, we know that it can create unlivable spaces due to smell, and that it looks pretty gross. When in the backcountry, we follow Leave No Trace ethics to avoid these ill side effects knowing that it is better for each human that comes after you, and better for the environment in which you go the bathroom in.

 

THE HOW:

The following are the steps to have a good poop in the woods while performing Leave No Trace ethics:

  • Here at SROM we call our spade or “tool” Stanley. So when folks have to go poop, they can just say they have to go Stanley. It is important to take action right away when you know you have to go Stanley. The backcountry requires more prep time to prepare for a peaceful poop, so when you have the urge- find your friend Stanley.
  • Take a poo kit with Stanley. My poo kit consists of the following: a ziplock bag with colored duct tape on the outside to hide my used wipes, hand sanitizer, a whistle (in case of emergencies), and wet wipes (I believe they work much better than toilet paper). Depending on if you’re in bear country, bring bear spray with you as wel

 

  • As soon as you have all your poo goodies, start heading out of camp. We suggest a five minute walk in one direction. Head away from your camp, others camps, water (including snow), and trails. Try to be at least 100 yards from camps and trails and 200 yards away from water (1 step = 2 feet). The goal is to be in a secluded spot where you won’t feel rushed, pressured, or interrupted.
  • Now that you have found “your spot” it is time to start digging. Set your things aside and get Stanley. With Stanley, start creating a circle (6 inch diameter). Once the circle is shaped, begin to dig out the dirt forming a nice pile beside your hole. The hole should be 6 to 8 inches inches deep.

**Please note: how wide and how deep your hole is depends on your average poop size. You do NOT want an overflow. So, know your poops and plan your hole accordingly so that you can cover it with a thick layer of dirt.**

  • Relief is coming! Your hole has been made! Set Stanley aside and get your wiping materials ready. I use wet wipes torn in half and use the folding method (not the crinkle method). Position yourself so the poop will land IN the hole. Positions vary! You can squat over it, squat and have a hand behind you to steady you (tripod position), or, if close to a big tree or rock, you can even lean your back on them to support yourself. It comes down to what feels best for you.

 

 

  • Relieve yourself.
  • After relieving yourself, use a wet wipe to clean yourself. After using the wet wipe, put it in your ziplock bag covered with duct tape (or whatever you use to carry your used wipes out with). Do NOT leave toilet paper or wet wipes in the hole. If you use natural wet wipes (leaves, soft sticks, etc.) you can leave them in the hole. Please be careful when using natural wipes. You do not want to wipe with poison ivy or some other irritating plant…
  • After wiping and putting your wipes in a bag to carry out, sanitize your hands. Make sure no poop has escaped or landed around the hole. If poop is out of the hole, use a small stick to put the poop in the hole and then add the poopy stick to the hole. Anything that has poop on it needs to go INTO the hole. Please, oh please, do NOT use Stanley to move or touch poop. Stanley is your friend, don’t let him get poopy.
  • After all poop is in the hole, use Stanley to push the dirt back into the hole and over the poop. Do your best to camouflage it to make it look as natural as you found it.
  • Pick up your items and enjoy the (lighter) stroll back to camp. Don’t forget to wash your hands back at camp with soap and water. Hand sanitizer isn’t good enough.

 

PRO TIPS:

  • Double use. I always use ½ a wet wipe to clean my face before bed. Then, the wet wipes that I have cleaned my face with, I can use after I Stanley. This way I can get double use out of my wet wipes.
  • Central location. Once at camp, have a central location for Stanley. This means that Stanley has a spot to “live” at camp so if anybody needs to go, they know exactly where to get and return Stanley.
  • Make it normal. For some folks talking about poop and having to create their own cathole will be freaky. I sometimes create a “grading system” for poops so students are thinking more about how “good” their poop was opposed to being freaked out that they are pooping in a hole in the woods. My grading system is as follows:
      • One = I’m not sure that pooping experience could have gotten much worse.
      • Two = Good enough. Got the job done.
      • Three = Had a good poop and a good view.
      • Four = Good poop, good view, and even saw an animal.
      • Five = Good poop, good view, saw an animal, and made eye contact with an animal.
      • Six = Good poop, good view, saw an animal, and made eye contact with an animal while they were pooping!
      • Seven = Beyond words.
  • Remember the “D’s”.
      • Desire– Need to go. Don’t wait until you’re desperate!
      • Devices– Stanley, wiping utensils, and/or poo kit
      • Distance/Directions– Distance from camp/H20/trails is ~5 minute walk
  • Dig
  • Do the Doo-ty!
  • Disguise
      • Disinfect– Use hand sanitizer or wash hands with soap and water
      • Discuss– scale of 1 to 7 (as shown above)
  • Care. This may seem like a lot of work and hassle for a bathroom break, but if everyone were to poop above ground when they went outdoors imagine what that would do to the smell, sight, and overall experience of being in a wilderness area. Help and care for our natural world by using these steps to keep areas in nature clean, and know the protocols for other, more fragile environments.

We encourage you to go play in the outdoors and to enjoy every poop you have while on your adventures! May it go smoothly!

 

God’s Abundant Provision

March 21st, 2019

An Introduction Wild Edibles Foraging

By: Laura Albert

Have you ever wondered what it was like in the Garden of Eden? What it looked like, smelled like, felt like? Oh, man I have! I have often wondered how Adam and Eve lived in Eden and how they not only related to God, but also to all the animals, water, and plants that were in their care. The one thing that boggles my mind the most is the idea that all the plants provided abundant resources of food, tea, medicine, spices, the works! The idea that all that you could ever want or need is right there at your fingertips for harvesting in any season! Ah, what a delight!

 

Now, we definitely don’t live in Eden anymore, sadly. And no, we can’t harvest every fruit, vegetable, or spices in any season we want anymore. However, God does still provide incredible food, medicine, and spices in nature for us to delight in. Pretty neat right?

 

But you may be wondering to yourself, “Sure it might all be there, but how do I know what is what? And how do I know where to find it?” Both are really great questions and I’m going to take you through a  basic introduction to Wild Edibles Foraging.

 

Here are some basic tips and tricks to remember when foraging for wild edibles.

First things first, never – I repeat NEVER – eat something you find in nature that you are not able to 120% identify as exactly that plant species!

 

We live in a fallen world! And as a part of that, there are lots of copy cats to plants that can not only lead you astray, but will actually kill you. If you are a beginner or are new to the area, find a more seasoned person to take you out on foraging hikes. This will save you a potential trip to the ER.

 

Are you a bit scared now? Good. That is good. Not that fear is good, so please don’t hear that. I’m saying it’s important to be overly cautious when foraging. Because while foraging is incredibly fun and rewarding, it is important to keep yourself and others safe.

 Do your homework

Each season and each area of the world are unique! Amazing how God makes such unique things right? But when foraging for wild edibles, a plant might be edible in the spring but can be poisonous in a different season. Just like each person God has created is unique, so is each plant species on earth.

 

Your local library is a great resource to find specific publications and ID books about wild foraging for your specific part of the world. It is a good place to start. An ID book should give you specific criteria on how to correctly identify a plant species from what it looks like, how the leaves are shaped, to what kind of environment that plant grows (ie a swamp versus alpine environment).

 

Pay attention to these criteria as they will give you the tools to identify friend from foe on your wild foraging trips.

 Be a good steward

We were all given a mandate from God to be a good steward of our resources. This means ALL of our resources including things in nature.

 

When harvesting a wild edible, it is important to remember this. Because if you are harvesting too much of a plant or it’s fruit, it will not be able to reproduce and it will not thrive. If a particular plant or fungus is not able to reproduce and have fruit fall, no new plants will grow, and consequently you will not be able to harvest from that plant in that spot any longer because it won’t be growing there.

 

It is important to help these amazing resources thrive. They have a lot in nature to overcome in order to produce fruit and a healthy plant! If you over harvest, it will die out. A good rule to harvest by is to only take ⅓ of what you see to harvest for your own use. Sometimes that ⅓ will be abundant and sometimes it won’t.

 

For example when I harvest wild mushrooms, if I see less than 10 mushrooms in a 20 ft radius, I take note of the spot and walk away. Because these 10 fruits (mushrooms we see are the fruits!) will need to spore (ie go to seed) to produce a better patch for me to find the next year. In this way, I am investing and stewarding this patch for not just myself but future harvesters to have an abundant harvest in the years to follow.

 

Foraging for wild edibles is like a treasure hunt while on a hike. It’s a lot of fun and it helps you see and experience your environment in a whole new way! But like most treasure hunting, there is a dangerous side too.

Be careful, educate yourself, and don’t eat something the first time without confirming it’s edibility with a local expert.

 

Even if you are sure, take lots of photos on your camera or phone, take note of where you found it, and then go home first to confirm it is what you think it is. Then, if you find you’ve found a treasured wild edible, go back and harvest.

 

Enjoy the treasure hunt on your next hike!

Backcountry Nutrition: Importance of Hydration

March 14th, 2019

Earlier this year, we started a blog series about nutritional needs in the backcountry, and the basic food types your body needs. This week we are going to discuss the vital role water plays in outdoor recreation (and life!).

Water

A person can live approximately three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Water is the medium for the chemical reactions that keep you functioning physically and mentally.  Water also functions as a coolant for the body through sweating. Without sufficient water, the body is susceptible to heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

Hydration

The average person (in a 70°F environment) should drink approximately half a gallon (2 Nalgenes) of water a day. As physical activity and temperature increase, so does the body’s need for water.  At SROM, we recommend that our students drink at least 4 quarts/Nalgenes of water a day! When you are with a group, it is important to make sure that you and everyone else is drinking water. Stop and take a group re-hydrating session in which everyone takes a break and drinks some of their water. Staying hydrated is more important than arriving somewhere on time or making the summit. The best method is to be consistently drinking, taking mouthfuls of water throughout the day. On average, a person can only absorb 8 ounces of water (1/4 of a Nalgene) in a 15 minute period, so it is best to be drinking a few ounces every 15 minutes. Sip, don’t guzzle! Use of water bladders often increases hydration because it is easier to consistently sip from a bladder hose than it is to sip from a Nalgene during a hike. At SROM, we encourage the use of hydration bladders, and require them for students on most of our courses.

Some folks may resist drinking water, as they are used to drinking sugary juices or sodas. Plain water is best, but it is ok to use a drink mix such as Gatorade or lemonade if it will encourage you to consume more fluids. Fluid intake is key!

Dehydration

The most effective way to monitor hydration levels is to keep track of how often and how you and your outdoor buddies are drinking. Signs of dehydration may be subtle at first, but will increase in severity as the individual becomes more dehydrated. Watch yourself and your friends for the following:

  • Thirst
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Weakness
  • Lack of hunger

First Aid: drink water in small, consistent amounts until symptoms subside, and encourage the individual to eat and rest.

Ways to Monitor Hydration:

Urine Color:

  • Clear – Have no fear!
  • Yellow – You’re feeling mellow, but you need to increase your water intake.
  • Brown – Your fluid levels are down. Evacuate back to town.

Pinch Test

The pinch test is best used to monitor long-term hydration. If someone has been gradually dehydrating (not replenishing enough fluid to recover what has been consumed) over a period of several days, his or her skin will be less elastic than in its usual, hydrated state. To check skin elasticity, pinch a section of skin on the back of the hand and gently lift it up a bit (not so much so that the skin becomes taut). Release the skin, and monitor how quickly it snaps back into place. The slower it snaps back, the more dehydrated the person.

 

Hyponatremia

Hyponatremia is a condition of low sodium in the blood caused by high water intake combined with low salt intake and salt loss in sweat. Untreated, it can easily cause death. Hyponatremia is most likely when recreating in desert environments (such as Grand Canyon National Park, Escalante National Monument, and Red Rocks National Conservation Area). The increased temperatures, sun exposure, and physical demands of activity in the desert increases the risk of hyponatremia. When exercising in the intermountain west, hyponatremia is not a condition you are likely to experience on a SROM course. However, it is important to be aware that you can drink too much water and that there are serious consequences for doing so.

Signs of Hyponatremia:

  • History of heavy water intake (e.g., 7 liters of water in 18 hours)
  • History of little/ no food intake
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea
  • Altered mental status

First Aid: Rest, gradual intake of salty foods, and no fluid intake (not even electrolyte replacement drink).

 

Electrolyte Balance

Along with hydration, the consumption of salt is a common concern. Dr. Braaten states that you are unlikely to have a salt deficiency if you are eating enough calories. You only need to replace what you lose—normally 200 mg/day. Excessive sweating may increase the body’s need (1000 mg sodium/quart of sweat), but notice that the average American diet contains much higher levels of sodium than this. The only caution is that diuretics and various medications may cause electrolyte depletion. This situation and extreme heat conditions are the only times Dr. Braaten recommends a high sodium diet.

This also means that even in a desert environment, your body does not need an electrolyte replacement or sugary sports drink. Despite what advertisers for sports drinks would have you think, most people get plenty of salts in their normal diet.

 

Extreme Conditions

As with all things, extreme conditions and stress (such as wilderness travel) increase the severity of the demands on the human body. Be aware of the varying physical needs of each person with whom you are recreating.

Extreme Cold (below 10°F)

More fuel is required for the human body in the cold (up to 3-4 times as much). To maintain the body’s core temperature, an additional 250-500 calories/day should be consumed. This could be 4-8 servings of high carbohydrate/high fat snacks, but avoid high protein foods, since they increase water requirements and decrease cold tolerance. It will also help to pack low moisture foods to make short, easy snack breaks possible. Consuming 500-1,200 calories just before bed will help you sleep warmer and more soundly.

Extreme Heat (above 100°F)

In extreme heat, the most critical nutrient is water. Water is lost not only through sweating but also through breathing. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink! If you feel thirsty, your body is already dehydrating. Carry twice as much water as you think you will need to safeguard against dried up water sources. Though appetites may be suppressed in extreme heat, salty foods should be encouraged since 1000 mg sodium is lost in each quart of sweat. Avoid diuretics such as caffeine and high sugar drinks.

Rest frequently in the shade, travel in the early morning or evening, wear a hat with a brim, and keep a wet bandana over the back of your neck.