Busting is field slang for making fire with a bow-drill fire set. When I was a new field staff learning the ropes of wilderness therapy, we talked about the three pillars of the program. One of those pillars was busting; hiking and the “I feel” statement were the other two. Those three pillars still stand today.
I’ve been a gear aficionado for a very long time. My first major backpacking experience was a 50-miler in the Wind Rivers when I was 12. It was a great trip, and our gear-junkie trip leader had our parents sew up some one-person dart-shaped tents (this was the mid-80s). As I was new to backpacking, I borrowed a pack and sleeping bag, both of which didn’t fit me well and were heavy. This also contributed to my green-horn feet quickly developing blisters. While that tent and the blisters are long gone, I had discovered my taste for better gear.
Hanukkah, or Chanukah, is one of the more memorable winter holidays to observe in the wilderness. I remember once in the adolescent field, at the camp called “Dr. Seuss” (named because of the many Joshua Trees in the area), seeing the camp aglow with the candles of a menorah illuminating the central Joshua Tree by pack line. Another year, at the “Narnia” camp, a client taught us how to play Dreidel, which was a hit with the group and kept going with juniper seeds long after the Gelt was eaten.
At Entrada, we support the celebration in a couple of ways. We send out a light-weight commercial menorah and a “wilderness” style menorah (made out of juniper or oak), or clients can create one their own. Candles are provided to cover the 8 days. For the first night, we also send out Dreidels and Gelt, and ingredients for Latkes. The handouts below that cover the historical and spiritual significance are also included so that participants can share the meaning of the holiday with their peers.
At Evoke at Entrada, we can (and do) handle a variety of dietary challenges, ranging from nut allergies and gluten or lactose intolerance, to vegetarian and vegan diets. Our participants have two food restocks (or divies) a week: Tuesday/Staff change, and Friday/Meat Night. Occasionally, we get to do something different, and this last weekend was different.
This past weekend was Easter, and we sent out items that were beyond our standard fare; all groups received Roast Beef, Ham, Tofurkey, Red Potatoes, Carrots, and Dinner Rolls for the holiday feast. For Easter Eggs, we sent out plastic eggs, as well as fresh eggs with commercial dyeing kits and natural dyeing materials (Red onion skins, Yellow onion skins, Red cabbage, Beets, Red Zinger Tea, and Turmeric).
The Wilderness can bring up different meaning about holidays for our participants. They can be a touchstone to remind them of home, a springboard to propel them forward, or just a break in the routine. I remember Easter of 2004 when I was in the field and dyed eggs and had an Easter Egg Hunt with a group of adolescent boys; it was exciting to see them be able to have fun and make different memories in the field. My hope is that holidays in the wilderness can be used to build upon the new tools, skills, and goals that participants can gain during their time at Evoke.
The weather is starting to change across the country, and we are seeing some seasonal vegetables here at Entrada. Seasonal favorites broccoli and cauliflower are being sent out with the standard bell peppers, onions, garlic, shallots, and zucchini. Mangos have also been in season, so those have been sent out a few times this past month, along with the standard apples, oranges, and bananas.
Local farmers are starting to bring in late summer/early fall crops, and my bee keeping neighbor gave me 40 pounds of organic red onions. As that’s more onions that I can handle, so I decided to bring them to Entrada to share with the groups. These were harvested about a mile from base, in Santa Clara.
Food is an integral part of wilderness life at Entrada. Clients cheer for restock and I’ve seen all manner of festivities take place on “Meat Night”. As variety is the spice of life, we try to incorporate this theme to break up the standards of Beans and Rice. We work closely with our produce supplier to provide seasonal fruits and vegetables to augment some of our standard items. Clients generally receive Bell Peppers, Onions, Zucchini, Garlic, Carrots, Salad, Bananas, Apples, and Oranges on restock days (Tuesday and Friday). Over the past year, we’ve had Kale, Brussel Sprouts, Asparagus, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Broccoflower, String beans, Yams, Beets, Shallots, Corn, Potatoes, Butternut Squash, and Yellow crook-neck Squash. For fruit, we’ve had Pineapples, Watermelon, Peaches, Nectarines, Mangos, and Apricots. I was able to personally go and pick the apricots from an organic orchard a ½ mile from our office.
In the wilderness, few things are more important than food. Beyond the necessary calories to sustain life, food, and the preparation of meals, can become a substantial part of group culture. It can be a time for clients to come together and work as one, or it can be a source of upset and difficulty as personalities and opinions come into conflict, and it happens every single day. Groups look forward to and/or dread the question, “what are we making for dinner?” Experience and memories are regularly served, along with beans and rice.