Tag Archives: land navigation

Land Navigation classes – 11/11 & 12/2…


Not all those who wander are lost, but if you want to make it home or to another destination, it is best to spend some time honing your navigation skills.

Join BigPig Outdoors on November 11th or December 2 to learn or polish those skills.

Click here for more info: Land Navigation class

Big, Big BUSAR Update – May thru October…



The above are my two reasons why this update has been a long time coming.

Without further ado…

Training – 

  • Returned to crash site of N1839X and recovered two cellphones of victims
  • Doc Miller and Borkowski knocked out the Rescue Swimmer class
  • Doc Miller and Borkowski knocked out Swiftwater I & II
  • NPS Tech Team training – Swiftwater on Pigeon River – Benjamin and Johnston
  • NPS Tech Team training at Chimney Tops – Benjamin, Ransom, Sharbel, Herrington
  • Benjamin taught 16 hours of medical, 32 hours of swiftwater rescue, 55 of rope rescue, and 132 hours of rescue swimmer training to various agencies
  • Ritter completed his litter team training and first aid/CPR class
  • Herrington taught four survival and P-SAR (Preventative-Search & Rescue) classes at REI stores in Knoxville, Brentwood, and Asheville
  • Geist taught two Wilderness First Responder classes for SOLO-SE
  • Land navigation training and course setup – Harrell, Johnston, Miller, and Herrington
  • Borkowski taught multiple LZ classes to fire departments and rescue squads in VA
  • Borkowski developed draft of SRT2 Aviation training module
  • Harrel completed his SAR-duous duty pack test
  • Lewis  taught multiple tracking and SAR skills classes for VDEM to volunteers, first responders, and VA Department of Corrections.


Responses – 

  • Recovery at Ramsey Cascades
  • Recovery on Abrams Falls trail
  • Recovery on Alum Cave trail
  • Bohanon SAR – BUSAR logged over 630 hours during the 8 day search and had 100% response rate
  • Abrams Creek stranded hikers – Borkowski
  • Abrams Falls search – Johnston
  • Sharbel hired on as a seasonal SAR ranger out of Gatlinburg. He has more responses than I can list here, but has been averaging 3 – 4 incidents per week
  • Doc Miller responded to Hurricane Harvey and then Irma with his USAR team. what a stud!

Team Workouts – Going strong every week. Sharbs forgot his kettlebell one night, which inspired the painful,  “Follow-the-leader” interval . Yep, that is a dog at our workout too!


BUSAR is a 501(c)3 non-profit. To help us help others, go here… teambusar.org

October BUSAR Update…


Manventure – 

Since my birthday falls in October, I get to pick the training mission for the team. I believe that some aspects of life are best appreciated when under adverse conditions, so I pulled out my list for planning..

  • Cold water   √
  • Cold weather  
  • Minimal gear  
  • Tough terrain  
  • Sleep deprivation  

Last year, we crossed the Smokies via Ekaneetlee manway and swam Fontana to our pickup. 2015 trip This year, I figured I would switch it up and invade Tennessee from the North Carolina side of the park, traversing 3/4 of the park, mostly off trail.

Drop off’s would done at night in Fontana Lake, with each team not knowing their location. They would have to determine their location and rally at a UTM point. The simple rules were that you could not use established trails, except for Jenkins Ridge up to Spence,  and sleeping gear would only be jackets and garbage bags. We would follow the Defeat Ridge manway from the AT down to Middle Prong trailhead.

Night swim..


Determining location..


Somewhere on Horsehoe Ridge…

Foraging and tracking..

Rally points, pullup contest winner, and Defeat Ridge manway…


Routes in red, purple, and yellow..


Rescue Swimmer II – 

Herrington, Jutkofsky, Jernigan and Grieco knocked out the final part of the  Public Safety Rescue Swimmer course. BUSAR’s Jason Benjamin instructed. Lots of water time, simulated rescues and a night scenario.


GRSM Tech Team Training – 

Herrington and Grieco attended the Smokies Tech Team training focusing on patient packaging and setting up a highline.


VDEM SAREX – AAR by Doc Miller

I received Andrew’s text regarding the Abrams Creek carry out just as I pulled into Hungry Mother State Park in Marion Virginia where I was participating in a SAR Simulation during the Virginia Department of Emergency Management Ground Search and Rescue Academy on Black Diamond’s home turf. I regret the timing and would otherwise have been at Abrams Creek to help.
The VDEM SAR Academy is like nothing Tennesseans have ever seen. It begins Friday evening and ends Sunday evening for two week-ends hyphenated by a one week-end hiatus.   Intensive certification classes run simultaneously for the disciplines of Search Team Member, Search Team Leader, “Fundamentals for Awareness, Signcutting and Tracking” and Search Management. The finale is a Simulated SAR Exercise which commences at dusk on the final Saturday.  Although there was not a Management Team class this session, a scenario is customarily presented and all of the planning, searching and “rescue” is executed by the students under the eyes and ears of silent and often unseen “angels” who monitor and evaluate the process.  When necessary, some functions are augmented by prior graduates to achieve critical mass for a meaningful exercise. Typically there are multiple subjects, one of whom requires medical evaluation, “treatment”  and litter evacuation. This year there were two “family members” who had become lost while searching for the subject who originally went missing and was “injured” off trail.
A number of BUSAR members have worked with VDEM certified STM, STL, FAST and management personnel during the Virginia SAR Conference and the Blue Ridge Parkway SAREX earlier this year. There were four BUSAR participants in this October SAR Academy.
Rob and Ashley were FAST Instructors, Jenny was a Search Team Member candidate, and it was my privilege to function as Search Team Leader for a superbly trained FAST (clue aware, track aware, tracking) team. When assigned to a tracking or K9 team, the “leader’s” role is to provide communications, navigation, documentation and, if trained, medical support so the specialty teams can focus their awareness and observational expertise on the task with negligible distraction. Night operations add to the fun and challenge and provide valuable operational experience to the candidates for certification.
An added bonus of this Simulation was the opportunity to observe the real time location and movement of every field team on a computer projection screen in Base. The data was streamed automatically from DeLorme InReach satellite communicators which were assigned to each team along with their radio.
Computer Projection in Operations Section in Base
FAST Team Hotel Task: “Cut for sign along lake shore from Route 16 to drainage @ 5327/8229”.
We began the task at the bottom of screen and cut the sign which came from the opposite direction, then
made a big circle up to the bath house and back to the beach.
Another team’s search pattern is seen on the lower portion of the screen before it was redirected
to the  injured subject to assist in evacuation from his location seen on the upper portion of the screen.
Multiple teams converging at victim location to assist with litter evacuation.
Evacuation route of multiple teams to and from location of injured subject near top of screen to
Base near bottom of screen.
Participation in a Simulation provides the actual experience of signing into a search, waiting in Staging for an assignment, receiving a briefing (instructions) for the task, navigating to the designated search area, executing the task while communicating location and status reports, being debriefed, and signing out from the search. Those BUSAR members who attended the Blue Ridge Parkway SAREX experienced a similar immersion during daylight hours. These are invaluable skills for efficient, effective search and rescue.  The training, including meals and lodging, is free to any member of an agency holding a Memorandum of Understanding with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management. Black Diamond SAR Council serves SW Virginia and has responded in northeast Tennessee and in the Smokies.

Responses – 

  • Johnston and Morgan responded to Abrams Creek carryout

Workouts – Finally cooling off. Greg is getting ready to test for a Combat Rescue Officer slot in Alaska, so we have been doing a lot of military PT to support him. Lots of pullups, pushups, situps, and flutter kicks. His PT test is at the beginning of December in Anchorage.


Recruitment – 

  • Johnny Johnston –  Mountaineer, off-trail explorer, and Crossfitter

More to Florida than Disneyworld and Beaches…


Every year I migrate South to Florida to wear out my welcome at my in-laws for ten or so days. Without my usual distractions, I entertain myself by harassing my mother in-law about her excessive amount of cups for two retirees or the fact it is always Christmas when I come down…


On this trip, in an effort to maintain sanity on both sides, I ventured out more, to keep myself out of trouble and seeing more of Florida. I hit the gym, met up with friends, checked out the gun stores, the army surplus stores, and even rode around with a buddy to check out the stellar homes he builds.  http://georgedmorissette.com/

I also managed to break away for three good side trips that are worth mentioning to any fellow travellers that need some outdoor stimulation.


Greene Deane’s Foraging Walks – http://www.eattheweeds.com/

Florida is a whole different world from the mountains, and while there is a lot of crossover, there are a ton of different species, both native and exotic. The best way to learn plants is to hook up with an experienced forager, so I follow my own advice and jump on plant walks any time I can. This was my second trip with Deane and it was at Spruce Creek Park, up by Port Orange.

Deane’s walks are great, not only for his encyclopaedic knowledge of plants, but because he teaches at various locations. Spruce Creek offered several different habitats, including one that has salt tolerant species.

The winner of the taste test was the Creeping Cucumber http://www.eattheweeds.com/creeping-cucumber-melothria-pendula/ That is a 10 y.o. girl’s hand, so it is really jelly bean size.


With Sea Purslane coming in a close second.. Maybe first if it was grilled like Deane mentioned. http://www.eattheweeds.com/sesuvium-portulacastrum-maritime-munch-2


As with any foraging class, you can’t just take a class and walk away owning the information. You need to do your homework and start eating it. I bought two Florida foraging books for this trip and read them while I was down here. They were both okay, but I find Deane’s website more useful.

There is also a handy list of forgaging instructors for you travels:  http://www.eattheweeds.com/foraging/foraging-instructors/


Permanent Orienteering Courses – http://www.us.orienteering.org/new-o/resources/permanent-courses

While orienteering isn’t as popular in the U.S. as other countries, there are still groups scattered all across the country. Some of these clubs have graciously taken the time toset up permanent courses in their state. For wayward travellers that may not be in town during regular race times, this is a great opportunity to see the local woods, get some exercise, and work on your land navigation skills. I slipped away to two courses that I found on http://www.floridaorienteering.org/

Moss Park Course – It was damn hot, so I decided not to run it, and threw on my pack for both the beginners and advanced course. I had worn long pants and boots, thinking I would be busting scrub, but the vegetation was pretty open, making me wishI had worn shorts and running shoes. Higlights were gopher tortoise and armadillo sign everywhere, and the sandhill cranes that tried to mug me in the parking lot.



Florida Agricultural Museum

We all make mistakes, but on this day, I was on a roll. I downloaded the map of the Florida Orienteeering page and took time to check the hours of the museum. Unfortunately, I must have forgotten what day it was, as I arrived to see a closed sign at the entrance.

Mistake #1… Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays

Well, like any person that just drove 2 hours would do, I continued on in hopes I could persuade them to let me hike through their woods. After striking out with the farm hand,  I got lucky when the manager heard my sob story and granted me permission.

Thankful for the opportunity, I figured it would be prudent if I only did one course and ran it to save time, so I picked the longer of the two. Having not planned for running, I didn’t have a ziploc for my map to protect it from my sweaty hands.

Mistake #2  – Running through the Florida scrub in 90 degree weather, my map was almost obliterated by point #5

And Mistake #3  was assuming the terrain would be similar to Moss Park, so I wore shorts and running shoes..

Three mistakes before I got started meant good times ahead and the chance to pick my poison..

Busting scrub..


Or slogging trails..


But fortunately, I was able forage for some of these tortuous little bastards on the fly, which I learned from Deane are edible  http://www.eattheweeds.com/sandspurs-sandlot-sadists/


Not your typical day of Florida vacation, but I loved it!!

Note: The map shows the controls as numbered, but they must have changed them to letters and not updated the map yet.


Many thanks to Florida Agricultural Museum for indulging a wayward traveller that escaped the in-laws for some respite in the thorny, hot ass Florida scrub.

Looking forward to visiting with the family in the future. Word on the street is that the hours are posted on their website… http://www.myagmuseum.com/