was to make hash browns with cheese. Our ration contained dehydrated hash browns, which need to have water added before consumption. I aced that part, because all you have to do is add the hash browns to boiled water. Thank God for that.
Then, instead of reading the cookbook like a respectable 24-year old novice cook, I decided to put the hash browns and cheese into the frybake at the same time. This is where it all went wrong. The hashbrowns, when hydrated, take about 20 minutes to cook. The cheese, when it touches the hot frybake, likes to fry up instantly. As the cheese started to melt in the super soggy hash browns, I then realized the error of my ways. Much outward mumbling and grumbling ensued on my part because I hate failing, and it always takes me awhile to remember that mistakes breed knowledge which in turn breeds success. But my group was quite supportive even though they didn't have to be, which was really awesome. The hash browns ended up being edible at least, more like mashed potatoes with a bit of cheese than cheesy hash browns. I couldn't wait to try cooking them again. And I learned a lesson: READ THE COOKBOOK, DUDE! And I did from then onward.
During the morning, we participated in a couple classes and played a game called Kumcha. The classes centered around good leadership practices, and we received a paper that outlined leadership as a 4-7-1 scheme: 4 leadership types, 7 leadership qualities, and 1 signature style. It was the first time I ever saw leadership techniques officially laid out in front of me in a classroom setting. I was excited to begin learning, both to gain the appropriate knowledge and to compare it with my previous leadership opportunities in life. In between classes, we played Kumcha, which is a game of silliness that gets you moving around. Basically, you stand in a circle, slap your hands to your knees in a controlled beat, then one person makes eye contact with another, points at them, and says "Bunny Bunny Bunny Bunny". Then, the person who was pointed at points at another person and does the same thing while the two people next to them make loud noises and try to distract them. You're out of the game if you are supposed to do any of the above and don't. Quite an appropriate, silly game for the wilderness :).
We had about 3 hours of downtime before afternoon class, which was glorious. It was also our first block of time with no specific task to complete on the whole trip. I read my book and sat in the sun. This bit of brilliance caused me to burn my shins to the point of peeling, which they did 2 days later. The bottle of aloe in my pack was quite bored needed something to do, so I suppose my brilliance served a purpose: providing generosity of use to the poor, lonely green bottle. In terms of reading, I got in some great time with Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72. Who knew that campaign hiijinx from 40 years ago could be so interesting. But it truly was. Like the time Hunter Thompson gave his press credentials for the "Sunshine Special", a whistle-stop train tour of Florida by then-Democratic-frontrunner Ed Muskie, to a guy he met the night before that just got out of a 15-day stint in jail, simply because he didn't want to go on the train. The guy, referred to by Thompson as "Peter Sheridan", proceeded to get exceedingly drunk, having taken advantage of the free booze the Muskie campaign provided for the press on the train ride. Needless to say, Thompson was never again invited to take part in the Muskie campaign. Hilarious.
The afternoon consisted of a class on properly operating bear spray. Each one of us carried a canister of bear spray on our hip just in case we encountered a bear who was really angry about the consistency of egg in his breakfast quiche, and for some reason and decided to take it out on us. The spray is like mace, but mixed with a steroid concoction even Jose Canseco wouldn't touch. Essentially, you take the spray off your holster, flip off the cap, and let 'er rip. My goal was of course, never to use the darn thing. Good knowledge to have though.
Then came the moment we'd all been waiting for the entire day: Pizza class! As Annemarie demonstrated from her kitchen, our group along with the 3 others made our dough from scratch by combining flour, warm water, yeast, and brown sugar. Then, we took turns kneading it inside a plastic bag for awhile, which was a ton of fun. We made 5 balls of dough (Tommy made 2, he wanted a dessert pizza too, which he topped with brown sugar and other sweets. Looked good, but I was aching for a big ol' pan pizza) and cut up cheese and summer sausage for toppings. We also made a sauce from tomato powder, boiled water, and lots of spices. To actually bake the pizza, we put the ball of dough on the frybake, flattened it out, turned it over after a couple minutes, added sauce, cheese, and sausage, poured a little water around the dough and put the lid on to steam it, waited a few minutes, and presto: Pizza! To put into words how the pizza tasted as I scarfed it down after 5 days out in the wilderness is virtually impossible. Let's just say it might have been the best pizza I've ever had the opportunity to consume, and I instantly could not wait to cook this upon arriving back in Maryland. There is something about hard work when cooking that makes a dish taste infinitely better.
The night ended around 10 after another quick glance at the sky. We figured that this might be the last good night for stars until the last week of the trip, given that the moon was getting closer to Half full, so it was important for me to check out the Milky Way again. The stars out here blow away those on the East. I don't think you could get the same vastness of little light pinpricks even if you were this far from light out East. Perhaps it's a little Western bias, but I can't remember this level of detail anywhere back home, even when far away from a city. Another great reason for anyone to get out West and see some of this landscape if at all possible. It's just beautiful. Life is beautiful.
------Patience is a sacred truth,
Kept close by Father Time,
That each minute be used with couth;
To ignore him is unto life, a crime.
Due to the intensity of the prior day's hike and the necessity of getting some classes completed, we got to enjoy a layover day at Enos Lake, which meant no heavy backpacks and sleeping in. Schweetness! I awoke at 8 AM on this morning, one of the later wake-ups of the entire course. The day started with my attempt to cook breakfast. I use the word 'attempt' very intentionally. My