The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) is a description of life on the trail for enrolled students and interested students to better understand what a CWW backpacking trip is all about. The description is certainly not exhaustive and mixed in with all of the information below are mandatory beauty breaks (pauses to gawk and admire the breathtaking scenery), teachable moments (lessons we learn from teachers, leaders, and classmates), and once-in-a-lifetime moments that have inspired and motivated Corvallis students for over fifteen years.
So, if you are interested in what CWW is all about or need to read up on your upcoming adventure, read on and get excited about the awesome adventures awaiting.
Three staff members of Corvallis School District #1, at least one female and one male, will accompany each trip and be ultimately responsible for guidance and safety. It is necessary for them to be present in case of emergencies. CWW is meant to be fun and educational but also safe. It is very important to remember to always have an adult with you or tell an adult where you are going. In such an unpredictable environment it is crucial to put safety first.
Classroom Without Walls is meant to give students some sense of responsibility and help educate them in how to live in backcountry conditions, therefore a lot of input is accepted from students, but the adults on the trip are there for your safety and will help guide you through the decisions you make about route finding, food, water, shelter, and safety.
When the group is hiking, one adult is usually located in front and one behind of the hiking line. When in camp, the rule of thumb is to always be within sight or earshot of a supervisor. If you need to leave the campsite, check with one of the adults and he or she will either come along with you or send a classmate with you. Some places you must take an adult along with you are day hikes or hiking up dangerous paths, researching individual topics, leaving the campsite, documenting goats or other potentially dangerous animals, and any other place that your supervisor sees fit. Each trip is different and has different circumstances; therefore just to be safe, you should maintain contact with your supervisor.
The Buddy System
The buddy system is very important for the wellbeing of students who participate in the Classroom Without Walls backpacking trip. Students should always accompany or be accompanied by another student when leaving the main group. The reason for this is to assure that no one becomes unaccounted for. Also, going places with companions is very important in the case that someone is hurt, this allows one person to get help. The buddy system should be used when engaging in activities such as pumping water, going to the bathroom, exploring trail junctions and stream crossings, finding a campsite, and filming projects. Remaining with a buddy may seem very childish, but it is important for the safety of the group.
An important part of CWW is the opportunity for students to accept some responsibility for the success of the trip. By being trip leaders, they learn teamwork and leadership skills as well as thoughtful backcountry use.
- Each person on the trip at some point will be leader for two days. There will be two leaders a day, one boy and one girl. Each day the group adds a new leader. For example, if the leader is a boy and is going to lead for another day then he keeps leading and a new girl joins him. Then the next day the boys will switch, and so on.
- Leaders will lead the group to the next campsite. They will take the group there the safest and easiest way by choosing a route before they start the hike.
- During the hike, the group will come to streams. Leaders are responsible for finding the safest way across a stream, and this might mean leaving the group behind while they go up or downstream to find a safe place to cross. If they do leave the group, they need to tell the rest of the group what they’re doing and they need to tell them what they can do. The group will stay put until the leaders return.
- Also during the hike the group will come to trail junctions. Leaders are responsible to take the path that is correct. Before they start to go one way leaders need to make sure that the rest of the group is caught up with everyone.
- Leaders must make sure the pace they set is one that everyone can keep up with but can also get everyone to camp at a reasonable hour. Leaders can tell that the pace is too fast or too slow if they have to stop a lot or not while not allowing big gaps between hikers.
- During the day leaders will take photos and written entries documenting the trip.
- Leaders must also be aware of other students’ projects that may require a stop during the hike.
- Leaders must also make sure everyone stays hydrated.
- Leaders must select a campsite with the necessary features at the end of the day’s travel.
- When everyone gets to camp, leaders are responsible for making sure that everyone gets their tents setup, gets there food bags hung, and their water filtered.
- When a leader is chosen to lead the next day the previous leader will pass along his/her books and the camera.
- In the morning after everything is packed up, a leader must sweep through the camp to make sure there is no trace of hikers having been there.
The leaders’ journal is a crucial part of documenting the trip. At the end of each day, the leaders who were selected the night before should sit down and piece together a record of that day. One person may write, but all leaders should be present to put in their ideas and memories of the trip. The leaders should discuss main events of the day, as well as the daily question, the meetings, and any other feelings or personal memories they want to share. By the end of the trip, the journal, which everyone has a part in producing, will document the trip. The journal is designed to serve as an accurate record of the trip and the work accomplished, and also the personal journey of each individual student.
Route planning, two night, two places, and day hiking
Finding a route is very important to the trip. You need to know how to get where you are going. When choosing a route you want to find a route that is as easy as possible. You want to make sure everyone with you can do that day’s trip; you don’t want to push everyone to hard. A big thing you want to consider is to not to over estimate how much area you can cover, especially when off-trail. You can probably cover six miles with beginner hikers in the group. For every 1500 feet gain in elevation is about another mile. Another vital thing is to being able to find a camp site and water. You do not want to have a six to seven mile hike and not find a camp site till the very end. Water is important to be able to access and when you can make sure to pump water. Also make sure you drink enough water. You also you want to get into sub-alpine, alpine area and out of bear country.
At some point on the trip you may want to stay at one place for two nights. The purpose of this is to give everyone a rest, get projects done, and enjoy the area around us. When staying two days at one place or just day hiking planning is important. Planning is very helpful before going on your trip you should have your whole route planned, though some things may put you off track, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what needs to get done (hiking).
Selecting a Campsite
It is important to select a good campsite because where you camp affects the safety and comfort of the group and keeps the backcountry as pristine as possible. There are a few things to consider when choosing a place to camp. First of all, a water source is crucial. Not only do you need to be near a water source for drinking and cooking, but Forest Service Regulations require that you have to be a certain distance away from the water (at least 200 feet), for sanitary reasons. Forest Service Regulations also require campers to camp at least 200 feet from the trail, and other campers. Following these rules helps backpackers in the back country “leave no trace,” however, it is also important to think of your comfort when selecting a campsite. You want to look for a relatively large, flat space with preferably few rocks, and as much protection from wind as possible. A large area is significant so individual tents have privacy and elbow room. One more thing to strive for in a good campsite is a place to cook your food. This can be satisfied with the location of a large flat rock a good distance away from your tents. As long as you choose a comfortable, spatial site that follows the water and trail regulations, and has a place to cook, you will probably have a decent campsite on your hands.
What Do You Do When You Get to a Campsite?
The absolute, number one, most important, first thing you do as soon as you find a campsite, is set up your tent. The reason you want to set up your tent first is for weather reasons. You never know when it could rain and life is a whole lot easier if you can avoid getting your gear wet while setting up camp in the rain. After your tent is set up and you have stored your belongings, usually it is time to eat and pump water. When you are done with your food supplies, it is very important to hang your food, along with anything else you brought that has a strong odor, a safe distance away from your camp. This is to protect you, your food and campsite from rodents and bears that might be attracted to the smell of your provisions. After that, and depending on the weather, there is usually plenty of daylight left to swim, fish, do labs and generally relax.
The Clean Camp
Cleaning your campsite when you are ready to leave is absolutely crucial! It is so important to protect the backcountry and leave no trace that you were there. There are several ways to protect your surroundings while you are camping. Obviously, picking up any trash that you dispose of is the first step, but you can also take care to swill your food scraps, and spray-spit your toothpaste and return all overturned rocks to their resting places. When you are ready to leave the area, try to fluff the grass that was flattened by the weight of your tent. Do a once-over before you leave to make sure there is nothing visible that would hint that humans had passed through. Also while camping, try to avoid walking along a same route repeatedly so you don’t create a trail through your camp.
Placement/Use of Communal Items
On the Classroom Without Walls trip, there will be a few items that the majority, if not all, people use. It is important for each individual to know where these items are located because they are necessary for safe and enjoyable trip. Some such items are; 5-gallon jug of water, food/cooking tarp, cooking group items, shovel, two-way radios (if taken), cell phone, digital camera, and leader diary.
The 5-gallon jug of water is located on the bus and is useful for the first and last nights. This jug of water is provided for meals and water bottles, but is not carried with you on the trip.
The next two items mentioned are food/cooking related, therefore it is very important to be able to locate and use these items. After a long day of hiking it is vital for a person to be hydrated and well fed. The cooking tarp usually is set up on the flattest area in your campsite, away from the tents. It is used for meetings and for group cooking. This tarp is very convenient when it is raining or windy and your meal hasn’t been prepared yet. It also is important to cook in the same general area to prevent animals from coming near the tent area. The tarp and 6 poles are divided among your fellow campers to share weight equally. The food related items that you need to know about are cooking group items. Each person has a food bag, and either gas and bear rope, water filter and stove, or cook set. This allows weight to be split up evenly but is inconvenient when trying to find the meal for each night. When on the trail, the section of cooking supplies that an individual is carrying is usually located near the bottom of his/her pack, when in use it is located near or under the group tarp, and after use it should be hung either over a cliff or in a stable tree. Therefore it is necessary to know who has what so food can be located and prepared quickly.
It is important to know where the shovel is because it is used as both a tool when using the bathroom but also provides safety from being spotted by a fellow camper. The shovel is used as a pass to let the other campers know you are going to the bathroom and to wait till you return. It also aids when it is necessary to dig a hole.
The last five items are necessary for documentation of the trip and staying contact with home if necessary. The two way radios, if brought on the trip, are used to keep in contact if the group splits up. Some examples of when the group might be split up is when exploring trail or campsite possibilities, taking day hikes, or doing research for topics. It is very unusual for the group to be split up, therefore when it does happen, it is important to keep in contact until met up again. The cell phone, digital camera, and diary are all located with one of your supervisors, but might be passed throughout the group of students. If a serious accident was to occur, it is important to know where the cell phone is located so the problem isn’t made worse. The digital camera and leadership diary help with identification and documentation of the trip.
All of the items mentioned are used by almost everyone in the group. It is extremely important to know where these items are located and what they are used for. If caught in a serious situation, these items will help make your trip easier and safer.
When you’re picking out your camp site you need to pick a site where there are enough tent sites for your group and you are far enough from your neighboring campers that you can’t hear a normal conversation. Speak in normal tones and don’t run in camp. Watch out for tent guy lines! When you leave your camp site you need to try your best to leave no trace. For example if you made a fire you should scatter the ashes and the rocks you used for the ring, or if you made cairns knock them down.
2. Wild Life:
When you have animals come in camp do not chase them, try to keep your distance and give them there privacy, remember that you are in their homes.
3. Bathroom business:
Try to keep 200 ft from any water source (ie. Lake, creek) carry away any paper products you packed in. Get together as a group and designate a bathroom area and make a guys and girls area. You need to have some kind of pass, like a shovel that someone can take with them so people know that you are going to the bathroom. So no one surprises you while you are doing your business. When going to places around camp walk on rocks or avoid taking the same path to the bathroom to the cook area to avoid creating trails or pathways.
When cooking you need to keep your distance from each other, this is a social time with your cook groups. When you are done with your food and you have some left over don’t dump it out on the ground you want to try to eat all of it or put it in a zip block bag and pack it out.
Hanging Your Food Sack
You will be divided into cooking groups. Once the evening meal has been prepared, the cooking group will be responsible for getting all food and cooking utensils together and put into a food sack. This food sack will be either hung in a tree or, if no trees are available, over a cliff to keep bears and other varmints out.
To hang your sack from a tree you should take your rope and tie a good-sized rock to one end. Throw the rock over a sturdy limb about 15 feet high. Then tie your food sack to the other end and hoist it up. Remove the rock from the other end and tie the rope off on the trunk of the tree. Be careful not to “burn” the limb with your rope.
To hang your sack from a cliff, tie your sack to a rope and lower it over the edge. Then tie off the other end to a rock. The food sack should be 15-30 ft off the ground.
Meals should be prepared at least 100 yards from the sleeping area and the food sack should be hung another 100 yards from the cooking site.
Food care/ Packaging
When you first buy your food, most of it will come in unnecessary packaging. Re-packaging your food will lighten your load, and/or give you more room in your pack as well as keep moisture out. It will also cut down on the amount of garbage that you will have to pack back out. Example: a box of macaroni and cheese. You would cut the directions off the back of the box then put it with the macaroni and the package of cheese into a Ziploc baggie.
The day before the trip you will be issued a two-person tent. Your tent partner is going to be like your roommate so pick wisely. The MSR Fury 4season tents weigh roughly 8 pounds. You and your partner need to divide the weight evenly. One person will take the tent and the four tent poles. The other person will take the rain fly and the 19-20 tent stakes.
When packing the tent into your pack, you will want to “stuff” tent and the fly in to their own stuff sacks instead of rolling or folding them. The reasons being, you want to avoid spaces in your pack and it will minimize wear on the tent itself.
When you’re ready to set up your tent, select a level campsite clear of rocks, branches, and other hard or sharp objects. Assemble the three poles by interlocking shock-cord poles. Do not snap the poles sections together. This will give you two long poles for the length of the tent, one shorter one that goes across it widthwise, and one shorter, silver-colored pole for the vestibule. Insert the poles into the pole sleeves. Both poles should intersect at one point at the top of the tent. Before the poles are put into the grommets, they must project evenly beyond the tend body. Do NOT put one end of the poles into the grommets and leave the other end sticking way out of the tent body: the pole cannot bend enough to be fed through from one side only and you will bend or snap it. When you raise your tent, insert the end of the tent pole into the grommet. You want to do this to the pole that is on the top of the two that are lengthwise to the tent body. After your have gotten the tent structure up, you then put the fly on the tent, loosely fastening the clips to the tent. Then insert the shorter pole into the rain fly pole sleeves. Tighten the clips of the rain fly, finally staking down the four corners of the tent.
Before breaking camp, you have to clean out your tent; to clean out your tent you half to pick up your tent and shake it out. To prevent dirt and wear on the tent, take off your shoes when entering it. Position the tent so that air can get to the bottom to dry out any moisture. Break down the tent and re-pack it the same as the day before. Remember, these are top of the line tents and are very expensive. We’re very fortunate to have the use of these excellent tents.
- When planning the trip plan food groups, groups that you plan meals with and cook with, three people will be in a food group sharing one stove.
- Each three person group will need a stove, 1½ liters of fuel, matches, pots and pans, and food for six days.
- Each member of the group will contribute by packing cook gear and stove and fuel in their pack during the trip. You will divide the supplies up evenly according to weight.
- To use the stove you need to connect the fuel to the stove by licking the gold metal wick and connecting it to the fuel bottle and lock it together. Turn the red knob and then turn the silver handle to let fuel in your priming cup then close the handle immediately. Light a match and hover over priming cup to light flame. Once the flame is lit, turn the fuel on a little until there is a nice blue flame. When the blue flame has started start to boil your water, and cook your food.
- When finished cooking turn off your gas and turn the red knob which will allow the flame to go out on its own. When the stove has cooled down put it away.
- When done with your pots and pans swill the remaining food, do not wash them in any lake water because this will allow a high chance of getting giardia and pollute the lake. Also do not dump out leftover food; this may attract unwanted visitors like marmots and bears.
Cameras and Their Use
- Come prepared using a camera. It is best to have a digital camera and not a disposable camera. It is easier to break a disposable camera, and doesn’t allow erasing unwanted pictures.
- Make sure to bring extra batteries and cards.
- Do not use videos on the group camera. It is a battery sucker and that is what the video camera is for.
- Get people in pictures actually doing something important.
- It is important to also keep the trip camera or any camera off when it isn’t being used because the battery will run low. Another thing that lets the battery go low is reviewing pictures so make sure to keep that to a minimum.
- When looking through the camera at camp to identify important subjects to match the image # with the name of the subject.
- A helpful thing to have is a photo journal. This is a book that allows people to look at all your pictures and have captions to read. Make sure to categorize the pictures by each day.
Weights of Gear
This information is included in the S.O.P. Manual to insure that the distribution of the weight is even among the groups members. It is important to know the exact weight of every item in your pack so you don’t take a pound too much and everyone carries an equal amount of the communal items. Remember that personal items, backpack, and food are not included in this weight list. Note: Keep in mind that liquids are a pint a pound, so that a liter of fuel or water weighs approximately two pounds.
Although CWW can provide many pieces of clothing and personal gear, you may want to find some that fit you correctly and comfortably.
Each morning, before beginning the day’s journey, the instructors should give the students a question for them to ponder throughout the day as they hike. The question may be broad or specific, but should pertain to the overall theme of the trip or to life in the mountains vs. daily life back home. For example, “what sounds do you here in the backcountry vs. back home?” The daily question is way for students to keep their minds on the trip and keep them in the moment. In the evening, at the group meeting, each student should answer the question using the “Power Object,” an object that allows the possessor the privilege of speaking. Open the question for group discussion in the end. Discussion of the question should ultimately give students a new outlook on the topic and keep their focus on the trip.
The daily question should also be answered by the leaders of the day in a “photo essay.” Leaders should record their answers and input on video, so as to create a “photo journal” of daily questions and student responses.
“My Minute” Video
While on the trip, each student should record a minute-long presentation on a topic of his or her choice. The topic should give other students insight into the trip and what CWW is about. The video can be about anything, from tent life, to swilling, to tying your shoes, but must be one minute in length-no more, no less. Most importantly, it is a personal response to the surroundings and situations, and is highly informal. However, it should also be informative and of intellectual integrity. This activity allows students to share a topic of their choice and create a video journal of personal memories from the trip, as well as provide others with an idea of life in the Classroom Without Walls.
Every evening we add to the leader’s journal and have a group meeting. The takes place ½-1 hour after supper. In this meeting we talk about “the question of the day,” which is issued every day before we start hiking, and personal input about how the trip is going. We also talk about the things we saw, the troubles we had and the things we have planned for the days to come. We go through the group one at a time and only the person with the power object may talk. The power object allows the person with it to be the only one talking and it can be anything (as long as it’s powerful).
The bus/water/cleanliness/ unpacking
One other detail is the bus, sometimes an annoyance and sometimes a welcomed sight. The staff member/driver is responsible for the following:
- a CDL
- insurance/ registration papers
- school gas card (we get a discount)
- a full five-gallon water container
- dish soap
- extra garbage bags
Remember to secure the back door on the small diesel bus. The fuel capacity is sixty gallons and the mileage is approximately 9mpg. The battery disconnect switch is under the dash. Don’t forget to clean the bus! Much of the gear cleaning and bus cleaning can be done on the night before we get back to Corvallis.