The second week of training is over! Tom and I are pretty excited about it because it means we can finally start working and acting like we know something. Two weeks of training makes your brain and behind tired but also makes sure that we are trained the Grand Portage Way. We still have a couple of weeks of shadowing before they turn us loose by ourselves, but we are glad to be done with the time in the classroom.
During our second week of training we learned specifics about the areas at the historic site. We spent a day in the kitchen and the canoe warehouse. We learned about the Great Hall and the Voyageurs Encampment. We learned how to work safely with knives, tools, and fire. We got oriented to the Heritage Center (Visitors Center) and where things are in the circle. We learned how to do opening and closing and where to find the standard operating procedure sheets.
For the first time in my life I started a fire with flint and steel! I can start a fire fine with matches, but they encourage us to use tools available in the 1790’s. So if a visitor asks, we can say we started the fire with flint and steel. After explaining how to do it, they gave us a steel striker, a piece of flint, and a small piece of char cloth. I must have hit the flint with the steel about 100 times. I thought it wasn’t doing anything, but then noticed that my thumb (holding the char cloth on the flint) was starting to burn. Turns out a spark had caught on the char cloth. I wrapped some twine fluff around it, blew, and had flames going in no time! I was pretty excited!
We learned how to make cordage (rope out of basswood) and we made birch bark baskets. Cordage came pretty easily, although I wouldn’t want to make a lot of it. The birch bark baskets were much harder – getting spruce root through little holes in bark made by an awl was a real challenge. Tom and I were pretty proud of our poor little lopsided baskets.
We spent a lot of time learning safety procedures: what to do in case of fire, how to operate radios, how to handle hazardous materials. We also went on several hikes. We visited active archaeological sites and learned how to volunteer for those. We went to the basement to visit the archives of historical objects – over 87,000 items have been excavated from the site! We finished our second week of training by taking a CPR / AED class to renew our certification.
We wore our historic outfits one day in order to get used to how they feel. Mine is pretty comfortable. I have one for cooler weather and one for warmer weather or working in the kitchen. Tom also likes his gentleman’s outfit. He just needs a beaver hat to top it off!
Tom and I are glad to be done with our second week of training. We are looking forward to working with the visitors in all the areas of the park. It is going to be a great summer!