OTHELLO — They each had a canteen, a sleeping bag and a way to start a fire.
That and a tarp are all Kolby Snyder and Avery Field, both juniors at Othello High School and members of the Othello Police Explorers, had to survive in the frigid, howling wilderness near Lake Bonaparte, northeast of Tonasket, the weekend of Feb. 17 and 18.
It was bitterly cold, with 3 feet of snow on the ground, and a biting sleet fell for much of the time they were camping.
“We hiked in, and after we got to the place where the camp was, we got a safety lecture, and then they told us ‘go do your thing,’” Field said. “We tried to get a fire going, it took us a couple of hours.”
“And once we got the fire going, we realized we didn’t have enough firewood,” added Snyder. “It was really cold, and I felt Avery shivering.”
Field and Snyder were both in the wilderness, camping in the middle of February, as part of a winter training for Police Explorers sponsored and organized by the U.S. Border Patrol.
“These guys are childhood best friends, and they both want to be police officers,” said Seth Carlson, the school resource officer for the Othello Police Department. “This was intended to be a perk for all the hard work they do; they’ve never done a cold weather survival thing.”
“I was in the Marines, and this was tough,” Carlson added. “It was horrible.”
Snyder, who has been a Police Explorer for about a year, said one of the things they learned during their short wilderness stay was that sweaty boots freeze when left out overnight.
“My feet sweat, and my boots froze solid. They were just solid bricks, and I caught my boots on fire twice trying to warm them up,” he said.
Carlson said it was so cold a couple of kids had to be carried out in their sleeping bags.
“I don’t want to make it sound like it was not organized, but it was kind of fend-for-yourself,” he said. “But there was good camaraderie. They never once got down or said ‘I want to quit.’”
After hiking in through 3 feet of snow on Saturday, Field said they hiked right back out on Sunday.
“We got up and got out as soon as possible,” Field said. “We threw all of our gear into one tarp, and drug it across the lake. It probably weighed about a person.”
Which is how they would actually drag someone out in an emergency, Carlson added.
Both Field and Snyder said training like last weekend, along with the entire Explorer course, helped teach them things they needed to know about themselves and their future responsibilities as law enforcement officers, such as discipline and the ability to work with and organize others.
“It teaches me more responsibility,” Snyder said. “Make sure people show up, pass down information, and make sure they have all the stuff they need to have.”
Carlson said the things Explorers learn help prepare them to be successful in any occupation they pursue.
Both Field and Snyder want to be police officers, a desire Field has had since he was little.
“I don’t really know what it is, but since first grade,” Field said. “It’s everything (police) do, it sounds really fun. Everything we do as training has been a blast to me.”
Including, apparently, an overnight camping trip in the snow and freezing rain.
“I would do it again, yeah,” Snyder said.
“With different equipment,” Field added. “It was cold.”
Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.