Don’t get too attached

You don’t get to choose who you are marooned with.  Nor, unless you are intimate with the entire passenger manifest, who survives the plane crash in the Andes.


I took a Wilderness Survival class this weekend – an addendum to the foraging class I attended in the spring.  Both were hosted by a very capable gentleman called David Arama who has worked as a consultant to all the Canadian “Survivor Man” type reality shows (of which I have watched precisely zero, but I assume he is qualified).  The class was about fifty people strong ranging in age from early twenties to about fifty, most of whom appeared to have little experience with the great outdoors.  More power to them for taking this class but judging on footwear alone I don’t think too many of them would survive an afternoon without air conditioning.  I am not quite sure why one would equate “wilderness survival class” with “flip flops”, or what motivated the gent I saw to wear Pumas with absolutely no treads which would have been no less effective had the bottoms been greased with bacon fat.

The class incorporated some edible plants recovery as well as a segment on fire starting.  David pulled out a variety of items one might find in one’s personal or first aid kit that are flammable and easy tinder for a fire.  Vaseline, hand sanitizer, steel wool, duct tape, cotton balls and feminine hygiene products all fit the bill.


David Arama makes fire

As this was a disaster preparedness course, some of the information was as simple as a warning to bring a butane lighter or proper waterproof matches which would certainly speed the process but we were given flints to start the flames going.

I have to admit, I have am curiously amused by people that have no facility in nature.  I spent many years in my youth on canoe trips (a couple over 30 days where food was flown in to us) so the basics of creating food, warmth and shelter are ingrained in my very being.  It was simply inconceivable not to know how to start a fire – we would have suffered badly if we didn’t.  I love watching people go “car camping”.  I once visited such a site and watched a couple friends pop up their tent, plop in their queen sized, hair dryer inflated mattress inside complete with their duvet and sheets from home.  It looked like the Ramada.

Willard was with me on this adventure.  He grew up in the country and besides having learned how to drive anything with an engine (sometimes rather aggressively) by the time he was six he also spent his summers building forts and tree houses, so the chapter on creating shelter was particularly amusing for him.  We we shown a couple of examples of styles of shelter (lean-to, teepee & A frame were among the options) then split in to groups and sent off to build our own.  “This is perfect!” cried one of the team, upon spying an immensely tall, massive trunked maple on the edge of a fairly steep incline.   Perfect for what? I wondered.  It transpired that she thought that the tree would be a perfect anchor for the shelter.  I pointed out that the splay of the trunk and the root system would take up an enormous amount of real estate and render much of the floor space unusable, but she would not be deterred.  Will and I gathered branches, musing all the while to stay clear of the decision making as realistically it wasn’t like we had to sleep there.  A giraffe, it has been said, is a horse designed by committee and I didn’t need to build a giraffe that day.  We did spend some time discussing which of our team mates we would eat first when they all inevitably perished.   The rest of the team bustled around and assembled what could best be described as a tree cozy of sticks for the huge maple.  David Arama wandered by and declared the design a “TeePee/detritus mash up” and pointed out that the tallest tree in the forest like the one we had selected would also be the most susceptible to lightning strike.  Maybe at least then they could get a fire started.


Worst shelter ever

The class was actually rather fun and I learned some things I didn’t know.  Trust your instincts, don’t take chances and be prepared. And shoes, while they may not make the man, may determine the meal.

Don't get too attached

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