A Wilderness Survival Weekend

My weekend forecast changed from normal to amazing when I decided to participate in Primitive Texas’ Winter survival trip at LLELA (the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area).

For two days, seven ‘students’ and myself were guided by Mark Suter, a master survivalist and primitive living skills guru. We learned not just to survive but to thrive in winter weather using our wits, skills, and natural, local resources.

And yes, it was below freezing overnight. We deserve ‘polar bear’ credit.

I’ll share photos from this trip soon (and if you want to see more, visit LLELA’s Facebook album), but first I’ll share some things I wasn’t expecting to learn.

Machetes are actually useful.

I thought machetes were an anachronism from bygone explorer days, or else a ridiculously hyperbolic tool. I thought they were only used for shock effect or for cool book titles. But no, we used them – often, for all kinds of tasks – and shared, because I don’t have one. Now a machete is truly, unexpectedly, on my shopping list.

The best plant-learning is experiential.

You might think remembering plants is not your forte, but when you interact with a plant intimately – hunting for it, identifying, tasting, harvesting, cleaning, cooking, and eating it, or fashioning it into a digging tool or soap or rope – recognizing a species will be like recognizing a family member.

Sometimes it’s ok to cut down a tree.

Let me be perfectly, completely clear: we had express permission to harvest certain plants. Cutting a tree is NOT a normal part of leaving no trace or enjoying a wildlife preserve. This was a survival skills class, and some skills require using trees. (It was weird to cut down my first tree, even if it was a sapling. Watch for a later blog about the experience.)

Soapberry and poison ivy have differently-shaped leaf scars.

This was very practical information where we set up camp. The two plants share shady habitat, look similar when the tree is young and the poison ivy grows in shrub-form, and are deciduous (lose their leaves). Here’s a drawing I jotted. I’ll go back and take a photo soon.Image

This is a great way to build teamwork and camaraderie.

Our group bonded very quickly because we were meeting a common challenge: group survival. Gathering wood for a fire, leaves for a shelter, plants to eat… lashing fallen logs together, clearing sleeping space, hunting for animal signs, sharing tools and expertise… The bond we formed and time we shared were deeply gratifying.

I highly, highly recommend this trip (and other primitive living skills classes) if you want to:

  • feel an all-encompassing sense of accomplishment
  • develop profound respect for European settlers and Native Americans
  • deeply appreciate modern conveniences
  • feel more comfortable and able outdoors
  • change your perspective.

Besides, when is the last time you slept outdoors in a shelter YOU made…Image

and opened your eyes in the early morning and saw this?Image


11 thoughts on “A Wilderness Survival Weekend

  1. Pingback: Field Notes Friday 0003 | the happy naturalist

  2. Pingback: A Photographic Journey Through a Wilderness Survival Weekend | the happy naturalist

  3. Pingback: A Photographic Journey through a Wilderness Survival Weekend, Part 2 | the happy naturalist

  4. Thanks
    With havin so much content do you ever run into any issues of plagorism or copyright infringement? My site has a lot of unique content I’ve either created myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my permission. Do you know any techniques to help stop content from being stolen? I’d truly appreciate it.

    • I’d actually be honored if my ideas were being quoted and used, but I understand that getting credit is important, too. I’m not sure how I’d get credit for my images and words. I haven’t looked into that, but I’m sure if you search phrases like “copyright my content” you’ll find a few helpful answers. Good luck!

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