Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Playing Survivorman

This winter I tried to impress upon my 13-year-old daughter that if she continued to go hiking and camping with me, it might be a good idea if she learned some survival skills.
"Is that because you're always getting lost?" Stephanie asked.
It's really ironic that the more time she spends with me, the more she's turning out to be just like her mother.
"No," I said. "Anyone who ventures into the woods could find himself in a survival situation. If you're properly equipped and mentally prepared, you stand a much better chance of making it out alive."
To teach my daughter the valuable survival skills she needed, I did what any true outdoorsman would do: I plunked her down in front of the television.
"We're going to watch the Survivorman marathon," I said.
"Isn't that the guy who eats bugs?" Stephanie asked. "If that's what it takes to survive, I'd rather die."
"We don't have to start at that extreme," I said. "We can begin with other skills, such as how to start a fire or build a shelter."
After several episodes Stephanie issued the challenge.
"Dad, do you really know how to do all of the things he's doing?"
That weekend we trudged into the woods through the knee-deep snow. She had double-dared me to start a fire and build a shelter. I was confident in my fire-starting abilities, but the pressure was on here. This was mid-winter. Everything was wet, buried under the snow. Would Stephanie think I was a fraud if I couldn't get a fire started?
We found a spot sheltered from the wind, wiped the snow off of a couple of logs to sit on and cleared a spot on the ground to build our fire. I carved some fine shavings for tinder from a standing dead tree, then collected some birch bark and small branches also from standing dead trees.
I used one of those magnesium fire sticks with a metal striker to scrape a shower of sparks into the tinder. It took some doing, but at last a spark caught. I quickly moved a stub of a candle into place to ensure my little fire would stay lit until the wood was ablaze.
"This is where Survivorman would roast grubs on stick for his dinner," I said. I reached into my fanny pack.
Stephanie's eyes widened. She was worried about what was coming next. I took out two foil packets.
"Survivorman might have grubs," I said. "But Survivor Dad brought hot cocoa mix."