I love watching those shows about people who were thrust into survival situations and who prevailed despite all the odds. I like watching Les Stroud doing his stuff in Survivorman. And no, I don’t watch the other guy’s comedy show purporting to be survival.
I have done a few “Survival Campouts” on my own but to do a really hardcore one you really should have some form of backup in case things get hairy. I have done a few with friends but it is hard to convince folks to join you in the woods for a couple days “with just a knife”.
And then I got my own website…
Twelve Brave Souls signed up for Iron Viking.
I had promised them a minimalist survival experience (the packing list is in an earlier blog entry) and gave them very little additional information except that I would try to make sure they didn’t die.
I told everyone to meet at a given location at 11 a.m. so that we would all enjoy a big meal together prior to beginning the exercise promptly at noon. By 12:30 nine Vikings had shown up – we moved out to the training area.
It was raining.
It was forecasted and threatened to pour.
Because I’m such a softie, I issued each participant a large trash bag to keep their blanket and long underwear in.
As we were going over initial instructions and preparing for our layout inspection one more intrepid Viking pulled up to the exercise location.
He was sick.
Very sick. I think he had H5N1 or something…
He was brave if a bit misguided showing up.
I had promised each participant a “goody bag”.
I refused to tell them what was going to be in it.
I won’t tell you what was in it except to say it was obviously in a feed sack.
We moved to the initial campsite in the rain.
The route was about a mile long, cross country over rocks and downed trees, across gullies and up and down large hills. Did I mention it was raining?
Spirits were high.
Along the way each Viking was "injured" and had to deal with his/her injury. They were then graded on their performance by a doc who came along. He was graded by an EMT who came along.
We continued on.
When we arrived at the initial campsite I was a softie again and gave each participant a HUGE piece of plastic to use in making their shelter. It was something like 3' x 6'.
People set about making shelters in the remaining daylight and most looked pretty good.
They then started building fires. This was very easy as it had only been raining there for two days and each Viking was given TEN paper matches.
It actually stopped raining for a bit and I built a big ol' fire to dry my clothes. Oh yes, I was playing also.
Once that was done I started another small fire inside my shelter - the soaked rocks we were using as fire reflectors kept exploding with glee and I wanted my shelter rocks to settle down before I climbed in there.
About that time, one of our FIVE medical personal came up to me and said the sick Viking was bad off - did we have any caffeine to give him to help his breathing? Yes, of course we did - it's just that no one knew it yet. I dispatched a "nurse" to make a cup of tea for the ailing Viking but was soon informed that said Viking had (wisely albeit a bit late) decided to bag it - and go sleep in his car and then depart in the morning.
We were way back in the deep dark woods about a mile from the cars.
He didn't know the way.
It was getting dark.
Sigh....okay - I'll lead him out.
Walking through the very wet woods soon had my recently dry pants soaked once more (whine).
After dropping the Viking off, just as it got fully dark, a mile away from my compadres – LO, the skies did burst forth!
There was lightning, there was thunder and there was PRODIGIOUS rain.
I swam the mile back.
I got a bit discombobulated in the dark/BRIGHT woods with fogged over spectacles.
I finally found home.
I was wet - totally.
My large fire was very sad.
It was THUNDER storming.
I crawled into my hootch.
I was okay. I had made a bed of spruce boughs.
I changed into long underwear, fleece top, hat and Gore-Tex parka and settled down to sleep.
And one point a Viking woke me and asked if I was wet.
I resumed dreaming.
Another Viking woke me.
She was supposed to be way over there - why was she here?
And then I realized who it was but I couldn't understand her.
She was totally wet and hypothermic.
We sorted her out about the same time God decided to create a stream through my bed.
I know all about "properly selecting ground". This was not just a bit of rain trying to find a place to go - no, the fountains of the deep had obviously burst open again. In fact, over the next 12 hours it rained 5.5 inches.
Thus began a long wet, cold night.
Mildy hypothermic Vikings.
Most ended up sitting against trees with meager plastic wrapped around their heads...
Prior to dawn (GOD, what a long night) with every Viking awake and suffering - everyone soaked from at least the waist down and most soaked from the crown of head down...
We broke camp and headed back to the cars - in the dark. Everyone did have an emergency flashlight which they used but still..
We got to the cars, turned on the heat, put on dry clothes, and napped for an hour or so.
And then after hearing that the forecast called for more of the same to include a temperature drop I made a difficult decision - I cancelled the exercise.
It was a safety thing more than anything else. When I was dealing with the first hypothermic Viking in the wee hours of the night I found myself worrying that some other Viking was out there experiencing hypothermia without telling anyone.
I felt really bad about/for one Viking who road a bus, hiked 17 miles, hitched, slept in a very interesting place, and arrived from a state far, far away. He's probably mad at me.
On the way home I heard the temps were forecasted to drop into the high thirties that night.
Everything and everyone was SODDEN.
I'll stand by the decision.
That five and half inches of rain had fallen on ground already soaked by two days of almost continuous rain and sprinkle. Every creek and river we passed for a few hundred miles was well over its banks. In fact, our way out was blocked by a washed out road and we had to take a detour. I saw a golf course with a lake in the middle of it - where the greens were supposed to be. I saw a 55 MPH sign with water to within 6" of the bottom of the sign. Yeah - it rained. And it was still raining for the first two hours of the drive home.
So the first Iron Viking was a bust. I think my t-shirt designer was prescient when he put water droplets on the shield.
In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. - Genesis 7:11
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at Joe
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