Sunday, April 06, 2008

I survived

I'm taking a wilderness survival class at BYU. We had a 2-1/2 day field trip last weekend, from Thursday afternoon to Saturday night. I'm happy to report that I didn't die.

The trip was actually easier than I thought it would be. We got to bring almost everything that I would typically bring on a campout, with the exception of a headlamp, a lighter, and food.

We drove out to the west desert in Utah (near Eureka) and hiked eight miles late on Thursday night. We threw down sleeping bags on the side of the road and slept without any shelter that night. It was about 25ºF that night, so we slept close together for warmth.

On Friday morning we awoke to discover that we each had an orange to eat for the day. I was very thankful for the food, since I had expected that we would have to scavenge for everything we ate. day we passed off several skills with our TAs (starting fires, building traps, etc.).

Late that afternoon our teacher brought several live chickens for us to eat. We killed, skinned, cooked, and ate them. I had helped butcher chickens before (my uncle raised them), but it was a completely new experience for most of the people in the class. Some were visibly squeamish about it, and some really enjoyed it. I think that it made an impression on everyone that the lunchmeat that you buy at the store doesn't just some from a factory: it was once a living animal. We made chicken soup, and the broth and vegetables were really good, but the meat was pretty rubbery.

That night, about an hour before dark, our teacher gave us each two granola bars, a packet of oatmeal, and a packet of hot chocolate, and then our TAs split us up for 24 hours of individual solitude. I brought some live coals from our cooking fire to start a fire in my individual camp, but when I got to my camp I found that the coals had gone cold. "Great", I thought. "I'm going to freeze for the next day." Thankfully, however, I started a fire with flint and steel on my first try (the first time I had ever tried in my life, actually), and soon I had a warm fire. I was very happy that I got it started.

In the short remaining time before it got dark, I collected firewood from the surrounding area and laid out my sleeping bag. Before I went to sleep, I put two large logs on the fire in the hope that I would still have warm coals in the morning so I wouldn't have to start the fire again. The sky was clear, so I didn't bother with a shelter for the night: I slept under the stars. I woke up once during the night to the scratchy sound of snow crystals falling on my sleeping bag.

I awoke at dawn and found that I still had hot coals. I built up the fire and boiled water for my hot chocolate. I savored it, since I wouldn't have much else for the day.

I marked the position of the sun so that I would be able to tell the time during the day, and then I laid back down to sleep. I woke up around 9 a.m. and cooked and ate my oatmeal. I've never tasted anything so good. I spent most of the rest of the morning reading. Around noon I ate a granola bar and fell asleep again. I spent the afternoon alternately sleeping and and reading.

Around 2 p.m. the wind picked up, sustained at about 20 MPH. I started to get cold, and ash from the fire kept blowing all over me, so I built a wind shelter with some branches and a tarp. I put my sleeping bag inside and laid there for the rest of the afternoon.

At 6 p.m. our TAs signaled that it was time for us to pack up and return to the main camp. When we got there, our teacher was cooking a Dutch oven dinner. It was pretty miserably cold waiting around for it, but I was glad to eat. I would have preferred to just go home, though.

Being out by myself, completely alone for 24 hours was a great experience. I had time to think and pray about things without distraction. I also gained a greater appreciation of the companionship of others. It can get kind of boring being by yourself with little to do for that long.

I'm glad I went on the field trip. I grew from the experience. It gave me a much greater appreciation of all of the conveniences that I enjoy. When I'm hungry, I go to the fridge and get food. When I'm cold, I turn up the heat. Can't see? Flip on the lights. Dirty? Take a shower. Wonder about the time? Look at a clock. Living without all of these things made me appreciate more what I have.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

That sounds like a really cool experience. Part of me wants to do something like that, but the other part definitely doesn't want to. (The whole cold and hungry thing doesn't sound so appealing). Anyway, I deleted my other blog because I wasn't writing in it and I use another gmail account and never felt like logging out and logging into my other one to write on my blog. But now I have a new one...