I always joke about how we now live in a proverbial “concrete jungle”. Gone are the days in the Bay Area I remember as a kid with my friends riding our bikes to pick fruit off of numerous groves of trees that are now what we call “Silicon Valley”, playing in numerous running creeks, pretending we were in South East Asia as we hacked our way through swampy bay marshes, or climbing the nearby hills that once sported a one winery and NO houses.
A lot has changed over the years. This is the case with most of outdoor America. I was lucky this past weekend to reconnect with the wild and spend a day in an outdoor survival class through Adventure Out located in Santa Cruz and Marin. Adventure Out Santa Cruz is one of the top California outdoor schools specializing in surf camps, rock climbing classes, backing trips of all kinds, mountain biking, and yes, wilderness survival skills instruction. Our survival class was located up in the woods near Boulder Creek, CA a few miles up on the summit from Santa Cruz. I haven’t been up there in a while, but I am always amazed on how peaceful and beautiful nature can be, and I was only 15 minutes away from that concrete jungle.
The survival class my daughter and I took was a 5 hour course taught by Adventure Out Program Coordinator and Lead Survival Instructor, Jack Harrison. Jack was a great instructor and has lived an amazing life, most of it in the wilderness across the world with great mentors from local naturalists to a Mexican tribal elder while in Mexico.
Our class was the right size with seven students. Over the course of the day we were taught numerous survival skills, such as how to build a shelter. It was basically an A-frame like sleeping bag using materials you find in the wild that if done right can keep you warm even if out in freezing environments. Jack actually lived in one for 2 years. My daughter said, “Dad I don’t know if I can sleep in all that ground debris.” My response, “You would, if your life depended on it.”
We then moved on to an ancient skill that has defined modern human growth and technology advancement, which we have all forgotten; how to start fire using natures resources. Sorry friends, there were no matches 1,000s of years ago. Jack showed us how to carve wood, take a bow with string, rub a spindle with a wood piece, and wham you have smouldering coal to start fire with dry fibrous debris (think twine pulled apart into cobweb looking material).
Lastly, we were educated by Jack on food and water. I do have to say, I don’t know if I can eat squirrel or bull frog like Jack has done. These are only a few things on a long list of outdoor animals he has eaten. I now know what to look for and how to attempt to hunt for this food when in need thanks to his instruction. And for water, we know we can’t go three days without it. Jack gave us numerous tips on how to find water or get water from the environment. I loved the idea of dragging a t-shirt across dew covered plants to collect water. A way to easily collect a gallon of pure water by wringing out the shirt.
Overall, my daughter and I were very pleasantly surprised by the class. I highly recommend it to anyone who would like to test their survival skill knowledge, learn more about outdoor survival, or are just looking for a way to get reacquainted with nature or to learn about nature. Kudos to Jack and Adventure Out for bringing back memories of camping in the wild as a kid. I am looking forward to this summer.