Home Forums Campfire Forum Wilderness survival tales

Viewing 7 reply threads
  • Author
    • James HarveyJames Harvey
      Post count: 1130


      (this is a long one… grab a coffee…)

      Smithhammer’s thread on a fire starting kit got me thinking about experiences that chaps here might have had on expeditions and adventures where you’ve thought “this is it” but have got out of it somehow. Obviously if you’re going down with hypo starting a fire in a timely fashion may be the very thing that keeps you alive.

      Coming from a place where heat stroke and dehydration are more likely to kill, my fire starting skills are best described as ‘poor’. But that’s kind of the point of this discussion, is to share experiences so that others can learn from them. Was there a key piece of knowledge, skill, prior preparation or equipment that was critical?

      I’ve had a couple of those moments but not in wilderness adventures. The closest I have that I can share to kick things off is a thing that happened to me maybe a month ago. I was hiking through some bush with a 20kg (45lbs?) pack on my back and dog by my side. I was roughly paralleling the closest road which was a couple of km’s away and my route was going to require me to cross a series of creeks.

      That time of year the lily’s were going crazy, choking the creeks with a thick layer of pads and a jungle of stems under the surface. That made it impossible to see how deep the water was but I had figured a fairly dependable method of judging the depth of water by the density and state of the lily’s on the surface. I’d waded through stuff maybe chest deep, which is a fair bit of work, carving a path through the seriously thick lily’s with a dog scrabbling along at your back.

      So I arrive at the biggest creek so far, about 20-30 yards across. I track up it a ways, using my lily method looking for a crossing point and keeping my eye out for croc sign. We’re at the lower reaches of croc range here and sightings are sporadic and generally restricted to the wet season which hadn’t arrived yet.

      I find my crossing point and am expecting between knee and hip deep water. There’s a little ledge I have to step off, maybe two feet down to the water. Down I hop. Splash. I take a refreshing mouthful of water as I discover my lily depth gauge has let me down. I don’t know how deep it is right here but it’s deeper than me, so I’m left furiously treading water and scrabbling at the shelf I’d just stepped off for a handhold.

      I didn’t mention it earlier but it’s not a regular pack on my back, it’s one of those ones you hike a kid around in and my two year old son was hanging out back there. That’s why I was so concerned when I heard a distinct ‘sploosh’ from the far side of the creek.

      Panic stations. Lucky for me I have a habit of when I’m walking my dog through scrub of keeping his lead wrapped around my hand like strapping under a boxer’s glove. I just do that for ease of access in case I want him back on lead. There it was, about six feet of lead wrapped around my hand.

      In my head I’m repeating a mantra, ‘slow is smooth, smooth is fast’ as I unravel the lead and try to toss it around a dead tree hanging onto the shelf above me. First attempt fails. I find myself wondering how fast a croc swims through lily’s. The second attempt sails around the tree and slaps me rudely in the face. Quick as a flash I drag myself (and attached son) out of the creek and leg it away from the waters edge.

      So that’s my little experience. I often carry a length of rope with me in the field, but it’s rarely as accessible as that lead was. I reckon from now on that will be an SOP for me when crossing risky waterways, particularly with a shelf like that, to have a length of rope with a weighted end wrapped around my hand. It may be worth your consideration too.

      Was there a croc? I never found out. My experience has been when I’m stressed in the bush and hear things, my imagination can run pretty wild. I suspect that’s the case here. I’ve been back and have never seen any croc sign. That sploosh was pretty scary though.

      I suppose a piece of prior preparation was physical conditioning as well. I happen to specifically train treading water and swimming with weight on me for work and do exercises like weighted heaves, all of which facilitated me getting through that rather stressful experience.

      It’s also a bit cathartic for me to write all this down as I never told my wife. She often questions where I stand in that grey area between daring and reckless and I don’t need to arm her any further 😉

      So, surely with all the outdoor experience we have on tradbow there are some other dorks like me that have stuffed up in the field and survived to tell the tale?


    • Doc Nock
      Post count: 1150


      Now THAT is a story…

      I kept thinking initially, in your dunking part…, i thought why doesn’t he just shed the pack and get out and then get the pack…well, YEAH… you got your kid in it… 😯

      I’m sure there are better ones… but I can’t come close.

      Hiking in warm weather, gentle breeze, Bob Marshall wilderness in MT and get hypothermia? Didn’t ever give it a thought… but sweating, drinking just water and then BOOM…sat there and never heard being called. Luckily, my buddy spotted me and walked me to camp and pumped tea heavily laced with honey in me and it was like waking up from a nap. Scary, but not like yours.

      I wonder how old your son will be when he blurts out at the diner table, “Hey Dad, remember that time I was in the back pack and you jumped in over your head and we almost drowned!?”

      Good luck, Hoss!

    • 1shot
      Post count: 252

      Years ago (I was 17years old) a friend got a new 4wheel drive truck with the grill and roll-bar spot lights, like 8extra lights. We went out “testing” the new truck around mid-night on a saturday night. An opened case of beer, two bottles of wine and a dirt road north-east of Phx, AZ where hours before we passed a sign that said “Last gas 45miles” behind us… After off-roading a few hours we ran out of gas, but since he had two tanks no problem right???

      The extra lights had sucked the elec. system dry and there we where, lost with a dead truck,no clue on dirrection to a road, a few beers left, half a bottle of wine, 3guys, 110degrees plus…

      First day we sat tight hoping for someone/something to show us the way… Second day the trucks owner walked west and returned after dark, no life seen… Third day his brother walked south, and he returned after dark with no life seen… Forth day we all hiked north… for two days…

      No water, just chewing some scant cactus, On the seventh day we came upon a dirt-floored shack owned by an old Indian couple who fed and watered us. They didnt own a vehicle, but told us whitch way to civilisation and after resting for a day we walked the 10miles to another house with a vehicle…

      This was before cell-phones, we told no one what we were doing… I got fired from my job(they didnt believe my “adventure”)…

      Many lessons learned that week…(first was NOT helping to find/retreive the truck)…

    • Doc Nock
      Post count: 1150


      My face hurts reading these from smiling so much… mine is so silly, compared to these great adventures of you two guys! Gracious!

      I guess I’ve not really “lived” and had adventures compared to you guys! 😛

    • 1shot
      Post count: 252

      Not really a survival story, but some early outdoor skills by “infants of the woods”…

      My 2 buddies and I went camping in the early fall(NY), we were maybe 10years old, and our parents said it was OK as long as we set camp where they could see us. Being the Great White Hunters that we assumed we were, we made plans of what each would bring for the over-night adventure…

      When we met-up on the ridge across from my house(where my parents could see us),where we found the plan was incomplete. We each had a sleeping bag and pocket knife with a pack of matches between us. No food, no water, no untensils… “YOU were suppossed to bring that!!!” hehehe…

      Not wanting to head back home as failures, we raided an old apple orchard, went by one of the guy’s grandmothers house got some rubarb stalks from the garden and a few eggs from the hen-house and found a rusty can to boil some water in. Things were fine sitting around the fire eating apples and rubarb, but hunger set-in and we came up with the idea to make spears and get some frogs from a small pond. We ate like kings, we thought anyway, cooking frog-legs over the open fire, using a thin flat rock as a frying pan for the eggs, making a tea from ginsing roots and told stories till late at night(“Vampire’s” had chased us home on the camping trip before this one)…

      My parents had alittle party at my home that evening with the other guy’s parents, card games and cocktails, and compared notes on what we had taken for our “Big night in the woods”, they knew we had forgotten any food or water and guessed we would be home soon, but they saw our campfire burning late into the night…

      My Mother was so impressed with our outdoor skills, she had us hunt-up a bunch for the next weekend when she had another party with the frog-legs as the “Guest-of-Honor” served with ginsing tea…

      The three of us still hunt and fish to this day and are best friends… and sometimes have a “frog Feast”, to the confused looks from our women… hehehe…

    • skinner biscuitskinner biscuit
      Post count: 250

      When I was a teenager, me and a neighbor of the same age rode his motor bike to some ponds about a mile from our homes.School was closed due to about 6″ of snow on the ground.We came to a spot where we had to cross some deadfalls across the water.I told him to be careful not to step on the same log, which he preceded to do.We sink to our knees with the log ready to roll out beneath us.I see panic in his eyes when he lunged at me, sending us both up to our necks in freezing water.Now he’s trying to climb on top of me! I hit him hard in the mouth, he comes to his senses, I look him in the eye and say “Lets get out of here ok “he nods.We swim to the bank, crawl out and made out way to the bike.A cold ride home, hot shower, soup and toast by the fire, then lay in bed under many blankets. After a few hours I could still feel the cold in my bones.Though not a wildernesses tale the outcome could have been much worse.

    • James HarveyJames Harvey
      Post count: 1130

      I’m enjoying the tales guys, although I’m a little perturbed that all yours start with “when I was a kid/teenager”. Am I the only one still making dumb mistakes as a grown up?? 😆

      Skinner, I’ve heard that hitting people freaking out in the water can shock some sense into them from a number of sources (my wife, a rescue certified scuba diver is one) but I think you’re the first person I’ve spoken to that’s actually done it. Glad to know it works!

      Doc, I guess your friend knowing the signs and symptoms of hypo was of benefit, and knowing how to look after you?

      1shot… That tale of getting stuck, drunk, without fuel or water is scary stuff.. I’m glad you all got out.

      Keep them coming guys.

    • 1shot
      Post count: 252

      “Water is Life” is not just some folk tale or off-the-cuff saying…

      Where I live there are constant examples of non-survival, avg. 100plus humans per year, by illegal aliens crossing the desert and falling to the elements. All are tragic, most are due to lack of water/exposure.

      Water is a rare, hard to come by commodity in the desert South-West. Sometimes the 3liters I carry for a day hunt isnt enough and other messures must be taken.

      1- Pre-Hunt hydration… easy on the coffee(I love my coffee so this is tough), I “tank-up” with water hours before I head off into the mountains, if your not urinating, your not drinking enough. Dark colored urine is the first sign, for me, of impending problems(headaches/loss of focus/exhaustion). I also take a few aspirin before heading out, to stave-off aches/pain and effects of altitude/water loss…

      2- Some Desert “tricks” that get me through and back home…

      Being aware of what the plan is/and conditions, making sure I dont “Bite-off-more-then-I-can-chew”, may keep me from exploring new areas, but gets me safely back.

      Wearing long sleaved shirts,a hat, use of a shamagh, slowing down pace, major travel/hiking in the morning all reduce water-loss from sweating.

      Either carrying a few Copper washers or picking-up small rocks to place between your cheek and gum will help push through the final hike to my SUV where I always have extra water… Real copper works the best for this…

      Chewing cactus as a last resort(for me), most taste like crapola,spines in fingers(no matter how carefull you are) and mental-block(see above story)…

Viewing 7 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.