In Utah, where I grew up, when parents had a particularly willful, troublesome teenager, one solution was to send them on a weeklong “Survival” experience run by a local university. And guess who was a particularly willful, troublesome teenager? I suppose the premise was that said teenager would learn to be self-sufficient, gain confidence, and return home a more loving, appreciative offspring. My theory is that it was a good way for parents to have a week to relax, free from confrontation and stress while the teenager was roughing it in the wilderness. My theory may be off a bit – because my older sister was sent to an earlier survival bootcamp, and she was the perfect child. I also don’t remember being upset that I was going to survival – in fact, I was looking forward to it – but that might be because I also wanted a week to relax, free from the confrontation and stress of dealing with troublesome parents.
The first day of Survival, our backpacks were taken from us and we were bussed up a nearby canyon. Once we offloaded, we were told that we would be hiking twelve miles to the top of the mountain – and as it was already 3pm, we would not make it before dark. We set off, with an adult counselor in the lead and one in the rear – and soon the more athletically inclined, older teens were far ahead and those who were younger and scrawny were struggling just to make it up the path. I fell somewhere in the middle of the pack, but I soon found myself walking alone…and then darkness fell.
Let me pause in the story here to give you a bit of background. A few weeks prior to coming to Survival, I had seen the movie “Grizzly.” You may never have heard of this movie, as it was not critically acclaimed nor a mega blockbuster, so let me give you the synopsis. Basically, “Grizzly” is like “Jaws” – but with a 18-foot tall bear instead of a shark. Everything else about the movie is pretty much the same – the same surly, freakishly smart predator who is generally pissed at humans and considers them to be gourmet fare. There are similar deaths (the innocent child, the promiscuous young woman – and the other promiscuous young women, the burly man with an angry attitude) – and there is blood and limbs flying galore. If you are so inclined, you can actually watch the whole movie here Grizzly The Movie. Or, if you are just into gore and death, you can watch highlights of the death scenes here Grizzly Death Scene Highlights. The movie, “Jaws” profoundly impacted me as a teen – I would not go into a swimming pool by myself after watching that movie (it still makes me uncomfortable to this day). “Grizzly” also impacted me in a similar fashion – and now here I was, ALONE…IN THE DARK…IN THE WOODS!
As I walked, I strained my eyes, trying to see what was around me in the woods. Every rustle that I heard in the underbrush caused my heart to race even faster. My mind concocted various scenarios about how the Grizzly was going to attack and how I should respond – and they all ended badly. Finally, in the distance, I saw a light! As I got closer, I could hear voices as well! It was the group of older teens, who had managed to kill a snake, start a fire on the trail, and were roasting the snake for dinner – these were people who actually had a shot of surviving if they were ever lost in the wilderness! I was elated – because the way I saw it – the more people who were around, the less my chances of being the primary target of a hungry bear! I elbowed my way into the group and got as close to the fire as I could, basking in the cozy glow and even managing to snag a sliver of roasted snake as it was passed around. If you’re interested – it tasted like chicken.
The group stayed until the last stragglers arrived and had some time to warm up by the fire. Then we all set off again, as the top of the mountain was still a few miles away. My heart was racing again during the last leg – but only because I had to jog now and then to keep up with the older teens. There was a killer Grizzly in them thar woods – and I wasn’t about to be its midnight snack!