If you haven’t already read the first two installments of my trials and tribulations at BYU Survival Camp, you’ll probably want to catch up before you start today’s saga – it will help you have a better understanding about how I was still alive by this point – because I am NOT a wilderness girl.
After choking down tough, stringy chicken and getting a fairly warm night’s sleep in an actual sleeping bag, we survivalists were told that we were going to learn how to rappel down a cliff. We were transported up the canyon, where we met a group of professional mountain climbers who had already rigged up several sets of ropes. After a brief lesson at the base of the cliff, we split into groups and made our way to the top of the cliff, where we were strapped into belts, given heavy gloves to wear, and reminded again how to back over the edge of the cliff and brake if we began to go too fast. Safety lines were also fastened to us, just in case.
You will be proud to know that I descended the cliff with a minimum of screaming, although I had a moment near the bottom where the base of the cliff curved inwards, so I was dangling and twirling uncontrollably, with limbs all akimbo – emitting a sound similar to an air raid siren. After some encouragement and shouted instructions, I touched down with no physical injuries. So, if I am ever lost on a high mountain, in a deep, dark forest, and I find my only way to the bottom blocked by a sheer cliff – I’m royally fucked! Because all I learned from that particular “lesson” was that as long as I have the proper equipment, rigged by professionals, and someone is there to shout tips to me – I might make it down alive. Otherwise, I’ll starve or freeze my ass off as I wait for the search and rescue helicopter to find me.
The next day, our gear was again gathered up and placed on a truck to be transported to the next location (when I am lost in the wilderness, I’m going to be sure to bring a truck and crew with me so that they can transport my gear as I find my way home). We were again split up into groups and led to different trails, with brief explanations on how we were to follow the trails as they crossed over a smaller mountain until we came to a river and our meeting point on the other side.
My group of all girls started off confidently, but two hours in, we were dragging and dehydrated. Not one of us had thought to bring any sort of water bottle and the hot sun was beating down on us. Just as we got to the top of the mountain, salvation presented itself, in the form of a water trough, surrounded by about six cows having some sort of bovine happy hour. They were large and did not look happy to see us, but we were desperately thirsty and…well, DESPERATE! We yelled and waved our hands, and then resorted to pitching rocks – and finally just formed a human wedge and pushed our way through to the trough. There was some debate on the safety of drinking from a cow trough, but as the water was being fed into the trough from a spigot of some sort, we felt it was probably pretty safe (and at least free of cow spit). We took turns standing lookout for angry heifers as we guzzled water and dunked our overheated heads into the trough.
Once our thirst was quenched and we were slightly cooler, we started off again. Soon, we could see our target – the shiny ribbon of river far below, at the base of the mountain and at that point, a disagreement started. One of the girls, Beverly, who was older and more confident than the others, pointed out that the trail seemed to be heading the wrong way, and as we could see the river, shouldn’t we just head down the mountain towards it? The others, who were less confident of their bushwhacking capabilities, insisted that staying on the trail was the safest route. Me? I was tired, hot, and already thirsty again – I wanted off that damn mountain the quickest way possible – and the quickest way possible seemed like straight down.
Beverly and I bid adieu to the others and started on our way, confident that while they were still on the trail, we would be sunning ourselves on the banks of the cool river. We were wrong…so very wrong.
I think I must have suppressed much of what happened that afternoon. I vaguely remember that we had to push our way through thorny brambles and that we had to hike laterally across the face of the mountain in order to make our way around sheer drop offs (I told you that that rappelling class was useless!) We were seriously dehydrated and utterly exhausted by the time we made it to the base of the mountain. We crossed the paved road and stumbled down to the river, desperate to get a drink. My God, nothing in the world tasted as good as did that river water! Parasites be damned! I stuck my entire face into that cold deliciousness and sucked water in until I couldn’t hold anymore. We rested for a bit and then took another drink before heading back up the road — but by the time we got there, my stomach was rebelling. A day with no food, little water, heat and exertion, followed by a massive influx of icy water apparently was a shock to my already compromised system. Before we could decide what direction to travel, I knelt – not to praise God for salvation, but to regurgitate all of that precious water all over the nearby bushes. It was kind of a “circle of life” moment – but with no death involved.
About the time I stood up, a pickup truck passed us, turned around, and then pulled along beside us. It was some of the survival leaders, out looking for overdue adolescents. Apparently we were not the only two missing – the remainder of our group still had not shown up (although they were found about 30 minutes later – apparently after hours on the trail, they had decided to follow our lead and started off straight down the mountain, which we all know now was not a great decision). We were loaded into the back of the truck and driven to meet the other survivalists at the new camp. We were also given a bag with rations of raisins, honey packets, and TVP. Have you heard of TVP? It stands for “texturized vegetable protein” and yes, it is about as tasty as it sounds. Ours was “beef” flavor – and the hard nuggets were crunchy, dry, and rather difficult to chew. However, at that moment, it was the second most delicious thing I had ingested that day, and although I despise honey and raisins, I happily ate every last morsel – because I was STARVING!
That day set the tone for the rest of Survival – getting lost in the wilderness became the norm for me and my groups. To this day, I wonder if the leaders planned things that way in order to teach us some sort of true survival skills. So that YOU don’t have to pay large sums of money to learn these secrets yourself, let me share those skills with you now: Walk and walk and walk and walk – drink when you can and walk some more – and hope like crazy someone rescues you before you die.