Boy, this story about my Survival experience has turned into quite a saga! If you are just discovering my blog, this post will make a lot more sense if you read the first four posts on the subject (just do a search for “Survival” in the box to the right). I don’t think you’ll be bored – they are full of adventure, danger, imagined encounters with ferocious grizzly bears, real encounters with very large cows, the killing of defenseless chickens, and lots and lots and LOTS of walking…because I got lost just about every time I was released into the wilderness.
As the last episode ended, I had just been escorted to a deserted clearing about 100 yards off the trail and told I was to stay there, alone, for the next two nights – it was the “solo” experience of Survival. Each of us was told not to leave the area and not to interact with any other survivalist. We were assured in somber tones that our “solo” would be a deeply spiritual and personally fulfilling time…a time for soul-searching, prayer, and an opportunity to get closer to nature and to God (remember, this Survival was run by Brigham Young University, which is a private college owned by the Mormon Church). I gather the hope was to turn somewhat troubled teens into more compliant, mainstream Mormon youth who would embrace the Church and its teachings when they returned home. Yeah – that didn’t happen so much.
After setting up my tent and sleeping bag, I attempted to make a fire with the flint and steel that had been provided, as darkness was already falling. I was able to make some very pretty sparks as I banged the two pieces together…but despite what seemed like hundreds of attempts, I couldn’t get my tinder to light! Just about the time I had resigned myself to dry cubes of TVP (texturized vegetable protein) for dinner, I heard a rustling in the brush behind me. My first thought was that a damn grizzly bear had finally caught up with me – but then Bonnie stuck her head around a tree and smiled at me. Bonnie was a rebellious and slightly wild girl that I had made friends with during the trip. She had been parked in a clearing not too far from mine and was having none of this “solo” nonsense. She cheerfully informed me that she had a fire going and thought we could make some TVP stew for dinner together. She didn’t have to ask me twice!
Back at Bonnie’s camp, we chatted quietly and attempted to muffle our laughter so that any patrolling counselors wouldn’t hear us. We pulled out our pocket knives and began to cut up some of our potato and carrot to add to the water where the TVP was soaking and swelling (if you haven’t ever had TVP, I can’t really recommend it – it is rather vile). Suddenly there was gasp and Bonnie dropped her knife and cradled her hand, peering at her thumb, which was now bleeding heavily. We had a hushed conversation as we tried to determine the extent of the damage. It was a deep wound, it gaped alarmingly, and the blood showed no sign of stopping. We finally decided that some sort of medical intervention was needed and we made our way up the path towards the leader’s camp.
We concocted a story was we walked because, remember, we could be expelled from the program if we were caught with anyone else during our solo experience! We decided it sounded reasonable that I could have heard Bonnie scream as she cut her thumb. Being the compassionate and fearless person I am, it was plausible that I rushed to her aid, heedless of any personal danger from hungry bears or attacking hill people. When the counselor’s heard the story, they eyed each other skeptically, but just led Bonnie away as they told me firmly to head back to my own camp and to STAY there.
The next day, Bonnie came to visit me again, showing off three new stitches in her thumb. She was pretty excited by the fact that she got to go in a truck…to a medical clinic…in a TOWN! She even confessed that the leader who had transported her had stopped at McDonald’s on the way and bought dinner for them both. I was jealous – I mean, the girl hadn’t saved me so much as a French fry! I debated slicing my own thumb open, but that seemed like a rather high cost for a cheeseburger. Bonnie had other news as well — she informed me that we had been invited to a party that night!
Apparently, the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere, with all of us spread out along two forks of a canyon, with more than two miles between the first and last survivalist, did not deter communication a bit! David (you remember him – the friendly chicken killer from “Survival – It Made a Murderer Out of Me” had been placed at the most remote location, far up one of the forks of the canyon – and he decided to use this location to his advantage and throw a party, since it was nearly a certainty that none of the leaders would hear it. He told a friend who was two campsites down the trail about the party and then tasked him to spread the word. That friend had hiked a bit, telling two other friends, and they split up to inform the rest of us.
When the sun started to dip towards the mountaintop, Bonnie and I headed out. Along the way, we met and were joined by a few other survivalists who had also been invited to the party. By the time we got to David’s camp, the party was in full swing. Although we had been warned before Survival started that our backpacks could be searched at any time, apparently this had been an idle threat – David had smuggled in about a dozen mini-bottles of liquor (we were informed that rolled up socks were a great hiding place). Others had beef jerky, chocolate, and even a few cigarettes! I was highly impressed with their moxie, as bringing any food, drink, or drugs from the outside was strictly forbidden and grounds for being expelled from the program. I’ve never been much of a drinker or smoker, so I nibbled on a piece of chocolate as I watched everyone else pass around the mini-bottles and share the cigarettes. It occurred to me that perhaps I wasn’t as much of a rebel as I would like to believe and I wondered if my bad girl image needed some work.
Before the party had officially ended, I convinced Bonnie that we should head back down the canyon to our campsites. Tomorrow was the end of the solo experience and we were supposed to meet the leaders at their campsite in the morning for instructions on the last hike of the trip. I wanted to get a decent night’s sleep, as I wanted to be rested and focused. This hike I wasn’t going to get lost! Alas, all the sleep in the world wouldn’t be enough to save me from my fate…as you’ll soon see.