This past summer (2016), I decided to participate in a wilderness survival camp. It was in the Jefferson National Forest on the western side of Virginia with a program called Mountain Shepard Wilderness Survival School.

I had spent the year up to this point attempting to be an avid hiker. Some months I made sure to go on a hike every day, even if it could only be a short hour long activity, while other months I would hike a few times a week, a couple times every other week, or maybe only once a month depending upon how demanding the rest of my life had been.

On these hikes, I have brought edible plant guides and survival books, attempting to learn as much as I could about the spaces around me and fueling my interest in minimalist living. With all of this, I had confidence that I would be successful within a wilderness survival training course and also gain useful skills for my adventures. Hilariously enough, it turns out my skills were not as keen as I had imagined.

On my first night, I was cutting wood with my knife and managed to gash open my finger. It bled profusely and after 30 minutes of continual heavy bleeding, I approached the instructor and it turned into this whole ordeal. I apparently had sliced my finger so deep that I needed stitches. But of course this was survival camp and I was in the middle of nowhere, so we sat around for a while weighing out our options. “We could go back and drive to the hospital? Or we could meet up with random person X who lives nearby, I think he might be good with stitches?”

After much debate, my instructor decided to give me a pack of quick clot and Steri Stitches, saving the night and leaving me with this cool scar to remind me of my survival adventure. Despite the mishap, I managed to complete the course successfully and learned so much that I knew nothing about. Now I can say that I know how to make a fire in a thunderstorm, create a snare to catch animals, identify what not to eat, and how to generally be prepared for a survival situation. The instructor was a former member of the US Air Force, highly knowledgeable, and I would highly recommend the courses at the Mountain Shepard Survival School.