In To Tread in Wild Places I went out to try to explain wilderness living skills to a 13 year old me. It’s a relatively quick read at 160 pages, but my goal was to trim the metaphorical fat that exists in many books on this subject. For example, instead of showing 20 different ways to set up a tarp, I show a handful of ways (maybe 5) that happen to work really well. Everything is kept simple and straight forward.
The book also includes stories about my time in the wilderness from Maine, to Arizona, and yes, even British Columbia. These stories give practical scenarios where the skills shown in this book were utilized.
I wanted to share a bit of the book with you guys, just to give you a better understanding of what it presents, and why I wrote it in the first place.
Here are the first 5 pages of the book. Enjoy!
Click on the photo to the right to purchase the book!
I did a lot of deep thinking before deciding to write this book.
After all, aren’t there enough “survival” books out there already? Hasn’t everything already been said, recorded or shared?
I can assure you right now that none of the content in this book is new. In fact, most of it is very old. My reason for writing this book is simple.
The earliest memory I have of my outdoor pursuits involves a PVC pipe bow that my parents bought for me for Christmas when I was 4 years old. I irritated squirrels in the backyard and constantly practiced my shooting. When I got a bit older I began to ask my parents about hunting and fishing. Throughout history, fathers have been the source for hunting knowledge. If you find a hunter and ask him how he got started, odds are he’d tell you his old man taught him. My dad was a pastor and had only vague memories of hunting as a kid with his father, most of which involved his favorite part about those hunting trips, eating bologna sandwiches. This is probably where most people would give up and look elsewhere for ways to have a good time. Basketball, baseball, football… all that good stuff. However, my loving parents saw that this had really become a passion of mine, so they looked for people in our community to help me. Soon I was heading for the hills every weekend to chase fish and game, and explore.
Growing up I always dreamed of being an explorer. I would spend my life searching the unexplored corners of the world, mapping new lands, and getting chased by a variety of large, hairy carnivores. Maybe someday I would discover a land that had already been discovered, and I would befriend the native tribes and learn their ways. This was a great plan, but when I saw my first globe at school, I began to feel a bit disheartened. What was I going to do with my life if there weren’t any undiscovered lands?
I forget exactly how old I was when I first stepped into our local history museum, but I don’t think I was much older than 3rd grade. I remember getting out of the elevator and seeing one of the most incredible things that anyone can ever witness. There was a small TV screen that was playing a video of a man making a spear point through a process called “flint knapping.’ Next to the TV screen was a display of old arrowheads and spear points. Next to that was a miniature earth lodge. Above the display was a banner that read “The First Nebraskans.”
It wasn’t a macho thing. The man wasn’t beating his chest or wresting a bear. He just sat there on a stump and turned a stone into a spear point. I remember thinking ‘if I can’t be an explorer, I want to be like this guy.’ It hit me that although we humans basically know everything about the topography of the earth, there is still much to be explored in regards to how humans have interacted with the earth during our history.
Another major turning point in my life came when I got the opportunity to take part in a canoeing expedition in Ontario the summer before my freshman year of high school. I remember gathering up all of my belongings, tools, old Christmas gifts, and whatever else I could find, and selling them to make enough money for the trip. During my time in Ontario I met a guide who happened to be named Sam as well. She was a Samantha, but over the course of our week in the wilderness I observed her resilience through storms and long days of paddling. She was a fearless leader who never lost her positive attitude. She showed me what toughness was supposed to look like. She taught by example. I remember picturing myself in Sam’s shoes. Would I ever be a fearless leader? I resolved to find out…
Even after these great experiences at a young age I still didn’t have a basic set of wilderness living skills. I had a lot of ideas and theories of how I could live in the wild and have adventures, and I had spent a considerable amount of time in wild places, but that was about it. I eventually turned to books to learn more about the forest.
I love books. In fact, I love reading and encouraging younger folks to explore so much that I’ve included a link to my online reading list at the end of this book. But, of the 100s of excellent books on the genre of wilderness living, none of them were composed specifically for 13 year old Sam. Some were too broad, some too advanced, some weren’t relevant to me and the resources that I had access to.
I wrote this book, because I wanted to write the book that I wish I had read as a youth. I wanted to write a book for the indoor oriented folks who are curious what adventure might lie beyond highways and cell phone coverage. I wanted to write a book that would give the young, or beginning woodsman a well-rounded view of what it takes to live comfortably in the wilderness with limited equipment. I wanted to write a book that my parents could have simply handed to the 13 year old Sam and said, ‘go for it!’
So… here we go.
Let’s jump right in! The sooner I finish this book, the sooner I can go play in the woods again.
Freedom in the Forest
I believe that the only way to feel truly free is to experience wild places, either by foot or paddle. During this time only my strokes or footsteps dictate my direction. Each action is purposeful, and meaningful.
Perhaps the true reason for why I decided to write this book is to provide people with the necessary skills to experience this freedom. A solid base of wilderness skills removes or lessens the need for money or complex social hierarchy.
It is our job to spread the joy of the natural world, not to out-do one another. This becomes clearer every time we gaze over an enormous expanse of land or water. It only takes one big storm for a person to learn that (for better or worse) nature doesn’t play favorites, and it’s far more powerful than any person.
Many books have been written about what modern humans refer to as “survival” and many more will be written after this one. I will never claim that my teachings are superior, but rather, that an appreciation for the outdoor lifestyle is, in some capacity, necessary for everyone who treads the earth.
In the 21st century we strut into the woods with our expensive backpacks, we sleep under perfectly manufactured nylon tents, we cook with our omni-fuel-ultra-stove 3500s, and then we sit back and say “I sure have this ‘living in the woods’ thing down.” We walk on trails and look at scenery without knowing anything about the flora and fauna surrounding us, let alone how to utilize it in a way that would allow one to live in the forest for any length of time.
Concerning the Internet
Perhaps the greatest hypocrisy I see amongst outdoor enthusiasts in our culture is the reliance that our outdoor community has on the internet. This is not to say that it is bad to use the internet or that there isn’t good content available online; I simply fear that relying too heavily on such sources can lead one to disregard a practical education of the natural world to an unsafe and unhealthy extent.
Although a great deal of learning can be done through the web, it doesn’t compare to time spent in the woods. It’s important to note that the internet (and television) should be used as a tool to draw people towards the natural world, not a substitute for experiences. There is no “virtual reality” for the wilderness. It greaves me to think that there are people who attempt to satisfy their urge to explore wild places by indulging in reality television and the internet. It’s like eating old bacon bits every night, when you could be chowing down on a big, juicy steak (sorry vegans, I can’t think of an analogy for you; got steak on the brain).
A human needs to tread in wild places; to breathe clean air, to smell the prairies and the forests. Sure, it’s dirty. The real world is often uncomfortable, and dirty, but at least it’s real.