Bushcraft & Survival Skills Magazine – Issue 85 – Mar/Apr 2020
“Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl, it is the imagination of the traveller that does the howling.”
— Henry David Thoreau
This quote by Thoreau always makes me smile, partly because it’s undeniably true, and also because it reminds me of some of my own experiences, when I first started to venture outside my comfort zone.
Once, during a solo camping trip in Ontario, I was shaken from my slumber by an unfamiliar sound, part grunt, part wheeze. What could it possibly be? A Bear? Or worse, the Wendigo, a mythical man-eating creature described in the folklore of First Nations Algonquian tribes? Sleep was now a distant memory as my mind, fuelled by adrenalin, concocted every conceivable terror that could be lurking out there in the darkness, waiting to get me.
The mysterious sounds began to get louder… getting closer… the crack of a snapping twig resonates like a gunshot through the still early morning air. My blood ran cold as a dark figure, illuminated in the moonlight, loomed into being through the trees.
I’m not sure who was the most surprised, me, or the whitetail deer buck out on an early morning search for a mate. Either way, once he’d caught a whiff of my scent, he turned tail and quickly headed off through the undergrowth, leaving me alone to laugh at my own irrational thoughts.
One of the questions I’m most often asked by students is, “Do you ever get scared when you’re on your own in the woods?” My usual macho reply is to say, “I’m the only axe wielding lunatic in this forest.” However, it does illustrate how easily the human mind can be reduced to its most primal state of ‘fight or flight’. This instinctive self-defence strategy has served humanity well during our evolution, enabling us to deal with threats to our safety by either running away or facing it head on; but fear without control can also be our worst enemy.
Knowledge is key when it comes to managing this fear, and even using it as a tool to help us throughout or lives. By educating ourselves to better understand the world around us, and developing the practical skills of self-reliance, we can become far more confident in our ability to make informed decisions and develop strategies when venturing into the wilderness. This confidence building aspect of bushcraft is often taken for granted, but to my way of thinking it’s one of the most valuable resources we have, helping to improve our ability to not only feel comfortable and at ease while in the outdoors, but also in every other aspect of our lives.
Andrew Thomas-Price Global Ambassador