The Next Step
by Stephanie S.
Since I was young I have been known to take chances or do things that others might not do, even if I might fail or get embarrassed. I’m up for an opportunity to go to a concert, perform, go on a last minute road trip, travel through South Africa solo in search of an adventure and quit my job to return to the country 9 months later for a short-term gig. My training in girl scouts taught me to “be prepared” for fun, adventure, acting silly, bonfires on the beach, selling cookies, making friendship bracelets and other arts and crafts. However, my appreciation for the outdoors and survival skills didn’t catch on and my love for the mud, woods and wilderness came later in my 20s.
My first hike in the Pacific Northwest was Mt. Si. It was a struggle and I’m surprised I made it and was appreciative of the girl from my dorm that walked with me as I eventually made it to the top. The view was literally breathtaking and at the edge of the mountain you could see the city far away; looking so small. Years later, I started hiking more regularly and found new joy in being out away from civilization in the woods. My appreciation for the mountains grew as I hiked with my tiny wiener dog whose little legs and confident personality couldn’t be happier exploring with her favorite person.
After years of hiking though, I still felt that my survival skills were inadequate for more than a couple hour trip or with the support of a wilderness professional. I dreamed of have the skills of Bear Grylls, where I could survive, eat and traverse in any terrain. In the city, I could grow vegetables and wield a sledge hammer, but my wilderness survival skills were essentially stunted from my Troop Beverly Hills-esque girl scout experience.
Last year I put aside my fears of potential starvation or freezing in the woods and ventured out for some overnight trips with friends. First was a spontaneous car camping trip with an experienced girl scout troop leader. We had a peaceful weekend in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest on a lake, with hammocks, close encounters with a deer, but also packed way too much food for the short hike in to the camp site. I felt like my survival skills were getting a tune up, but also that if I was left to my own devices I would still be eating protein bars and nuts without the company of an experienced camper.
A later trip in the season was more successful. I hiked around Mount Baker with friends for a last minute trip. The weather was perfect and we spent the night under a meteor shower next to a beautiful mountain. It was my first time really hiking in to a camp ground with all my gear. We were prepared with the essentials, including easy camp recipes from Outdoor Eats and enough ingredients to last for a day in the wilderness. It was an amazing trip with great company and I had almost enough layers to stay warm through the night. The experience was unlike anything that I’ve had before. It was as if we were in a Patagonia catalogue! I also realized that it wasn’t as hard as I thought. It was fun and totally worth doing again. While I didn’t get to practice my survival skills of cooking with foraged wild chanterelle mushrooms and salmon berries or building a temporary shelter with branches and leaves, it was one step closer to tuning up those ever-desired wilderness survival skills. I’m looking forward to testing out those skills and cooking again in the wilderness this year!