My Escape the Woods Weekend
I attended a camping, training, and competition called Escape the Woods July 21-23 at Camp Lazarus in Delaware, Ohio. The weekend was led by Creek Stewart, survival instructor, author of survival guides, and star of the Weather Channel’s Fat Guys in the Woods and a new show called SOS: How to Survive. He’s the owner and lead instructor at Willow Haven Outdoor Survival School in Indiana and curates the Apocabox, a subscription service of survival supplies.
After a long ride from Milwaukee, me and my colleague Alex arrived at the Escape the Woods campsite just after noon. We registered with Todd, Escape the Woods COO (Chief Outdoors Officer) and set up camp. We had an orientation meeting and met the instructors. There were about 15 participants and around a dozen instructors. We were told this was a low number compared to past events, but it was good for us as we got plenty of one-on-one training. After orientation, we went to our first “pod” which was a firemaking one. Creek led this one and showed a variety of ways to start fires with tinder and igniters like a solar lens, steel and flint, and a ferro stick, which is this steel rod you scrape to get sparks. He even showed us how to scrape a guitar pick for tinder to ignite.
Our next pod was on water filtration and purification and was led by Jim Conley (and family) of Conley Backwoods Skills & Adventures. He showed various ways to build water filters from nature and different ways to boil water and purify. We also carved a hook to hang containers from a tripod above a fire.
This was our camp. We shared our circle with an Escape the Woods enthusiast from Michigan and a nice couple from Texas.
Alex chilling with his rocket stove that cooked things in like, one minute.
Saturday was a pretty intense training day. It started off with a knot tying pod, led by this gentleman (I forgot his name) and a guy named Jim Moore. I discovered I am pretty bad at tying knots.
One interesting guest instructor was Chet Snouffer of Leading Edge Boomerangs, 12 time National boomerang throwing champ, 3 time World Individual Champ, 6 time World Team Champ, former president of the US Boomerang Association. He had us take turns throwing boomerangs and throwing sticks (those are for hunting and aren’t supposed to come back.) He also busted out a jam on the didgeridoo.
Back to a quick fire pod, Creek demonstrated how to make a fire using a pump drill, which is a great way to make a fire if you want to get really frustrated.
He also showed how to make cordage using natural fibers. We twisted some rope together and here he is showing the group a useful hemp-like plant called dogbane.
Mike Jackson led a medic pod, talking about tourniquets and other emergency medical procedures.
Stephen Kinney and company led the next pod, which was about constructing traps and snares. Here he and Alex are setting a figure 4 trap, which when baited will squish an animal.
Here he’s demonstrating a simple snare. An animal steps in a loop and is caught hanging from a sapling (we used snow depth measure sticks for the pod).
Art Dawes of PA Wilderness Skills led the shelter building pod, showing how to make simple structures out of natural materials or with just a tarp.
I think he’s saying “here’s your new home!”
Back to fire pod to learn how to make a fire using a bow drill with Creek. It took a lot of elbow grease, but I did it!
Sunday was the competition day! Teams of two got points for completing tasks and extra points for placing 1st, 2nd, or 3rd as well as extra points if they chose a challenge, which could be good or bad (60 second head start was a good one, doing a task while wearing gloves was a bad one). The first challenge was bayoneting wood down and starting a fire with a ferro stick, and it needed to be a strong enough fire to burn through the paracord stretched above it. Me and Alex completed, but didn’t place.
Next challenge– building a tripod, a fire, and hanging a container with our hook about the fire and getting 8 oz of water to a boil within 20 minutes. We were real close, real real close, but the water wasn’t quite at a boil when they called time.
Our next challenge was building a tarp structure, duplicating a model, down to the knots and all. Alex calmly and confidentially put this together while I assisted. We would have gotten FIRST, but two of the knots were not the same ones on the model so we had to retie them. By the time they were retied, we were third.
Collection of tarp structures.
This next challenge was hard and we didn’t complete. You had to tie together a rope and catch an ammo box with a hook, then open it and hit a target with a slingshot.
Last challenge was setting a figure 4 trap, a snare, making cordage with toliet paper to carry a jug back to the finish line. We completed. After there was an award meeting. Our tent neighbor from Michigan won first place, and got a nice trophy knife and a pack filled with various survival supplies. Me and Alex hit the road to head towards home.
This was a really great experience. All the instructors were knowledgeable and made us feel welcome. I learned some new things and had fun.
You can find more info and upcoming events at: www.escapethewoods.com
Tea Krulos is currently working on a book with the working title The End. Provided, of course, that the world still exists by publication date.