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Mountain Wilderness Survival in Alaska


Often the weather on Baranof Island is cool and rainy in September but not on this day I made this poncho from of a large piece of deer hide and this Indian hemp belt to secure it around my waist I borrowed this knife and sheath from a friend “The mountains are calling and I must go…” – John Muir I am somewhere on the right side of this mountain One of many edible berry species Over half way up the mountain and above the tree line Spectacular views in the silence of the mountains Near the top of the mountain is this alpine lake The broken rock is evidence of recent glacial movement The clear crystalline water is safe and delicious to drink Absolute silence Most of the ground cover above the tree line consists of edible berry plants such as dwarf bilberry Dwarf bilberries are extremely delicious and a rich source of flavonoids and vitamin C One could spend days crawling on this carpet of berries and eating continuously The alpine blueberry frequently grows with dwarf bilberries and is very similar in appearance Ravens are a common and noisy bird in this region Relaxing on the mountain slope while eating berries is like experiencing a small piece of heaven on earth I am searching for an acceptable location to spend the night These crowberry plants do not have fruit at this time I estimate the water to be about 48˚F (9˚C) I have swam in much colder water but this is cold enough to feel like needles are piercing my skin I believe there are many health benefits to cold water exposure such as what “the Iceman” Wim Hof teaches Water beetles are the only animal life I found in this lake After a total of about nine minutes in the water I felt chilled to the core of my bones The poncho worked well to quickly warm my body This stream pours out of the south side of the lake and tumbles down to the bottom of the mountain This is the same kind of blueberry that I found earlier while I was hiking through the forest Dry meat is a convenient and efficient source of protein while on long hikes or expeditions Dry meat can easily be carried in a pocket or backpack and requires no preparation Proteins and fats are usually the most difficult macronutrients to acquire in the wild At the bottom of the mountain is another lake that is fed by the numerous waterfalls of surrounding mountains Bear scat is a constant reminder that we are not alone Other animals share this mountain as well Here is a mix of crowberries with dwarf bilberries Crowberries are crunchy and have a high water content but less flavor than bilberries Collecting wood to build a fire Mountain hemlock is tough to break but burns well and is the only wood option up here I am slicing the wood to weaken it Collecting wood was far more difficult than I expected I am breaking the smaller pieces to make kindling This is a cotton ball soaked in petroleum jelly Now I am using a flint fire starter to create sparks to ignite the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball Once lit this cotton ball will burn hot for a few minutes This gives me plenty of time to build the fire The flint and cotton balls are effective survival tools that can conveniently be carried in a pocket I chose to build the fire next to this rock with a flat face to reflect the heat I can then lie down on the soft ground next to the fire and rest I had intended to build a shelter from pine branches but I didn’t have time to climb down the mountain to the trees However, the weather was warm enough that keeping a fire burning through the night would be sufficient I would have to add fuel to the fire about every hour It started to get windy so I used some rocks to build a wall to block some of the wind An interesting advantage to wearing deer skin is the fact that it is non-flammable Mountain hemlock burns well and emits a pleasant pine aroma The next day… “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.” – Helen Keller “May your dreams be larger than mountains and may you have the courage to scale their summits.” -Harley King

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