Baby Wipe Baths, Walking Dead Leather, and Knife Wielding Fire Breathers: My First Experience with Bushcraft
At three a.m. in the morning I was awoken by the howl of coyotes throughout the woods. The threatening sound permeated the dense treeline near Athens, Georgia and at one point I could have sworn the furry devils were watching every move I made. An instance like this would easily send chills up my spine but those chills were already present throughout my body as I lay in 40 degree weather. I couldn’t help but think, what have I gotten myself into?
A week earlier, I perused the countless pictures of knives, fires, and primitive shelters on a multiple bush craft pages. As I scrolled hitting the like button, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the Georgia Bushcraft LLC instagram page since it was in the state of Georgia. I mentioned to a coworker the next morning that they had a Bushcraft camp coming up in the next weekend and how I thought it would be an amazing experience. The thoughts of pioneering through the woods learning land navigation and making shelters to slumber in, brought out the young child in me that was and is full of adventure. Fate would take it’s course and an individual would message me out of the blue to invite me to the camp out in just three short days. With the Accelerated Lives Motto (Be Anything But Complacent) running through my mind, I signed up for camp out that night.
It was the day of the bi-yearly Georgia Bushcraft LLC camp out and I was running through the house like a mad man. I had no clue what to take on this adventure so I packed my Ford F-150 to the rim with all sorts of outdoor gear. Hammocks, tarps, knives, and MRE’s self named “gut bombs” were all part of the gear. After a short four hour trip through the back country of Georgia, I arrived in Watkinsville, Georgia with a little anxiety as to what I had exactly gotten myself into.
Arriving late, I was greeted by multiple guys from the Georgia Bushcraft group that gave me a warm welcome. Casey Deming, who runs Georgia Bushcraft LLC, would direct me into the woods where I would be checked in and given my morale patch. This patch had me pumped so I ran into the woods to set up my hammock and tarp for the weekend. I hung the hammock and rushed to the first class on primitive shelters with Ex Umbra leading the group.
As we stood around, a bearded bad ass named Ex Umbra would grace our presence and lead us to build a shelter made from downed trees, leaves, and additional wood pieces. Amy Haynes would volunteer to sleep in this shelter that from the outside looked to be nothing more than a huge pile of leaves. She was a trooper and actually spent the entire weekend in the shelter. During the build, the individual who invited me to the camp out would reach out his big bear paw and shake my hand. Bill Reese was another bearded soul that would ease my anxiety of being there and make me feel comfortable in the group. We finished the shelter and after a duct tape water container class, water purification class, and a fire challenge we gathered by the camp fire before we hit the hay for the night. We laughed, we joked, and I can remember how truly happy I was living in the moment with 50 people I had no clue existed just 24 hours prior.
About an hour passed and I watched as several guys would start a friction fire with nothing but what nature had provided. There were no zippos lighters to be found here, these men had created fire with next to nothing. Shortly after the knife wielding fire breathers had succeeded in making fire, I made myself into the woods with my hammock. The windy night brought some seriously cold weather that I was relatively unprepared for and I can remember shivering for the first time in several years. Through the wind you could hear the coyotes howling at the moon and making their way through the woods. They were pretty far off in the distance but it seemed like they were watching every move I made. Freezing, I finally ditched the hammock and went to sleep in the back of the F-150 to see if I could warm up some. That proved to be a harder task than first expected but I got much the much needed rest.
The next morning we all greeted each other by the campfire. Not wanting to be the stinky kid in class, I made my way to the “porta potties” and gave myself a baby wipe bath to spruce up. Making my way back to camp and feeling refreshed, we dove into a trapping class led by Jason Chapman in which we learned to make a figure four dead fall trap and got to witness other traps being set. I was feeling pretty manly at the moment realizing I was learning valuable tools that would help me survive in the worst case scenario situation. Throughout the day we would learn about venomous snakes and land navigation from Chris Harper who has worked with some big names in television. This guy definitely knows his stuff and if you ever get an opportunity to take a class of his you should take it without thinking twice.
After several other classes, including a falcon demo and a wilderness first aid class, we sat down into the leather pouch making demo with Matthew Gillenwater and Tim Foxtrot. Together they own Reliance Leatherworks LLC and I later found out these guys worked on the leather for the television show “The Walking Dead”. As the sun started to set, we stained and put together leather pouches that we could take home as a souvenir. At one point it got pretty dark but Matt and Tim ensured that everyone’s pouch was put together nicely.
As we were finishing up the leather station the bearded badass Ex Umbra was teaching a course on Primitive Hunting and Food Processing. He respectfully demonstrated to the class how to kill and skin a rabbit. While this made some of the weaker stomachs in the group uneasy, he reiterated the importance of the exercise in a survival situation. Like any good bushcrafter, Ex Umbra made sure that any part of the rabbit that could be used was put to use. As the night settled we gathered around the campfire one last night to further the bond with my new bushcraft tribe. I talked with several people during the night and was able to explain why I started Accelerated Lives. After hours of laughing and enjoying conversations I went to my set up in the woods and fell asleep for the night.
The next morning I had to get back to my hometown so I departed rather early. As I said good-byes and made last connections I couldn’t help but feel that I was leaving a place where I belonged and headed back to a place that I didn’t. After spending the weekend in the woods, I didn’t want to come back to the concrete jungles of life. My first experience with bushcraft was officially over.
On the drive back I turned on the radio to hear the news about the upcoming election. I guess it was a brief reminder of the reality of the current state of the world. I quickly turned it off and experienced an overwhelming sense of happiness come over me. While I went in to the weekend not knowing anyone in the camp, I came out knowing more quality people than I could have ever imagined. As my Ford F-150 headed down those weaving back roads of Georgia I was at ease with the world because the weekend reassured me that there really are still good caring individuals in the world. During the weekend I had to take baby wipe baths, met some inspiring individuals who worked on the leather for the Walking Dead television show, and watched knife wielded men create fire out of nothing. I went into the weekend with a little anxiety not knowing a soul but left with numerous newly found relationships and friends. My experience with bushcraft is hard to encapsulate but it was nothing short of amazing.