I have just returned home after almost a month of teaching and travels, living outside almost the entire time. It was one of those perfect journeys, spent with good people outside in beautiful places.
Soapstone Wilderness Living Skills Workshop
My old friend Jose (who was also on Alone) and I started out on my land in Oregon – Soapstone Retreat – where we taught a wilderness living skills workshop. Folks learned the skills we used to survive and thrive alone for two months on Vancouver Island including the art of foraging, trapping, campfire cooking, medicine-making, four ways to make fire by hand, how to build a shelter, cordage (rope) from natural materials, carving, basic knots, and many campfire chats about how we thrived on Vancouver Island and our mindset behind wilderness living. We even took a low tide trip to the beach and shared our piles of mussels and barnacles around the fire. Everyone there had their place and seemed meant to be there. We were family for that week and we all thrived.
Next stop: Rabbitstick Gathering in Eastern Idaho, where Jose and I would be teaching for the next week.
After two days of driving, my teenage son Colton, Jose and I pulled into what is, for us, like a family reunion. Entering the land where Rabbitstick takes place was like walking into a timeless zone. Old friends, tipis, canvas wall tents, instructors setting up their homemade wares… we felt right at home. We quickly moved into our tipi and set about catching up with friends; our chats lasting deep into the night around the campfire. We had a whole #aloneshow crew there: me, Jose Amoedo, Tracy Wilson, Larry Roberts, Sam Larson from Alone Season One, and Mike and Barbara Lowe even made an appearance later in the week.
I like to mix up what I teach at gatherings – this time I taught cordage, fireblowers, soft fiber basket making, sat on a panel with other TV Survival folks and also taught my favorite subject: Medicine Making. I taught people about local plant medicine and how to infuse herbs into tinctures and oils. Each person came away with a healing salve made with their own hands, and, more importantly, the knowledge to do it again at home. Empowering people to use natural medicines is a big take-away from my classes and I’ve already gotten feedback from participants about how they healed various ailments from the salve they made at Rabbitsick.
A Visit to Yellowstone
After spending 9 days living in a tipi, sitting around many late night fires, and learning from others as well as teaching, it was time to say goodbye and finish the road trip with my son. Together we traveled to Yellowstone National Park, lucky enough to spot much big game and for him to wonder at the marvels of Old Faithful – his first visit there.
Next up was a visit with my old friend Chanelle from my Peace Corps Botswana days. We lazed on the Yellowstone River with her family, fly-fishing our way down on their raft, stopping on “Treasure Island” to look for petrified wood and chunks of amber with their son, and me excitedly catching a cutthroat on a Royal Wolf fly recommended to me by her husband and my new fly-fishing teacher Brian.
After nearly four weeks on the road it was time to return. As my son and I drove into the Columbia River Gorge we marveled at the scenery we call home…feeling lucky and blessed.
Thank you to all who made our travels a delight! – Nicole Apelian