(This is the story of our Newest Primitive Survival Instructor Josh Hamlin, he has an immense amount of real life survival experience and will be teaching at our wilderness survival classes to pass on his knowledge to SIGMA 3 Survival students)
If you haven’t read part one then click below!
It rained for days, and I had built no shelter. I took refuge under an old bridge for a while, but the flood water rose, and I found no escape after that. I sat by the pond again…just sitting in the rain….and waited it out. I desperately needed a shelter, so I made a lean-to first. It was not much, but it worked until I could get something better. I was ready for an upgrade pretty quick, so I made my way up the hill a little to where it leveled out into a flat. I built a wickiup in only a few hours. Whenever the weather was nice, I slept by the pond, but when it rained I moved to my wickiup. The shelter was leaky and far from perfect, but it was better than sleeping in pouring rain, so I counted it a success. With shelter, food, fire, and water taken care of, I began to enjoy my life in the wild. Things got easier, I had plenty of fish in my trap consistently, and I had a shelter. I began to be able to relax and enjoy watching the animals. There were a few beaver in the pond, and I enjoyed the comedic company of goofy armadillos running around my camping area as well.
My fish trap caught a turtle about that time, and I came to grips with another struggle: the brutality of predation and feeding myself on animal meat. For some reason rodents and fish didn’t trigger my sympathy, but when I saw that a turtle had drowned in my trap, I actually tried to resuscitate it with CPR. I was overcome with grief, and actually broke down crying. Your psychology in survival can really cause you to feel for life much more passionately than in our modern society. You can feel free to laugh a bit, because it’s a bit funny to me now looking back, but you should know that it was a real struggle at that time. I’m not a cruel person, and this was a healthy struggle to do what I needed to do in nature to feed myself. I cooked and ate the turtle with all the reverence and respect due our animal brethren. I then altered my fish trap so that it would have air space above the water, so that the turtles would not die in it, but truth be told the turtle meat was so tasty that I cooked and ate every turtle that got in my trap after that.
Not all went smoothly. Once, when I had been out scouting the landscape, I returned to find my books stolen, along with some baskets I had woven . I was furious, and I looked for tracks, but I’m not the most talented tracker, and I never found who did it, which was probably a good thing for them. I decided that I needed a weapon, so I made an axe out of the flint that I had brought with me, and I made a bow out of a small butternut Hickory tree. Making the bow was laborious, but it brought me a lot of entertainment when I finally completed it.
Having made and an axe, I decided to build a better shelter. I decided to make a wigwam, and that shelter requires a lot of cordage. 50 feet of cordage doesn’t go very far, so I had to wind some more. I found myself winding cordage every single night, and there was never enough. The wigwam frame only took a few days, but the thatching had to be grass, and the grass was a long way off and up a hill. I was in no hurry, so I didn’t work on it too much, which is why the thatching took several months!
With a fish trap that was consistently productive, plenty of edible plants that I was familiar with, plenty of grasshoppers and crickets, and a shelter, my needs were met, and life was decent. But in these situations solace turns into isolation which turns into loneliness. In my case this somewhat challenged my identity and self-image. I had always considered myself a loner, able to thrive without other people around. I may have an independent streak, and I may march to the beat of a different drummer, but I found out quickly that I need others. I was missing them, and I began to talk to the animals…then to the trees…then to the dirt and the sky.
This brings me to a life-changing spiritual experience I had in the wilderness, and my story would be incomplete without relating it. Over thousands of years, thousands of spiritual seekers have taken to the wilderness for deep spiritual seeking, and I chose that path myself. It shouldn’t be news to you that spending more time in nature will reveal just how connected everything in the eco-system is. I began to really commune with the balance of nature and looked on in wonder as I lived in my place in that balance. What could be more spiritual than that? Like many people who think this way, I had turned to pagan practices, which placed a high value on nature and our communion with the wild.
Think of this: I hear bird alarm calls. They would go out, and other birds would alarm in circles spreading through the forest. I could stalk to the quiet spots and find the tracks of predators such as foxes or cats. The concentric circles of alarms going through the forest, the relationship of predator to prey, the uses I had for what nature freely handed me…I began to perceive purpose and intention behind the continuity I saw in nature. It was so fierce, but so beautiful. I understood it to be a work of art from the hand of a deliberate creator, not the impersonal energy source I had always thought it to be. That personal creator showed up out there in the wilderness, and confronted all my preconceived notions of who it was. There was a real challenge and struggle as I came to grips with the reality of God, the God of Abraham, the God I was brought up to believe was my bitterest enemy and the enemy of the wilderness and my people. I finally just cried out to God, speaking right into the air: “God”, I said, “are you real?” I didn’t expect an audible answer, but I got one: “Yes. I am the God of Abraham.” I was filled with fear, and I literally trembled violently like many figures in the bible when they met God. I asked one more question: “Are you Jesus?”. The answer came “Yes, I am Jesus whom you have been attacking.” He showed me visions of all the people He had sent me in His name. “I have been calling to you, but you would not listen.” The conviction grew so strong that I ended up on the ground begging God for His forgiveness. The voice stopped talking, but God lifted me up and hugged me. The voice has never spoken again, but I immediately left the mountain and headed to a church where I procured a bible. I went back to my mountain to study the bible, and I have been an avid student of the bible ever since. The voice has not spoken to me since, but I have felt the reassuring hand of God on my shoulder during hard times.