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Surviving 72 Hours in the Forest Alone

 You've seen him take on the hottest pepperin the world- or at least the hottest we could conveniently get shipped in the mail.

 You've seen him survive three days homelesson the streets of Los Angeles. You've seen him live for twenty four hourstrapped in a bathtub and give a poor delivery driver trust issues. Now we're turning over our fourth-from-the-bottommost important writer to you, the fans, and leaving him to your mercies.

Today we're putting him in a survival challengesituation that comes straight from the viewers: 72 hours alone in the forest. Ok before I get into my experiences with thischallenge I just want to be up front and state that this might be my last challenge episode.

 The infographics show pays me well for thesometimes-dangerous situations I get myself into, but after this challenge I have hadto step back and really think about if I want to continue with these challenges. As you'll find out, I ran into some serioustrouble out there and things could have gone bad multiple times, and I think I just needto re-evaluate things going forward.

Unfortunately I lost my journal during oneof these incidents, so I'll have to work from memory on re-telling my wilderness survivalexperience. When I first got the challenge I was kindof excited, truth be told one of the reasons I do these challenges is because I like pushingmy limits.

 I hate sitting at home being comfortable allthe time, which might sound weird but I guess I've accepted that that's just who I am. It definitely drives the girlfriend crazywho would prefer I live a perfectly safe, normal life.

Three days and nights alone in the forest,and not just the backyard woods, we're talking real forest. For this challenge I actually went up to NorCal,because SoCal isn't so well known for forests. Plus we're entering fall which means thatthe few mountain forests that there are here are going to get very, very cold and possiblyeven snowed on- which would very quickly make this challenge extremely dangerous. For a solo challenge with no support, I'mnot willing to risk it.

 I went up north enough to hit the rainforestsof the pacific northwest- the show's lawyers have warned that we shouldn't give out anyspecific locations so that nobody is crazy enough to try to go up there and repeat ourexperiment. This is also a perfect opportunity to statethe obvious- don't do this.

Seriously, don't. I know it sounds easy to do some silly challenge,but the fact is that wilderness survival is pretty serious business. I have training courtesy of the US militaryon how to survive in various wilderness environments, and years of experience putting that knowledgeto the real-world test in very stressful situations.

 You may think you're ready from watching abunch of youtube prepper videos, but believe me you're not. This isn't some weird flex, it would honestlydevastate me to find out a fan decided to go out there and try this for real and gotthemselves hurt or worse. If you're interested in survival, take somelocal classes or join the boy scouts. Get out there into the woods in a supervisedenvironment and build the fundamentals. Matter of fact, I recommend it to everyone-you never know when some basic survival skills will come in handy.

Now, back to the challenge. So for this challenge I will have only a survivalknife, which by the way is not a fancy leatherman or anything like that. It is literally a folding knife and that'sabout it, though it is pretty wicked sharp.
 It has a reinforced grip and the bottom ofthe grip is blunted so that you can use it to smash things but that's about all the utilityyou're getting out of it. I'll also have the clothes I wear, which willbe underwear, thermal underwear, hiking pants, t-shirt, sweat-shirt, and poncho.

 Sadly, I can only take the socks I get towear- do not underestimate the necessity of fresh socks in a survival situation, the momentyour feet go bad your odds of survival plummet dramatically. That's about it- except for four packets ofenergy gel, a map of the local area, and a compass. The energy gel is for emergencies only, andthe map and compass so that I can navigate my way back to my pick-up at the end of threedays. I am going to only briefly peruse the mapso I'm oriented before heading in, but I will be scouting out the wilderness myself to findsources of water and food

. No cheating by pinpointing the location oflakes, rivers, or anything like that beforehand. I originally wanted to take a crew memberwith me to document things as I thought it might be fun for you guys to see more thanjust animation, but sadly hiring out professional crew is pretty expensive, and then there'sunion concerns over the nature of this challenge as well as insurance which adds up to a prettywhopping figure. Basically, until The Infographics is a tvshow, I would count this possibility out. You know what to do fans, start writing tothe big tv studios.

 I got dropped off at five in the morning onmy first day by friends I have from my time in the military who live in the local area. We mapped out a general area which I wouldtry to stay inside by using some easily identifiable boundaries such as a set of cliffs and a river,and then picked three different rendezvous locations for pick-up. This way if I got injured there would alwaysbe a pick-up location nearby that I could get to no matter where within the area I wandered. Also it would give any search and rescue partyplaces to start their efforts at.

 Planning is extremely important for wildernesssurvival. When you're in a survival situation you haveto immediately prioritize and then work on your needs in order of priority. My first need was to find water, as I couldeasily survive the three days with no food but would get into trouble really fast ifI couldn't find drinkable water. I'm near the coast but hopefully everyonewatching knows that drinking seawater is an absolute no-go.

 One big benefit though is that early in themorning mist blows in off the sea and saturates trees and bushes with water droplets. My problem was that I had no container tostore water in, so I decided to take a risk and take off my poncho to turn that into amakeshift water bag. When you're in the wilderness, staying dryis very important because being wet can very quickly lead to hypothermia even if the outsidetemperature is not that cold.

 Water is really good at leeching heat fromyour body into the environment, so it's important to stay dry as much as you can. However being wet is also a really good wayfor bacterial and fungal infections to take hold, and can absolutely devastate your feet. Once more, if your feet go bad your odds ofsurvival fall dramatically. Go image search trench foot and you'll seewhy it's important to stay dry- just make sure you do it on an empty stomach.

 I gathered the corners of my poncho to turnit into a makeshift bag, and then I took my t-shirt off while putting back on my sweatshirt,and used the t-shirt to wick up moisture off tall grasses and tree leaves. Then it was as simple as ringing out the waterinto my poncho bag and pretty soon I had a decent amount of water stored up.

 Enough that I felt safe looking for a morepermanent solution. With water temporarily taken care of, I startedlooking for a place I could set up long-term. If you can find a cave, that's the most idealplace to take shelter, though you have to worry about animals who are thinking the samething- and this typically means mountain lions and bears here in the US.

 I was too far from the mountains in the distanceto risk trying to find a cave, so I decided I could pretty easily build a lean-to shelterfrom all the fallen tree branches and dead leaves. Location though is important, so I surveyedmy environment to figure out where to build my shelter. I was very near the coast, probably only twoor three miles from the beach, and the terrain sloped slowly upwards to the distant mountainsto my east.

There was another stretch of mountains northof me, which told me that I was in a very broad valley, and that's very good news- becauseif I followed parallel to the coast line the odds of finding a small stream or full-blownriver were really good- all that mountain snow has to run off somewhere, and it wouldeither pool into lakes between the sea and the mountain cul-de-sac I was in, or it wouldrun as streams. I hiked for a few hours as the sun startedto rise and evaporate all of the mist. If you're relying on condensation from mistfor water, you want to collect it very early in the morning because as soon as the sunrises it's going to start evaporating.

 Shortly before noon I hit a small creek windingits way through the middle of the woods, exactly as I had predicted, so I decided to set upshop near it. You might be tempted to build your shelterright there next to the water, but that can be a bad idea for several reasons. First of all, heavy rain or other events furtherupstream could cause the water level to suddenly rise, which could wash away your shelter. Second, animals like water too, includingpredators.

 It's important to note though that even herbivorescan be very dangerous, and yes, deer can and have killed people before. I decided I'd build my lean-to about twentyminutes from the water, and got ridiculously lucky when I found a large overturned treethat had collapsed onto another tree.

 With the two trees acting as wall and roof,I simply got to work sawing off large branches and laying them over both trees. Then I covered the leafy branches with deadleaves and bunches of grass, covered that in turn with a layer of dirt, and once moreanother layer of leafy branches and grass. Thankfully there were plenty of bushes aroundand by the end of it I had a pretty decent little lean-to built. Even better, I found a bunch of grubs in thedead wood, and as long as you avoid the nasty little pincers some of them have, they makefor a great snack.

 Grubs may be gross, but they're jam-packedwith protein and fat. Generally, the grosser an insect looks toyou, the better it is to eat. The only bugs you should avoid are any witha hard shell such as roaches or grasshoppers, you should eat those only if you've roastedthem in a fire because of parasites. You can still get parasites from plenty ofother things, but you always want to mitigate your odds of danger as much as possible.

 Survival is risky business, plain and simple. I decided that the next thing I needed wastools, and the very first thing I needed was something for self-defense. This being fall, the odds of running intoa bear were lower than normal, but because most bears would be looking for a place tohibernate by now, this leaves only the bears who didn't pack on as many pounds and weredesperately trying to add weight.

 These bears are far more dangerous than theynormally would be- and this fact would come into play very soon. I decided I'd use the knife to make a spear,and hunted around for a long, decently thick branch I could use. It took a bit of time but I managed to finda nice hardwood branch with good length on it, but instead of sharpening the tip intoa point, I decided that the branch was stiff enough to simply split the top of it in across-shape.

 In an emergency, I could jam the open knifeinto the tip deep enough to stay firmly secure and I would have myself a pretty efficientand deadly spear- far deadlier than a sharpened stick. It would probably only last a few jabs intoa big animal, but that should be more than enough to drive it back. Next I set about working on a way to containand transport water.

 Notice again that I'm more worried about waterthan food, I really can't stress enough how important water is. This being a pacific northwest rain forest,I knew I couldn't rely on the poncho forever as I would eventually need it to stay drymyself.
 I tried finding discarded tree bark hopingI could fashion a few pieces of bark into a rough bowl shape, but I actually got evenluckier than that- I found a white plastic bag. Normally I hate people who litter, but inthis case it ended up being exactly what I needed.

 Though you still shouldn't litter. Water is good, but water safety is also veryimportant, so next I worked on a way to help make the water from the creek safe to drink. I found tree bark which I could rip off, andI managed to get a large, curved piece which I could bend just slightly into a very shallowbowl shape.

It wouldn't hold much water, and I'd be reducedto basically taking sips at a time, but it was the best I could do. I'd need fire to make the water safe though,and this proved far more difficult than anything before. It actually took me until just a few hoursbefore nightfall to get a fire going. Starting a fire with no tools has always beenone of my weak areas, and it didn't help that most of the wood I could find was pretty humidthanks to how wet the pacific northwest tends to be.

 Without tools the best way to start a fireis to gather some kindling, dry pine needles work like a charm, and a piece of large, softwood. You can typically find soft wood in the largebranches of living trees, or just split a very young tree in half.

 The wood from dead trees is hard, and no goodfor this- but it is good for the second thing you need, a stick of very hard wood. Basically, you create a channel down the middleof the soft wood and put your kindling at the bottom of it. Then with your hard wood stick, you rub itup and down the channel over and over again. Repeatedly. For hours.

 Until you finally cause enough friction toactually light the kindling. Now I've seen people do this in just fifteenminutes, but it took me hours to get it going. Like I said, not my strong suit in the survivalgame. Eventually though I had a small fire justoutside my lean-to, and I gathered up some large flat rocks so that I could eventuallycook on them. For now though I had spent my entire day settingup shelter, building tools, and finding water, so there wouldn't be much food to eat. Instead I heated up one of the large flatrocks in the middle of the fire, and then pulled it out with sticks.

I immediately placed my make-shift bowl onthe hot rock and filled it with as much water as I could manage- which wasn't very much,tree bark makes for terrible bowls. Boiling water was going to be out of the questionwithout metal tools, but if you can heat water up enough it can destroy harmful bacteria. It is an imperfect solution, but like I saidbefore, survival comes with risks and your job is to simply mitigate, not negate, thoserisks. With a decent little camp set up, I returnedto the creek as the sun started to set, hoping I could score some water critters for dinner.

 I didn't want to be away from camp when nightfell so I wouldn't accidentally get lost, so I didn't spend much time looking. Sadly the only thing I managed to score wassome edible lichens, which wouldn't do much to curve my hunger after not eating all day.

 That's alright though, because I had waterto drink and that was far more important. Dealing with hunger is easy as long as you'rehydrated. That night I planned my strategy out for daytwo. I had dried my clothing over the fire, anddried my feet off by holding them close to the fire.

 Water was nearby and plentiful, and I figuredwith only three days out here I could risk getting sick by drinking without treatingthe water, because trying to sterilize sips of water at a time just wasn't going to workout long-term. I knew I was only a few miles from the coast,so I planned on following the creek to the beach to find mussels and other edibles- thecoast can be a bonanza of stuff to eat if you don't mind the gross taste.

 All in all, my situation was looking prettygood- I even managed to keep embers going in a small pit inside my lean-to when it startedto rain outside. Then, things took a turn for the weird, andthe very dangerous. I don't know at what time of night it was,but I woke up to the sound of, I don't know. It almost sounded like human screaming, butmore high pitched. The sounds were coming from a few miles away,and I have to admit- it had me really spooked.

 I'm pretty familiar with the sounds of theAmerican wilderness, and this was no screeching owl or bellowing elk or wounded animal ofany kind. The sounds changed between short, high-pitchedscreams, and then long, very deep howls.

 Sometimes they would come from one direction,and there would be a reply from a completely different direction. I've never been around wolves in the wild,so it might have been a wolf pack for all I know, only I'm pretty sure there are noknown wild wolves in the pacific northwest.

 The howls and screams came pretty intermittently,maybe once or twice every ten minutes or so, but it lasted for a long while. I wasn't going to risk going to sleep withan unknown animal out there so close by- maybe it was one or two weird, or wounded elk, theycan actually bellow pretty loud. I've just never heard them scream in thisstyle before
. Either way, wounded animals are dangerous. It was lucky that I stayed awake, becauseat some point- again, hard to tell time without a watch- after the howls and screams settleddown, I heard heavy breathing, grunting, and shuffling in the woods very nearby. I already had my knife wedged into my makeshiftspear shaft, and I honestly felt my blood go ice cold, because I was pretty sure I knewexactly what was lumbering my way. These were sounds I recognized.

 A black bear lumbered through the trees, justa few dozen feet away. I held perfectly still hoping it wouldn'tdecide to investigate my makeshift camp, but it probably spotted my lean-to and thoughthe same thing I was thinking when I built it: dry shelter in the rain. Sure enough, it started slowly sniffing andplodding towards me. I had no fire going, just some smolderingembers in a dirt pit, so trying to scare it away with fire was out of the question.

Anybody who's served in the military is probablyfamiliar with the OUDA cycle. It stands for Observe, Understand, Decide,and Act, and it is typically referred to in terms of how to psychologically defeat anopponent by interrupting their OUDA cycle. Knock one of those steps out of the cycleand you can cause an enemy to mentally freeze up. It is also however a handy mnemonic devicefor dangerous emergency situations, and everyone from pilots to special forces operators typicallytrain themselves to kickstart their own OUDA cycle in an emergency.

The first thing I did was carefully observethe bear. It was definitely not full-grown, and wasa fair bit on the lean side of things. This meant two things: an inexperienced juvenilethat had not done a very good job of fattening up for winter. On one hand, it could make the bear desperatefor food, and humans make good eating. On the other hand, it was likely weak, andif it had been so outcompeted for food then it was likely a bit of a pushover. I also tapped into what I know about predatoryanimals. They prefer to ambush prey or launch huntson their terms- predators are notoriously shy animals and can have very low confidencewhen confronted.

 This is because if a hunt goes awry, theycan suffer an injury, and this could impact their ability to hunt and possibly lead tostarvation. This is why you never run away from a predatoryanimal, it's usually better to simply back away confidently. Running triggers the hunt instinct, becauseyou confirm to the predator that you are weaker than it and scared.

 I decided to take a huge gamble, and I ranout of my lean-to straight at the bear shouting and yelling, thrusting with my spear. All things considered, I was basically trappedinside the lean-to, and a bear can easily outrun you. It was a risk, but remember what I said aboutwilderness survival being risky? The bear immediately reared up on its paws,which was bad news bears- pun intended- because it meant that it might try to fight back. Luckily for me, yelling and stabbing at theair in front of it like a wild man did the trick, and the bear lost its nerve and scamperedback.

I've been in close calls before with wildanimals, but I have definitely never faced off a bear standing on its two hind legs. It is not something I care to ever repeatagain unless I'm packing a .45 on my hip at minimum. The bear lumbered off, but I knew it wasn'tsafe to stay where I was. Any minute the bear could change its mind,so I packed up what few things I had and immediately took off into the pitch black, rainy woods.

Normally you never want to move at night time,as it's really easy to lose your bearings. If you have to, use stars above you to pinpointa single direction of travel and to stay in a straight line. That way in daylight you can retrace yoursteps and reorient yourself from more familiar ground. I walked for about fifteen minutes, and hadto wait out the rainy night under a thick pine. Luckily the rain abetted after a few hours,but I didn't get a lick of sleep that whole night.

 The next morning I made my way back to myold camp and sure enough, the bear had returned and trashed the place. I made the right call. Luckily, days two and three were far lesseventful. I relocated my shelter to the other side ofthe creek, and it didn't rain for nights two and three. I changed my sleep schedule though to sleepduring the day and stay up at night in case of wandering bear again. Also I won't lie, those weird howls and screamshad me on edge- specially after my encounter with the bear. On the coast I managed to find edible musselspretty easily, and I ate some raw- which I immediately regretted- and then roasted therest in their own shells.

 Mussels are great for energy, but you haveto be careful if you're low on water because they can add a lot of salt water to your system. If you aren't peeing regularly, the salt inyour body can add up dangerously. By the way, they taste like mermaid boogerswhen you eat them raw. I also managed to find some edible floweringplants. With flowering plants you want to pluck theactual flower off, because the sap in the stem can be really bitter and unpleasant. The bud of the flower and the petals thoughmake for good eating in a pinch, and dandelions typically grow in most places. If you really don't mind the bitterness, youcan eat the roots of most flowering plants, which are chock full of minerals and nutrients-though be careful, never eat a flowering plant whose flower is umbrella shaped. Those are poisonous and may not kill you,but will have your stomach twisted up in knots. Lichens and bugs made up most of the restof my meals, grubs were pretty plentiful in rotting logs.

 I couldn't remember which mushrooms are edibleand which aren't, so I stayed away from them- better not to risk them. Also mushrooms don't actually pack a lot ofenergy, so don't waste time trying to look for them unless you have no other options. Same goes for trying to hunt. Wilderness survival is a numbers crunchinggame, and your job is to waste as few calories as possible while gaining the most possiblefrom what you eat.

 Hunting can burn a lot of calories, so forgettrying to catch anything larger than a squirrel or a rabbit- and even then only go after themif you can make some rough traps and snares, or happen to find a burrow or warden. I made it through my three days pretty alright,though very much on the hungry side. My encounter with the bear though definitelyleft me a bit shaken, that was a very serious situation which could have gone very badly.

 The girlfriend wasn't happy to hear aboutit, and we both talked for a long time about these challenges- they have definitely startedto ramp up in risk, and I guess I have to think about if I really want to keep takingsome of the risks I do. I love reading some of the feedback from youguys, and I'm happy that they are entertaining and sometimes even enlightening, but I guessthis whole bear experience is just making me reconsider. I'm not saying that I'm never going to doa challenge again, but I feel I just have to give it some thought.

At the very least, I need a raise. Have you ever been stuck in a survival situation? What wilderness survival tips do you haveto share? Tell us in the comments! Now go watch “I Went Homeless For 72 Hours!” As always don't forget to Like, Share, andSubscribe for more great content! 

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