The Odds Were In My Favor

Ali and I set off on our Survival Games adventure on Sunday morning after I promptly slept through my alarm, took my poison ivy prednisone, and  frantically twisted my hair into a Katniss braid.

But after a speedy drive down to the Shenandoah Valley, we arrived just in time for the day’s activities to start.

The whole day took place on a wooded estate in central Virginia, and the weather was the exact opposite of Tough Mudder Day: perfect. It was 65°F without a cloud in the sky. The gorgeous blue sky just barely peeked through the trees!

Once the Living Social folks checked us in, sat around a camp and listened to Tim from Advanced Survival Training give us the run-down on the basics of survival skills.

We learned some super cool stuff, like how human beings can survive up to four days without water (though I can survive only about an hour and a half without my camelbak) or up to three weeks without food! Tim told us that shelter is the number one priority to surviving out in the wild since you can die from your temperature dropping below or rising above 98.6°F.

After our introduction to Survival 101, we split up into groups while Tim and the LS guides taught us the best way to make a shelter in Appalachia.

Blurry shelter pic > no shelter pic.

We learned to use dead leaves for insulation all around our shelter, which we made from branches draped over a forked tree. Yes, that is someone’s purple sports bra as our emergency identifier (it wasn’t mine, I promise.)

Tim also gave us knowledge that I am going to begin using daily. Example: just like we insulated our shelter, you can insulate your clothing whenever you’re cold. Perhaps I shall start stuffing my cardigan at work with leaf debris until they finally decide to turn the air conditioning off in late November.

Our groups split off into rotating stations: knots and traps, fire making, and archery.

The knot tying kind of confused me. I’m left handed, so my excuse is that I had to do everything backwards, which really effed me up. But I loved the traps and snares! Look at our cool deadfall trap!

Even better than the traps – the snares!

The snares are actually kind of scary – they snap up really fast and surprise the crap out of you. No…I didn’t shriek and scare away our prey….

OK, I did squeal a bit. But our sweet snare still caught our opossum! Ha!

After lunch, we moved on to the next station: fire making. I was pretty excited for the fire making, because any idiot knows that I’ll need this skill when I’m actually on Survivor. If votes are in a deadlock at Tribal Council, the tie-breaker is always whoever can build a fire the fastest to burn a string wins. Duh.

We used the handheld bow method, using the friction of a bow on a drill grinding into a board to start a spark.

When Tim showed us how to make a fire, it took about a minute.

Then I tried. It took about 45 minutes. And I didn’t get fire.

I was the only one in our group that didn’t get a fire going! Ali even got fire twice. It was quite embarrassing because my team felt the need to cheer me on to grind the stupid bow on the fire board and watch as I failed repeatedly.

Not starting a fire was rough on my hands.

Lesson learned: I need to pick up Fire Making for Dummies before winning the ‘mil on Survivor. Or maybe I’ll just hide some waterproof matches in my socks.

After fire making made me cry pout, we took a break to learn some primitive cooking techniques. Look, primitive peoples eat clean!

Our last station was my favorite – archery!

James taught us how to use the bows, and Ali and I squeezed our way into the first group of archers.

I needed a little help from James to get my stance right.

I was relieved that I was a little better at archery than I was at fire making.

Ali and I were both pretty good at archery, actually! We got a few arrows on the target.

At the end of the afternoon, we all gathered together for the big event: the Survival Games.

We started off in teams with a shelter building competition. Of course all the teams “won” the shelter building, so we were all tied up to begin the Games.

The second event of the Games was an oldie but goodie: Tug of War, which was followed by an archery competition with a representative from our team.

After archery, our team was tied for first place!

The big deciding event was selecting reps. from our team to do fire making.

What, you don’t want me for the fire maker, team?

This guy was an ultra runner. Very cool – wish I had gotten to pick his brain a little!

We won! We were the first team to get a flame.

The team was about to turn inward on itself. The Games were now an individual competition.

Our team of 15 lined up and were instructed to tie a box knot. I tied a beautiful box knot and made it through to the next round.

The next knot was a double-latch-knot-or-something.

Booo, I forgot how to make the double-latch-knot-or-something.

Oh well. I probably would have lost in the next round anyway – survival trivia!

After the winner of the Survival Games was crowned, we lined up for a some amazing Blue Dog BBQ.

I chose the chicken and zucchini bake with some sassafras tea on the side. It was delicious. Next up on the Pinterest receipe search – zucchini bake!

The entire day was a blast, thanks to the awesome guides we had from Living Social, and Tim, the informative instructor from Advanced Survival Training. If you’re looking for an adventure, this is definitely one you wouldn’t forget!

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