Got a cool e-mail from Out There reader Steve, who says he enjoys “Out of the Wild: The Laska Experiment” on the Discovery Channel. Here’s what Steve said:
I love the show. I can’t wait until the next episode. I even watch the re-run on Saturday morning. No, I don’t think I could ever do what these guys r doing but would have loved to try it when I was younger. I am 56 and I think my window has closed on this. I would love to see Alaska but I think I would be better serve seeing from a cruise ship. I have 4 girls and I do believe they could handle it. One of my girls has traveled to China(when her luggage was lost for the 3 weeks she was there) the mountains of Peru where her luggage was lost for 4 days and 5 months in Ethiopia. I love the fact that the girls have lasted longer then the guys, except for the first girl that dropped out. To much drama for me with her. I can’t wait to see the last show when all the participants are together to hear their stories.
A couple mental notes I made after watching last night’s episode:
When I first started watching this, I thought the producers were overdramatazing the elevation gains, distances hiked and some of the other hardships the people in the show were going through. To me, going from 1,000 feet to 3,000 feet in one day doesn’t impress me much, even with a full pack. Do it above 10,000 feet, I thought to myself, and now we’re talking about something a little more substantial. And the lengths of the hikes were usually just a few miles, maybe six at the most. Again (looking down my nose), I figured once they start doing 16 or 20 in a day, then I’ll leave some room for bellyaching.
I have reassessed those conclusions. And revised them entirely.
The elevations aren’t really a factor, so I was right about that. In my book, elevation doesn’t really factor in until you get to about 5,000 feet. But gaining 1,000 feet, then dropping back down in a matter of a few miles is physically taxing.
And now here’s where we start adding in the factors that DO matter. First, it’s cold: 20s, teens, single digits. The body burns more calories (exerts more energy) in cold temperatures than it does when it’s warm.
Second, almost all of the group’s trekking is off-trail. This matters a lot. Bushwhacking with friends in the Wichitas last winter, we went off-trail and spent about an hour or so covering half a mile as we picked our way through boulders, canyons, trees and underbrush, all the while trying to find the proper route west. Had be been on a trail, we would have covered that distance in less than 20 minutes. These folks were doing that and wearing those dreadful Yukon packs, loaded down with 60-70 pounds of gear.
Last, there’s the problem with food. The cast of the show must hunt or forage for all their food unless they find some spare provisions in the shelters they hike to. So they hunt pretty much anything that moves, fish and pick berries. If they’re lucky, they find some leftover flour left in a hunter’s cabin. Basically, they’re living on less than 1,000 calories a day, but they’re burning much more. Want to know what’s it’s like? Get up some cool winter morning, eat a bowl of cereal and a couple of eggs, then go hike up and down the ridges in the Kiamichis with a 70-pound pack on your back. Camp. Repeat for three weeks. You’ll run down pretty fast.
So I’m impressed with the pluck of this group, particularly Trish, the bus driver. She’s a huntin’ fool and is keeping the group alive. Can’t wait for next week’s installment.
– Bob Doucette