New Story at Outside:
“OK everyone,” Derek Barkeim announced to the loaded van of kids, “this week we’re going to do three things: Build a semi-permanent shelter. Do some hide tanning—it’s called brain tanning, but we’re not going to use the actual brain. And we’re going to butcher a lamb.”
The hand of a ten-year-old named Jonah shot up. “Can I shoot the lamb?”
“No. We’re not going to shoot the lamb.”
Jonah was silent for a second, then said, “Can I decapitate the lamb?”
Barkeim chuckled a little, then turned around and drove.
We left the town of La Crosse, Wisconsin, where the kids had been dropped off by their parents that August morning, and drove over to Minnesota and headed up the Mississippi River. In the van were ten boys and one girl, ages 9 to 14, on their way bushcraft-skills camp. It’s one of many day camps Barkeim offers as part of his Seeker’s Wild summer program, which he started in 2014. Each week he brings a new group of kids (and sometimes college-age interns) into the woods to teach them the lost arts of survival.
When we arrived at a farm in southeastern Minnesota half an hour later, we piled out and marched into an unnamed wooded valley. At the head of the line, Barkeim swung a stick, clearing a path through an ocean of stinging nettles. Some kids got stung. Some complained. But Barkeim walked on. After a quarter-mile or so, he looked around.
“What do you all think of this spot? What would you want to look for if you were going to build a shelter here?” Barkeim asked.
“Widow-makers!” a Seeker’s Wild veteran shouted. (It’s poor bushcraft to get killed by a falling tree in the night.)
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