Surviving Sweet Home Alabama

I’m  back down in my home-away-from-home, Alabama, for a few weeks. The town I’m staying in is pretty small and there isn’t much to do except hike. Its getting a little too cold now for hiking (in my opinion) but on a few of the warmer days my boyfriend, who is an expert in survival techniques (check out his new blog, Survive-Prepare), taught me a few outdoorsy tricks. I’ve done some of the more basic shelter-building, rope-making, and fire-starting type stuff in the girl scouts, but it is always fun to learn something new.

I’m a huge fan of loose-leaf tea; I drink about 2 cups each day. I’ve known for a while that you can make tea from ingredients you find growing wild in nature, but I’ve never actually seen it done or learned how to do it. So today was the day! We searched for a pine tree in the forest and used a knife to cut off a small branch to bring back to the kitchen. The branches were very prickly so I could only gather a tiny bit of pine needles.

We boiled some water with the pine needles in them- it made some foggy looking green liquid. I made my boyfriend try it first. He claimed to like it, so I tried it but I think Ill stick to fruit and nut teas. I don’t recommend wild pine unless you are really desperate for tea.

I also learned that you can cut into moss to form a hollowed out space to keep food refrigerated. The moss keeps the dirt held pretty firmly in place and it is easy to carve out a cavity beneath it, stick some food in there, place the moss back on top, and nobody is the wiser.

The third thing I learned isn’t really a survival technique- actually its pretty much the opposite: using river rocks as spa hot rocks. It was pretty easy to make our way through the woods down to the creek which had recently flooded with rain, but a little more difficult to find a spot that wasn’t so flooded that it would be hard to gather rocks from the bottom. But we collected a bunch, took them back, cleaned them off, heated them in a pot on the stove, and voila!

A few days later we went for a hike in a really nice spot nearby. We came to a bridge over a mostly dried-out creek with some water still trickling through and I wanted to go off trail and hike down that instead. I love climbing over rocks! We went down quite a long way till we came to a drop in the rock face and sat down to look at the landscape for a while. By the time we started hiking back, it looked like it was near sunset and we decided to take the trail back.

We made a wrong turn (apparently I mistook a creek bed for a trail) but decided to continue in that direction. It soon became apparent that we were in a race against the sun, as it was getting darker and darker as we pushed through some very dense thickets to try to get back to the car. The trees and bushes and vines were so thick in some places that we had to go back to find a different way to go forward.

Eventually we heard cars on the road and followed the sounds until we made it back to a main trail that led right out of the woods and to the car.

It was only when we got home that I realized Id lost my favorite scarf that my boyfriend had given me. So we went back the next day to search for it.

We tried to backtrack the same ridiculously winding path wed created the night before, but it was next to impossible. We probably were off of the path about 50% of the time. My boyfriend climbed a tree to see if he could recognize where wed been the night before, and then of course I had to climb the tree because climbing trees is awesomely fun. Its always been one of my favorite activities, as long as there are no bugs around.

Alas, after about two hours of hiking and searching, we had to admit that the scarf was lost to the forest. (It probably didn’t help that it was a camouflage print.) Oh well. The hiking was fun. Maybe next week the weather will be nice enough to go exploring in the caves