This weekend was a very primitive one for me. As a part of the Humber Outdoor Education program, we had a Wilderness Survival weekend up north in the Crown Lands in the area of Moon River, Ontario. The objective was simple you could only being a few basic items in your own survival park and make a shelter to survive the night without a sleeping bag.
The survival pack was very basic; no sleeping bags or pads, no real luxury items were allowed outside of toilet paper. It’s a scary world you enter when toiler paper becomes a luxury item. We worked in groups of two to three to create our shelters and prepare for the long night ahead. My group found a decent rock face and worked on creating a lean-to shelter, abet a lot fancier than the basic design. We made a large bedding of evergreen branches, which we cover up with a tarp for our sleeping area that faced a long firebit along the rock face. Once we had our bedding and basic frame up we covered it up with two tarps and more branches to seal it in. The biggest challenge was the collection of firewood. The area where we were was mostly populated with softwoods which does not make great survival fires. When it comes to firewood, you want hardwoods for a long steady burn and good coals. We spent a large portion of our time collection wood and cutting it, followed by endless hours of stoaking and feeding the fire.
The evening in the shelter was calm and not overly cold., the wind was not a bother but the fire was. I did not get too much sleep, only about 3 hours overall in short segments. Much of the time was spent keeping the fire going, the lack of hardwood meant that every 20 minutes or so new wood needed to be dropped in to keep it going. The biggest disappointment was the emergency space blanket bivy that I had with me. I feel that it did nothing more than make me sweat up a storm and dampen my clothing. I find that the biggest thing I would have done differently is close up the entrance completely to prevent more heat loss as well as being an axe. The lack of a axe made firewood collection a real pain in the neck, the handsaw is time consuming and the tiny hatchet that one of my group members had was very tiring to use.
As for our location, we were in the Crown Lands around the Moon river basin. The land was just infested and I mean infested with beavers. Everywhere I looked on our drive in there was a beaver pond or traces of an old beaver den. These little buggers have made some big impacts on the local environment. Infact we were camping on the shores of a large beaver pond, it made for scenic views but really impacted water options as no one wants to get Beaver fever. These industrious little critters can sure make a good ruckus in the early morning that serves as a good wake up call.