There’s been a lot of discussion about going into the “wilderness” and surviving. But what are we talking about, really? More than a day trip, obviously. Are we talking about a season? Over the winter, perhaps? What about a year? Decades? Until we die, however long that takes?
Up until we get to those last two, it seems pretty reasonable to say that surviving alone in the wilderness is very doable. Assuming, of course, that you have either proper equipment or decent primitive skills. And you know the bioregion pretty well. And nothing abnormal happens. Obviously, if something unexpected does happen (and they often will) we may find ourselves in trouble. Injuries and illnesses usually aren’t conducive to either hunting or gathering. Perhaps we can find the right kind of medicine, be it a certain herb or a splint or a bandage. So, yeah, it seems reasonable that we can do that, maybe even for a year or so.
So, what about decades? That’s a pretty long time. I wonder what the odds are of an unexpected situation arising over the course of 10 years? When was the last time you were surprised by something and it threw you off? When was the last time you did something stupid out of carelessness? Has it been 10 years? I know I’m not so fortunate.
I’m pretty sure you’ve guessed my opinion on “Until we die, however long that takes?”.
But what about all those frontiersmen and mountain men we’ve been raised up hearing about? Didn’t they hang out in the wilderness alone for a long time?
Well, depends, what are we talking about? A season? A year? A couple years?
Let’s take a very brief look at Daniel Boone.
1734-1750 born and lived in PA
1750-1773ish moved w/ family to NC, married, started family; took “long hunts” for skins & furs (“long hunts” generally started in autumn w/ a spring return)
1773 moved to KY as part of a new settlement (along with 50-ish other emigrants, and, of course, his family). Moved back to NC before the end of the year.
1775-1779 moved back to KY and established a settlement called Boonesborough.
1780-? founded new settlement, Boone’s Station, KY. During this period he served as a representative to the Virginia General Assembly as well as sheriff of Fayette County.
?-1788 moved to present day Maysville, Ky
1788-1795 lived in Point Pleasant, WV
1795-1799 moved back to KY
1799-1820 moved to MO, where he died
Looks like his stints of “alone in the wilderness” were more in the 2 years or less category.
What about Simon Kenton?
1755-1771 lived in VA, on a farm.
1771-1773 explored the OH River w/ 2 other trappers
1774-1780 participated heavily in the conflicts with the Shawnee
1780-1792 married, started a family, etc
And, in fact, at no point beyond this, did he spend more than a year or so “alone in the wilderness”.
Okay, but those were frontiersmen, they had fight all those angry Shawnee, it would’ve just been too dangerous to be out and about all by your lonesome, what if that wasn’t quite so much of an issue?
Well, there’s John Colter…
1774-1780 lived in VA w/ family
1780-1803 to be honest, I couldn’t find a lot of info on this time period. I’m not especially surprised, it was a relatively quiet time for the KY/OH areas. By the same token, there was also a considerable influx of settlers during this time period. I can’t know for certain, but I strongly doubt John Colter had stints of “alone in the wilderness” longer than a season during this time period.
1803-1806 joined Lewis & Clark on their expedition. was given an honorable discharge on the return journey to join 2 trappers headed up the Missouri River.
1807 decided to head back to civilization (alone). ended up joining a group headed to the Rockies. Over the winter of that year, explored present day Yellowstone & the Grand Tetons (alone).
1808-1809 Travelled around the Montana, Wyoming area with John Potts
1810 helped to construct a fort at Three Forks, MT
At which point he went back east a ways, started a family and stayed there.
So, even some of the most celebrated frontiersmen/mountain men we have records of, really didn’t do stints of “alone in the wilderness” longer than a season (normally) or a year (maybe 2) on the far outside.
But, hey, these guys are civilized, right? What about indigenous peoples? Well, no, they’re part of a community. It’s not that they don’t spend a lot of time alone in the wilderness, it’s that they don’t generally try to do this for long periods of time. We may well be able to survive for quite a while, but at some point, something is going to happen and it’s real nice to have a buddy with you when it does.
But safety aside, even the most introverted of us are still, essentially, gregarious animals. We need community. It’s as much a part of our biological heritage as our poor ability to digest wheat. One person does not constitute a culture, it requires a community to have a culture. Leaving one culture for… what? No culture? The faint remnants of the culture you thought you left behind? Your own thoughts & opinions?
I, personally, don’t see how going alone into the wilderness to escape living like “the living dead” will accomplish anything other than living like “the living dead” unless there’s a community somewhere off on the horizon…