East Tennessee Outdoors: I Can Survive! – Part 2

Published 3:59 pm Monday, April 27, 2020



I had hunted most of the day in an area that did not look familiar to me. I did not recognize anything. A creek, an old logging road, a gap in a ridgeline, all of these should not be where they were.

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I climbed out of a hollow to a higher point thinking that maybe the next hollow would look familiar. It didn’t, so I did the only thing I knew to do.

I sat down and thought about where I had started and where I had walked.

I had an emergency kit if I needed it. I could survive a few nights in the mountains.

The weather was warm. I was carrying water and food, and it would only take a few minutes to create a lean-to shelter because I carried a sharp knife to cut enough small trees to make one.  I just didn’t want to suffer the embarrassment of being found by a search party.

I got up and kept walking toward a road I knew that was there, just a few miles further than I had planned, and eventually found the road. I met my wife as she was driving to pick me up, and I was a happy camper to plop down in the seat of my old truck. I was happy and humbled.

It can happen to any of us. We can get lost, injured, or disoriented in the mountains, and we do not know what to do. In the last column, we learned to consider the four “three’s” of survival in the forest.

You can go without air for three minutes, without shelter for three hours, without water for three days, and without food for three weeks. Use this and consider your situation so you can figure out what you need to do next.

In the above situation, I stopped before I got more lost than I was already and considered my situation. I knew the four “three” did not apply because I figured out where I probably was at the moment and took action to get close to where I needed to be.

But what if you can’t figure out where you are, and it is getting dark?

First, find a good place to set up a lean-to for shelter in case of rain. If it is in the fall or winter, this needs to be three-sided so you can build a fire at the entrance.

Next, do you need a fire? Build one if you can. The bark from birch trees and wood from under dried bark make excellent kindling.  Always carry with you the items to help you build a fire.

A piece of dry cotton or other really dry burnable material will do the trick. I am from a modern school of survival. I don’t use a fire striker unless I have to use one.

Instead, I carry matches and a lighter because if I have to stay the night in the woods, I want a fire.

There are many advantages to having a fire. It not only warms you, but it will help you emotionally also.

It seems we take comfort from a fire against the sounds in the dark woods at night. Also, you can use it to cook food and boil water to drink.

Finally, when the morning comes and you still do not know which way to go, it may be safer to stay where you are and not move around getting more lost.

Let any searchers find you, and the easiest way to do this is to stay put.

One final word of advice about survival in this area.

If you have a reasonable idea where you are, start walking downhill. In most of these hollows in these mountains, if you walk down the hollow, you will eventually find a body of water.

Follow that body of water, and you will eventually find a house. From there you can probably get rescued. You may not come out where you hoped, but often you can find your way out by doing this.

Getting lost in these mountains can be easy for the most experienced hiker. Use some woods sense and don’t panic, and you should be able to save yourself.