Core survival skills weekend at Gould Mesa Trail Camp

Apprentice of the Wild instructor Sean Critchfield scoping out edible (and not edible, see below) plants on our group's leisurely one-mile hike down to camp. The trek back up at the end of the day in 100-plus degree heat was a tad tougher.

Apprentice of the Wild instructor Sean Critchfield scoping out edible (and not edible, see below) plants on our group's leisurely one-mile hike down to camp. The trek back up at the end of the day in 100-plus degree heat was a tad tougher.

Because I've been on social media hiatus for the past few months (more on that in another post!), I wanted to take the opportunity here to share some photos from the amazing core survival skills workshop I attended last weekend at the primordially serene Gould Mesa Trail Camp in the Angeles National Forest. Unbelievably, this slice of wilderness is just a few minutes' drive (and alright, a subsequent two-mile roundtrip hike) into the mountains from the city streets of Northeast Los Angeles. 

The two-day class was taught by outdoorsman Sean Critchfield, lead instructor for the Wisdom Keepers Apprentice of the Wild ancient skills programs for children here in LA. Last spring, my girls started taking one of Sean's after-school classes and since then, we as a family have become thoroughly obsessed with and inspired by all that they're learning (i.e., my husband recently splurged on a Gränsfors Bruk ax and now batons wood in our backyard to relax after a tough work week; see my previous post about foraging for radishes on sidewalk medians). Not surprisingly, many of the parents of the kids taking Sean's Apprentice of the Wild classes have been begging him to offer more classes for us nature-loving but under-skilled adults. Last weekend, he delivered! 

The massively deadly castor bean plant (Ricans communis). It's been reported that just one bean can take out an adult male within minutes. Translation: Do not eat under any circumstances!

The massively deadly castor bean plant (Ricans communis). It's been reported that just one bean can take out an adult male within minutes. Translation: Do not eat under any circumstances!

Our respite in the shade, where Sean started off the day going over a plan of action should you ever find yourself truly lost in the wild (fight the urge to run off in random directions screaming for help like a crazy maniac by sitting down and emptying your pockets to see what useful tools you may already have, and note any nearby water sources like this one -- just be sure to boil the water before drinking). 

Our respite in the shade, where Sean started off the day going over a plan of action should you ever find yourself truly lost in the wild (fight the urge to run off in random directions screaming for help like a crazy maniac by sitting down and emptying your pockets to see what useful tools you may already have, and note any nearby water sources like this one -- just be sure to boil the water before drinking). 

Learning to make cordage out of yucca, an essential plant for indigenous peoples that is still ubiquitous throughout Southern California. Filled with natural saponins, the leaves can also easily be transformed into a very lathery (and very bright green!) biodegradable soap.

Learning to make cordage out of yucca, an essential plant for indigenous peoples that is still ubiquitous throughout Southern California. Filled with natural saponins, the leaves can also easily be transformed into a very lathery (and very bright green!) biodegradable soap.

My Hohokam-style knife, crafted from a batoned stick, (crudely) flint-knapped obsidian and my yucca cordage. The Hohokam were a prehistoric Native American people who inhabited what is now known as the American Southwest.

My Hohokam-style knife, crafted from a batoned stick, (crudely) flint-knapped obsidian and my yucca cordage. The Hohokam were a prehistoric Native American people who inhabited what is now known as the American Southwest.

Sadly, I missed out on the second day of the class due to a sudden onset sore throat (nothing like being snapped back to the reality of the continuous exposure to elementary schoolincubated infectious illness that has become the hallmark of city-dwelling motherhood), but Sean managed to cover much of the core four (water, food, fire, shelter) in that immersive and totally fun first day. My elusive first bow-drill coal will just have to wait until next time. 

Stay tuned, though: I'm excited to report that Sean will be appearing on one of the very first episodes of the Uncivilize Podcast this fall!