By: Nate Jervey
Assistant Sports Information Director

I wouldn’t say that I watch a lot of television. I mean, I watch my fair share I suppose, but often I have better things to do than sit around and melt my brain. That being said, there is one show in particular that I would let melt my brain at any time. Man vs. Wild. Maybe I have a slight man-crush on Bear Grylls, maybe it’s the gut-wrenching feeling I get when he eats some of the most foul things I have ever seen someone consume. It was my (and my roommate’s) fascination with Bear Grylls and his awesome television show that led a group of four of us to undertake a similar adventure in the wild of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. A trip into the woods with no shelter, no food, no matches, no nothing…really? “You’re and idiot,” was my dad’s response. My fellow traveler’s (I’ll get to them in a second) loved ones were less than thrilled. Even among us on the trip there was some trepidation, but we’re young and we’re dumb so surely this is going to work out ok.

The four of us before heading into the wild.

The idea of the trip was really the brainchild of my roommate, Garrett Brickner. He and his cousin share my fascination with Bear Grylls and they decided that a survival trip of some kind was in order. Shortly after pulling me in to the mix, the destination of Northern Michigan was selected. We chose it because its where I am from and I am pretty familiar with the area. Also, no poisonous snakes to worry about and most of the other creepy crawlies are far less troublesome than those in the South. Yes, we do have sizable bear, mountain lion, wolf and coyote populations, but it’s the little things that worried me more.

So we had a location picked out. Waco Lake in the Hiawatha National Forest, located a few hours west of the Mackinac Bridge in the Upper Peninsula. Now, who is going to be making this tip? Well, Garrett and I were in for sure. His cousin actually dragged his feet all summer and finally decided that we could not make the trip out (he lives in Cali). It was about this time that I recruited my college roommate to join us as well. He said he was in need of some “guy” time and what better way to do “guy” stuff than going into the woods and trying not to die. So my college roomie made three, and we recruited a fourth when former W&L swim coach Mike Ginder said that he was in. He had been living with Garrett and I for part of the summer and he really did not need a whole lot of convincing to join us.

Ok, now we have the location and the participants. Next we need a list of allowable supplies. I mean, Bear Grylls takes his knife and some paracord and that’s about it. Well, given most of us having limited outdoor experience (I would say that Mike and I probably had the most, which is not to say that we had a great deal) we decided on a slightly larger list of supplies to take in. We had knives for each of us, iodine to purify water, magnesium and flint (for fire), extra clothes, a pump-action 12-gauge shotgun (for the bears), a hatchet and a map and compass. In true Bear Grylls fashion we took some paracord, though we did not find near as many uses for it as he did. There were a few other odds and ends, but that is the bulk of what we took in. Again, no food, no shelter, no sleeping bags. The only creature comfort we allowed ourselves was bug spray, which turned out to be a great idea.

What we took with us

Now that our stuff is packed, we head off to Michigan to pick up Ty (college roomie) and head off into the woods. We drive 11 hours to Ty’s place, then another 2.5 hours to my parents’ house, then another 4 hours to our destination. We arrive in the woods with high expectations and we soon realize that this may not be as easy as we think. We had planned on camping at a spot roughly halfway between Lake Waco and the Sturgeon River and as we made our way in what we thought was the right direction thoughts of mutiny rattled around most of our brains. Garrett and his VMI education took over and guided us to the river and then back to a suitable campsite but he must have taken the most difficult route to get there and after an hour of hiking and lugging my gear I nearly used the shotgun on him. And by campsite, I mean we cleared away a bunch of ferns and built a lean-to in the Y-portion of a poplar tree. We did manage to make fire without matches and resupply our water (which tastes terrible with iodine in it by the way) and as we sat around that night discussing our day, I think that we all thought that we would have made Bear Grylls proud.

Where we did not make him proud was our getting scared like little schoolgirls that evening. Some large creature definitely circled our campsite around 2:00 am and a few hours after that coyotes were heard not too far away. There were some concerned members in the camp and weapons were at the ready. Adding to our paranoia was that the fire nearly went out overnight and it took some frantic cutting of more firewood and saving of embers to ensure the fire made it through the night and gave us a bit of peace of mind.

Day two we hiked back to the lake where we came into the woods with the intention of doing some fishing to procure some food as all that we had eaten to this point were some raspberries that we found in the woods. Well, the lake turned out to be a big pond really and to say that that was the most miserable fishing experience of my life would be an understatement. Not so much as a bite. So we hike back to the river (about a 45-minute trek) and try fishing in that. Again, nothing. Other than a few frogs that we caught for bait, things were not looking good. It was upon our return to camp that it dawned on us…. we caught frogs — lets eat those little guys. So we did. We pretended to be French and we dined on Kermit’s cousins. Well, three of us did. Ty abstained from eating them and to be perfectly honest they did not taste all that great and they were a little small to really gain any kind of nutritional value from.

To paraphrase the remainder of the trip, Ty decided that he wanted to leave the woods a day early. So he left in the morning to go to a hotel, with the intention of coming back the following morning/afternoon to get Mike, Garrett and myself. Well, upon leaving the woods Ty heard about severe thunderstorms and tornados moving into the area. Being the good friend that he is, he figured that it would have been a terrible idea to leave us out in that overnight, so he trekked back into the woods (and got himself lost in the process) to tell us of the impending doom. At this point we can’t just tell him “no, we are staying out here,” so we pack our stuff up and hike out of the woods and go to a hotel for the night. Good thing we did too. Ty was not kidding about the storms moving into the area and we would have surely had a miserable night in the forest.

We wrapped up our trip with a few nights in Chicago, where we told all who would listen about our harrowing adventure in the wild. Upon return to civilization, we made a feature film of our trip (we had taken a video camera with us) and debuted the documentary to rave reviews in a truly spectacular red-carpet event. Actually, we showed the video to like 10-15 of our friends, but it has gotten pretty decent reviews.

The trip is still talked about fondly and we are looking to plan another one next year. Maybe not quite as difficult as this one, but some kind of camping/hiking/rafting/kayaking-type thing is on the books for next year. Additionally, screenings of ManScouts 2010 are available upon request at GTB Cinemas. Contact your local MoviePhone for details.

Best quote of the trip

My Dad –  “Its like boy scouts, expect there is no adult supervision.”

Me – “This is a Man Scouts trip.”

Alas, another school year is upon us as the calendar turns to September and my thoughts of surviving in the woods are put on the back burner to simmer until next summer and I am once again afforded the opportunity to head off into the wilderness. Until then, it is box scores and game programs for the foreseeable future. Best of luck to all of W&L’s fall athletes this year and be sure to come out and cheer on the Generals!!!!


One Response to “Manscouts”

  1. Bonnie Will Says:

    Hi Nate,
    I’m not quite sure how I happened on your story about yours and your friends’ camping adventure, but it was from a previous story that I happened upon from someone’s FB page. Anyhow, I loved your story, and can relate somewhat, being that I’ve never been a big fan of camping. I will do it only if there are modern amenities like showers and cooking facilities, and then it’s probably not really camping. I did enjoy reading your story, and I’m glad to hear that you and your buddies are planning to go on a roughing-it trip another time. Maybe you will take more food and supplies along the next time! Coffee for morning would be high on my list and basics like breakfast food. Believe me, I am certainly not a seasoned camper, but I would do that. I could also relate to the frogs for a meal, because a former boyfriend of mine dined on frog’s legs at dinner one time, but I was not going to be that daring. Thanks for the entertaining story and keep writing!

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