A few years ago, I was in the Ocala National Forest experiencing a 3-day bare-bones wilderness training program with six men. Bare-bones means you can bring nothing except a few essentials. Since it was early March, temperatures dropped to the mid-30s at night, so we were allowed to bring a sleeping bag. Small victories!
For some reason, I was elected the leader of the group by my peers, who I had just met when we hiked deep into the forest from a remote parking lot. We had a paramedic in our group, so he was responsible for everyone’s first aid needs. I needed him once, but that’s another story.
This story is about one of the participants who is not pictured above. One of our tasks was to locate a source for drinking water, since we couldn’t bring in any outside food or water. The only accessible water for miles was this small body of water that was home to several alligators. They kept their beady eyes on us every time we dipped our stainless-steel bottles into their watering hole. And, believe me, I kept my eyes on them too.
We had to filter and purify this water before drinking it. It was quite nasty and had a foul odor to it. But staying hydrated was essential. There are many ways to do this, but I won’t get into that for this story. I filtered and purified my water just fine and I actually liked it. It was refreshing and I took several trips to that gator water, carefully and never at night.
The participant not in photo is a young man I’ll name Jim. He never made it to the end of our experience, when we took this photo. In fact, he barely made it through the first night.
Jim joined us because he was preparing for his audition on the TV Show “Alone”. He was proud of all of the knowledge he had for surviving in the wild. In fact, he gave us a demonstration in making a fall trap.
Jim’s limitation revealed itself, though, when it came to preparing his drinking water. He didn’t want to go near the water, and he gagged at the smell of it. He didn’t want to purify his water or accept purified water from others. Later in the day, however, Jim got very thirsty. So, in his haste, and against our advice, he drank his dirty water.
Fast forward to our first night in a shared shelter that we built. About two hours into the cold evening, I heard him outside of our shelter gagging and vomiting. Many times. And very loudly. We all asked if we could help him. He said he just had a coughing attack and it caused him to throw up. However, we all knew that the water he drank made him ill. He wouldn’t admit it. Nor would he allow us to do anything to console him.
The next morning, he had some reason why he needed to immediately hike out and go back home. In reality, Jim’s reason was pride. He came into the experience with a know-it-all approach and wouldn’t accept help from others. His pride was in his own way of learning and enjoying a great experience in the wild.
Belinda Gates, ACC
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