The first people pressed into labor in an agricultural society were shorter, malnourished, and riddled with disease as compared to their wilder contemporaries, according to historian Yuval Noah Harari. Human spines, knees, necks, and arches paid the price. Studies of ancient skeletons indicate that the transition to agriculture brought about a plethora of ailments, such as slipped discs, arthritis, and hernias.
Even worse, the supposed abundance of farming made us dumber. Evolutionarily speaking, drilling down on survival skills when you hike makes you smarter. Thankfully, we are genetically identical to our forebears. Our minds and senses are trained to seek out the diverse menu found in field, stream, and mountain. Prehistoric abundance no longer exists, but the desire remains. It just takes a small leap of faith to leave the food and shelter behind and go looking for Paleo enlightenment.
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After our failed trip in the Cascades, Bryan and I went searching for it in the opposite environment: the desert. W e learned a lot on our first try. Which is how we ended up in southern Texas. Our packing list was much the same as on the Cascades trip: modern clothes, fishing gear, and cutting implements, plus some very meager emergency backup food a pack of bouillon cubes and a few cups of rice porridge totaling a few hundred calories to split between us.
Bryan also brought a couple pinches of spices in case we had to eat something rotten or extra gamey. But after two hours of hard paddling up the Pecos River , we found a secluded inlet to a magnificent side canyon. Gray and white limestone walls feet tall bordered the mouth. Here, the Pecos carved into the sun-blasted flatlands to reveal alcoves of bone-white rock streaked with black. Out of sight on the rim, we could hear wild goats screaming. Then we discovered built-in shelter: a cave at the base of the western cliffs, where a wide half-moon shelf ran about 60 feet long and 10 feet deep.
Bryan took to this friendly terrain immediately, weaving a sleeping mat out of jute and giant reeds. He then found a yucca stalk and carved it into a bow-drill spindle while I cut a new notch into a cottonwood fireboard; he explained that yucca has a very low ignition point, and it was smoking almost before he was done explaining. We used reflecting rocks so the heat from our easy-peasy friction fire bounced off them, over us, to the back wall of the cave and back over us again. We were nearly roasting as I looked up at the yellow limestone roof 7 feet above our heads. I fell asleep counting fossils—crinoids, bivalves, and tunicates from a long-gone Permian sea.
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After our first two days, we were well ahead of our Cascade attempt. We foraged cactus pads and turned them into a viscous soup. Their red flowers provided semi-sweet bursts of moisture, refreshing in the afternoon oven of the Texas desert. We needed bait for our fishing lines, so we tried to smack the saggy collared lizards that came out to bask on sun-warmed rocks. I finally brained one, and felt terrible about it. But that lizard became two catfish on our trotlines—a inch flathead and inch channel cat.
It was crisp and delicious, and we made soup out of the carcass and head. The next day went by with no fish, but we caught a mess of mice, so I learned how to dress a tiny animal and get over my rodent-induced gag reflex. And we relaxed. Harari has studied hunter-gatherers living today in the most inhospitable of habitats—such as the Kalahari Desert in Africa. This feels right. Why work harder than necessary? Food—even mouse meat—tastes better. Jokes are funnier.
Stories around the fire become myths. The Paleolithic world never went anywhere; society just covered it in thin soil. After getting a peek at it, Bryan and I are a tribe of two, united in success. Have we overfished our little inlet?
Are the catfish and carp simply tired of mouse guts? Even the experts confront this reality. On two separate occasions, Lew-Levy, the Congo researcher, spent a month in the North American wilderness using only stone tools, making clothes, and foraging for food. She hit hard walls both times: The first time friends had to bail her out with an emergency supply of rice, and the second she barely squeaked by with supplemental mice which makes me feel better. They have so many seasons. They just ended honey season, when they make mead. The Congo Basin is one of the few places in the world where there is more foraging than any other subsistence strategy.
But here in Texas, Bryan and I are left trying to learn these complexities on our own—or learn the hungry way that they no longer exist. The skills of the hunter-gatherer were built through trial and error, which means there was plenty of failure preceding success. We check the trotlines: empty. We check the snares: empty. We decide to scramble up the limestone ledges to see if hunting is good on the plateau. Which sounds delicious. After gagging my way through that final mouse—our only protein in four days—my hunger subsides.
Just thick-headed. All I want to do is sleep. We might last for a few weeks without food, sure, but with a windstorm blowing whitecaps upstream, we might not be strong enough to paddle out. In his book Sapiens, Harari concludes that what makes humans dominant over the Earth is a cognitive revolution—specifically, a shared delusion that we are more than we actually are.
We told stories around the fire that gave rise to gods, money, civilization. Our strategy the next day is to first rest in the shade. We sleep through the daylight hours and awake to a full moon. In the blue-white light, the walls of our hidden canyon look like row after row of chiseled faces.
Our saggy muscles and lead legs go spring-like, and I feel like I have the ears of a fox. I hear every scrape of sand underfoot and adjust my gait to limit the noise. I chart a course through the maze of prickles and clamber over boulders while Bryan scans the slopes for movement.
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At the back of a rocky draw, Bryan catches yellow eyes across the canyon that seem to come toward us. I feel like I can see a huge, cat-like shape bounding down the rocks, but it turns and vanishes. We sneak closer. It could be a peccary, or a raccoon. Maybe an exceptionally large rat.
http://checkout.midtrans.com/hutor-vega-conocer-a-gente.php It makes me realize that the hunter-gatherer in us all is not very deep below the surface. As liberating as it might seem to release your inner Cro-Magnon, be sure to practice survivalism with LNT guidelines in mind. Rules for state and federal lands vary widely, and most national parks and forests are off-limits for anything but fishing and some plant foraging. For this story, we stuck to gathering deadfall and building fires in low-elevation, permitted areas. We harvested in-season or any-season rodents and fished with appropriate licenses.
When in doubt, check with local officials. Need to find food in a crisis? Just foraging for fun? Learn to raid nature's pantry, which is full of easily harvested, highly nutritious meals.
Soon we both stopped shivering, and neither of us could feel our feet. Matt turned to me. Build the perfect survival kit for any hike by following these simple principles.
A heart-stopping bolt hits one hiker and levels a group of his friends who then fight to resuscitate him. Deep in Wyoming's Wind River Range, an accident with a sliding boulder makes a hiker confront his life, his fate, and his faith in God. At the military's top-secret survival school, Air Force crews learn how to escape their worst-case scenario — shot down behind enemy lines.
With the highest level of access ever granted to a journalist, our scout learns how to escape when Mother Nature is only one of your worries. Losing daylight and don't have a tent? Don't panic: We tested three shelter-making techniques that will help you survive the night. Plus: Three bomber bivies. When the snow starts falling, teamwork is the only way to roll.
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