Part one of our ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with an Amer­i­can sur­vival leg­end

American Survival Guide - - CONTENTS - By Michael D’angona

Creek Ste­wart didn’t take the easy way out; no short-cuts, no jump­ing to the head of the line. This now-pol­ished, but al­ways con­stantly learn­ing, sur­vival ex­pert has paid his dues through thou­sands of man-hours “out in the field” to po­si­tion him­self as one of the top sur­vival and pre­pared­ness in­struc­tors in the coun­try to­day. From an early age, the thirst for the out­doors pulled him into scout­ing. As a young man, Creek learned about the beauty, as well as the un­pre­dictable dan­gers, of the out­doors. From there, his love of Mother Na­ture—and pre­par­ing for what she brings, both good and bad— con­tin­ued to ex­pand al­most ex­po­nen­tially. He has taught large groups about sur­vival and emer­gency pre­pared­ness at his com­pound in Indiana. He has been a fea­tured guest on nu­mer­ous pro­grams, hosted sev­eral tele­vi­sion shows cen­ter­ing on var­i­ous as­pects of the sur­vival world and has writ­ten nu­mer­ous books on the sub­ject, which com­prise both non­fic­tion and en­ter­tain­ing fic­tional sto­ries of over­com­ing the odds when all seems lost. But Creek Ste­wart is more than just a fa­mous per­son with a list of ac­com­plish­ments; he is a down-to-earth man who loves to share what he knows with oth­ers. Here, in the first of a three-part in­ter­view, Creek opens up about what led him into the world of sur­vival, what those new to the field should know and what the fore­see­able fu­ture has in store for this highly re­lat­able and hum­ble out­doors­man. EARLY YEARS Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide: At what age did you first re­al­ize the out­doors was go­ing to be your “of­fice” and your life fo­cused on sur­vival and emer­gency pre­pared­ness? Creek Ste­wart: Grow­ing up on a farm and ac­tively in­volved in Boy Scouts, I fell in love with the out­doors at a very young age. How­ever, it wasn’t un­til my early 20s, while in col­lege and study­ing phar­macy, that I made the de­ci­sion to pur­sue some­thing in the sur­vival train­ing genre as a ca­reer. Of course, I had no idea how hard and long the jour­ney would be, but look­ing back, I con­sider that blind naïveté was my best skill at the time. ASG: Once the sur­vival “bug” bit and you were just start­ing to learn out­door skills and tech­niques, who did you look up to as a men­tor or role model as you were learn­ing the ba­sics? CS: When I first got into sur­vival specif­i­cally, I didn’t even know there was a sur­vival in­dus­try—or sur­vival in­struc­tors, for that mat­ter. I had only ever seen old Boy Scout man­u­als (which I con­sid­ered to be sur­vival man­u­als at the time) and some of my dad’s old Army sur­vival books. If I had men­tors then, they would have been Sir Robert Baden-pow­ell (a found­ing fa­ther of scout­ing) and my own grand­fa­thers. I scoured the early scout­ing books writ­ten by Baden-pow­ell and picked up a ton of great out­door skills through them. I also learned a ton from my grand­fa­thers. From wild ed­i­ble and medic­i­nal plants to sim­ple an­i­mal traps they used dur­ing the Great

Depression, their skills were very real and tan­gi­ble. Their sto­ries were even bet­ter. For ex­am­ple, my grand­fa­ther shared with me a very sim­ple live-cap­ture bird trap he used to catch song birds, spar­rows and any­thing that would hop in­side. These birds helped feed him and his seven broth­ers and sis­ters dur­ing the Great Depression. They would pluck them and skewer them like tiny chick­ens over a fire in the back­yard of their old, run­down farm house. He grinned when he told me that the red car­di­nal tastes just like chicken. Skills like this weren’t just words on pa­per. They were proven and tested to work. ASG: Us­ing only three words, how would you de­scribe your­self? CS: Grate­ful Boy Scout. STU­DENT BE­COMES TEACHER ASG: At what point did you go from sur­vival skills stu­dent to want­ing to open your own fa­cil­ity and teach­ing oth­ers on a large scale? CS: I’m a 0–100 type A per­son­al­ity. I typ­i­cally live by the rule, It’s eas­ier to ask for for­give­ness than per­mis­sion. In my young mind, I was an in­struc­tor be­fore I was a stu­dent. It didn’t take long to fig­ure out I had so much more to learn about sur­vival and life.


I’ll never for­get one of the most hum­bling mo­ments of my young ca­reer. Of course, this hap­pened back in the days when I “knew it all.” I was fea­tured on the largest morn­ing news pro­gram in our re­gion as a sur­vival In­struc­tor. I even bought a new shirt and had my logo em­broi­dered on it for the oc­ca­sion. I was go­ing to show the world how to make fire by bow drill on live TV. I started the con­ver­sa­tion with the host by talk­ing about the im­por­tance of fire and train­ing and how choos­ing the right sur­vival in­struc­tor is so im­por­tant. Then, I started to do the bow drill for them. Long story short, I couldn’t get it. I was sweat­ing, frus­trated and hu­mil­i­ated. They had to even­tu­ally cut to a com­mer­cial break. I left the tele­vi­sion stu­dio feel­ing de­feated—and quite frankly, lost. Still, to this day, al­most 20 years later, that ex­pe­ri­ence keeps me grounded. I also hope that the video never sur­faces! Not only did I have to take the nec­es­sary time (which would end up be­ing years) to train in the skills I wanted to teach, I also had to fig­ure out how to pay the bills in be­tween train­ing and teach­ing my week­end cour­ses. For the first 10 years of my sur­vival train­ing busi­ness, I was a trav­el­ing in­struc­tor, work­ing from pub­lic land, bor­rowed land, rented land, and state and lo­cal parks. Need­less to say, state park of­fi­cials don’t see eye-to-eye with things like fires, traps, shel­ter-build­ing, har­vest­ing wild ed­i­bles—or any­thing “sur­vival”! I knew that in or­der for me to re­ally grow my busi­ness, I needed my own land and fa­cil­ity. As we all know, land isn’t cheap, es­pe­cially if you need a build­ing with re­strooms, etc. I saved ev­ery penny I owned. Ten years later, I found a fore­closed piece of prop­erty with a build­ing and made what I would de­fine as the “go big, or go home” com­mit­ment to my sur­vival train­ing busi­ness. ASG: What ad­vice would you give a per­son who wants to be­gin sur­vival train­ing and pre­pared­ness? What is the best start­ing point? CS: I al­ways tell peo­ple that one of the best ways to “wet their beak” in the world of sur­vival is to build a bug-out bag (BOB). A BOB is a three-day sur­vival back­pack de­signed to get you and your fam­ily through 72 hours of in­de­pen­dent sur­vival in the event that a large-scale dis­as­ter would un­ex­pect­edly drive you from your home. Build­ing a BOB forces a per­son to gather some tools and skills in a va­ri­ety of sur­vival cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing water, fire, food, shel­ter, first aid, firearms and tools. This will not only help you fig­ure out what you need to know, it will also help you dis­cover what your spe­cific in­ter­ests are in the world of sur­vival. And, af­ter you’re done, you have an awe­some sur­vival kit, just in case. As far as a spe­cific skill goes, I be­lieve fire is the most im­por­tant sur­vival skill, so when some­one asks me what they should start learn­ing first, I al­ways say fire. It can make up for a bad shel­ter, reg­u­late core body tem­per­a­ture, pu­rify water, cook food, signal for res­cue and make tools; and, it’s your best friend in the dark, lonely woods. ASG: You’ve been de­scribed as a “hy­brid” sur-

vi­val ex­pert, fo­cus­ing on prim­i­tive skills, as well as uti­liz­ing mod­ern gear and equip­ment. Would you say that de­scrip­tion is ac­cu­rate? CS: Yes, I would. While I cer­tainly teach prim­i­tive, “off-the-land” skills, I am far from ex­clu­sively prim­i­tive. In fact, there are far more tal­ented prim­i­tive skills sur­vival ex­perts than my­self. ASG: If you could teach only three sur­vival skills to a “new­bie,” which ones would you choose? CS: How to make a proper tin­der bun­dle; how to start a fire us­ing a Fres­nel lens by mag­ni­fy­ing the sun’s rays; and how to build a proper fire (start­ing and build­ing are dif­fer­ent). LIV­ING THE SKILLS ASG: Is there one sur­vival ex­pert—well-known to the pub­lic or not—who you would jump at the chance to work with or, at the very least, meet? CS: The sur­vival ex­perts I seek aren’t [those] most would ex­pect. My in­ter­est in re­cent years has been to train with in­di­vid­u­als who are liv­ing the skills I want to learn. These peo­ple are hard to find. For ex­am­ple, I’ve long wanted to train in sev­eral south­west Amer­ica desert skills. Through an an­thro­pol­o­gist who lives in Mex­ico, I ar­ranged a two-week trip to train with an in­dige­nous tribe of Paipai In­di­ans in Baja Cal­i­for­nia, Mex­ico. Those amaz­ing peo­ple live the skills they teach. From nat­u­ral cordage to wild desert ed­i­bles, I learned skills that are as close to the source as it gets. ASG: What would you say is the most un­der­es­ti­mated as­pect of sur­vival that most be­gin­ners fall vic­tim to when in a real life-or-death sit­u­a­tion? CS: I’ve had the unique op­por­tu­nity through filming SOS: How to Sur­vive for The Weather Chan­nel to in­ti­mately study and in­ter­view many sur­vivors of real-life sur­vival sto­ries. Through this ex­pe­ri­ence, I have iden­ti­fied two com­mon threads that al­ways seem to make things worse, and they are very in­ter­twined. First, simply not stop­ping at the first in­cli­na­tion that they’re lost. It is amaz­ing to me how far peo­ple will drive, walk or paddle af­ter they re­al­ize they are lost. It al­most al­ways leads to a worse sce­nario. How­ever, I be­lieve this is di­rectly per­pet­u­ated by the sec­ond: the fear of spend­ing the night in the woods. The no­tion of spend­ing an un­ex­pected night in the woods, in the desert or on a moun­tain drives peo­ple to make hor­ri­ble de­ci­sions. As I tell my stu­dents, the woods are the ex­act same at night as dur­ing the day. It’s just dark. Of course, both of these con­cerns can be ad­e­quately dis­pelled with a lit­tle knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. ASG: In most pro­fes­sions, a per­son sel­dom stops learn­ing. To whom or where do you turn to learn new tech­niques or skills?


CS: This ques­tion is re­ally what inspired me to start Sur­vival Skill of the Month Club. Ev­ery month, I teach a new and unique sur­vival skill in un­prece­dented de­tail. Month by month, my stu­dents are cu­rat­ing the best sur­vival man­ual of all time. Sur­vival Skill of the Month started as a quest for me to go deeper into the sur­vival skills I wanted to learn. Whether it was ded­i­cat­ing time to learn­ing a new skill or trav­el­ing half­way across the world to train with an ex­pert in a cer­tain skill, I wanted to learn, doc­u­ment and share sur­vival skills on a level that I had per­son­ally not seen on the writ­ten page. When you spend an en­tire month fo­cus­ing on one skill, it’s amaz­ing how much you learn. For ex­am­ple, I’ve trained with Paipai In­di­ans in Mex­ico about how to process agave cordage, how to hunt desert pack rat and how to make a Paipai wil­low bow and ar­row. I’ve also trained with one of the world’s lead­ing prim­i­tive skills ex­perts for how to make a tra­di­tional river cane blow­gun with this­tle-fletched darts. I doc­u­ment my find­ings, not only with de­scrip­tive text, but also with high-res­o­lu­tion pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phy. Ev­ery month, I seek knowl­edge. Then, I share it with peo­ple who, like me, value what’s in their brains just as much as what’s in their packs. ASG: With some of the ma­jor “world-end­ing” pre­dic­tions be­hind us now, what do you feel is the cur­rent state of sur­vival pre­pared­ness? Has the fear of im­pend­ing doom less­ened for most, and have peo­ple be­come some­what com­pla­cent? CS: Ev­ery­one’s mo­ti­va­tion is a lit­tle dif­fer­ent for delv­ing into the sur­vival world and study­ing sur­vival skills. For me and “my tribe,” it’s less about what we’re pre­par­ing for and more about the no­tion that we just love do­ing it. The “big event” takes all of the fun out of it. My motto is, “It’s not if, but when,” and I be­lieve that to be true. But, if I’m hon­est, it’s not a pend­ing event that I’m pre­par­ing for. I just love sur­vival. I love the woods. I love the idea of be­ing self-re­liant. I love the peo­ple in this in­dus­try. And I love that what I teach (and sell) can ac­tu­ally save some­one’s life one day. What started as a hobby for me still feels very much the same. I’ve al­ways been mo­ti­vated by the love of sur­vival over any­thing else. I ran my sur­vival busi­ness for 10 years be­fore I ever made a dime. I’ve al­ways said that if you’ll keep work­ing at some­thing with ab­so­lutely zero fi­nan­cial re­ward, then it must be your pas­sion. Sur­vival is my pas­sion. LOOK­ING TO­WARD THE FU­TURE ASG: What projects are you cur­rently work­ing on? And what have you planned for the near fu­ture? CS: Those who follow me know I’m al­ways work­ing on some­thing. I have three sur­vival-themed sub­scrip­tion busi­nesses that keep me very busy—myapoc­, sur­vival­skillofthe­ and wilded­i­ble­plantofthe­ I’m de­liv­er­ing sur­vival knowl­edge and skills in a unique and exciting way and at a level that those who are tired of “the same, old sur­vival stuff” will find very re­fresh­ing. I just fin­ished filming sea­son two of SOS: How to Sur­vive for The Weather Chan­nel. In this se­ries, we study real-life sur­vival sto­ries and fig­ure out how we can all learn from them. This se­ries will be air­ing in late sum­mer 2018. ASG: Where do you see your­self in five years? In 15 years?

CS: I know it’s con­tra­dic­tory to what most peo­ple as­so­ciate with suc­cess, but I’ve never been a long-term-goal per­son. My in­ter­ests change daily and, with them, my goals. One ini­tia­tive we will cer­tainly be do­ing more of in the fu­ture is rais­ing funds for peo­ple who have suf­fered through large-scale nat­u­ral dis­as­ters such as hur­ri­canes Maria and Har­vey. So many peo­ple fall through the cracks in the af­ter­math, and we, at Team Creek, have made it our in­ter­nal mis­sion to find some of these peo­ple and help them [by] us­ing our sphere of in­flu­ence. ASG: Aside from sur­vival in­struc­tion, you are also a pub­lished non­fic­tion and fic­tion au­thor. Are there more books pos­si­bly hit­ting the shelves in the fu­ture? CS: Yes, The Non­con Pack (a back­pack for when com­ing back home isn’t an op­tion) will of­fi­cially re­lease this year. This is a follow-up to my best-sell­ing book, Build the Per­fect Bug Out Bag. The Non­con Pack is for the ab­so­lute worst-case sce­nario. Part fan­tasy and part “maybe,” it will not dis­ap­point sur­vival en­thu­si­asts. I also pub­lish an av­er­age of one Pocket Field Guide per month as well. These are small, pocket-sized guides that cover a spe­cific sur­vival skill set or topic in much greater de­tail than you might find in the av­er­age sur­vival book. The sec­ond in­stall­ment to my fic­tion [book], Ru­gosa, is also in the final stages. Look for it in early 2019. GET­TING PER­SONAL ASG: What is one thing about your­self that would sur­prise many of your fans and fol­low­ers? CS: I used to be a carnie—you know, a car­ni­val worker. That’s right! While build­ing my sur­vival busi­ness, I needed a source of in­come to pay the bills, so I started a sea­sonal snow cone busi­ness. I sold snow cones at fairs and fes­ti­vals to sup­port what I con­sid­ered my real job: sur­vival in­struc-

tor. also My made fa­vorite the best fla­vor le­mon was black shake-ups cherry, east and of I the Mis­sis­sippi! ASG: When you can fi­nally take a break from the world of sur­vival, whether teach­ing, filming or writing, what do you do to have some fun or to re­lax? CS: “Re­lax”—what’s that? I have a motto when it comes to rest: “I’ll rest when I die.” ASG: Was there a time dur­ing a soli­tary ad­ven­ture in the out­doors when you thought you were pre­pared to the fullest but soon re­al­ized you were not? CS: Yes, on day three of a five-day solo hike, I got a thorn in my eye. I couldn’t get it out. I didn’t have a mir­ror. It was be­fore smart­phones with cam­eras. It was ab­so­lutely hor­ri­ble. I will never hike with­out a mir­ror again. ASG: Do you feel that sur­vival shows on tele­vi­sion are dou­ble-edged swords, in that they do help in­form and instruct peo­ple but also don’t con­vey the sever­ity of most sur­vival sit­u­a­tions? CS: I don’t have ca­ble tele­vi­sion, so I don’t get to see most of the shows that come out, but I’ve al­ways en­joyed sur­vival tele­vi­sion shows for what they are—tele­vi­sion shows [whose] first and fore­most goal is to en­ter­tain. Hav­ing been be­hind the scenes of sur­vival tele­vi­sion, it is a very gru­el­ing job, with long, hard days. There are many ded­i­cated and ex­tremely tal­ented in­di­vid­u­als who make these shows hap­pen. I can’t help but have re­spect for all of them, be­cause I’ve been in the tele­vi­sion trenches too. Au­thor’s note: The next in­stall­ment of this ex­clu­sive, three-part in­ter­view with Creek Ste­wart will cover his thoughts on ur­ban sur­vival. He’ll ad­dress some of the unique chal­lenges you can ex­pect to face and how to re­spond to them. Look for it in the De­cem­ber is­sue of Amer­i­can Sur­vival Guide.


Above: Creek Ste­wart, in his pre­ferred nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment (Photo: Creek Ste­wart) The Paiute dead­fall trap is a com­mon sur­vival skill taught by Creek dur­ing his out­door classes. (Photo: Creek Ste­wart) Left:

Left: Filming out­doors “in the field” some­times en­tails long hours and a gru­el­ing sched­ule, but it al­lows Creek to spread his knowl­edge to a large au­di­ence. (Photo: The Weather Chan­nel) Be­low: The cen­tral fire­place within Creek's com­pound of­fers him a com­fort­able place to sit back and re­lax—or to sharpen his blades for an up­com­ing ad­ven­ture. (Photo: Creek Ste­wart) Bot­tom: Ev­ery en­vi­ron­ment has its own ben­e­fits and dan­gers. Here, in the dry plains, Creek plans his next move to se­cure life-sus­tain­ing water. (Photo: The Weather Chan­nel)

Creek’s “Sur­vival Skill of The Month” in­struc­tional sheets are or­ga­nized in the included three-ring binder for fu­ture ref­er­ence. (Photo: Creek Ste­wart) Creek jumps in with both hands —and feet—to com­plete a com­pli­cated rope-weav­ing task. (Photo: Creek Ste­wart)

Far left: Creek, at 21 years old, teach­ing his first out­door sur­vival course (Photo: Creek Ste­wart) Near left: Creek, as a young scout, or­ga­nizes his grow­ing library of sur­vival and other ref­er­ence ma­te­ri­als. (Photo: Creek Ste­wart)

Top right: Creek Ste­wart's bi-monthly Apocabox ar­rives loaded with sur­vival gear and use­ful in­for­ma­tion that en­hances sub­scribers' abil­ity to re­spond to tough sit­u­a­tions. (Photo: Creek Ste­wart) Bot­tom right: This is an as­sort­ment of some of the types of items that can be found in an Apocabox ship­ment. (Photo: Creek Ste­wart)

Creek Ste­wart’s Build the Per­fect book se­ries of­fers great sur­vival ad­vice to be­gin­ners and ex­pe­ri­enced emer­gency pre­pared­ness prac­ti­tion­ers alike. (Photo: Creek Ste­wart)

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