SURVIVAL’S NITTY GRITTY
PART 3 OF AMERICAN SURVIVAL GUIDE’S EXCLUSIVE THREEPART INTERVIEW WITH SURVIVAL INSTRUCTOR AND AUTHOR CREEK STEWART
rop in between.
In general, I’ll discuss what I refer to as “wild water.” This is simply surface water, such as a river, ond or stream, in any back-country wilderness environment. Recent studies suggest that this ype of backcountry water is surprisingly less risky to drink than most might assume. Through arious tests, it has been found that even where the microbes that cause disease exist, they are ften so dilute that they don’t pose a real threat to humans. [Go to https://www.wemjournal.org/ article/s1080-6032(04)70498-6/fulltext for more information on this topic.]
However, every effort should still be made to either filter out or kill all microbes from wild water, cluding bacteria, protozoan cysts and viruses. Minimizing risk is at the core of survival. Survival different from camping. If you’re camping and you drink wild water that gets you sick, you just o home or go to the hospital and you’ll be okay in a few days. Because these options aren’t vailable in a survival scenario, the decision to drink wild water without making sure it’s safe is pretty big one. The consequences are dire—vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and eventually, eath. This exact scenario is one of the leading causes of death in the world. It’s a serious issue if edical attention isn’t available.
With all of that said, even if there is no way to filter, boil or otherwise purify wild water, one hould always drink before suffering from advanced stages of dehydration. Dehydration will kill ou 100 percent of the time.
“IN MY EXPERIENCE, A CAMP EXPOSED TO THE WIND WITH A SMOKY FIRE IS THE BEST SOLUTION FOR MOSQUITOES.”
ASG: On the subject of liquids—drink your own urine during desperate times, or is this ever okay?
CS: It is never okay. Here’s a quick and simple biology lesson: Urine contains sodium. The
mount of sodium can vary depending on the diet and the person. In order for your kidneys to process salt water, it must first be diluted using your fresh water stores. This fresh water is pulled om other areas of your body to do this. Ultimately, because of this biological process, you end p urinating out more water than you took in, which leads to increased dehydration.
However, it is possible for a person’s urine salt level to be lower than his or her body, which ould not require the excessive use of fresh-water stores. But when you’ve reached a point of ehydration where you’re considering drinking your urine, it is likely very concentrated with not nly sodium, but also an array of other waste products your body is desperately trying to get rid f. Instead, use your urine in a makeshift solar still and distill the potable water from it.
ASG: When cooped up in a camp with others for days on end and no showers in sight, does one ventually become oblivious to the combined odor of smoke, sweat and dirt everyone emits?
CS: In my experience, it’s quite the opposite. The aromas of smoke and dirt are welcome smells ver anything and everything the human body secretes, expels and emits. Several years ago, I lmed a television show for which I took three guys into the woods for a week. We’d oftentimes leep in close quarters. I’ll never forget one particular week when we actually named our shelter The Funk Bunker.”
ASG: From mosquitos to biting flies to imbedded ticks, have you ever witnessed insects taking own even the most seasoned outdoorsman?
CS: Biting insects can drive a person to the brink of insanity. I’ve been swarmed by black clouds f mosquitoes in northern Minnesota and have had to scrape seed ticks from my skin with a rowel in Missouri. There is no greater feeling of helplessness or torment. It is a torture unlike any ther; and, in some instances, it can be nearly impossible to escape.
This is one of the greatest reasons I prefer cold weather survival over warm weather survival. I’ll hop firewood over battling insects any day of the week. In my experience, a camp exposed to he wind with a smoky fire is the best solution for mosquitoes.
ASG: Has there been a time, under pressure and under the camera’s eye, that you failed or took ay too long to complete a normally simple survival task?
CS: There aren’t enough pages in your magazine for me to list them all! Trust me when I tell you hat my career is filled with more failures than successes.
I’ll never forget my first big news appearance. was just starting out as a survival instructor nd landed an appearance on the largest news etwork in our region. I was pumped, because his was my big break.
I decided to shock and awe the host and viewing audience with the bow drill fire start. fter I finished talking about the importance f choosing the right survival instructor, I ot down on the ground and started drilling. omething wasn’t right. I started to sweat nd get frustrated. I looked up a minute or so ater to see the executive producer making he “cut” sign with her hand across her throat. was like one of those bad dreams where ou go to school in your underwear—except wasn’t a dream. I failed, and I was humiliated. hey cut to commercial break, and I left eeling completely demoralized.
That would be the first of many embarrassing failures in my life as a survival instructor.
ASG: Which one survival task or technique (if ny) would you be embarrassed to say that you mply “can’t get,” no matter how much you try?
CS: I’m not sure about “can’t get,” but I’m not a big fan of big, open water. I’d really prefer never to have to survive on a raft in the middle of the ocea
ASG: You make it look easy to film a survival-style television program, but behind the scenes, does the power of Mother Nature frequently throw a curve ball into the mix?
CS: Thank God for editors! Every time I set up to teach a solar fire-start while filming, the clouds ro in. Every time I try to have a conversation to the camera around a fire while filming, the smoke blow straight into my face. Every time I’m confident I can find a wild edible plant in an area, there are none in sight. One thing I’ve learned about filming and survival is that your greatest skill is flexibility. Mother Nature always throws you a curve ball. I’ve always thought it ironic that we call her “Mother Nature. That term implies that she cares and might want to nurture you. She doesn’t care. Not at al
ASG: For better or for worse, your exposure “on-air” gives you a celebrity status among many viewers and followers. Has this experience always been positive, or have there been some situations that made you long for the out-of-the-spotlight life again?
“I’VE ALWAYS THOUGHT IT IRONIC THAT WE CALL HER 'MOTHER' NATURE. THAT TERM IMPLIES THAT SHE CARES AND MIGHT WANT TO NURTURE YOU. SHE DOESN’T CARE. NOT AT ALL!”
CS: Despite my very public persona, I am a ery private person. In general, it’s all positive. ut, I’ll address the negative aspect with a tory about myself.
Hardly anyone knows that I’ve struggled ith a dry skin condition called psoriasis ost of my life. Because it was visible n my scalp and legs, middle school was retty brutal. You know how kids are. I hated ym glass, and lice checks were my worst nightmare! I was the butt of more than one middle school joke, that’s for sure. I remember when I was a kid, lying in bed crying and sking God why in the world He would allow e to have skin like that.
Thirty years later, I finally figured it out! He as just toughening me up to be a well-known survival instructor in a world with social media!
ASG: And speaking of dedicated fans, what ould you say is the oddest gift that someone as sent you?
CS: I’ve received a ton of awesome gifts from ans. These include knives, artwork, cards, tters, photos, clothing, souvenirs, handmade ifts, books, Bibles, a big box of mugwort aves and even clippers—with a note comanding me to cut my hair! One guy sent me he spindle from his first successful bow drill. ve gotten freshly baked cookies and homemade jams. I’ve opened packages with seeds, plants, fruit, antlers and even freshly made aple syrup. I’ve received Boy Scout patches om all over the world and photos of big, fat ow drill embers.
But there’s one gift that stands out from all he rest. I’ll never forget opening it. Inside was a card and small box that looked kind of like a jewelry box. I opened the card, which explained that the ashes in the little box were from Sam, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi who apparently loved watching reruns of my show, SOS: How to Survive, on The Weather Channel. The owner explaine in the card that every time Sam heard my voice, he would run and sit in front of the television and learn survival skills. He felt Sam would want at least a part of his remains to be with me.
Who would’ve thought that my biggest fan would be a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named Sam! Rest in peace, Sam.
ASG: When taking “newbies” out into the wild for days or perhaps weeks, what personal item is the most difficult for them to give up during their time away? And when they do, how long is it before they forget about it and enjoy the wonders of nature around them?
CS: Their bed. They typically forget about it around day three—after two nights of no sleep.
ASG: Last, but certainly not least: your name. Is it truly "Creek," or is that just a fitting nickname? And will you reveal your actual first name?
CS: We have a tradition in our family to name the boys after where they were born. It worked out pretty well for me, but my brother got the short end of the stick. His name is Elevator. So, was I really born in a creek?
No; Creek is a nickname given to me by my grandfather. It seems I spent a lot of time in the creek when I was a boy, and every time my family needed to know where I was, they looked to the creek. Before long, they just started calling me that. It suits me. Ironically, with my profession, I still spend most of my time in a creek somewhere. I've often said that my grandfather defined my destiny with that name; he'd get a real kick out of what I've decided to do with my life.
So, what’s my real name? I have no problem sharing that. But, I'll answer your question with a bit of a quiz. It's the first book in the New Testament. No, it's not Genesis—i said the New Testament.
“I STILL SPEND MOST OF MY TIME IN A CREEK SOMEWHERE. I'VE OFTEN SAID THAT MY GRANDFATHER DEFINED MY DESTINY WITH THAT NAME; HE'D GET A REAL KICK OUT OF WHAT I'VE DECIDED TO DO WITH MY LIFE.”
Left: Creek skins a snake, which he says tastes very good (and yes, it tastes similar to chicken). (Photo: The Weather Channel)Below: The sun casting shadows, the wind blowing props or a sudden rainstorm can put a dent in an otherwise smooth shooting schedule. (Photo: The Weather Channel)Bottom: Things don’t always go as planned when under the camera’s eye. Creek learned this firsthand while filming in Mother Nature’s backyard. (Photo: The Weather Channel)
Far left: Althoug eating a scorpion will provide some much-needed calories, it is not the tastiest snack in the world. (Pho to: The Weather Channel)Near left: SurvivaHacks is just one of many books Creek Stewart has written, including a couple of fiction works. Visit his website to see the complete list.
Below: Creek boils tiny minnows inside a plastic bottle over his makeshift campfire. (Photo: The Weather Channel)Bottom: Creek cooks squirrel meat over an open fire. (Photo: Creek Stewart)
Bottom right: Creek ties off support ropes before his descent down the mountainside. (Photo: Creek Stewart)
Top right: Creek takes an ordinary item—in this instance, a spoon— and creates an extraordinary survival aid: an arrow point. (Photo: The Weather Channel)
Creek demonstrates his resourcefulness as he creates a pair of shoes using a car’s floor mats. (Photo: The Weather Channel)