One of the things I got for Christmas was a gift card for a Survival 101 by Wildlife Services of Florida, (http://wildlifeservicesfl.com/default.aspx). It was a one day hike and lunch to cover the basics of Survival in the great outdoors with the family.
We start out the Morning by meeting Mark Burrow at the gate of Myakka State Park at 8am. We got there early and parked in the front parking lot and waited. Mark pulled up a few minutes later up to the gate. He quickly explained that we would not be doing the class in the park because there were too many tourist. It quickly set on me that it was going to be an adventure course, rather than a tour guide.
After leaving the park and heading a little more rural we arrived at the trail we were going to be hiking. It was a section of the Florida Trail in the Myakka Preserve.
We started hiking towards the first campsite we were going to stop at. Within 15 minutes of arrival a couple deer came accross the path. After a couple seconds of them checking us out they moved off. I wasn’t even ready to see deer that quickly into the trip so the camera wasn’t ready.
Once we were on the main part of the Florida Trail it was well maintained clear cut trail with a good marker system. The trail was a mix between ankle deep water and mud for the first couple miles due to a recent rain so we headed for higher ground. Once we got to the higher ground it was a mix between ankle deep water and grass, lol. The water was warming up with the sun so it wasn’t that bad with the proper footwear.
Along the way Mark pointed out things to look for. Pointing out things to look for in a shelter, food, and water. It was all hands on training. If he saw something that could be a food source he pointed it out. A couple good examples that he gave us were using the palmetto as a food source. You can eat the base of the young leaves before they fan out. Mark instructed us on how to remove them from the plant without getting injured by the saw like edges on the full grown leaves by standing on them and pulling the younger one. I guess my little brother missed something. Two seconds later from the back of the crowd we hear….”It got me”. In attempting to pull one out he laid open the side of his finger, tip of his thumb, and get a scratch on the wrist. In respect to everyone that checks this sight out I won’t post up all the bleeding pics…but I will say that I took a bunch for story telling amongst the family! Mark was on top of his game and provided him a couple band-aids making point that a complete first aid kit is necessary for any trip. Ok, I will put up one pic for the sake of the story.
Mark also taught us about this cool little plant that holds water called Sphagnum Moss. It grows in sheets on the ground and you can squeese it for drinking water. It was like a sponge, it heald tons of clean water.
We continued down the trail and started getting close to the campsite we were going to stop at to learn fire starting. Mark was pointing out along the trail good sorces of fire wood. He pointed at a previously burnt pine tree as a good example. My brother in law reached over, pulled it out of the ground, and threw it on his shoulder. He hiked with it all the way to the campsite!
We arrivedat the campsite and started up the fire. We all took off our shoes and socks to let them dry out while we were eating lunch. We all took the oppurtunity to get warm by the fire. It was a great little break. Mark explained to us what type of wood is best used for cooking, heat, and signal.
Mark kicking his feet in the fire to get them to warm up.
Kenny playing with his tree that he carried in.
Mark lit his cigarette with it. Turned out to be a pretty sweet pic.
We wrapped up lunch and started the hike back out. Mark took off his shoes for his prefered method of hiking, barefoot. It seemed the best way to travel with all the water. Nothing between the Man and the Earth.
Mark continued to point out food sorces along the way giving us tips and tricks for catching food. He pointed out finding moving water and catching small fish by putting down some mosquito netting. While walking along the trail I found a small minnow swimming in a stream that crosses the trail. After a couple attempts I caught it with my hands and turned it over to Mark…who without any hesitation, ate it. My Brother-in-Law asked what it tasted like. Marks responce, “Nothing if you don’t chew it”.
It was a great trip. Mark is a great resorce of knowlege on everything outdoors. If you have any questions you can ask him and he will give you an honest answer based on experience. His rates are a low for what you gain in the amount of time that you are with him. There is nothing better than a hands on approach to learning. He does everything from primative camping, survival course, nature observation and tracking, canoe trips to nowhere, even classes for kids. He also has a group on Facebook where he post up tips on camping and survival situations, (http://www.facebook.com/#/pages/Sarasota-FL/Wildlife-Services-of-Florida/139679466500?ref=ts).