Wilderness Skills Courses
Primitive Pursuits Wilderness Skills Courses offer some of the best outdoor skills instruction available - anywhere. Our senior program leaders have many year of experience teaching and practicing a wide variety nature-based skills that help us reconnect to the wild and learn to be better stewards of our home. Participants of all experience levels gain confidence and comfort in diverse natural habitats while learning how to live in the balance, in small groups, and becoming more intimately aware of how to integrate the living world back into our lives.
- Wilderness Skills Basics WinterFebruary, 9 - April 13, 2018Step out of your routine for 8 incredible Fridays steeped in outdoor skills, awareness and connection.
- Advanced Wilderness Skills (Spring)April 20 - June 8, 2018Take your wilderness skills to the next level while you continue connecting more deeply with the landscape and yourself.
- Nature Mentoring CertificationMay 22 - June, 15 2018Interested in teaching nature connection? This is where it all begins! WSB & AWS are not prerequisite for this program.
- Wilderness Skills Basics FallSept. 29 - Dec. 8, 2017Experience 8 incredible Fridays learning outdoor survival skills, deepening awareness and connecting with the natural world.
As part of a committed group that challenges, questions, explores, and plays together you will have many unique opportunities for personal & professional development, regardless of which course you choose...
The emphasis for the Wilderness Skills Course series is to introduce and go deeper into fundamental nature-based living skills and gain enough experience with each of them to know what's possible. With "wilderness survival" as a context for learning, you'll get to know yourself a whole lot more. You'll gain a working knowledge of natural resources that goes way beyond simply identifying things. You'll get to develop routines for integrating these relationships into your life and help others do the same.
Some nature-based living skills include:
One of the primary goals of these courses is to develop and deepen our awareness of the land, each other and ourselves. Through games, routines, journaling and deeply questioning our experiences we will come to our sense to see more, feel more and know more of what exists around and inside of us.
Knowledge of hazards:
For many of us fear can be a barrier to fully experiencing the natural world. There are real dangers out there, but there are also a lot of misconceptions. By separating real hazards from imagined ones we can safely push our edges and replace uncertainty with exhilaration and connection.
So much of human life revolves around shelter. It is one of the largest investments we make as people and it is a fundamental requirement for our survival and wellbeing. We will put our minds and hands to the challenge of using raw materials from the land to create a home in its most essential form.
Obtaining and treating water:
As far as we know there is no life without water, and there is certainly no human life unless safe drinking water can be found. Water connects us to the earth and all the life around us. As we explore this connection we will practice techniques for finding, carrying and purifying this precious resource.
Working with fire:
Fire has been a companion of human kind for more than 400,000 years. It cooks our food, warms our bodies and gives us the power to alter the land on which we live. Today fire is mostly hidden from view but its contribution to our daily lives is just as profound. Using skills mastered by some of our earliest ancestors, we will learn how to create fire and use it to fashion tools, cook food, and lead us closer to what it means to be human.
Direction finding, navigation and celestial movement:
Can you close your eyes right now and point south? Do you know what phase the moon is in and when and where it will rise and set? Until maps and compasses became available, knowing how the sun, moon and stars moved was vital to traveling safely through the landscape. We will learn to use maps and compasses but we will also figure out where we are in relation to celestial bodies and the signs they leave here on the earth.
Here in the Northeast we are surrounded by trees. By learning to identify them and understand their ecology we will begin to unlock an understanding of the landscape which goes way beyond the wall of green. Each species provides unique resources for us and the other animals and teaches us something new about the place we live.
Edible and medicinal plants:
We are surrounded by a rich tapestry of plant life. But our relationship to our wild plant neighbors is in need of healing. In many places complex native plant communities have been largely replaced by domesticated crops to provide us with food. As the consequences of these methods are realized, many people seek to change their relationship to the plant world. By using all our senses and the wonderful resources available to us we can get to know our neighbors again.
On our journey towards greater awareness we will learn to recognize and interpret the tracks and signs of the animals that move invisibly around us. Through naturalist studies, observation and journaling we will see how tracking animals leads us to track landscapes, the weather, the plants, each other and ourselves. At its best, tracking is a way of life where everything is a track.
Cooking on an open fire is one of the most useful and enjoyable skills to build. The cook fire is where people come together, songs are sung and stories are shared. Successful outdoor cooking requires knowledge, patience, and practice. One of our core routines will be to include plenty of hands-on time practicing our cooking skills.
Song and story:
Like the cook, the singer and the story teller were traditionally some of the most respected and popular people in the community. They were teachers and entertainers, and they kept the history of the people. Today these gifts are often industrialized and commodified to the point of feeling out of reach. Together we will make space to find our voices and return these vital survival skills to their place by the fire.
A string is a deceptively simple thing. A bundle of plant or animal fibers held together by some magical force to become one of the most useful materials ever created. Cordage has probably been part of the human tool kit for nearly as long as stone tools and many of our projects will make use of its strength. Our fingers will be reeducated in this ancient art as we learn to make strong cord and even rope from a variety of wild harvested materials.
Sticks and stones will be some of our greatest teachers throughout our journey. They will be our mysteries, our shovels, our cooking utensiles and the basis of that most ancient hunting tool - the throwing stick.
Many past participants have voiced experiencing powerful transformations in their lives as a result of these experiences, and we invite you to check out their feedback.
These courses may be repeated, or taken in sequence – with each season bringing unique challenges and opportunities for growth.
The “Basics” is recommended, but not required for the “Advanced” or the “Mentoring Certificate”.
"I have had the most beautiful and life-changing adventure. I cannot even begin to thank you enough for reawakening my curiosity, fueling my desire for adventure and introducing patience and so much beauty to my life." Wilderness Skills Alumna
Sensory Awareness, Animal Tracking, Field Identification, Plant Foods & Medicines, Bird Language, Forest Forensics & Hazard Identification
Wilderness Survival Skills
Mastery of Fire-Building & Friction Fire Techniques, Tool Crafting With Stone & Wood, Shelters for Survival & Wilderness Living, Camouflage, Aidless Navigation, Water Purification & Harvesting Wild Food Beyond Nuts & Berries
Teaching & Mentoring
Sharing Stories, Giving Back, Teaching Others, Spinning Threads, Following the Way of the Coyote & Finding Your Niche
"Another thing that stands out is how I actually feel like I know this deer now; how much compassion I feel for her; and how strongly I want to honor her life by using her hide, bones, meat, and sinew. The more work I put into turning her gifts into useful and beautiful things, the more respect I give her." T.C., Wilderness Year Participant