When many people take to the trails or spend a weekend camping, they are often on the lookout for bears or snakes, thinking they’re the most dangerous predators they’ll encounter in the woods.
But it turns out, your foes living in the woods are actually tiny insects, such as fire ants or stinging wasps, that are much more plentiful and easier to get tangled with.
This and other forest survival information is on the agenda this weekend at Amicalola Falls State Park’s Wilderness Survival Weekend. The two-day event is packed with programs that include how to build a shelter, how to identify medicinal plants and how to start a campfire.
Saturday’s classes start with Loss Prevention, a lesson in keeping yourself from getting lost and having to use wilderness survival techniques, said the park’s interpretive ranger Lauretta Dean. But should you find yourself lost in the woods, she said the class, Be Prepared, should help you find your way. Other classes on Saturday include a session on dangerous critters — which will include a live snake demonstration — an edible medicinal hike and a wilderness cooking class.
"The first one out of the gate is 10 a.m., Loss Prevention, followed by Be Prepared," Dean said. "What that is is No. 1, don’t get lost in the first place — how not to get lost, how not to be in a survival situation.
"But the second program at 11, if you do find yourself in a survival situation, this is what you should have. This is what you should know," she added. "And that’s, you know, being prepared."
The classes are held two hours apart, with the final class, Wilderness Cooking, starting at 7 p.m.
On Sunday, the classes get even more hands-on, when wilderness students try their hand at starting fires and building shelters.
"Our really intense stuff is going to be Sunday," Dean said. "They’re actually going to be starting a fire using a magnesium bar — no matches, a magnesium bar. It’s wonderful stuff; all you have to do is get one little spark to get to the magnesium and, kablooie, you’ve got a fire.
"Except it’s not that simple. But we’re going to make it look simple," Dean added.
The shelter building class will also have participants building their own shelters.
"We’re actually going to have groups of people out there building shelters," Dean said. "And the only stipulation will be that, A: It has to be big enough to cover everyone in the group. So if there’s eight people building a shelter, they (got to) cram eight people in there somewhere. But that’s real hands-on."
Dean said she will be teaching a map and compass reading class throughout the day, which means she’ll be trying to cram a lot of information into the hourlong session — in many places, such a course would be taught over a two-week period, she said.
The Sunday classes will take place throughout the day, so if a class is full, participants can simply try another class later.
"Those hands-on experiences are going to be at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.," Dean said. "In other words, I will be doing Map and Compass all three times, and that way if one class is full, they can just scoot to another one and do a round robin thing."
And the cost for all this wilderness knowledge? Nothing but the $3 parking fee.
"Three dollars to get in the car, and that’s it," Dean added. "It’s a pretty good deal."