Tag Archives: backcountry

Using Survival to Improve Your IQ

I have always said that survival and bushcraft helps to make our brains better. It offers problem solving, creativity, the creation of new neural pathways, and building of social skills. The human brain is fascinating and even as we get older we still need to keep exercising our brains. Building and expanding the super hiways of knowledge and skill not only keeps life more interesting, but can actually reduce the onset of age related disease such as Alzheimer’s

This morning I found this great article and it happens to be from my Emergenetics instructor, Dr. Geil Browning, who is also the co-creater of Emergenetics. Please take a look at the article later, in the mean time I thought I would expand on her viewpoints into our world of survival and bushcraft.

Below I have used Geil’s ideas for building your intelligence and converted them into how survival and bushcraft training can work as an activity base to build better intelligence.

Seek Novelty

While some programming of our body is “hard wired” into us at birth through DNA, we also create new neural pathways every time we experience something new and different.



Survival and bushcraft training place you in a novel experience from the start. In my early studies with Dr. Jon Johnson of Team Leadership Results, he focused on how new and novel experiences are a platform for creating the experiential learning environment. Setting up a shelter in the woods, starting fires with new methods, and simplifying your gear to 8-12 items for a weekend hike are all part of a new experience. Taking a class in firecraft, wild edibles, or even 18th century sewing are examples of new experiences that will help build new neural pathways.

Challenge Yourself

When asked, most of us would agree that its’ life’s experiences that teach us the most. We need to learn new things every day of our life just to sustain ourselves.

The pathway along which information travels through the neurons of the brain is a neural pathway. A neural pathway created through life’s experiences. Imagine you lived in the woods and you had to walk from your cabin to a near by stream, but there isn’t a path. As you meander through the woods to the stream each day you begin to form a small path. Pretty soon, the path is wide enough you can ride a bike for faster access. Not only have you built the pathway, you have created a mini-highway to travel on. You know it so well you could navigate it without thinking about it. The only way to make it more challenging is to do it at night, or in the snow, or even walking backwards.


Once you have acquired skills such as making fire, navigating using a map and compass, or purifying water by boiling it, you need to continue to not only practice to master, but rather challenge yourself through the use of different methods, tools, environmental challenges or by handicapping. I make on average 5-7 fires a week using various methods, none of which include matches or lighters. When I fell down the stairs a few months ago and had my arm in a sling, I challenged myself to build fires using only one hand, and at that, my weak hand to produce fire. To challenge your own fire skills you don’t need to launch headfirst into a wall, but you can try to create fire in the rain (or turned on sprinkler system), purify water without your normal kit, or navigate in the dark.

Think Creatively

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Survival and bushcraft training builds your problem solving and creativity skills better than many other methodologies. The more opportunities we have to solve basic issues in the outdoors and experiences we endure, the more we learn and grow. For the most part these experiences are a benefit even if we fail and don’t feel we had a successful or positive experience.11051824_813188598758137_1437814250976477492_n

Some of the best experiences I have had is when things were not going as panned and I had to think of new options. In 2003 I lost all my water while on a trip into Big Bend National Park. I had to find creative ways to make shade during the day so I could hold up when temps were soaring, find or extract water from plants and rock crevices, and navigate at night when it was cooler.

Another way to push creativity is by making your own gear. Anoraks, sheaths, and ditty bags are just of the few items you can start with to push your own creative skills.10425395_813166015427062_457774323447097901_n

Do Things the Hard Way

I get harassed allot for not using matches and lighters and that gasoline and flares make fire faster. But pushing myself to make fire by friction grows new pathways in my brain. I would take this one a bit further though and say to learn to endure discomfort as well. Having solid skills is one thing, applying those skills when the conditions are challenging are a step better.




On the surface we think of survival and bushcraft training as a solo endeavor. There is a whole network of people just like you who want to increase their skill level. Working through simulated problems, learning together, and even challenging each other builds strong friendships.



Here is a link to the original article by Dr. Browning:


Idaho Scenic Byways

DCIM100GOPROThis is the time of year to hit the scenic byways of Idaho. These are great one-day and even multi-day trips that most vehicles can handle. If you have been a steady reader of the blog or the podcast, you know we love to hit these 4-wheel adventures. Idaho has so much to offer.

When researching, make sure your first stop is to http://www.visitidaho.org/scenic-byways/ where you can order your free travel guide. While the guide lacks many of the details to plan out your trip, it does give you enough of a view to pull out the map and do some planning.

Go Prepared

While some trips don't require this much recovery gear, trips on backcountry byways requirs that you go completely preparred

While some trips don’t require this much recovery gear, trips on backcountry byways requires that you go completely prepared


But before you head out- think of how you pack for the trip. Remember Idaho’s byways range from rural to remote. Be sure you have any emergency gear packed for the trip such as first-aid, good communications, extra water, tools, etc. Some of these byways skirt alongside backcountry areas so help will not always be a phone call away. If you have a breakdown or other emergency- you need to be prepared to stay for awhile. In my other article I briefly outline what we take on trips such as the Owyhee Backcountry Byway, one of the most remote byway trips in Idaho.

I keep a road atlas with me to do over-the-hood planning while on the road. They are great for reference along the way

Shutter Bugs

253No matter where you start out from, there are great options for awesome scenery. Be sure to pack your camera and if you are really a shutter bug, pack those once-in-a lifetime lenses you rarely pull out. This last winter I had my dad along Sawtooth, Payette River, and Western Heritage byways where he had opportunity to shoot pics of Antelope, a young brood of Sand Hill Crane, and a few other hard to get close to animals. In addition, great scenery abounds on the byways so packing a tripod and a wide angle is a must. Pack extra batteries, throw in a dust cloth for the lenses, and maybe an extra memory card. There are even opportunities for the iPod photo enthusiast so keep your car charge handy.266

Soak in the Sites

  IMG_6040 Stop off at the small museums, wineries, and state parks along the way. There are great stops along the way like Craters of the Moon National Park along the Peaks to Craters Byway or Huston Wineries along the Snake River Byway. Most have great mom and pop diners for lunch, keep cash on hand for some of the better stops. Better yet, throw in your own picnic. We usually throw in lunch for the day and stop for dinner or start off with breakfast in a non-chain dive. IMG_6043I love driving but need a break from hours of windshield time. I like to find an area where we can park and either pull out sandwiches or I can do a quick burger or two on one of our portable grills. I even throw in a few lawn chairs to relax in.

Journal It

Capture moments along the way and post in the journal

Capture moments along the way and post in the journal

DCIM100GOPROThere are 30 official byways in Idaho. I recommend creating a special journal for the adventure, and log each one with thoughts to scribe, postcards, pictures, museum tickets, etc.


Sometimes we will take a few days to do one or more byways- and camp along the way. This is where our home built Explorer box designed by Compact Camping Concepts is a huge benefit.

Sometimes we will take a few days to do one or more byways- and camp along the way. This is where our home-built Explorer box designed by Compact Camping Concepts is a huge benefit.

For more information checkout the article just released from Magic Valley Times-News http://magicvalley.com/lifestyles/recreation/scenic-byway-adventures-adventure-guide/article_8f53f418-d7d0-11e3-aaf4-001a4bcf887a.html

In addition, I have a few write up on my own byway tours at AdventureIQ.com including these two…



And if you see us on the road out there-stop and say hey! We just might have a sticker or two for you!

3 Horse Ranch



Smoked trout made this a great experience!


With a tasting room that is open and friendly- you feel right at home to ask questions about the great wines they offer


Continuing our dirt road love fest

So let me start of by saying I am not a wine expert. Except for very special occasions I really don’t drink alcohol. I enjoy brewing beer- but about 99% of that goes to friends who say I do a pretty good job at it. So to understand the world of wine is a stretch.
Combining our quest of finding dirt road destinations and my desire to do something “fancy” for my bride, the 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards was an automatic choice. I wanted to let Melissa feel like a princess for the day. I wanted her to have the option of coming out of hiking boots and shorts, put on same make-up, discard her baseball hat, and feel pretty. With me in my Mountain Khakis and a t-shirt, we decided on a tour of the west valley wineries. 3 Horse was selected for three reasons…open on Sunday, had a food menu, and of course it was on a dirt road.
IMG_0596I had never been to a tasting room, and upon learning this, we were given a great education on how tastings work and what to expect. I immediately liked the fact that we were not belittled since we both were new to this experience. The tasting room isn’t stuffy either, it’s like hanging out in a friends well done kitchen while they prepare a meal and entertain.
The tasting included a small snack of smoked trout and cheese with a baguette. We sampled several wines and were encouraged if there was not something we like, to pour it out. Each wine was explained in very non-technical terms. For fun, we were taught the how and why to swirl the wine in our glass.
The winery is located just outside of Eagle, Idaho where they take full advantage of the growing conditions and incredible soil content. They are even certified as organic. Very friendly and proud of their product- you can quickly learn about how it is made and the best ways to serve. This is a must-do for you and a date.
For more information checkout the website at http://www2.3horseranchvineyards.com/press/ and of course we will do a podcast- and perhaps we can get them for an interview.


Organic vineyards cover the dusty landscape on the way to the tasting room

Reality Bytes

Great day today in the back country. Cold, wet, rainy. I don’t care. I needed time to rest and just get thoughts together. Slogged my way in over battered roads filled with the aftermath of rock slides and a very wet winter. Its like driving on a washboard….It takes two and a half hours to go 30 miles. Time well spent.

Time with my pups, time to think. I have had a good nap, coffee over a campfire, grilled some brats on an open flame. Wind gently rocks the trees and my hammock. Somewhere between naps I record a couple of long over due podcast, something I like much more than the videos we do. (making good video is really difficult- we suck at it.) Chilled by the wind blowing across my back I decided to ponder the cold, walk back to the fire, and now you are stuck with my thoughts below…

Sobering thoughts occur. Not nostalgic, not morbid, not even melancholy. I am becoming more and more aware of various realities which for me is good. I often wonder if I live alone in some kind of self-created world. Its good every now and then to take a moment and wonder what is real and what is Memorex. (I understand that some of you will not get this tag line at all….that’s okay.)

I admit that I have wondered out loud at who reads my blogs, subscribes to my podcast, and who watches the videos. It blows me away when I see that on one video I get 50,000 views. At the same time, I quietly wonder why some videos only have three views…..two of which are probably my own. When I pour out my heart in one media and only 5 people have read it, yet my dog Trigger who has a blog has at times 10x to 20x the fans, comments, and inquiries about t-shirts and mugs….well I have to ask myself what is going on. (I secretly wonder if Trigger has hired a PR manager)

We live in a world bombarded by messages. Our news, our social life, our education, our updates are channeled through a network and often measured in bandwidth. I find it a blinding glimpse of the obvious when I get more views about a backpack or survival knife than a bantering between my wife and I about a project for the most part people just don’t understand. I don’t blame them. I mean here I am touting the the life of loving the outdoors, try something new, be adventurous in life….and at the same time I often just want to curl up in an easy chair with a bag of chips and the newest concoction of cheese sauce. People have choices….and in Uzbekistan I seem to be one of them. I really don’t understand that one.

People are tired and want to live through the lives of people they see in Amazing Race, they don’t want to be part of an amazing race. I often think that televised sports is so popular (and I love my football and hockey) is because there is no risk. You can sit in your man cave (or the female equivalent) and comment on the “shoulda” or “coulda” without having to be in the situation. You don’t have to face the violent hits, or the frustration of contract negotiations. I admit, I hate reality TV. I think we are teaching the next generation the only way to resolve conflict is through more conflict. Take any of the shows you see, Axe Men, Deadliest Catch, Next Top Model, etc and put these into your current work environment….its like an HR nightmare. There is very little reality in Reality TV.

I like the risk. I love the adventure. I only want a venue to show others that a lifestyle of adventure brings families, teams, friends closer together and helps to prepare them for the major adventures in life. I cherish moments like today when I can get outside and the greatest challenge is to remove a pile of bowling ball rocks dangerously blocking the road and the hardest decision was where to filter water from. I love this life.

50,000 or 5 views…. I would love to say I don’t care…. I do. It sounds egotistical. It sounds like I’m insecure….yep I admit it. But in a world where people get so much….maybe too much access to information we have to be more cognoscente of what we put out there. I make a promise to myself to balance the sharing of my goals, dreams, and nonsense with updates on the latest technology in cutlery. Deep down, like everyone, I want to be heard.

This is my life and I know it is working well. Its not a fantasy. I have a wife and kiddo that love to try new things, to adventure, to live free. My job is to guide them.

The beautiful thing…it has to be more than just adventure for the sake of adveture. More than just about kayaks and snowshoes. We have to adventure for the purpose of something greater than ourselves. That is the next adventure. The real adventure. And if only a handful of people take notice, I have to be okay with that.

And now back to the sounds of wild geese honking, the wind wiping across my campsite, time to pack up and head down a battered road to Monday. The road is a metaphor for the daily grind, and the Jeep with all of its rattles is the vehicle that carries me through it…back to another weekend of adventure.

Red Baron / Oasis Recon #1

This was only one of the several legs of this trip---did over 120 miles of dirt on Sunday alone. I enjoy using the Garmin to track and upload, but still have issues in it capturing everything I do on a trek.

This trip could be called so many different things and as I have tried to sort through pictures and videos….well in spite of traversing the old town of Oasis (Idaho) and Elk Creek Ranch, I landed on “Red Baron Recon”, simply because as a pilot I fly over this private airstrip all the time. (Really- no pun intended here…)

This will be an on-going overlanding adventure since I just don’t have the time right now to take several weeks to explore this region of southwest Idaho. My main goal is to find opportunities for my photo-bug (Melissa) to see as much diversity in wildlife, flora, and architecture as possible.

My adventure began on Friday evening with a trip south of town with Melissa and Abby to do some star-gazing. Using an app on our iPad, we are able to identify various stars, planets, and constellations. It also gave me a reason to use the new driving lights. Not that it really required it…but they were there so I used them anyway.

Saturday morning Abby and I loaded up early with rain gear, a shot gun, a rifle, three days rations, and a gps and spent the day hunting rabbits, chasing geo-caches, and exploring an area south of Indian Creek. She was pretty exhausted by the end of the day and the roads were getting soupy, so I took her home for the night.

By Sunday I was back on the trail. Departing with a”no estrogen rule” and my faithful adventure partner Trigger, I set out to explore the trails from Indian Creek to “where ever”.

Now usually I would say it is not wise to go without map. I purposely wanted a “wunder-lust” experience. I spend a great deal of time with maps as it is…and just needed the break and try something new.

I would also surmise that most people had no idea where I was. I admit I broke not one, but two of my own rules. But before you turn me over to the Explorers Club for rule violations, I need to explain the equipment and emergency gear I did have on hand. Besides, I have a rule with those who tell me I shouldn’t explore alone. If you are that worried about me, pay for my Spot GPS subscription- and I will post up where I am on these adventures. Otherwise- I am going and will post in the blog when I get back.

Here is what I am packing:

  • Full Survival pack including 5 gallons of water, sleeping bag, signal kit, 3 days of food for two, and a bivvy tent.
  • CB radio, cell phone (phones are mostly useless), Ham radio with pre-loaded frequencies, aircraft radio with back-country frequency and emergency frequency preloaded (worse case scenario I would use it)
  • 25 years of continuous survival training and three actual “Wow…I could die” situations under my belt
  • Back-up GPS
  • Tow straps, tools, hand-winch, etc.

With that out of the way….

The trip was awesome on Sunday. I explored areas containing old dump sites (circa 1920-1940), saw several types of hawks, the emergence of a few whistle pigs, and miles and miles of dirt roads. Many impassable with two-wheel drive.

The main point of the trip is to find areas for my wife to photograph so I was moving pretty quick from point to point. On the next round I will definitely take a map with me since she will be in the rig. I am certain that there is a route to take me through some great country and hope that when the snow fades from the mountains, this will be part of our exploration into eastern Idaho. I know there is a back-country road going from Hailey to Mackay, now if I can find dirt that takes me to Haley, I will be set.

So in the morning it is back to work to pay for my adventure addictions…tonight I expect to dream of muddy roads and hawks dancing in the air.