Years ago, I got hooked on A Game of Thrones. I was surprised to see HBO take the ambitious step of turning A Game of Thrones into a series – and doing a pretty good job of it too. Sure, some of my favorite background characters didn’t make the cut; a few situations changed too. But overall, HBO did a nice job preserving the essence of A Game of Thrones.
My first glimpse of The Wall, which the Night’s Watch guards to protect the realm from all sorts of encroaching bad stuff, added some fun for me. I realized that I’d been to thereÂ in-person. That revelation made me think of movie and TV filming locations I’ve visited in my travels. These were the first three that came to mind.
The Wall from A Game of Thrones
The real-life version of The Wall is Godafoss Waterfall, a waterfall between Akureyriand MyvatnÂ in northern Iceland. I visited in summer, long before the first movie crews arrived to turn it into a filming location forÂ A Game of Thrones. So what appears on your TV screen as an icy monstrosity 750 feet tall was considerably smaller, and flowing with milky-green water. I admire the creativity of the people who decide on locations for A Game of Thrones. I wouldn’t have looked at Godafoss and said “this is The Wall.”
And I know just about everyone hated Prometheus. I was less harsh since I’m not an Aliens fanboy. I saw the problems with it, but there were still parts I enjoyed – like the opening credit sequence, which pans over the landscape you’d see in the first stage of the Laugavegur trek leading away from Landmannalaugar. I annoyed my friends by chanting “I camped there, I camped there!”
Mordor and Mount Doom
I’m not a big Lord of the Rings fan. But the scenery is pretty epic. You can see Middle Earth filming locations throughout New Zealand – all the locations are there, and I’ve been to many of them. But nothing is cooler than saying you’ve climbed Mount Doom – in real life, it’s called Mt Ngauruhoe. To get there, you have to hike through the Rangipo Desert, which is also Mordor (but just known as the Tongariro Alpine CrossingÂ in the real world). I still keep meaning to go back and watch the corresponding movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
If you like Hercules:The Legendary Journeys or Xena: Warrior Princess, you can scope out many of their locations in New Zealand, too. Unfortunately, you’re not likely to run into Bruce Campbell.
Indiana Jones on the Run Raiders of the Lost Ark gets off to a rolling start, with Indiana Jones out-sprinting a giant stone marble that wants to squash him flat. He hightails into an amphibious plane and flies to safety.
You can kayak up that river with a visit to Kauai. It’s called the Hule’ia River, and it’s a major point for tourism in Kaua’i. I’m a big fan of Kauai since it’s more laid-back than anywhere else I visited in Hawaii. It’s mind-bogglingly green and verdant, and the Kauai topography doesn’t stay flat very long. Add the Raiders of the Lost Ark factor, and it’s obvious why so many film crews choose to work in Kauai.
This weekend, I took a primitive living skills course at the Aboriginal Living Skills School. The class, called "The Provident Primitive," started at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday. We returned to the school in Prescott at about 6 p.m. the next day.
Cody Lundin, who you may have heard of from the television show "Dual Survival," founded the Aboriginal Living Skills School and also taught the class in tandem with a second expert named Mark. Together, they took 10 of us through primitive living skills like traps, making drinking vessels, making a primitive hunting weapon, making fire without modern implements and identifying plants that are edible and useful.
I don’t want to give the Provident Primitive methods away in this blog post. But I want to give you an idea of what to expect if you sign up for their primitive-living class -- and share some key points from my experience.
This is What Cody is Really Like
We should get this out of the way for fans of the television version of Cody Lundin: Judging from the few episodes I saw, Real Cody and TV Cody are the same guy – intense but sincere. But he’s also more versatile than the show allowed him to be (more on that later). He also has a sentimental side, judging from several walls at the school where he’s posted letters from grade school kids who wrote to tell him that they’re walking around barefoot like him, and interested in learning skills like his.
And I’d be remiss without mentioning Mark more. He was once Cody’s student, and is now an excellent co-instructor (even though he wears shoes). Mark knows his craft well, and I was confident asking him for help.
Primitive Living Class is Not a Survival Class
No. "The Provident Primitive" is a way to step back 1,000 years to get a glimpse of the skills people living in the Southwest at the time may have possessed. This is about long-term hunting and gathering, plus making use of the environment. The primitive living skills class participants burned tons of calories working on our skills – exactly the opposite of what you want to do in a short-term survival situation.
Don’t sign up for a primitive living skills class if you want to know how to survive getting lost in the woods, or want to learn how to survive if all hell breaks loose in society. You can learn about those topics from Cody at the Aboriginal Living Skills School – but in a different class. Cody is capable of teaching topics spanning urban preparedness, self-reliance and survival. This is a point that you may not have picked up from "Dual Survival."
Re-Learning How to Drink Water
I thought I was hydration-savvy. Usually, I sip water all day long, usually 80 ounces plus on a weekday. And far more if I’m exercising. But I may have been doing it wrong: When we arrived at the "hike in" point to our training area, Cody encouraged us to down a minimum of 32 ounces -- even to the point of feeling nauseous. He predicted 30 minutes after filling up, we’d feel great.
He was absolutely right, so I established a "drink 32 ounces, refill and start disinfecting" policy. I always had a minimum of 32 ounces ready to drink, and I would fill at the river and start treating immediately after drinking. Despite a lot of sweat and work, I was never dehydrated. My lesson – don’t sip. Drink around 32 ounces, refill, repeat. Even at the office, not just during a primitive living skills class.
Oh, and something else: We treated our water with iodine. I started using cola-flavored Nuun hydration tablets to mask the flavor (but only after letting the iodine work its magic for at least 30 minutes). That was also a great way to tell me which of my bottles was treated and ready to drink.
Burning Calories Like Crazy
I packed what I thought was a lot of food. I had about 1,400 calories in trail mix alone. Add to that two cans of sardines in olive oil, two bagels, a mound of beef jerky, two ProBars and a Clif bar. Sounds like a lot, right? I ate everything except for a handful of trail mix and the Clif bar. I needed more. By the end of the second day, I felt like I’d ridden in an epic singletrack race. That told me I didn’t keep up with my caloric needs for all the hiking, chopping, sanding and cutting of the primitive living skills class.
Speaking of calories, fat and salt are your friends. Fat packs a lot of calories per weight unit. And salt – you need to replace what you sweat out. The Nuun tablets I mentioned earlier are gold. Again, this differs from a survival situation where you often need to dig into carbs.
Bring a Knife You Like
You’ll work a lot of a knife. Get one that you really like for this or any other primitive living skills class. I brought two, both by ESEE — an Izula and an ESEE-4. But I wound up using the tiny Izula (a 2.5-inch blade) most. Its flat back surface works better for batoning, and it just handles a bit better for tasks that require a light touch. The bigger ESEE-4 made short work of chopping tasks, though. I’m glad I had them both.
The school sells Morakniv Classic 2 knives for $20, and they’re pretty impressive. Simple, but sharp, sturdy and easy to handle. I’d recommend, though, showing up with your own preferred knife. That way, you can get acquainted with your knife if you haven’t already. Don’t bring a folding knife or anything like a Swiss Army knife. You need something sturdy and sharp.
Other Gear I Really Liked
I also brought a notebook, which was great especially for the edible plants section -- and for writing down random funny things Cody or Mark said (there were many). I also loved having a pair of work gloves for the chopping and sanding.
And good hat, some bandannas, a shemagh, two 32-liter plastic widemouth bottles and some eating utensils are also a huge help. I wore an old pair of quick-drying REI pants and a hemp t-shirt the entire weekend. When it was boot-wearing time, I had my Lowa boots and Darn Tough socks. I couldn’t find my Teva sandals, so I brought water shoes.
Silly me – I should’ve bought new Tevas -- and I hate wearing sandals of any sort. But the water shoes collecting silt and sand, while the Tevas would’ve just let it all flow straight through. Lesson learned. Oooooh … and check out GlacierGel. Handy stuff for the inevitable blisters.
Something That Felt Really Cool
Wallets, keys and cellphones were not allowed on the course. And it was one of the best feelings ever. Obviously, this isn’t something we can do in day-to-day life. But damn, this felt so good.
We also left sunglasses and toilet paper behind. Toothbrushes were OK, though. The Aboriginal Living Skills School sent me a packet all about the course, including the things to bring and things to NOT bring. I imagine that’s tailored to every course in the school’s catalog.
One more very interesting point: The reason for the sunglasses is because Cody gives every student a once-over before leaving. He wants to see what you look like well-rested and topped off (water and calories). After a tough day of work, he wants to be able to gauge your physical and mental state. Sunglasses, he says, allow you to bullshit about your state. He advises anyone who leads hikes to check out the group members without sunglasses on to get a read on them -- and to use that as a gauge for how they’re feeling as the day wears on.
Word of Warning
I have multiple blisters on my right hand. I have scratches all over me. And I’m still feeling like I had one helluva busy weekend. This is an intense, hands-on experience. I call it a "class," sure. But this isn’t algebra or creative writing. You’re going to get worked. Enjoy it!
Wrapping It Up
This is a lot longer than my typical blog post. But I have a lot to say about this primitive living skill course. It’s a really unforgettable experience, and it makes me eager to learn more. You can bet that I’ll practice the skills.
Cody and Mark are an excellent team. The training area is mind-bogglingly scenic. The lessons are completely engrossing. I was never for any stretch of time impatient or bored. I have a feeling that friends and co-workers will soon be sick of all my jabber about it. Sorry, friends, but it was just that much fun for me.
By the way, this primitive living skills class was a birthday present from my wife. And it’s the Provident Primitive is the best birthday present I’ve ever received, hands down.
I made my second visit to Portland in July, and I want to share some things you probably don’t hear about outside the Rose City. This is my Overlooked Oregon list.
Living Room Theaters
I rarely go to a movie theater. Most of the movies are absolutely awful. Well, at the big-time megaplex-style of theater, anyway. Portland’s Living Room Theaters is an exception. About 30 seats per theater, all of them comfy. Movies with real character and dialogue and craft. You can get real food and drink with your movie. And a ticket is all of $10. Go see a movie atÂ Living Room TheatersÂ when you visit Portland.
If you watch the Portlandia series, you’ll probably never hear the word "cacao" quite the same again. In this case, though, it’s not a kinky couple’s safe word: CacaoÂ isÂ a small place that specializes in drinking chocolate and other forms of chocolate. Careful â€“ the drinking chocolate is extremely rich. In retrospect, I should’ve gone for the smaller size and come back later for a second. Tackling 5 ounces of drinking chocolate at one shot can be a tall order. Still, delicious and worth a stop.
I can’t shut up about this place, nor stop wishing Phoenix had something that comes even remotely close. But, as Jules from Pulp Fiction said, we ain’t got the same ballpark, league or even sport here. We went twice. We ordered four different sandwiches. And don’t even ask me to try telling you which was best -- but the Cubano and pork meatball Banh Mi were particularly memorable. Oh, and Lardo hasÂ craft beer on tap.
Fort George Brewery
I’m cheating a bit here. Fort George Brewery is a few hours away on the coast in Astoria. Of course, that should be part of your trip anyway if you’re a proper retro-hipster pop-culture samurai who wants to see the filming location of The Goonies. Fort George Brewery is a cool-looking two-story building -- but look for the annex next door, where you’ll find the Tasting Room. You can still get food, but the atmosphere is more cozy and personable (the bartender was particularly cool). They have hard-hitting oak-aged beers, which I absolutely loved. But if you want an unusual standout, try the Spruce Budd Ale. It’s made entirely with spruce tips rather than hops. It packs a ton of flavor for a beer with less the 6 percent ABV. Atmosphere, food and great beer makeÂ Fort George Brewery a must-visit place on my Overlooked Oregon list.
It never fails to amaze me how many aviation museums I can stumble across. My latest one is the Tillamook Air MuseumÂ in Oregon.
To be honest, I didn’t even plan to stop. I’ve seen more aviation museums than I can remember. And the Tillamook Air Museum doesn’t exactly have a huge collection. My plans to skip it ended when I saw the words "AIR MUSEUM" in about 50,000-point font painted on the side a blimp hangar -- which also happens to be the world’s largest wooden structure. The overall mojo of the building alone makes it one of the more interesting aviation museums I’ve ever seen.
Even if the Tillamook Air Museum was completely empty, I’d still stop just to see the inside of the building. It’s that impressive, imposing and unusual – especially out in coastal Oregon. The hangar is the last one left on the site after the second hangar burned down in the 1990s. Less than half the surviving hangar houses the museum, while the rest is RV and boat storage (brilliant re-use of a huge building, really).
But I found a few cool surprises that elevated the experience to one of the better aviation museums: My favorites were the Mini-Guppy, MiG-17, A-7 and F-14 Tomcat. There are also some rather neat gyrocopters and homebrewed private planes in the collection.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention any WWII warbirds, despite Tillamook Air Museum claiming to be one of the best WWII aviation museums. Some of the static displays and memorabilia are great WWII items, but most of it is post-1940s era.
I was just as fascinated by the area around the hangar as I was by the aircraft collection. The area was known as Naval Air Station Tillamook. It also had airfields and railways; some of the rail lines still house derelict steam and diesel locomotives, which I thought was extra-cool.
My advice: Stop if you are anywhere nearby. It’s $9 for an adult admission to one of the more unusual aviation museums you’ll ever see.
A funny-looking chopper at the Tillamook Air Museum.