Apr 132010
Authors: Ryan Sheine

For Beau Johnson, grasshoppers don’t taste bad; they just have a little kick. And they could save your life.

That’s the advice he gave two students and a self-described avid-hunter maintenance manager at his wilderness survival course at the Academic Village Tuesday afternoon.

Johnson, who is the residence director at the Academic Village, designed the course to help students to be safe and prepared for outdoor adventures and help them survive if lost or injured in the Colorado wilderness.

“I wish more students took advantage of Colorado,” Johnson said. “We live in one of the best states to explore and enjoy.”

People heading to the outdoors should rarely hike alone, always leave a note about where they are going and when they expect to be back, and all hikers should bring a map.

But if, despite preparation, a trip goes from good to bad, shelter, fire and a signal should take priority if someone wants to stay alive.
“You always wonder if your luck will run out when you’re in the woods,” non-degree seeking student Allison Shaw said. “It’s good to know what to do and to be prepared where most people would panic.”

Johnson said he always brings a shelter kit, a fire kit and a first-aid kit. Protection from the wind, water and sun is also key, he said, and a knife is the most important tool for surviving.

The course covered four ways to make a fire: water and wind proof matches, cotton balls soaked in paint thinner, flint and steel with magnesium and the boy scout method, which consists of making a hole in hardwood filled with woodchips and spinning a stick against the hole with enough friction to heat up and burn the woodchips.

In a snowstorm, the best place to build shelter is at the base of a tree where snow accumulates the least because, at 23 degrees Farenheit, anyone can get hypothermia.

If lost, Johnson said, food and water should not be a high priority because the body can last for days without them and energy expended trying to get food or water is energy that could have been focused on getting rescued.

“The thing that surprised me the most was that food and water is not your highest priority,” Shaw said. “Your highest priority is staying warm and getting help.”

But Johnson did give advice on how to retrieve water and what food to eat.

“I would not eat berries,” Johnson said, adding that 90 percent of all red berries are poisonous and 80 percent of all black berries are poisonous.

Fresh fish are always edible, as are lizards and frogs, but turtles, which eat poisonous plants, and toads, usually found in mud, are toxic, he said. Insects, on the other hand, are the best bet, especially after removing their wings and legs and avoiding the hairy ones.

Crickets, locusts and grasshoppers are the best eating and beetles are safe after being roasted over a fire to kill the bacteria that grow under their shells.

“I don’t think crickets and grasshoppers taste bad,” Johnson said. “They have a little kick to them.”

Johnson recommended never drinking any water without purifying it, but the best water to use is flowing water at higher elevations.

Justin Haze, a freshman computer engineering major, said he liked learning about what food was safe to eat and how to get drinking water.

“I’ve always been interested in nature and mountains,” Haze said. “I thought the course was really interesting, well-presented and there was really cool equipment.”

Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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