UP Wilderness Survival: Tips from a 2nd Grader
When 8-year-old Nante Niemi disappeared during a family camping trip in the Porcupine Mountains, his parents feared the worst. But after two nights alone in the Michigan wilderness, Nante was found safe and sound. His experience highlights the importance of wilderness survival skills. Here are some tips for anyone planning a solo adventure in the UP's woods.
Know the Area
Seems like an oxymoron to familiarize yourself with an area you’re looking to “explore” but, before venturing out, at least research the area you'll be hiking. The Upper Peninsula's forests are beautiful, but they can also be treacherous and easy to get turned around in. Familiarize yourself with the terrain, climate, and wildlife. Bring a map and compass, and consider a GPS device for backup.
Forage for Food
According to Michigan State University, the UP's forests are full of edible plants and berries. Learn to identify safe options such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Don't eat anything you're unsure of, and avoid poisonous plants like poison ivy and sumac.
Pack light, but bring essentials such as water, food, a first aid kit, and a means to make fire. Bring clothing for varying temperatures, including a waterproof jacket and sturdy boots. The UP’s temperature can vary dramatically from day to night. And always let someone know your itinerary, including your planned route and expected return date.
Build a Shelter
If you're stranded in the woods, finding or building shelter is essential. A sturdy debris hut made of branches, leaves, and moss can provide warmth and protection from the elements. If you have a tarp or tent, find a level, dry spot to set it up.
In an emergency, a whistle, mirror, or bright clothing can help rescuers locate you. Keep hydrated and warm to avoid hypothermia. And always follow Leave No Trace principles to respect the environment.
Surviving alone in the UP's wilderness requires preparation, knowledge, and respect for nature. But with these tips, you can enjoy the beauty of Michigan's wild spaces while staying safe, just don't get lost.