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The Gearboat Chronicles

Nacho Cheese Doritos vs. Wild

I got my big break in show business this past fall after the TV show Man vs. Wild filmed an episode in Hells Canyon. My exciting role in the production was to drive one of their rental trucks back to Wallowa County after the film crew flew home.

True, shuttling a vehicle isn’t exactly a starring role, but I did get to clean the garbage out of the rig and that provided some revealing behind-the-scenes tidbits.

For instance, nacho cheese Doritos seem to be an essential food source for filming survival situations. Also convenience store beef jerky. There were many bags of both items left behind.

They also left a copy of their filming schedule on the dashboard, and it makes for interesting reading. If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s a summary from the Discovery Channel website: “In each episode of Man vs. Wild Bear strands himself in popular wilderness destinations where tourists often find themselves lost or in danger. As he finds his way back to civilization, he demonstrates local survival techniques….”

“Bear” Grylls is the nickname of the host. Short for Edward Michael Grylls. I don’t watch much TV, so the filming schedule made much more sense once I learned that Bear was a person. Before that I was puzzled how they knew that on Day 2, they were going to film “Bear on the benches” between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. I didn’t know wildlife worked on a schedule.

At 10:30, “Bear comes to the edge of steep drop – woooooah this is hairy.” Then “Bear descends into valley, rocks are all loose.” Followed by an “actuality of Bear leaping around” for sequence 2.3.

While I don’t actually know what an actuality is, I don’t believe I’d ever seen the word “woooooah” before either. But these are show business terms, so I won’t question them.

I was looking forward to seeing the show, as I’ve been working in Hells Canyon for the past couple summers doing rafting trips for Winding Waters River Expeditions. We run a tight ship and have a spotless safety record, but it can’t hurt to be prepared if there ever comes a time when I have to rely on survival tactics to get myself out of the deepest canyon in the lower 48. I did find myself in dire straits on one trip last year, when we ran out of beer and I was forced to drink nothing but water and Gatorade for a full day and a half. It was touch and go.

Also, we have a satellite phone just in case something comes up, but that wouldn’t make for exciting television, showing footage of placing a call.

I thought I was getting to know Hells Canyon fairly well, having spent my summers down there and studying up on the geography. But in the Man vs. Wild show he encounters a frozen lake that he says is in Hells Canyon, and I have to confess that was news to me. I do know of a small pond near Lamont Springs that’s near an eagle’s nest and an old cabin, but no lake surrounded by conifers like Bear discovers. But that’s OK with me. He crawls out on the ice and falls through, so I’d just as soon stay clear of that mystery lake that doesn’t appear on the maps.

I did glean some useful pointers from the show. For instance, I never would have had the good sense to polevault down a steep slope with loose rocks. It’s right here on the filming schedule, at 8:30 a.m. – “Dead Pine/Larch – This could be the answer, makes polevault.”

I wasn’t trained by the British Special Air Service as Bear was, so in my ignorance I would have thought that swinging through the air and landing on loose scree would be a good way to break an ankle. But now I know better and if ever I need to make my way out of a steep remote area, polevaulting will be my preferred mode of travel. Good to know.

I’m preparing myself for another rafting season in Hells Canyon by laying in emergency rations of Doritos and store-bought jerky. I’m also on the lookout for a good dead pine or larch to make a survival polevault from and plan to use the word “woooooah” in conversation as much as possible.

These are the kinds of things you learn when you’re a shuttle driver to the stars.