First There Was Fire

Primitive Outdoor Skills
October 8 – 11 in Tucson
Go primal with Randy! Learn how to make tools from stone, tune into nature, read animal tracks and make fire. Take “The Final Test” with your group, when you get to apply your new skills and wisdom. Bring your beginner’s mind!

You’re stranded on a remote island and can choose one companion to help out. Will it be the brainiac scientist who can program a robotic rover to explore Mars and actually understands how TV works, or would you choose a member of the no-tech South Seas tribe that escaped the 2004 tsunami simply by observing the ocean? The obvious answer is a reminder of how far removed we’ve become from the most basic skills for living. Randy Kinkade, Outdoor Sports Manager at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, believes that getting reacquainted with nature and discovering our own abilities is exciting and empowering.

When Randy started camping as a boy, he at first wanted every gadget and cool piece of equipment that went along with it. “Gradually, though, I whittled it down to see how little I could do with,” he says. Eventually he became a survival-with-nothing expert.

For the past two years, Randy’s been sharing his passion for nature and primitive skills with guests. His fire-making class has been a huge hit, and he’s expanded offerings to include a nature awareness outing, animal-tracking and making arrowheads.

“It’s a chance for people to unplug and step away from their machines and distractions,” he says. “It can be a meditative experience.”

Watch Randy Kinkade, Outdoor Sports Manager at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, make fire the extremely old-fashioned way. It’s hot!



 

Catching the spark
A couple from Connecticut and a physician from Ohio recently met Randy for their introduction to primitive fire-making. Under his supervision, they each made a fire kit using only sticks, tinder made from unraveled jute (the kind of fuzzy stuff you can find in most environments) and a “bow drill” they made on their own. Their task was to vigorously twist the wooden drill tip on another piece of wood until it sparked the kindling, then blow on it to create a flame. Sound easy?

Nancy and Brian Lessard are accomplished professionals with a wide range of skills, none of which prepared them for fire-making. Nancy, sidelined with a knee injury, cheered Brian on as he made several attempts in his quest for fire. “It took a while to get the hang of it,” he says. “I didn’t know what a workout it would be!”

Brian says he has a new appreciation for the process of discovery; what it took to master fire-making, cut wood, cook meat and “all the things we take for granted.”

One thing Brian doesn’t take for granted is his new-found fitness and abilities. “I’ve lost 177 pounds,” he says, “I would never have been able to get on one knee to do this. I couldn’t do something like this before, which is why I wanted to try it.”

Nancy agrees it was a great moment and a wonderful confidence builder. An Aha! moment they could share!

A natural
Kelly Conklin, D.O., who spends her professional life with the latest technology and medical innovation, was eager to try a basic skill. She followed Randy’s instructions, blew earnestly on her tinder and waited for something to happen.

“At first, I thought I wasn’t doing it right,” she says. “It was just a lot of smoke. I asked how we’d know when we’re doing it right. Then it burst into flames!”

Kelly’s face lights up remembering the moment. “I felt such a sense of accomplishment,” she says.

“I get into a daily routine. I work, go home, do the same things at night. When I come to Canyon Ranch, my eyes are open to new opportunities.”

Randy loves seeing guests achieve their goals. “They jump around and laugh. I tell them to do their ‘fire dance.’ It’s magical.”

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