What's the last thing you think about before you fall asleep every night?
I hope you won't think this is too weird, but many nights, I put myself to sleep by imagining myself in survival mode. I'm not talking about a desperate situation - it's not like my forearm is trapped by a chock stone in Blue John Canyon, and I'm going to have to contemplate self-amputation. Instead, I imagine I'm on my own and making plans to fend for myself for a week in the mountains, a desert or on a lonely South Pacific island. Somewhere in the course of making a fire and building an elaborate lean-to, I lose the picture and begin to snore like a poorly tuned snowmobile. I rarely get as far as scrounging for grubs or hermit crabs to feed myself.
OK, it is a strange way to fall asleep. But for me, it's the equivalent of counting sheep, only more interesting. And before you ridicule me, be honest about how you fall asleep every night (Lunesta doesn't count).
I first began falling asleep this way years ago - before Charles Horton broke his leg on a ski trip and survived nine days without shelter on the edge of the Flat Tops. It was long before the reality show "Survivor" came to prominence (The Sand Man never requires me to solve a giant puzzle in order to gain immunity). It also was long before Discovery debuted "Man vs. Wild" and "Survivorman" on cable television. However, I've become a fan of both Discovery shows and in particular, I identify with Les Stroud, who is "Survivorman" on Discovery's Science Channel.
The star of "Man vs. Wild," is former British Special Forces soldier Bear Grylls.
On paper, Grylls, 32, has an impressive background. The guy summited Everest, led the first unassisted crossing of the North Atlantic in an inflatable boat and has a black belt in karate. He loves to show off by parachuting into his survival situations. He could kick my butt.
I just can't get by the name "Bear" for a British survival expert. His full name sounds eerily like "Bear Growls." Isn't that a little like the TV weatherman named Storm Phrunt? Do they even have bears in England?
To me, the guy is a little loopy. He's a skilled rock climber, but takes more chances on cliffs than anyone should in a solo survival situation. In one episode, he skillfully hand-catches a fat trout from a stream, then demonstrates how to bash its head and take a big bite out of its back without cooking it.
"Thaht's the best sushi oi've evah hahd!" he proclaims. Please pass the wasabi.
Stroud, 45, is the "everyman" survivor. He's not as muscular as Grylls, and he wouldn't contemplate jumping out of an airplane - he lets a helicopter drop him off in the Arctic.
However, in some ways, Stroud is more self-reliant than Grylls.
The Brit doesn't go off on an adventure without two cameramen. Grylls goes solo and hauls video cameras and a tripod along with him. In the midst of trying to stay alive with little more than a multi-tool (no matches, no sleeping bag) he films his own television survival show!
Stroud is an expert at building campfires - on one episode, he actually picked up a flint along the trail and used his knife to strike sparks.
However, he adds a little realism to his survival scenarios by introducing a machine into the television show. A broken-down snowmobile suggests how a survival expert might have gotten into trouble in the first place.
His producers have airlifted the hulk of a crashed single-engine airplane into the Canadian wilderness so he can scavenge for bits and pieces to aid in his bid to survive. He improvised a fire starter using the battery and wires from the plane.
In the Arctic, he trashed an old beater snowmobile, conveniently dropped of by his producers, to keep himself going. The foam padding from the snow machine's seat made him more comfortable at night in his rock cave.
If you ever find yourself struggling to fall asleep night after night in your cave, I recommend checking out "Survivorman" and letting your imagination run wild. I guarantee you'll fall asleep long before you attempt to eat a raw trout.