Wilderness Survival Class

For yesterday’s adventure, I went to a wilderness survival class with Josue and his wife.  It was essentially a 5 hour hike through a canyon throughout which we were taught a variety of survival skills – edible plants, fire making, etc.

Here is what I learned:


Nightshade berries are delicious – they taste like little cherry tomatoes, but don’t eat the unripe ones or they will make you sick.

Scavenged and ate a salad of watercress, lambs quarter, speedwell and mustard flowers.  Watercress was the most abundant but it’s really spicy, so you need some milder edibles to eat with it.

Identified poison oak.  Red berries and coffee berries are a laxative and will make you throw up if you eat too many.  Cherry holly leaves have cyanide, don’t eat them.  Was shown a few other poisonous plants which I remember by sight but I don’t recall their names


(one is this decorative flowered plant that they use on freeways a lot. They have straight stems that are tempting as marshmallow roasters, but the stems are poisonous too)


The stems and branches of the mule fat plant are really great for making bows and drills and other tools because they are so straight.  Willows look kind of like mule fat, but have medicinal bark.

Ragweed tastes terrible, but if you are starving, you can boil it and eat it.

Learned how to make a twine rope out of yucca leaf fibers.  It ended up coming in handy, too, because my ponytail rubberband broke at one point.  I used my yucca twine to tie up my hair.

Made soap from yucca leaves.  There’s really nothing to it, you just tear up the leaf into fibers and agitate them in water.

Roasted yucca fruit over a fire I helped start.  Yucca fruit are good to eat if you cut one open and it’s still white inside.  They taste too soapy when raw, but when you cook them they taste rather like summer squash or corn.

(If you haven’t gathered by now, yucca are extremely handy plants.)


Ate a prickly pear cactus pad.  It was yummy!

Learned to start a fire with flint/tinder and with a bow drill.  Though I got the coal started with the bow drill, I needed Josue to help me stabilize the bow.  Co-op for the win!

All in all, it was a really fun day and I learned a ton!  The worst part, of course, was the hike back up out of the canyon.  I got a bit too much sun and spent most of the rest of the day asleep.  For all my LA friends, if you’re interested in this sort of stuff, check out this guy’s classes.  They are affordable and good learnins.