In our fast-paced daily existence it is easy to ignore the subtle eccentricities of birdsongs and to blindly pass by the healing power contained within common backyard plants. This disconnect from nature makes the mere prospect of losing electricity—let alone a full-blown apocalypse—all the more terrifying. Fortunately, six Pacific Northwest schools are eager to take your hand and facilitate a much-needed healing journey back to nature. Well, that and to help you prepare your tribe for any potential emergency or disaster.
While the school certainly offers shorter classes for those with day jobs, the crux of Earthwalk’s curriculum is their intensive and supportive long-term programming. Wannabe conscientious hunters might pursue the “Path of the Hunter” mentoring program, while those who would rather delve deep into primitive living skills or ethnobotany and herbalism might enjoy the seven-month-long apprenticeship programs. Drop-in classes include flintknapping (making stone tools), seaweed and coastal foraging, tanning, cedar basket making and more.
Wilderness Awareness School
Operating out of Duvall since 1983, this nonprofit organization calls upon students to use all their senses to hone their intuition and combine this wisdom with the inquisitive mind of a biologist to fully engage their learning minds. The Wilderness Awareness School’s distinctive “mentoring” approach allows students to guide their own outdoor education, whether that lasts one day, one week or even nine months. Drop in for classes on everything from bird language, edible plants, wooden bow making and bushcraft (creating and using tools from scratch). Dedicated survivalists might consider their Anake nine-month intensive program for the most intimate and spiritual nature experience.
Alderleaf Wilderness College
The only wilderness school in our area offering the internationally recognized Permaculture Design Course, Alderleaf is situated in a rural valley about 35 miles north of Seattle and offers its students a wide selection of weekend, weeklong and yearlong survivalist and permaculture-based classes. Drop in for a course on brain tanning, wild mushroom identification or flintknapping, or stick around for a long-term apprenticeship or certification course in wilderness survival, sustainable living or wildlife tracking.
Cedar Mountain Herb School
Mt. Vernon, WA
Led by herbalist Suzanne Jordan, Cedar Mountain offers intimate classes and apprenticeships in wildcrafting (gathering natural plants for edible or medicinal use) and homesteading. Seasonal apprenticeships offer dedicated students a weekly intensive class to explore medicine making (tinctures, oils, salves, decoctions, etc.), fermented foods, food forests, food preservation, natural chicken care and more. A practicum supervisor for Bastyr’s herbal science students, Jordan also offers daylong harvesting intensives for everything from mugwort to devil’s club as well as special-interest classes such as Herbal First Aid and Herbal Support for Anxiety Relief.
Northwest Survival School
One of the benefits of being an outdoor student in the Methow Valley is that no matter where you’re surviving, you know your classroom is going to be gorgeous. Deeply rooted in worldwide indigenous traditions, this class offers a series of structured courses: an introductory Primitive Survival Skills class and three levels of Northwest Survival Skills. Students will learn shelter construction, hydration methods, trapping, tracking, as well as how to survive whitewater rafting or hunting accidents, plane crashes and other unfathomable disasters.
Designed with the intent to teach their students to become skilled nature educators, the Wolf College repertoire offers daylong workshops and evening classes in subjects like animal tracking, backcountry crafts and permaculture basics. Adults can also escape city life to enjoy “summer camps” and expeditions such as Honorable Hunting and Fishing and the Homesteading Skills Intensive: Processing Plants and Animals. Those looking to teach these skills to others might enjoy the school’s apprenticeship programs in the instruction of outdoor leadership, herbalism and ethnobotany, wildlife tracking, homesteading and outdoor survival.