Have you ever had the urge to escape from society? Is modern technology a frustrating, cumbersome part of your daily existence? Do you have a screaming urge to make your own clothes? You aren’t alone.
Years ago, 54-year-old British expat Lynx Vilden felt the oh-so familiar draw to life off the grid, and she decided to act on her impulse. Now well into the 21st century, she lives like she’s 200,000 years in the past – and she’s helping others do the same.
Before she went by the name Lynx, she grew up in dusty, grey London and felt the weight of the dreary city. A vacation she took in her youth opened her eyes to all Mother Earth had to offer.
Ruth Fremson / The New York Times
Lynx discovered her passion “to live as wild people lived” when she traveled to the United States when she was only 21. Her first stop was Wenatchee, Washington. There, she understood what true wilderness was.
In fact, she was so inspired by this experience that she took the name Lynx as her first name and chose Vilden for her last. Vilden is Swedish for savage or wild. Pretty appropriate for an avid wilderness lover. Soon, her life was about to change.
She fully committed to a prehistoric, cavewoman-like existence, ridding herself of a credit card or any real address. She lived in a snow shelter in the Laplands, multiple yurts in Montana and New Mexico, and a tepee in Arizona.
This changed when her mom passed away. She received a reasonable inheritance and purchased five acres of land 12 miles outside of Twisp, Washington. This seemed like the perfect spot for Lynx to settle in.
Her home base became a cabin built by the previous owners. Lynx used a wood stove to heat the space, read by the light of a tallow light, and collected water from a nearby river, preferring it to what comes out of a tap. Lynx is the real deal.
Previous owners had installed a well and solar panels, which gave Lynx access to power and running water for the first time in ten years. Lynx doesn’t much use for either item. She prefers the simplicity offered by an antiquated life.
A big part of the Stone Age philosophy is being restricted to what’s in your environment. “It liberates something in the mind when you realize you’re not constrained by having to go buy some kind of tool that’s going to make your life easier,” she said.
Her combined passion for “wild living” and teaching helped her create Stone Age Projects. These immersive wilderness programs take a group of about 15 people deep into the wilderness and teaches them about prehistoric survival methods.
Kierikkikeskus/Kierikki Stone Age Centre/Facebook
In the past, groups have gone to White Clouds, Idaho, Jokkmokk, Sweden, and the Rhodope Mountains in Greece. Groups also can stay in Twisp and still learn a variety of wilderness survival skills from Lynx.
She teaches groups about making shoes and bows, building the perfect shelter, fire starting, among many other useful skills. Students also sew their own buckskin clothing. Wilderness, but make it couture.
Kierikkikeskus/Kierikki Stone Age Centre
Once students have the wilderness basics down, they can choose to head into the wild with Lynx for an entire month. They spend their days hunting, foraging, and camping as a tight-knit group.
Lynx selects her teachable travel destinations based on where she feels called to in the world. Before the world was shutdown with the coronavirus, she was planning to lead a class in Mongolia.
Another important consideration is what kind of skills will be needed for the area. For instance, if you’re interested in a class on kayak building, Lynx offered one off the coast of Washington.
Once the location and teachable skills are decided, Lynx heads into Twisp to finalize the details. She’ll go to the library or community center and email her extensive network of wilderness contacts to gauge interest levels.
Kierikkikeskus/Kierikki Stone Age Centre
These kinds of authentic wilderness excursions are becoming a kind of travel challenge that only the extremely wealthy can afford. Stone Age Projects isn’t like that. A week-long class is $600 and for $2,500, you can spend 90-days there.
She even offers special prices for her friends, previous students, and anyone with a good barter opportunity. Lynx could be making money hand over foot with these classes, but instead she chooses quality over quantity.
Kierikkikeskus/Kierikki Stone Age Centre
Lynx believes that this dependence on our surroundings deepens our connection to them. Once students learn more how to understand the wilderness and the resources it offers, they gain back a piece of their humanity.
There’s a plethora of Lynx’s old students who have gone on to become wilderness experts. Some even live in Methow Valley, nearby to Twisp. This group makes their own yarn, raises fowls, and experiments with their society.
And there you go. It is quite possible to learn what it takes to move into the wilderness and then actually do it. Honestly, throwing it all away to go live in the words doesn’t seem like that bad of a deal. Though some will seek the wilderness lifestyle at any cost.
The Alaskan wilderness offers unparalleled natural beauty for all manners of hikers, hunters, and fishermen. But if you can believe it, throngs of explorers are visiting a strange sight there: an abandoned bus. Granted, many have come to regret it.
The most hardcore pilgrims even camp out in the wreck, transforming it into a shelter for days at a time. So why are these adventurers investing so much time and money to visit a vehicle that belongs in a scrap yard?
Flickr / Paxson Woelber
We have Chris McCandless to thank for that. Since he first made headlines in 1992, legions of fans fell in love with his mission and set out to carry on his work. He was the type of hero nobody ever saw coming.
The New Yorker
In most ways, he was just like any other guy in his early 20s — except that he had a secret. With his graduation from Emory University rapidly approaching, Chris devised some very unorthodox life goals.
He wanted nothing to do with the distractions and corruption of mainstream society. Chris planned to run off and embrace a free life in the wilderness, though he feared his family would try and stop him. So he didn’t say a thing.
Chris disposed of his old life surprisingly swiftly. To cut all financial ties, he donated his life savings to charity and shredded his credit cards. From there, he adopted the pseudonym Alexander Supertramp and headed west.
The Cheat Sheet
He wandered through the Southwest, sometimes with fellow travelers, before making his way up to Alaska. There, he wandered through the rugged Stampede Trail alone. But when he came across the ruins of an old bus, he thought he’d found home for good.
By that point, nobody had heard from Chris for months. Careful not to give away too much information, he’d send the occasional post card. However, Chris’ isolation ended when a group of moose hunters wandered into his camp.
Alaska Wilderness Charters & Guiding
They weren’t terribly interested in the bus, except that a foul odor was coming from the wreck. Tragically, they found Chris dead. The panicked hunters called the police immediately, though it was clear the man had clearly passed away weeks before.
Chris’ journal revealed that he survived an impressive 113 days alone in the Alaskan bush, but the struggle for survival eventually overwhelmed him. Doctors speculated that he either starved slowly, due to a lack of fat in his diet, or that he consumed a poisonous plant.
Few people would’ve heard about Chris’ rise and fall in the wilderness if not for Jon Krakauer. The journalist first covered the story for Outside before adapting it into the best-seller Into The Wild. Chris only became more of a legend from there.
In 2007, Sean Penn adapted the book into an acclaimed film, starring Emile Hirsch. It painted Chris as a modern romantic hero, and audiences from all over fell in love with his story. Some even sought to recreate it.
With these cultural depictions gaining so much traction, Chris’ shelter — now nicknamed The Magic Bus — became a mecca of sorts. Adventurers of all kinds ventured out to visit the site, but many got more than they bargained for.
Take, for instance, Piotr Markielau and Veranika Nikanava. These newlyweds from Belarus decided to retrace Chris’ route for their honeymoon in 2019. The trip seemed like a dream come true until they reached the Teklanika River.
This current became dangerously swift during the summer months, once stranding Chris himself when he tried to turn back toward civilization. When the two Belarusians attempted to cross it, the icy waters swept Veranika away.
YouTube / SKYE
The young bride didn’t survive the journey, and she’s far from the only McCandless acolyte to perish in Alaska. Accidents have befallen a number of other travelers, and even successful rescue attempts aren’t exactly happy endings.
Each year, the Alaskan government has to send out full-scale search parties to track down lost hikers. State taxpayers ultimately end up paying for these pricey efforts, which often include search helicopters. Many are understandably fed up.
Craig Medred called for this senseless hero worship to end. The journalist trashed Chris’ saga, suggesting he was little more than an entitled idiot who brought about his own demise. Now, according to Craig, other fools were just following him to their doom.
Anchorage Daily News
Jim Gallien, an electrician who was the last person to ever see Chris alive, reluctantly agreed that Chris set a poor example. Though not as harsh as Craig, he remarked that Chris was dramatically underprepared for the bush. He was impressed the kid lasted as long as he did.
However, these disastrous treks did decrease in number as of 2016. Nobody can say whether hikers heeded Alaskans’ warnings or Chris’ mythos has diminished. But authorities are finding fewer tragically abandoned campsites, and they consider that a big win. Still, accidents do happen out in Alaska.
Alaska Public Media
Amelia Milling, left, may be deaf, but she’s always up for a challenge. Indeed, the Tennessee native attended the Rochester Institute of Technology in Upstate New York, and constantly pushed herself to do the extreme—sometimes, the very extreme.
John Garay / Facebook
In the summer of 2017, for instance, Amelia spent time hiking through and camping in the gorgeous national parks offered out west—nothing too serious, however. In 2018, though, she planned to outdo herself.
On June 19, 2018, Amelia packed her bags—including an emergency tracker device her mother insisted she bring—and headed to Chugach State Park, right, an expanse of rocky mountain and serene rivers about 30 miles east of Anchorage, Alaska.
There, she hiked on her own along winding mountain paths, which, she noted, taxed her far more than she’d expected. As a Southerner, she hadn’t considered there’d still be snow in June. So she changed her plans.
On the second day of her trip, she descended into the Eagle River Valley. Just four miles into the hike, her walking sticks snapped in two. She slid for 300 feet, smashed into a boulder, then fell another 400 feet down a snowy, gradual slope.
The 21-year-old ended up bleeding and broken, looking up at the mountains—a very dramatic moment. Facing death, the only thing she could think of was that her dream vacation was over. Then she saw something terrifying.
A wolf “appeared out of no where,” and watched her in her state of weakness. Hardly able to stand—and with no one around—she stood no chance against a wolf. But then, she noticed something around the animal’s neck that gave her relief.
What she thought was a wolf wore a bone tag that read “Crow Pass Guide,” along with an address. It was then she knew this was no wolf, but a white husky named Nanook. He’d come to rescue her.
Nanook “gave me the motivation to get up and walk,” Amelia said. So she did just that. With the white husky at her side, she walked back to the trail. When night fell, she set up a tent and invited Nanook inside. The dog declined.
But the dog didn’t go anywhere. “I realized he really was sticking with me when he greeted me in the morning when I unzipped my tent,” Amelia said. “He had stayed the entire night next to me.” He offered more help, too.
Along the trail, Amelia and Nanook encountered the Eagle River crossing: a roiling, swirling, and freezing point of the river. Amelia tried twice to cross it. On the second time, she slipped, and the water pulled her under.
After 15 minutes caught in the swell, Amelia bolted back toward the shore. Nanook had grabbed her backpack and pulled her to safety. Afraid of hypothermia, Amelia curled up into her sleeping bag. There, Nanook kept licking her face.
In fact, he licked her face until she remembered the emergency tracker her mother made her take on the hike. When prompted by Nanook, she activated it, sending alerts to Alaska State Troopers.
Several hours later, trained rescue workers descended on her location in a helicopter before scooping the miserable Amelia and her canine companion up. Rescuers brought Amelia to an Anchorage hospital.
Alaska State Troopers / Facebook
When Amelia recounted her story, the troopers were floored. “Nookie was nothing short of a modern-day Lassie hero,” one rescuer, Alaska State Trooper Lt. Eric Olsen, said. Inspired by the pooch, Lieutenant Olsen personally brought the dog home.
There, the trooper met Scott Swift, Nanook’s owner, left. When he heard what his dog had been up to the past 24 hours? “I was definitely pretty floored,” he said. “It sends chills up my spine when I think about it. I certainly didn’t train him to do anything like this.”
Scott continued, “It’s a pretty powerful feeling that this dog had this instinctual ability to want to go help people.” The state of Alaska recognized that, too, and gave Nanook a special honor for his work…
For his heroics, Nanook was made an honorary Alaska State Trooper! The “free spirit” dog would no doubt look good in the uniform. Amelia couldn’t have been happier for her savior.
Amelia recovered in Anchorage and actually continued the dream vacation she once thought would end violently. She did, however, take plenty of time away from hiking to spoil Nanook with lots and lots of treats!
Amelia was extremely lucky to have Nanook come to her rescue. In a wild region like the Alaskan wilderness, having a loyal companion to get you through can be a critical factor for survival. And that is definitely the case when it comes to the brutalist of climates: Siberia.
Four-year-old Karina Chikitova lived in a remote Siberian village in the far east region called The Sakha Republic. There, she shared a small home with her father, mother, grandmother, and her dog, Naida.
Like most kids her age, Karina was energized by a youthful curiosity, that urge to explore and know and understand. Which was why, in July 2014, she followed her father, Rodion, on an expedition into a part of the Siberian wilderness also known as the taiga.
Now this decision was problematic for a few different reasons. The first reason being that the taiga is very much an animal kingdom, dominated by bears, tigers, and wolves with really sharp teeth and an appetite for people.
The second problem with Karina’s decision was that she had not told her grandmother — the person charged with watching her at the time — that she would be following her dad into the bear-infested wilderness.
In fact, she hadn’t even told her dad that she would be following him. So literally no one on the planet knew that this four-year-old girl was diving headstrong into the most dangerous territory on the planet. No person, at least.
Karina did have a companion at her side: Naida, the family dog. That, evidently, was all the comfort the little girl needed, but it was little comfort to her mother, Talina, when she realized her little girl and the dog were both missing.
At first, Talina figured her youngster and the dog followed Rodion to his native village, but Siberia wasn’t exactly flooded with quality LTE, so she couldn’t pull out a cellphone and check. Instead, she waited to hear from her husband.
In the meantime, Karina, followed her father until she somehow managed to lose his trail. Her dad disappeared from view leaving her very much stranded in Siberia with Naida. And the bears. And the wolves.
It took four days of waiting for mother Talina to learn that, no, her daughter was not with her husband in his home village. No stranger to Siberia, she understood this to be a very bad thing, so she alerted authorities.
Radio Free Europe
They deployed a 100-person rescue team to head out into Siberian wilds to find her. The team carried rifles to fend off bears (yeah, there were that many bears in the woods).
Helicopters sliced the sky and rescue workers on foot combed through the trees and tall grass, but their search proved fruitless: Karina was nowhere to be seen. But then, nine days after she went missing, authorities found a clue.
More specifically, a clue walked right up to the authorities and introduced herself. Naida returned to her home — but Karina was not with her! What should’ve been a hopeful moment only seemed to confirm Talina’s worst thoughts.
“If she was to hug her puppy,” Talina said, “we thought, ‘this would have given her a chance to…survive.’ So when her dog came back we thought ‘that’s it.’ Even if she was alive — and chances were slim — now she would have definitely have lost all hope.”
But Naida hadn’t just wandered absentmindedly home. She seemed eager to show the desperate family and the rescue crew something important. The dog headed the group of rescuers and led them into the wilderness…
The dog led authorities to a spot in the wilderness, but none of them saw Karina there. Naida, it seemed, couldn’t find the exact area where she’d left the little girl! Authorities wondered if they were anywhere near her at all.
But three days later — 12 days after Karina first went missing — rescue workers spotted a child-sized footprint on a river bed beside a dog’s paw print. The footprint revealed Karina was barefoot, a crucial detail for investigators.
This told rescue workers that Karina likely was not in the woods. Too many sharp sticks there would’ve been a nightmare on her feet. This narrowed their search down considerably, and the following morning, they executed that new search plan.
And sure enough, just 20 meters from where they started searching, one rescue worker noticed a peculiar lump tucked away in a patch of tall grass. The whole crew rushed over.
They found her nestled in the grass. She was starving, thirsty, exhausted, and covered in mosquito bites, but nevertheless alive. They brought her tea before carrying her to a car and whisking her away to the nearest hospital.
The child spent some time in the hospital, but physicians determined there wouldn’t be any lasting damage. A psychologist examined her mental state and found, shockingly, her mind was in a good place. Talk about mental fortitude.
So how did a four-year-old girl survive in the Siberian wilderness? The little girl told reporters and her family that she survived off wild berries and river water.
Then, of course, there was Naida, the lovable canine that gave her warmth at night and companionship in the daytime. The two reunited for the first time back at home when the hospital released Karina. The meeting did not go as expected.
When Karina first saw her dog, she looked her in the eyes and chided, “why did you leave me?” Those three days of solitude must’ve really affected the little girl. But eventually, she came to understand what the dog did for her.
“It was Naida who rescued me,” Karina said sometime later. “I was really, really scared. But when we were going to sleep I hugged her, and together we were warm.”
Karina’s story gripped everyone watching, and locals even erected a statue of the girl and her pooch to celebrate their strength and will to survive. Not bad for a four-year-old and her dog, huh?
In the end, Karina made a full recovery, and by 2018, attended a ballet boarding school 350 miles away from the village she’d wandered away from all those years ago. Her teachers believed she had the talent to compete in Russia’s competitive ballet scene.
“When she just started her classes, Karina was very reserved,” a boarding school leader said. “She has changed so much and became a lot more open, sociable, friendly and independent. She made many friends who love her lots.”
But even as she danced like an expert and earned friends with her exuberant personality, she would never forget the friend that made it all possible: Naida, the loyal canine.