The act of creating fire is considered a sacred endeavor by Bo Glover.
“It’s difficult but when you do get fire it will be the most spiritual experience ever,” Glover told more than a dozen members of the newly formed Primitive Skills Society during their inaugural meeting on Dec. 2.
The group, a new program at the Environmental Nature Center in Newport Beach, will have recurring monthly meetups where experts will expound various primitive skills like shelter building, finding food in the wild and how plants can be used medicinally.
On the docket for the first meeting was a rundown of survival necessities, fox walking and fire making.
Members sat around an unlit bonfire while Glover, wearing a green cowboy hat and sporting the obligatory naturalist’s beard, described the Sacred Order of Survival, which regards shelter, water, fire and food, in that order, as essential to survival when lost in nature.
The elevation of shelter’s importance over water on the list may seem questionable to a novice survivalist, but Glover said hypothermia is the true devil to contend with in the early hours of a survival event. Without shelter, the cold can kill within 24 hours. Humans can live two to three days without water and up to three weeks without food.
Next, Glover had participants spread out along the pavement at the nature center’s patio and walk with fingers in their ears.
“Pay attention to what you hear,” he said.
Members said they heard the cracking and thumping of their footsteps echoing within, providing them with a sense of the noise disturbance caused by the average walk.
Then Glover displayed the fox walk, bringing his feet down on the outside ball and rolling them until they came level with the ground. This type of step is used by trackers and hunters in order to stay silent. The members mimicked him with their fingers in their ears.
“Not quite as jarring, right?” Glover said.
Members were sent fox walking into the surrounding terrain to find sticks for kindling. As they brought their bundles back Glover arranged them into a teepee.
They took their seats and watched as Glover wound a drill into the string of a makeshift bow. He set the point of the drill into the notch of a piece of wood and moved the bow in a sawing motion.
“I don’t always get fire, I hope I do tonight,” Glover said.
The work was tireless, but when a small coal finally began to smolder, Glover slid it into tinder procured from redwood trees. Cradling it in his hands, he waved it through the air until coalescing oxygen ignited the coal into flame. The participants oohed and aahed at the sight.
Glover placed the awakening flame at the heart of the stick bundle and gingerly blew on it, summoning it to life. Members gazed into the entrancing sway of the blaze.
Participants then tried their hand at preparing the materials needed to start a fire with the same bow-drill technique.
They later enjoyed chili prepared over the fire.
Lori Whalen, assistant director at the nature center, said their intention with the program is to form a group where people can get to know each other and connect with nature.
For now, the group will meet once a month, though frequency may be increased based on interest.
The classes will generally be taught by Glover.
Glover, who’s worked at the nature center for 26 years, has carried a deep affinity for nature with him throughout his life, which was instilled during his upbringing. He’s held the executive director position at the center for more than two decades.
He trained with Tom Brown Jr., a famed American naturalist and tracker, and he hopes to bring this knowledge to the community.
“I want to teach the skills that I’ve learned to those in the community,” Glover said. “We’ve lost that connection to nature and this brings people back.”
The Primitive Skills Society’s next scheduled meeting will be 4:30 p.m. Jan. 13 at the Environmental Nature Center at 1601 E. 16th St., Newport Beach. For more information, visit bit.ly/2kq0raL.