Tag Archives: Tracking

Mayday, Mayday – BUSAR Training


The ‘Ole Jernigator planned our January training and lured us in with the statement that “it won’t be as physical as our usual training, so we will focus more on skills”

On Sunday night, we all knew we had been fooled and that if the Jernigator is in charge, then you better plan a rest day afterwards… or at least just do upper body exercises in our case.

Training Mission: Locate two old plane wrecks near Parson’s Bald. Work on key skills. Have fun and stay safe.

Day 1: We load up the Cobra wagon, slay the Dragon, and start dropping off 2 man teams.


Team Snipe Hunt (pink on the map), made up of Doc Inferno and B.O., get dropped off at mile marker 3 to bushwhack up Dalton Branch manway to the gap, continue up the Old AT manway to Parson’s Bald, and camp at Sheep Pen Gap (Campsite 13).


Team Goat, made up of Mr. and future Mrs. Goat, get dropped off at Twentymile to bushwack the Long Hungry Ridge manway and rendezvous at campsite 13. (Red on the map)


Team Ridgerunner, made up of Jernigator, King Ski, and myself, brave the briars of the powerline and head up the State Line from Deal’s Gap, to rendezvous with everyone at Campsite 13, after a brief interlude and lunch with the Snipe Hunters. (Gold line)

Moving at a good clip, we are at 13 in 4 hours and setting up camp. Sixty years of nature has erased most of the Old Appalachian trail, but the beautiful open ridge and weather just requires a good set of legs conditioned from countless reps on the Thighmaster..

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 Day 1 Map:

Day 1

Our training has evolved to where we are making sure to hit several key topics on each trip. A summary of the weekend follows:

Land Navigation – Rotating every hour, off trail navigation is done with a map and compass. UTM’s are done with a grid reader. Everyone got a chance to determine the bearing for the grid searches.


Survival – It dropped into the low 20’s that night, so everyone got to showcase and test out their hasty pack gear. Supplementing inadequate gear with leaf beds and quilts was demonstrated by King Ski, even though I had gifted him a 20 degree bag earlier that week.




Tracking – Doc and I set up a night time signcutting station based upon the VDEM Operational Tracker standards. It sucks during the day. It sucks more at night. Great drill from track master Spieden!

Medical – After locating the wrecks, Doc Miller gave a great treatise on triage and dealing with multiple casualties.


Search Techniques – Doc Miller, a ground team leader and medical officer for the Civil Air Patrol, also gave a briefing on downed plane procedures. We grid searched for both planes and located both with ease.


N110WP – twin-engine Beechcraft B-18 crashed in 1964. Six fatalities.


Cessna 421 crashed in 1978. Five fatalities. Largest pieces of wreckage shown.



Day 2: After locating the planes, we split back into teams to head out. My team BUSAR boogied down the ridge,  and jumped on a spur of the Old AT to bypass Sheep Wallow Knob. We ended up in a maze of hemlock blowdowns, got trashed, and barely made it back before dark. (Gold line)

Mr. and Mrs. Goat were lured by the same siren song, but got pushed further into the drainage forcing them into a full contact fight with the Rhodo Clan. Ever victorious, they emerged with smiles and headlamps around 7 pm. (red line)

The Snipe Hunters ambled out the state line, but got ambushed by the Briar Gang after dark under the powerlines. That’s a bad neighborhood and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. They took heavy losses, but popped out at the gap around 8pm. (pink line)


If you want to read accounts of all 54 plane crashes in the Smokies, pick up a copy of Mayday, Mayday by Jeff Wadley and Dwight McCarter. Not only is this book a great read for the average person, I view it as essential for pilots that fly in this region or SAR teams that operate around here.




Jeff is a good friend, has 30 years of Civil Air Patrol experience, and knows the Smokies like the back of his hand. We will be hosting him in February for a SAR theory lecture and exercise. It is open to surrounding agencies and individuals involved in SAR. Email me for details.

Travelling off trail, in remote areas, exposes you to greater risks. Mitigate those with proper planning, the right gear, satellite messengers, realistic training, and by leaving a trip plan. This one was texted to my wife and a ranger buddy. Trip plans are downloadable here:  http://www.bigpigoutdoors.net/bpo-trip-plan.html


BigPig Outdoors Gift Cards…

gift certificate

BigPig Outdoor’s Gift Certificates are now available. Give the gifts that keeps on giving, knowledge and experience. Perfect for that outdoor enthusiast in the family.

Our gift certificates are redeemable for any of our programs and have no expiration date.

Available in $50, $100, and $175

Email bigpigoutdoors@gmail.com to order

Survival Weekly -12/3/15


Welcome to another edition of Survival Weekly, where the real wilderness survival “reality show” plays out everyday, in the wild places around our world. These unscripted stories will give you insight to the true threats and challenges you may face i+n your outdoor pursuits. So sit back, relax, and read on to get a dose of reality to sharpen your most valuable survival tool. – BPO

Featured – 

For Jackie!… Trackers follow missing hunter – http://www.bradfordera.com/news/search-continues-for-lost-hunter-in-cameron-county/article_ec77a99e-98a1-11e5-9ccf-ff16740f2ee4.html

News – 

Inside Oregon’s SAR program – http://katu.com/news/local/vast-majority-of-search-and-rescue-ops-done-by-volunteers

Winter Sports – 

Missing snowboarder rescued – http://www.castanet.net/news/Kelowna/152868/A-freezing-rescue

Water Safety – 

SAR for missing swimmer – http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/74523234/search-continues-in-raglan-for-missing-teen

SAR for missing boater – http://www.winknews.com/2015/11/28/crews-searching-for-missing-boater/

Missing sailor – http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/benoit-searched-for-near-bissett-lake-1.3348130


Image: http://www.castanet.net/news/Kelowna/152868/A-freezing-rescue

Hiking – 

Lost & Injured hikers rescued –


Image: http://www.voxy.co.nz/national/search-and-rescue-efforts-suspended-mt-cook/5/238486

Hunter-gatherer – 

Missing hunter rescued – http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/local/2015/11/26/overdue-hunter-rescued-judith-basin-county/76425832/

Climbing – 

SAR suspended due to weather – http://www.voxy.co.nz/national/search-and-rescue-efforts-suspended-mt-cook/5/238486

Vehicles – 

 Stranded motorist rescued – http://www.mynews4.com/news/story/Man-and-five-children-rescued-by-Search-and/ZDyHbuVm_0mAMyIbHS_idw.cspx

Stranded motorists rescued – http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2015/11/30/jla-crews-rescue-2-snow-bound-vehicles-stranded-hiker/#.VmEQ03bnvIU

Interested in learning skills to handle emergencies like the ones you read in Survival Weekly?  Check out BigPig Outdoors Survival  classes  – http://www.bigpigoutdoors.net/survival-101-1.htm


Image: http://www.lex18.com/story/30619778/2-rescued-from-red-river-gorge

Tracking, not ants saved this man’s life…



Reg Foggerdy was close to death when this picture was taken. While camel hunting in Western Australia, he got lost without any gear and spent the next six days suffering. In typical media fashion, he has been dubbed the “Antman” because he ate a few ants during his ordeal, and news titles like this littered my news feed:

Australian ‘ant man’ survived outback ordeal by copying Bear Grylls


The stories, fed by a culture of survival un-reality shows, focus on the folllowing aspect:

“But the Ant Man wasn’t gone. After four days wandering at night and lying under trees during the hot days, he remembered watching survival shows. He found a nest of black ants and forced himself to eat them; 12 at first, then 18 the next day.”

What the news doesn’t tell you is the mathematical truth of this story…

  1. Thirty ants weigh approximately 150mg. One gram of insect, yields approximately 1.2 calories (kCal). Therefore Reg’s strategy of copying Bear Gryll’s yielded him a whopping .18 Calories
  2. Walking at a very slow pace, Reg would be burning anywhere from 140 to 200 calories per hour
  3. Reg’s bodyfat, not ant’s were supplying his energy needs

But in one story, a glimmer of truth came to light. The media didn’t focus on it, but we will here..

“Reg says he wouldn’t be alive today without Aboriginal elder Robin Smythe, who was on a separate land survey and accidentally spotted what no one else could: a faint thong print in the bush that led police searchers to Reg 12 hours later.”

In Reg’s own words, he owes his life to the ability of a man to visually interpret some obscure disturbance on the ground and recognize it as human. The surveyor wasn’t even looking for Reg, he was just aware of his surroundings and had the skills to interpret them. That was the real key to the story of Reg’s survival.


Well, you don’t have to be an Aboriginal or Native American to track. In recent history, native cultures have been relied upon for their tracking prowess, but the ability to track is a common bond between all of us if you search back far enough.

My speculation and experience is that anyone can track, but cultures or individuals that have closer ties to the land, have the opportunity to develop those skills more.

This weekend offers a great opportunity to get back in touch with that primal skill, as BigPig Outdoors is hosting one of the best tracking instructors in the nation for a weekend of tracking.

That is a pretty bold marketing claim, but I will back it up with the following points:

  • I have attended 12 tracking courses with various instructors over the past 15 years. I consider Rob’s approach to teaching the fundamentals of tracking to be the best.
  • When Rob is not teaching, he is searching for lost people and has over 200 missions under his belt
  • My library of tracking books is knee high, and Rob wrote THE best book on visual human tracking out of all of them. It is used by VDEM, as their tracking manual, and Rob is also the head VDEM tracking instructor
  • Rob is not full of crap. I have a high BS meter and have seen other instructors make stuff up, but I have seen Rob in front of a whole class say that he can’t see anything. Unless you have already been in the tracking world, you won’t understand how common it is for instructors to keep themselves on the guru pedestal
  • The Operational Tracker Evaluation is the best tracking evaluation for SAR personnel. Rob, with help from other experienced trackers, helped create that program

And lastly, Rob is humble. He has mad tracking skills, but probably will have a hard time reading my accolades. The tracking industry has some pretty large tales and egos to match, but you won’t find that with Rob.

To sign up for this weekend’s class, click here: http://www.bigpigoutdoors.net/tracking.html

To read Rob’s full bio, or train with him at another time, click here:  http://trackingschool.com/instructors/rob-speiden

Three Fall Training Courses Announced…


BigPig Outdoor’s is excited to offer three great trainning opportunities this fall…

Skills of Survival – By popular demand, we have boiled down the Survival 101 curriculum into a 1 day meat and potatoes course. No overnight bivouac or cold water immersion, means it is a perfect intro into the world of wilderness self-reliance. This class will be taught in a roving method, so we will be spending the day hiking through the woods, learning and practicing the skills. Graduates of Survival 101 that want to bring family members through are welcome to attend free of charge. Read more and register here: http://www.bigpigoutdoors.net/skills-of-survival.html


Fall Foraging Workshop – It’s time to harvest the fall bounty!! Come out and learn to view the woods as your Kroger, Home Depot, and Walgreens. Read more here:  http://www.bigpigoutdoors.net/poisonous–edible–medicinal—-useful-plants.html


Rob Spieden Tracking Class – I have wrangled the mac daddy of SAR tracking in Virginia to run a one day animal tracking class and one day human tracking class with me. If you want to track people, take both. Read more here: http://www.bigpigoutdoors.net/tracking.html