Jeff Green | May 03, 2012
Photo: David Arama demonstrates fire lighting using steel wool and flint.
If there is anyone you would want with you when things go wrong in the back woods, David Arama is that person.
David has made a career of preparing people to deal with some of the dangers of wilderness experiences. He is a consultant to the "Survive This!" television series on YTV, which is hosted by 'Survivorman' Les Stroud, and he has worked for 30 years as a consultant and wilderness instructor.
David and his wife Connie Hammer have established a permanent base for themselves in Eastern Ontario with the recent purchase of Marble Lake Lodge on Hwy. 506 near Cloyne. They already own an off-grid retreat near Palmer Rapids on the Madawaska River. Marble Lake Lodge, which includes cabins, trailer sites and tenting sites, and one of the region's best known restaurants, is also located within a short drive of all the services in the Cloyne-Northbrook corridor.
“Here we have all the conveniences that anyone would want, with access to wilderness as well, and on the Madawaska we also have the off-grid retreat for people who want that experience,” he said.
As a home base, the lodge will also become the headquarters for the WSC (Wilderness Survival School), which will offer everything from half and one-day wilderness survival courses to a one-week survival camp.
The couple will be opening a wilderness outfitting store on the property as well, and in addition to the existing services offered at Marble Lake Lodge, they will be doing survival courses and providing information, survival and safety gear for the local community.
“The first thing people need to do when they are planning a camping trip or a hunting trip is to leave what I call a flight plan behind. If they get lost, it helps if someone else knows where they are. They should also have emergency gear with them, proper clothing and some means of communication,” he said.
Another rule of thumb for people to follow when they run into trouble, and this applies in the wilderness or also in any other emergency experience, such as a power failure, storm situation or being stranded at the side of the road, is to STOP (sit, think, observe, plan)
“The case last year in Nevada was an extreme but classic example of that. There was a husband and wife. He went to look for help and she just stayed where she was. In the end, even after a long, long, time, she lived and he hasn't been found,” Arama said.
David Arama often gets called by radio and other media outlets during emergency rescue situations to help people understand how they should handle dangerous situations, and a lot of what he says gets back to preparation and common sense.
“Last winter there was a case where dozens of cars were stranded on Highway 402 during a whiteout, and I got called by a bunch of radio stations when that incident was going on,” he said. “None of the drivers had blankets or first aid kits in their car. The weather forecast was available to all of them. There were signs on the road saying it was closed, but still a lot of people ended up in a dangerous situation. Now, they did work together well to pool resources and battery power, and the local people came to help them out, but they were lucky that everyone survived that - very lucky.”
In addition to running educational survivor training programs for individuals and groups, and certificate courses for wilderness instructors, WSC also has a not-for-profit corporation that it supports, which provides wilderness training and camping experiences for youth at risk, both from urban and rural backgrounds.
“I came from Toronto. I was raised in an apartment building. I only could dream of the wilderness, but at least I had something to work towards. Some of these kids can't see anything beyond what they have to deal with every day. At least we try to give them that,” he said.
WSC is committed to being a local resource. It has added an extra feature to the local tourist industry and as well will be providing survival tips to Frontenac News readers in the form of articles.
Marble Lake Lodge restaurant is now open on weekends (Friday to Sunday). The staff from last year has been re-hired and the previous owners are helping out with the transition.
“They worked really hard to bring the restaurant to a high level, and we are committed to keeping that up,” said David Arama.
The restaurant will be open 7 days a week later in May.