180 Days in the Wild

Couple returns after six months in the wilderness of Manitoba

Nothing could’ve prepared Jennifer Ford and Juan Pablo Quiñonez to live six months in the Boreal forest, bringing with them only half the food they needed. Upon preparing dinner their first night in the wilderness, it hit them, they would be sharing a meager portion– less than half a cup of uncooked rice– as their supper for the next half a year. Despite having next to no experience fishing, hunting, or gathering, they planned on fulfilling the rest of their calories by living off the land.

The couple set off in their canoe back in May, hoping to get a taste of what life was like for our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Camping in a tent near the Bloodvein River, mainly harvesting fish, berries, and wild rice, they experienced an alternative to industrial civilization.

By the end of their second month, after more than a week without catching a fish, and having resorted to eating a garter snake, the pair hit their low point. “On days we didn’t eat fish we filled our bellies with spruce tea”. It was on these days that they savoured every last bite of their rations. Their rations consisted of flour, milk powder, rice, oil, honey, and salt.

At their lowest body weight they portaged their canoe two kilometres through a deep bog in order to buy fishing hooks from a fly-in fishing lodge. “It was pouring rain and there was lightning all around us. Adrenaline was the only thing that got us through.” Often they longed to be in civilization. However, one of the main lessons they learned was to be present, and be content with what one has.

By taking it day by day and conserving energy, they reached September when they discovered a huge wild rice paddy. “We were ecstatic when we saw the abundance of wild rice”. They harvested over 65 pounds and it marked a new chapter in their adventure.

Drinking water straight from the source, catching animals for food, and harvesting wild plants, they realized how inextricably connected we humans are to the natural world. Juan Pablo and Jennifer believe that taking care of nature means taking care of oneself, for we all live off the land. They hope that people will be inspired by their story to seek out their own ways to strengthen their relationships with the earth, whether it be encouraging young people to get outside, growing their own food, or leaving a positive mark on their community.

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