I began my outdoor teaching career as an instructor and co-developer of Survival Unlimited, a survival school begun by Bob Pancoast in 1974, based out of the Lory Student Center of Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado. Survival Unlimited was an affiliate of the Wilderness Institute of Survival Education (W.I.S.E.) started by Papa Bear Whitmore of Denver about 1970. Papa Bear was a well known and colorful survival "personality" in those early days. At its peak, Survival Unlimited employed about a half dozen instructors in the late 1970's, one of which was Greg Wiggins, my old high school buddy, who went on to start a well known survival school in Colorado Springs called Quest.
The primary focus of these survival schools was to teach the student how to survive a wilderness emergency. During my tenure with Survival Unlimited, I assisted in expanding the survival training program, adding and teaching classes like avalanche awareness, the "T" style snowcave, urban survival and nuclear fallout survival, in addition to all topics under the primitive living skills umbrella including wild edible plant identification. At about this time my survival ethos began to evolve to what it is today. I began splitting survival training classes into two separate and exclusive disciplines: "Emergency Rescue Survival" and "Primitive Living Skills". The priorities and concepts of these two different disciplines are somewhat mutually exclusive. For example, friction fires, a skill usually taught under "Primitive Living Skills", is often impractical in wilderness "Emergency Rescue Survival" especially in wet or damp conditions, and wild edible plant knowledge (and food in general) is a low priority in the same wilderness emergency scenario, as we can survive many days without food if we conserve our energy. Different tools and priorities need to be employed for different survival situations. Survival media around the world today often lump all skills and concepts under the heading "Survival" without a proper discussion of tool specification and concept prioritization. Students today are discriminating enough to understand the difference. I believe this dual approach to wilderness survival training will save more lives. CB
Cattail Bob has been teaching outdoor education classes since 1975 with an emphasis on ethno-botany and wilderness survival. He has taught for such institutions as the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Rocky Mountain National Park, Denver Botanic Gardens and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Cattail has conducted intensive multi-week survival treks, overnight field trips and simple day outings for over 10,000 students. His outings, hikes and slide shows are fun and educational. His first book "Best-Tasting Wild Plants of Colorado and the Rockies" published by photographer John Fielder's Westcliffe Publishing sold over 18,000 copies. Cattail's new books "Survival Plants of Colorado" - Volumes l & ll are now available. Volume l features 214 wild useful plants and 856 color photographs. Volume ll features 254 useful plants and over 1,000 photos. They are the "go to" college textbooks for wild useful botany classes in Colorado. Cattail Bob has been a guest on local television and radio as well as NBC's The Today Show. He was an "on-screen" advisor on the BBC's "Chef Race" and was recently invited to participate in the Discovery Channel's "BushCraft Build-off". Interests and training include extensive knowledge in first aid/first responder, edible, medicinal and poisonous plants, photography, search and rescue, wild fire mitigation and suppression, forest health, crisis center/suicide hotline, "green" homebuilding and all-around self-sufficient living. Cattail currently lives in a self-built, off-grid, active, passive and PV solar cabin on 7 acres near Drake, Colorado.