The very idea of venturing out into the deep woods of Northern Vancouver Island — all alone — is enough to make even the most seasoned outdoorsman quiver in his galoshes.
But that’s precisely what seven teams of two did for this season of “Alone” on History: each duo was separated from their loved one and dropped off miles apart from each other, and it’s one partner’s responsibility to make his/her way to the other. The stationary team member starts setting up camp and amassing resources while the other one hacks through the thick, savage wilderness.
Once they find each other (only two teams so far have accomplished this), the pair must work together to survive the longest. That means dealing with roaming bears, wolves and mountain lions, having to forage for their own sustenance and having to deal with one another on a constant basis. (Did we mention it rains practically 99 per cent of the time? And we’re talking constant deluge.) The last team standing wins $500,000.
Global News chatted with Toronto brothers Jim and Ted Baird (aged 35 and 32, respectively, and the only Canadians of the bunch) about their rough journey into the bush, and how even for very experienced outdoorsmen, this was an incredibly tough ordeal.
Global News: Being on “Alone” takes a certain kind of person. What made you want to sign up for this?
Ted Baird: It’s been in our blood ever since we were tiny babies. Our parents would bring us out to our family’s cabin that our grandfather and our dad built. They’d bring us out in the boat in the hammering rain. We’ve become slowly accustomed to… subject to little bits of suffering over time that make it something we enjoy and look forward to. It gives it a sense of adventure and excitement.
When Jim and I are faced with a really terrible situation, like we’re up to our chests in mud, it’s pouring rain… sometimes we just look around and burst into laughter. We always ask ourselves how we get into those situations, but we couldn’t pass this one up.
Jim Baird: Last year, before I went on the show, I did a 36-day trip across the northern Ungava Peninsula in winter [370 kilometres]. It’s pretty rough and mountainous, to say the least. When I got back, I saw the show was auditioning and Ted asked if I wanted to go and I said “No!” I just spent all this time alone and I didn’t know if I could do it. I loved the sound of it, but it was a big commitment… Ted was like, “You know what, Jim? We gotta do this. We gotta do this.” He was a big part of why I joined up.
The moment when you’re left there, when you’re truly “alone” … what did that feel like?
Jim: I just started laughing. I’m just like “What the f**k have I gotten myself into?” [Laughs] How am I here? How is this happening to me right now? It was such a bag of mixed emotions. It was so cool, so exciting to be shooting a show, but then a crazy mission is in front of me.
Ted: Sometimes the more miserable things get, it actually gets more fun. [Laughs] The adventure begins when it gets really tough. A lot of things that are worth doing are really hard to do, and some of the most rewarding things in life are on the other side of your fear. There’s nothing worse than wanting to do something and not giving yourself the chance to do it.
Is there anything you guys are afraid of? Did you have any scary moments with nature?
Jim: Ted’s actually scared of the dark, and that’s one of our main issues… [Laughs]
Ted: [Laughs] Yeah, OK… one thing I’d heard before we got to the show from Vancouver Island locals was that when there’s cougar looking at you or following you, you just sense it. I’m like, “What are you, Obi-Wan Kenobi? How do you know?” One night, I was crouched down by the fire, in the pitch black, trying to dry off — my pants were actually down, the cougar nearly caught me with my pants down — and all of a sudden I get this overwhelming feeling, like something is staring right at me. It just hits me like: “Whoooooosh!”
I stand up and I look out into the darkness. I can’t hear anything, but I see what looks like something moving. The first thing you have to do is make that animal who’s hunting you think that you’re not easy to eat. Running away would be the worst idea. I got this rush of adrenaline, brandished my axe and just screamed at this thing. Whatever it was decided that it didn’t want to mess with this 6’5” ginger brandishing an axe. [Laughs]
How has your relationship changed after being on the show together?
Jim: It’s a little traumatizing to be out there for so long. There are all these emotions and the hunger wears on you. I feel like I definitely hate Ted more than ever… [Laughs] just kidding! We are a lot closer. I think about Ted and I think, “We’ve been through all this stuff together, this show, this experience, and I have so much more respect and love for the guy after it all. Even though we almost killed each other a couple times out there.
Ted: Awwwww. That’s why Jim, out of seven billion people, would have been my No. 1 pick.
After you’ve lived this experience, what do you think is the No. 1 most essential tool for Alone?
Jim: I think the skill definitely is… and it’s one that our ancestors had to have to survive… is the skill of being able to endure with tons of misery. On YouTube, they’re practicing bow drills, fires, flints, primitive skills, that’s great; but it’s more important to be able to deal with misery, cold, crappiness, being starving, slogging on mentally and physically even though everything sucks. That’s the best survival skill of all, and you can’t read up on how to do it.
Ted: I agree. One of the biggest things here is not giving up, telling yourself encouraging words, picking yourself up… it’s real experience in these situations that can’t be learned in a backyard or a class. It’s exposure. I would liken it to someone preparing for the Olympics or the triathlon — there’s a huge mental discipline as well as the physical. Your mental memory needs to be trained and exercised just as much, if not more, than your body.
I know that’s not as juicy as practicing your roundhouse, but I think it’s real.
‘Alone’ airs on History on Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET.