• Lizzie Shutt

Wilderness First Responder

Running free in the wilderness and surviving with just my own bare hands and brain has always been a dream of mine. I love the idea of being independent, resourceful, and at one with nature. Training to become a TRiP Leader at the University of Florida has been an enriching experience that has taught me various tactical and interpersonal skills when it comes to exploring the outdoors. As a leader I will take other students on outdoor adventures, such as hiking, surfing, paddleboarding, and canoeing.

The bonds created with my fellow LiTs (leaders in training) and older leaders is so special because we all share respect and curiosity for the unknown. Here’s a funny motto we embrace: “You can be cold, wet, and miserable or you can just be cold and wet.” This encourages us to think about our situations and realize that we have the power to switch our mindsets and embrace all Earth’s elements.

In order for me to become a trip leader at the University of Florida I had to receive my Wilderness First Responder (WFR) certification, which includes CPR. UF offers a course the week after spring semester finishes, which is when my fellow trip trainees all took the course, but I had a wedding to attend which left me to find a WFR course of my own. After many google searches and fallouts finally I found Randal’s Adventure & Training in Gallant, Alabama. My plan was to move into my new house in Gainesville then drive to Alabama for the rest of the week!

Arriving at the 170+ acre forested property the night before class started, I got to meet the owners and other students who planned to camp for the week. Surprisingly there were a few other women in the course; typically the customers attending trainings at this adventure school are middle-aged men. This WFR course, however, had a vast range of ages (20-60), with a variety of medical experiences, hometowns, and reasons for learning wilderness medicine. Diversity is what made this group experience above and beyond what I expected. Despite the scheduling issues, the universe aligned once again to give me an opportunity beyond my wildest dreams.

Course leaders Joe Esteban, PA-C, and Evan Clyburn, A-EMT, taught us more than just the required WFR course material, sharing their combined 50 years of extensive tactical rescue and medical experience. They challenged us daily by teaching skills in the classroom and then having us apply them in field scenarios with made-up victims with simulated wounds to prepare us for backcountry emergencies. My hands were stained with fake blood on day one.

The last day was a 24-hour learning and rescue day that kept the adrenaline pumping all night long. My favorite part was the first scenario of the night where we all worked as a team to locate a simulated helicopter crash based on witness testimonies, search for and triage six victims, radio back to base what medical supplies the rest of the team needed to bring to the scene, and from there it’s all about stabilizing the patients until reaching the make-believe evacuation helicopter. I was part of a search team in charge of the walkie-talkie since efficient communication is critical in emergency situations when people’s lives are on the line.

I highly recommend taking a course with Randal’s Adventure & Training if you want to grow your outdoor survival skills toolbox and connect with highly knowledgeable instructors, who are too humble to boast their wilderness training experiences all over the world.

This experience ranks up at the top of pushing my outer limits. Not only did the training stretch me personally, both literally and figuratively, the physical endurance required for the overnight search and rescue was prepared me for the worst scenarios. Big dreams and goals don’t come easy otherwise everyone would be doing it. I encourage you to step outside of your comfort zone this week in an area that builds towards your dream. Whether it be public speaking, making time to learn new recipes, or taking an outdoor skills course like I did, there are many ways— small, big, and everything in between— to start walking down the path to your dreams.

There will never be a better time than starting NOW!

“Live Dirty, Eat Clean & Green”

Lizzie Shutt


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