It is fun to read about adventures in the wilderness, but it is not always fun to live through them. Experts have lots of recommendations for what you should do if you encounter a bear, for example, or lose your way in the forest. But would you do those things? Could you survive?

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    A prospector looks for gold and other minerals.

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    Troy Hurtibise and his bear proof suit. The documentary Project Grizzly followed him through the Rocky Mountains looking for a bear to test it on.

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    Radio and walkie-talkie operators traditionally said "Roger" to mean "OK" or "I understand". Since this famous scene in the comedy movie Airplane, many now say "Roger Roger."

A Meeting a Bear

It is common to run into bears in the Canadian wilderness. Here is Conrad's story of meeting a bear when he worked as a gold prospector in the Yukon Territory.

  • Listen to the audio. When you hear the following event, click the button to note the location.
    • a threat to Troy Hurtibise
    • the fate of Troy Hurtibise
    • a threat to Conrad's boss
    • the fate of Conrad's boss
    • a threat to Conrad
    • the fate of Conrad

B Close reading

Answer these questions about the story.

  • 1.   How did Conrad keep in touch with his colleague on the mountain?
  • 2.   Will black bears usually attack you if you don't bother them?
  • 3.   At the end of the day, what picked up Conrad and his colleague?
  • 4.   Troy Hurtibise's suit of armour looked like a cross between what and what?
  • 5.   What was Conrad's boss doing when he ran into a bear?
Story elements

Stories are often composed of different elements that grab our interest, keep us following the story and affect how we feel as we listen to the story. There are many different terminologies for these elements but they all follow a basic overall pattern. Let's explore this pattern with the well-known story of Little Red Riding Hood.


Image by Dryicons

1. Exposition we meet the character and learn about the place where the action will take place

  • Once upon a time, there was a girl called Little Red Riding Hood. She lived in a forest.

2. Rising action The sequence of events begins, and we can feel the danger gets closer and closer.

  • One day she decided to visit her Grandmother. "Be careful" said her mother. But she strayed from the path, giving the wolf time to eat grandmother and dress in her clothes.

3. Climax The big encounter, where the threat is carried out or foiled.

  • The wolf ate grandmother and got into her bed, where he waited for Little Red Riding Hood to arrive.

4. Falling action The actions that result as a consequence of the climax or respond to it, bringing the story to a satisfactory end.

  • The hunter kills the wolf and rescues Little Red Riding Hood.

5. Resolution We condition in which we leave the characters, happy or sad, or having learnt something.

  • Little Red Riding Hood promises never to wander in the forest again.

C Sort the story of Conrad's boss according to this scheme

Rising action
Falling action
His boss was climbing a mountain
His boss was rescued by helicopter
His boss was left with a scar
Conrad's boss is a prospector
His boss was attacked by the bear

D Write the elements of Conrad's bear story

  • 1.   Exposition
  • 2.   Rising action
  • 3.   Climax
  • 4.   Falling action
  • 5.   Resolution

Not all stories follow this pattern. Some of the most interesting stories surprise us by deviating from the pattern. In the story of Troy Hurtibise, we expect the climax to occur in the Rocky Mountains, when he looks for a bear to test his suit. But he finds nothing and the story appears to be over. In fact, the action occurs in the resolution when, instead of learning something, Hurtibise is killed in a crash. This is a sad ending but also an ironic twist on the typical story pattern.

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Lessons learned

Many stories offer a lesson or suggest the correct path to take in a situation. They contrast the correct action with the action the character took, and make us think about the action we would take in the same situation. The lesson from Little Red Riding Hood is clear.

  • Obey your mother and don't leave the forest path.

E What would you do?

In the more interesting stories, the lessons are easier said than done. What do you think these characters could have done differently?

  • 1.   Troy Hurtibise
  • 2.   Conrad's boss
  • 3.   Conrad

F Compare the characters

Of the three characters, who was the bravest? Who was the most careless? Why?

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Lost in the woods

The Guardian (May 2016)

The body of an American hiker has been discovered two years after the woman disappeared hiking the Appalachian trail in the state of Maine. Geraldine Largay stepped off the heavily travelled trail to go to the bathroom on the morning of 22 July, 2013 and got lost. According to her own notebook, she wandered for more than a month trying to find the trail again, before finally dying of exposure. Her remains were discovered in a makeshift camp alongside a notebook in which documented her frantic struggle for survival.

Largay was 1000 miles into the 2168 mile trail that stretches the length of the US east coast. The retired air force nurse was a fanatical hiker, said her husband George. Although he did not share her enthusiasm, he met her at points along the way with supplies.

“Hiking the Appalachian trail and sleeping in tents and wearing the same stuff for three and four days in the rain – not on my bucket list," he said. "But she needed to be supported on the hike, because she had limits on what she could carry, so I simply had to say, ‘OK, suck it up. What’s six months in the grand scheme of things?’ So I did it.”

He had been waiting for her at the next checkpoint, just 22 miles away, when she became lost.

Largay sent increasingly desperate text messages after she realized she was lost. “In somm trouble. Got off trail to go to br." she wrote on the first day. "Now lost. Can u call AMC to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. XOX.”

The next day, she wrote: “Lost since yesterday. Off trail 3 or 4 miles. Call police for what to do pls. XOX.”

Due to poor reception, none of her messages were sent.

Police and park rangers searched for her for weeks but heavy rains erased any footprints she might have left. The search was eventually called off, but not before search dogs came within 100 meters of her camp several times.

Two years later her body was found under some trees by a forester. “I saw a flattened tent, with a green backpack outside of it and a human skull with what I believed to be a sleeping bag around it," he wrote. "I was 99% certain that this was Gerry Largay’s.”

Beside the body was a notebook covered in moss. “George Please Read XOXO” it said on the outside. Her final entries showed she had come to accept her fate. “When you find my body, please call my husband George and my daughter Kerry. It will be the greatest kindness for them to know that I am dead and where you found me – no matter how many years from now. Please find it in your heart to mail the contents of this bag to one of them.”

Her camp was just meters from a clearing in the trees where airplanes could have easily spotted her. It was less than two miles from the Appalachian trail, while a 30 minute hike in the other direction would have brought her to a logging road, a cabin and safety.

G Plot structure

After the opening paragraph, the story follows a fairly conventional pattern. Identify the elements that we learnt earlier.

  • 1.   Exposition
  • 2.   Rising action
  • 3.   Climax
  • 4.   Falling action
  • 5.   Resolution

H Spoiler alert

News stories are not fairy tales, and generally, the fate of characters is not kept hidden until the end. In this story, we learn that Geraldine Larguy dies in the very first paragraph. Does this spoil the tension of the story for you? Why or why not?

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I What would you have done?

Geraldine Largay's death was tragic but not inevitable. What do you think she should have done to save herself? What things shouldn't she have done? Explain your reasons.

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