Nature Walk

Ranger Brennan Basler leads home-schooled children on a nature walk at Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa.


A whole lot of the trouble those extreme TV survivalists get into could be avoided if they packed a little smarter before heading out the door.

“Why build a shelter from nothing when you could bring a tiny 3 (inch)-by-4 (inch) foil pack that unfolds into an emergency blanket? Why rub sticks together to make a fire, which is very difficult, by the way, when you can bring a lighter or matches?” asks Brennan Basler, interpretive ranger at Usery Mountain Regional Park in Mesa.

They’re questions instructors at the park will pose to youngsters at the next Kid vs. Wild, an interactive, on-trail program expected to draw lots of 7- to 12-year-olds over holiday break.

“We teach kids what to do if they ever get lost in the desert,” explains Basler. “It’s not a survivalist-type thing like you see on TV or in books, which can be very impractical. Our focus is teaching hikers to bring some minimal supplies with you, and then what to do once you’re out there, like signaling for help and building an emergency shelter and general avoidance of desert dangers.”

Here’s what else you need to know:

• It’s hands-on. “We take (the kids) out in the desert and let them try some very practical, useful kind of stuff,” says Basler. “The kids build shelters with emergency blankets and sticks. We pass out compasses, and they all use those in learning basic navigational skills. We use mirrors and other tools for signaling.”

• Expect an easy 1-mile walk with lots of stops along the way.

• Kid vs. Wild is designed for kids 7 to 12. “There are certain skills the kids are taught that we’ve found best fit that age group,” says Basler.

• Parents should come prepared to learn, too. “The parents, grandparents, guardians — they’re all getting the same training, so it’s very involved for everyone. It’s not a drop-off program,” says Basler.

• It’s popular. The last Kid vs. Wild drew about 70 budding survivalists.

• You’ll get to see a picturesque, off-the-beaten-path part of the park, where you’re not likely to run into day hikers or dog walkers.

• If you miss it, you can catch it again. Usery typically hosts Kid vs. Wild once per month through April.

• It kills a lot of birds with one stone. “It’s a good way to get some exercise and enjoy the desert, and it helps eliminate some anxieties or fears adults and kids have about the outdoors, whether it be from a disconnect with nature or TV shows that sensationalize the dangers of the outdoors,” says Basler.


What: Kid vs. Wild, a hands-on program where kids 7-12 (and their adult chaperones) learn desert survival skills on the trail. Bring water to drink, and wear closed-toe shoes.

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28. It occurs again 2 p.m. Jan. 25, 2014.

Where: Group Picnic Area C at Usery Mountain Regional Park, 3939 N. Usery Pass Road, Mesa

Cost: $6 per vehicle park entry fee

Information: (480) 984-0032 or

Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or

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