There’s a kind of restorative independence that emerges when you spend a lot of time in nature. Whether it’s learning to identify the trees that live in your nearby forests, scouting out edible plants and mushrooms, or just familiarizing yourself with the basics of camping, becoming more at ease in the natural world can be both meditative and confidence-boosting.
Nature’s transformative effects are something that Joe Blevis, a Warwick-based naturalist, survivalist, tracker, personal mentor, and founder of Winding Waters Earth Skills, has seen for himself time and time again.
After growing up in urban New Jersey without much access to the outdoors, Blevis graduated high school and headed out west in search of a more nature-centric life. It was in Montana that he learned of a wilderness survival school back in his native New Jersey run by acclaimed naturalist Tom Brown Jr. that would finally give him the skills of true self-reliance in nature that he had always craved. “I looked him up and thought, ‘This looks amazing,’” says Blevis. “It just clicked, and I instantly fell in love with the teachings.”
After spending two weeks learning survival skills in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, Blevis began taking classes all over the country with anyone and everyone teaching the skills he needed to thrive in the wilderness, from shelter and fire building to animal tracking to the identification of and culinary and medicinal use of plants and mushrooms. They’re essential skills that humans have honed over centuries of living closely with nature, but which have recently fallen out of practice in our modern, tech-centric society.
For over a decade now, Blevis has been teaching his vast knowledge and wilderness skills to students of all ages across the Tri-State area who are looking to build confidence outdoors and get back to basics.
His Warwick and Walden-based wilderness summer camps for kids ages 5 to 13, which often sell out, provide children with hands-on learning experience with shelter building, fire making, archery, wild plant identification, and everything in between. He also specializes in creating custom programs for homeschool groups or families looking for unique bonding experiences.
Blevis also provides custom immersive mentoring for adults, who often work with him for as short as a single weekend to several weeks on advanced projects and skill sets, such as semi-permanent shelters and hunting. It’s an offering that has become particularly popular for those in search of a greater sense of self-reliance in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These skills are not a one-way street. It’s not like learning math when you use it when you need it,” Blevis says. “It’s when you really start living these skills as much as you can in a modern environment that they get inside of you and the seeds are planted and they take root and change who you are.”