In Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, a father (Ben Foster) and his daughter (Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie) create a hidden home in the middle of Portland’s Forest Park. For Granik, “Tom and Will are part of a subculture built around the preservation and practice of primitive skills.” Knowing how to forage, how to raise food and gather water, and how to detect outsiders are the basic skills the father and daughter have acquired to survive in the wild. To get the details right, the filmmakers reached out to Dr. Nicole Apelian, a Portland local who has been practicing and teaching both survival skills (how to stay alive in the wild) and primitive skills (how to live in the wilderness) for years. Having worked with Botswana’s San Bushmen in the wild, Apelian imported her knowledge to the States where, among other things, she appeared as a contestant on the History Channel’s show Alone, surviving on Vancouver Island for 57 days with nothing more than her knife and know-how. We spoke with Apelian about how she got involved with the film, her experience with teaching skills, and what the film tells us about the benefits of living in the wild.
Nicole shares tips for collecting, storing, and purifying water, so you can be prepared in any circumstance.