Nicole Apelian says those mustard-colored monopods are delicious.
Nicole Apelian can build a waterproof shelter from forest debris. She can start a fire in the dumping rain. And, most impressively, she can turn banana slugs into a toasty meal. Apelian is a survival skills expert, with chops she proved while living off the land by herself for 57 days on Vancouver Island as a contestant for the History Channel show Alone. But the 49-year-old former Portlander, who now lives near Willapa Bay in rural Washington, doesn’t just eat gastropods and jury-rig fishing rods for the benefit of the camera. In her daily life, as a teacher and mother of two sons, she harvests mussels, mixes herbal medicines, and makes buckskin clothing (tanning the hide with the deer’s own brain). When film director Debra Granik was making Leave No Trace, this year’s indie release about the real-life father and daughter who made their home in Portland’s Forest Park, she tapped Apelian to provide the lead actors with a crash course in wilderness skills. And Apelian does it all while managing multiple sclerosis.