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Doug Hill, of Lafayette, demonstrates how to build a fire during his primitive skills class on Friday, Dec. 15, in Boulder.
If you go

What: "Mayapocalypse Now" primitive skills class

When: Friday, 6-9 p.m.

Where: Coal Creek Canyon -- register for class address

More info:

I f the world really does end Friday, Doug Hill and his primitive-skills students will be prepared.

That's the goal of 31-year-old Hill's class "Mayapocalypse Now," which he will teach Friday "as the light fades for what could be the last time on Earth."

All jokes aside, Hill says learning primitive survival skills, even under the premise of the world ending because of a Mayan prophecy, can help people in emergency situations when modern technology and devices fail them.

After Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast in October, many were left homeless, or without power. Though it wasn't the apocalypse, it was close for some, Hill said.

"In today's world, what's the reality of a situation like that?" Hill said. "The hurricane on the East Coast, Hurricane Katrina are definitely recent examples of how quickly we can get cut off from the infrastructure that we rely on."

The three-hour class will school participants in the art of primitive fire-making techniques, simple shelters, survival priorities and attitude, natural navigation, water filtration, stone tools and knife safety.

Although the class will discuss the history of the Mayans and their calendar, which ends on Dec. 21, 2012, Hill said he hopes the skills he teaches can be viewed as applicable in case of a very real emergency or disaster.

"I'm hoping people go home a little more confident and comfortable with the fact that if the phone lines go down or the internet goes out, or they're cut off from the grocery store for three days, they can still make it," he said.

Doug Hill, of Lafayette, demonstrates how to build a fire during his primitive skills class on Friday, Dec. 15, in Boulder.
Doug Hill, of Lafayette, demonstrates how to build a fire during his primitive skills class on Friday, Dec. 15, in Boulder. (JEREMY PAPASSO)

Hill started his business, Gone Feral, a little over a year ago because of Boulder County's proximity to the mountains and wilderness areas. He volunteers as a naturalist and trail guide for the City of Boulder, and has studied extensively with primitive skills specialists, living in a tent for three months with one and learning the ins and outs of being a hunter gatherer with another teacher.

His interest in nature began as a child growing up in New Jersey with parents who said that if it "wasn't sub-zero weather or a monsoon" he should be outside.

As he grew up, Hill began a search for the answers to some of life's questions. The wilderness was a way for him to explore his own spiritual and emotional beliefs, he said.

"It stems from my own personal search for a bigger truth out there, or whatever you want to call that," he said. "I always felt more comfortable going for a walk by myself in the woods than I did in any church or any place else."

Hill wants to bring back the self-reliant attitude most Americans had until technology made it easy to pass off some of that personal responsibility, he said.

People used to stock up on canned goods and non-electronic entertainment in case they got stuck inside because of war, natural disaster or other catastrophes, Hill said -- a mindset that modern people have lost.

"A lot of it is promoting the idea of self-reliance in the modern world, and taking time for yourself, stopping and looking around," he said.

One of Hill's students, Patrick Burns, works for the Cal-Wood Education center in Jamestown as a naturalist and field instructor.

The 27-year-old works with fifth graders to help them learn that science occurs outside in the wilderness every day.

With Hill as a mentor, Burns said he learned what it feels like to have the "ultimate freedom" over his own survival.

"You can go to REI and buy all the tents and all the cooking equipment you want, and some people have the misconception of that being freedom," Burns said. "But once the tools run out, or if you become lost or lose your pack, how are you going to live?"

"It all comes down to survival as well as 'thrival.' In the increasing technologic age, people can be disassociated with the natural world and learning these skills can give them the upper hand, just to feel better about yourself."

And primitive skills aren't just for people who camp, hike or backcountry ski deep into the wilderness. Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks outreach coordinator Lisa Dierauf asked Hill to teach a class to the city's volunteer naturalists, who lead hikes for groups around the city and county.

After Hill's class, Dierauf decided primitive skills might engage her teenage son, Liam McDonald, in a way that technology couldn't.

When she picked up her now 15-year-old son from one of Hill's classes, Dierauf said she saw a group of teenagers who were energized and involved, not busy texting or zoning out to music from their iPods.

"They were all super excited and engaged and working together," Dierauf said. "Any time you get kids on the land it engages them, it engages all of their sense and starts to click them in differently. Kids that tend to be plugged in (to technology), they don't have all those senses engaged."

--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.