Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School
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“We empower people. We eliminate fear,” says Reggie Bennett, 49, owner of Mountain Shepherd Wilderness Survival School in Catawba. And he does it by teaching you things like how to “light a fire in the pouring rain, knee high, no problem, for the rest of your life.”
That’s just one of the skills students learn in Mountain Shepherd’s most popular course, Humble Thunder ($550)—four days of hiking, knot-tying, map-reading and fire-making all while exposed to the elements (tents are verboten). Other courses include Survival 101 ($295), a day-and-a-half course focusing on basic skills, Wilderness First Aid 101 ($195), and Wild Comforts ($195 adults, $100 kids), two days and one night designed for families. Each year the school runs about 65 courses for 1,750 students.
Bennett, a Norfolk native, founded Mountain Shepherd in 2004 after spending 10 years as a U.S. Air Force Survival Instructor: “I thought, this is my passion, this is what I want to do for life.” He began teaching wilderness skills to adults in Amherst National Forest, then two years later, married his wife, Dina. Together they run the school (Dina teaches team building and women’s empowerment courses). In 2009, the company bought 100 acres adjacent to Jefferson National Forest.
But it’s not all about roughing it at Mountain Shepherd. This year, the Bennetts opened a new set of facilities to help students relax when they’re not out in the woods. Amenities include a restaurant and pub, and bunk rooms with showers and restrooms.
“Learning survival should be a good time—you should be comfortable,” says Bennett. “Even in the Air Force, I wanted my students to have a good time ... I wanted them to learn.” MountainShepherd.com