Editor’s note: The interview source in this story requested to remain anonymous and use a pseudonym due to his doomsday-preparation stockpiles. Throughout the story, he is referred to as the pseudonym he chose — “Steve Hinton.”
By Ethan Woodhouse
Dec. 20, 2012. Much has been said in recent months regarding the apparent Mayan prediction of the world’s end on Dec. 21. On television and in movie theatres, zombie hordes and worldwide epidemics have captivated audience’s imagination in how our civilization might crumble. Americans can’t get enough of their doomsday scenarios.
Ancient predictions and zombie theories aside, rational thought tells us the sun will rise on Friday and life in the world will continue on as we all know it. Scientists, archaeologists and ancient Mayans have all debunked the 2012 theory, but new predictions will take its place soon enough. No matter how outlandish the propositions are, human nature often leads us to wonder, “What if?”
We spoke with “Steve Hinton,” a resident of the N.C. foothills and avid outdoorsman. A husband and a father of two with a professional degree, Mr. Hinton chose a pseudonym for this article, as he refused to allow his or his family’s identities to be compromised.
“I can’t advertise where I’m located and the things we keep to possibly preserve our lives,” Hinton said.
Hinton is a “prepper,” attempting to be ready for an uncertain future. He attributes his attention to prepping through his observations of the world economy. His home is situated deep in the forest of the upper Piedmont, as he likes it, but he describes his homeplace, which is completely surrounded by forest, as “totally indefensible” in the wake of catastrophe.
“If there’s a possibility of significant calamity, why not address it?” Hinton said. “You don’t have to live it. You don’t have to worry about it every day. I don’t walk around with any anxiety whatsoever. But I am prepared.”
For nearly 12 years, Hinton has stockpiled necessities and studied numerous survival strategies for serious and even extreme conditions all in order to keep his family alive if our current way of living were to suddenly dissolve.
Hinton began collecting drinkable water just over a decade ago, when his family was reliant on city water amassing nearly a 100-gallon reserve. He has enough carbon-filter water pumps and extra filters to purify up to 500 gallons of stream water, if needed. Growing up in a hunting and fishing store made Hinton an adept gamesman, developed skills in trapping, snaring, shooting, fishing and proficient use of the bow and arrow. He is prepared to live off the land, build makeshift shelter, find water and food and keep his immediate surroundings secure.
After water and shelter Hinton’s attention turns to food. He has over 100 pounds of grains (carbohydrates) in airtight storage and a three-month supply of Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). MREs, self-contained in lightweight packaging, last for years and are used by the military in combat and field missions. Add water and you have dinner. He has enough carbon-filter water pumps to cleanse up to 500 gallons of stream water.
“I have packs of supplies ready to go,” Hinton said. “If it all hits the fan, which I pray it doesn’t, it’s ready to go.”
Antibiotics, a first aid kit, fishing line and hooks, stick matches, fire strikers, folds of canvas, rope and twine, a portable saw, an exacto-knife, needles, thread and and a hand-cracked multiband radio are just a few of “the things that you take for granted” that fill his packs. “I pack of two of everything, just in case,” Hinton said.
Efficiency is key in these situations and a wasted moment could prove detrimental. Were disaster to strike, Hinton and his family have a contingency plan prepared even if they are spread out across the state or country.
Hinton and his family secured a location approximately 10 miles south of the Virginia border as a rendezvous point and safe zone.
“We found precisely what we’re looking for,” Hinton said. “And that is high ground with ample water that is surrounded by a sufficient amount of clear cut area.”
After securing the area, his brother’s farm for 25 years, Hinton and his brother cleared the safe zone of trees and other visionary obstructions. With such a line of sight, no one can venture near the area without being seen well before reaching the front door. The property allows for vision 360 degrees around and about 200 yards out. They are also training a group of retrievers, known for their uncanny sense of smell, to detect human presence for many hundreds of yards.
“I don’t believe that there is a probability of anything escalating to this stage,” Hinton said. “But I think that there is enough of a possibility to be prepared. Lack of preparedness is simply foolishness.”
Hinton currently resides approximately 90 miles from the safe house and if the time comes to seek refuge, he is aware of the potential dangers awaiting him on the road.
“I like to play the ‘What If?’ game,” Hinton said. “What if the SUV breaks down? What if there’s a wreck on the interstate between here and there? What if there’s a vigilante group that has the road blocked? You have to consider these things.” He has mapped and often travels “the back roads” to his brother’s remote farm just to be sure of safe passage.
In apocalyptic situations, the people of the High Country maintain one distinct advantage over nearly 80 percent of the country’s population based on the 2010 Census — they do not live in an urban area.
Living in a city amidst a national catastrophe is not ideal. The influx of people fleeing the city would seemingly make automobile travel impossible and calamity within city limits would almost assuredly devolve into violence as water and food disappear.
“I saw a statistic somewhere that without water, close to 60 percent of the persons who live in the urban areas will not make it out because they can only make it approximately 15-20 miles in a three day period,” Hinton said. “They’ll become so dehydrated they’ll become basically useless to themselves.”
Here in the High Country, where population is not as dense and life moves a little slower than the hustle and bustle of the cities. But there are positive and negative implications.
“I think the foothills and mountains have some advantages,” Hinton said. “I wouldn’t say it’s the best, however, because you’re so heavily forested that you would have a very difficult time securing a perimeter to protect any temporary shelter.” Detecting wandering strangers would be incredibly difficult in the dense woods.
Hinton also notes that food scavenging could prove difficult in this terrain (white oak acorns provide a good source of carbohydrates though). Detecting loitering strangers would be difficult in the woods. Hinton also cautions, cold and rain is a recipe to kill. “Cold and rain are recipes for disaster for the unprepared,” he said. “Hypothermia is a sad, silent killer. Properly-constructed shelter from the elements is a must.”
And while our towering mountains provide for glorious views, the deeper valleys would deny sunlight or warmer temperatures. There is water, though, and food is more easily found around streams and surrounding stones. Building a fire, however, could attract unwelcomed travelers, so you must keep any fire small and under control, Hinton said.
“I’m not an expert on mountain survival, so I’m kinda speaking based upon the best knowledge I have been trained with,” Hinton wanted to clarify.
Always remember the “Rule of Threes,” Hinton said. The human body can survive three minutes without oxygen, three hours in cold temperatures, three days without water and three weeks without food.
While Hollywood has provided the public with visions of massive earthquakes and mutant super storms, Hinton has considered a realistic vision for civilization’s possible collapse.
“My personal feeling, I think like so many people, our nation’s economy is in a freefall,” Hinton said. “Literally a downward economic spiral that cannot, in my opinion, be stopped.”
Hinton fears that the American dollar could become virtually worthless, resulting in hyperinflation. Food would become unaffordable or completely unavailable, manufacturing and distribution chains would shut down and internal anarchy could consume the U.S.
“The downfall of society as we know it could happen very rapidly,” Hinton said. “When there’s no water supply, no bread, there’s no rice, when there are no commodities for sale that are consumable, people are going to find food. And push comes to shove, they’ll take it from you.”
Hinton’s thought process may be unusual to many, but he maintains he does not consider the apocalypse to be impending or probable. It is the mere possibility that motives him to be prepared.
Why do houses come equipped with lightning rods, Hinton asks. The odds of being struck by lightning in a year are about one in 770,000 according to the National Weather Service. But that doesn’t mean we go waving around golf clubs in thunderstorms.
“So many people have no knowledge whatsoever and that’s scary,” Hinton said. “They’re going to get caught with their pants down and they won’t know what to do. They will likely panic.”
It probably wouldn’t hurt to keep several extra gallons of water in the garage, even if the world doesn’t start caving in on itself Friday.