The coming summer of survival continues as reality TV takes a sophisticated turn for elite athletes to compete. And Season 10 of History Channel’s award-winning series “Alone” pits 10 survivalists against each other as they endure the changing seasons from mild to monstrous in northern Saskatchewan, Canada.
With just 10 selected items and a camera, each participant must survive in isolation recording their journey and narrating their daily life — the humorous, banal, and the dramatic. Personal struggles and triumphs fill the video feeds.
There’s a calmer, more meditative quality to the “Alone” series, unlike similar shows where people are either naked, trying to survive, or paired in race-like groupings. There are no gimmicks, and the one who can withstand the defeatist demons in their head, unpredictable weather, the potential apex predators and the specter of hunger and exposure to the elements takes the hefty purse: $500,000.
One contestant from Idaho is planning a future business he would love to fund with his cash winnings. Time will tell if Luke Olsen has the grit to be Season 10’s winner.
The Idaho Press spoke to Olsen from Hawaii, where he lives, to discuss his planned return to the Gem State. We talk about his unique childhood, what growing up was like, and how it shaped him into the survivalist he is today, teaching his son Osiris the same traditions and skills his father, best-selling author Larry Olsen, taught him. His parents own Miracle Hot Springs, and Olsen’s 10 siblings reside in Idaho.
When did you leave Idaho?
Luke Olsen: I left Idaho quite a while ago. It was 2003. My parents left for Burma for a couple of years for a mission for their church, and just a good time for me to exit and explore.
I went to Colorado, Utah and California, did a few ski seasons, and found myself in Northern California. I’ve only been here in Hawaii full-time for about three years. I was in Northern California and Southern Oregon before that.
If you win this half-million-dollar prize, you want to invest it in a hot springs wellness center in Idaho. Talk about that.
Luke Olsen: My family owns Miracle Hot Springs. My grandpa built it a long time ago. It’s just been passed out to my brothers now. And so, about five years ago, I purchased the property adjacent to Miracle Hot Springs. So it is on 18 acres, with a fabulous river and crystal clear hot water, and it’s a raw piece of property right now. But soon, we’ll develop that into an eco-chic resort and gathering center. So either way, we’re moving forward on that project, and yeah, super excited about that.
Your parents wrote the number one best-selling book “Outdoor Survival Skills.” This popular book catapulted your parents into this field, and they prepared you for this life, but you were the baby of 11 children. So how did that pecking order help/hinder your abilities and outlook on life, living and survival?
Luke Olsen: Yes, by the time I came around, my parents were starting the Anasazi Foundation in Arizona, and they’d done a Wilderness School in Idaho and a homesteading school in Montana before that.
So most of my older siblings had received a good dose already. So by the time I was big enough to keep up on the trail, that keeping up was precisely what it was. It was keeping up. I was highly motivated to join in on all these adventures I had heard about when I was little. It was a lifestyle, a full-time job for my parents, teaching and providing excursions for young people, and that was just full-time.
The family business and activity are what was happening. We were packing food packs, hiking them into groups, and doing demonstrations for Scout groups and corporate companies — the full-time activity was teaching these skills and providing experiences.
Another thing you do is teach ancestral skills at Pono Outdoor, a home school enrichment program. What are they?
Luke Olsen: Ancestral skills are survival skills from many different cultures. So depending on your ancestry would be your ancestral skills, but we were all primitive humans at one point and used many of the same skills and techniques to survive and thrive.
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Now that I’m in Hawaii, I’m learning about Hawaiian culture and everything used here. So along with teaching things that my parents taught me, I also brought the Hawaiian culture to the classroom for the kids and extended that knowledge base for myself.
Tell me about your father and his impact on how you look at how life is to be lived and maybe the skills that he gave you that you’re most thankful for.
Luke Olsen: Yes, my dad pioneered in revitalizing many of the skills and knowledge we used as humans for thousands of years but went through an era of forgetting.
And so his book, “Outdoor Survival Skills,” was the first of its kind in that genre and impacted so many people. So every day, I find somebody impacted and affected by one of my family members, that book, or the Anasazi Foundation. So it’s empowering and exciting to come across those people and [learn about] all that involvement.
For my dad, one of the ways he always taught us was just like putting us in the experience, letting us figure things out for ourselves, and then being there as a guide to help.
That teaching and method of learning technique is critical and gives you a sense of accomplishment in figuring things out, trial and error. It’s just an impactful and different way of learning, and that was the style he had growing up, putting us into all these situations where we’re suddenly responsible for other people and guiding them through the wilderness. We’re figuring it out as well at the same time. That was empowering for me as a kid.
Are you replicating that with your son, Osiris?
Luke Olsen: Definitely. And with the Pono Outdoor program as well, I enjoy teaching those kids. It’s a homeschool enrichment program. So most kids are homeschooled or come a couple of days a week and get that real feral free play time in the wilderness. This experience is where they can have resources to experiment and figure things out on their own and a guide along there with some knowledge that can show them little intricacies and tricks to the trade.
Let’s discuss the 10 items you selected for your survival journey. What was the best thing you brought? What items surprised you for their overall usefulness? And conversely, what was a wasted or not-so-great pick, if there was one?
Luke Olsen: The salt block was top on my list, mainly for a hydration factor for electrolytes, which came into play. I was happy that I took that salt for many reasons. The bow and arrow items were a must-have and a helpful pick. I did lots of fishing, and I was happy that I took all that fishing gear.
The item I didn’t use as much would be the saw. If I was going to do that again, I might not take that saw. As far as the salt, I shave off little bits of it, put it in my fish and my blueberries, and drink a little bit of salt tea to keep my electrolytes up to add some flavor.
I’ve just been a student of the show and also have a lot of wilderness experience with groups. I’ve seen dehydration be detrimental to people, taking them out of the game and giving them tough times in the wilderness. So keeping up with my electrolytes is essential to me. It affects how you think about things when you’re dehydrated, and in that state, you can make other bad decisions.
The large predators, black bears probably at the top of the list, were all around you. What other creatures did you encounter when you were on your journey?
Luke Olsen: Yes, we had moose and bear and wolves and mink and lots of birds like migrating birds, geese and ducks. Those bigger creatures, bears, moose and wolves, neither the bear nor the wolves want anything to do with us. Wolves in their pack can present some danger. But, ultimately, they don’t want anything to do with us.
Another thing is Idaho’s growing, and people are coming from other states. It is illegal to have any cannabis product in Idaho, but there’s a change in the air. Given your background as a cannabis consultant, what’s your feeling about that?
Luke Olsen: Well, that’s probably the most beautiful thing about the country that we live in is that we have all these different states, all these different zones divided up where the citizens of those zones can choose what happens and doesn’t happen in that zone.
And so we can all migrate around and find the place we fit. And so, whether it does or doesn’t legalize in Idaho, it will be primarily up to the people and what they desire.
And I fully support that whatever decision they make, I’m grateful for Oregon, California, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and all the surrounding states that have chosen that direction and those there that decided for their reasons. So if Idaho has its reasons not to, I also fully support that and am not biased.
So the premiere is in June. Are you coming back home to Idaho to watch with your family?
Luke Olsen: We’ll be there in Idaho for the whole month of June for the premiere and a few episodes. My family owns all the land around Miracle Hot Springs as well. Most of them are there. It’s just me and one other brother out of state. Big Olsen tribe there on that land.