Do People Live In the Forests?

When I drive through beautiful British Columbia, I often wonder just how many people live in the woods. I’m talking about people who live off the land full-time, no electricity, no store-bought food, and completely out-of-sight of the general population. Maybe they’ve built a cabin deep in the forest.

I’m not so much referring to the Eric Rudolph-type fugitives, but people who have deliberately chosen to live 100% of the time on their own in the forests.

Anyone have any information?


People like Les Stroud (aka Survivorman) lived for a time in the woods: Les did it for a one year honeymoon.
Grey Owl did it and there is a movie about it.

I’m sure there are others doing it quietly (probably part of what they are seeking). But I doubt anyone does it in Canada/US without any storebought food. Even hardy 1800 era pioneers brought along staples like salt, sugar, flour etc. to supplement and flavour their main diet of living off the land.

Interesting reads… thanks. And yeah, I guess avoiding commerce altogether would be nearly impossible.

I can tell you confidently that in Iron County, Missouri (a heavily-wooded area from which Mrs. Homie came), there are indeed people who live “off-the-grid.” These people are hillbillies in every sense of the word-- ramshackle cabins, outhouses, no running water, generators for electricity, and meat secured by [del]poaching[/del] “off-season hunting,” at which the Iron County sheriff looks the other way.

Cite? you may ask. I’ve driven by their homes.

That’s “off the grid”, but not as the OP asks “COMPLETELY out of sight”.
If you’ve driven by their homes, then I assume they live near a road.So do they use vehicles? Pickup trucks, 4 WD jeeps etc? And if so, do they pay license fees, etc?, And if they have a generator for electricity, they have to buy fuel for it.

I think Theodore Kaczynski – the unabomber – lived pretty much like this. But I would think he had to heve power from somewhere to build his bomb components.

He wanted to live that way but was incapable of doing it. He blamed encroaching development for his own inability to be resourceful enough to live off the land. He held jobs during his cabin inhabiting period, and bought food and supplies from stores, etc.

Growing up in Northern Alberta I knew a few trappers who lived out in the bush full time. I met one guys mother who was making smoked moose strips (jerky) over a open fire at the time. They did go into town a few times a year though (by boat) for coffee, tea, sugar, flour etc.

I imagine very, very few (if any) live completely “off the grid”, without any input from modern production - no clothes, no metal tools, no staple foods, etc.

Well, I would wager that that’s pretty “out of sight” by Midwestern US standards; let’s face it, you aren’t going to just happen by one of these homes; you have to go down some pretty backwoods gravel/dirt roads to get there. Yes, the ones I’ve seen usually have a beater pickup or two in their yards.

Down in the States, the Amish live pretty disconnected (e.g. living off the grid, making many of their own products), but I wouldn’t say that they live in the middle of nowhere - they live in seemingly ordinary towns and farmland, and you might not immediately recognize that you weren’t in some random rural area.

I used to work at a gold mine in northwestern BC that was very remote. It was smack-dab in the middle of tens of thousands of square kilometers of pristine, untouched, mountainous wilderness.

There was no road access and the mining company liked it that way, for security purposes. Access was by aircraft and by hovercraft. The hovercraft was necessarily as the mine was on a very shallow, tendril-like river and was used to ferry ore concentrate and supplies to and from the Alaska panhandle. The pilots would run over the occasional bear fishing in the river and the bear would come tumbling out the back from under the apron, wondering what hit them.

But anyway, in the middle of all this vast wilderness, down one of the valleys, lived this trapper/hermit-type guy who was completely off the grid. It was only after the mine appeared that he would show up once every couple of month for a cup of coffee. This guy was the real deal and he looked it. Pretty amazing.

I would guess that the main problem with living off the grid is one of land ownership. If you have enough money to buy enough land to go out and live on without getting in anyone else’s way, then you’re probably not the sort to want to turn back to nature. If you don’t have that much money then your neighbors or the forest service are going to be rather annoyed with you for logging or hunting off of your own land.

Of course, perhaps there were such people around the area where I grew up (the Sierra Nevadas) but if they never come down into town, how would you know? :wink:

Hey Homie, I think your description is reasonable considering what the OP asked for. I have heard of places that are hidden – but not too far off the interstate – that are little tent villages. It really looks like something out of a Third World country.

A few days ago the news was showing a tent city under one of our bridges here in Nashville. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that they are under a good many of them. The tent city wasn’t the story. Something had happened to one of the residents. It was painful to see that he had hung a red Christmas stocking outside his “tent” door.

When you were describing the people that you saw, you said that they are “hillbillies in every sense of the word.” That word has some very negative connotations. Are you wanting us to think of these people in a negative light?

I think people used to choose a simple lifestyle. But more and more often, I think it has become the result of terrible poverty.

I have a friend who lives in the back of a truck. He has been there – out in the woods – for several years now. When I first knew him he was a married man with a wife and five children in a pleasant house. He’s a very intelligent man.

Did you know that there are countries where there are virtually no homeless people? I didh’t see any homeless people until I came to Nashville in my twenties. We didn’t see people standing in the street asking for food. Hobos and bums were from the 1930s. We saw people sleeping in doorways only in the movies and they were usually drunks.

It hasn’t always been like this.

Not necessarily. To me “hillbilly” is a neutral term, although I can see where some might take offense.

Those are also called “homeless encampments”. Although they likely have no electricity, the homeless almost always buy store food, and they come into town to beg, get their disability checks or whatever, or maybe be day-laborers.

OP, sorry- almost no one lives like that. We do have quite a few dedicated dudes livinf in the Santa Cruz mtns “off the grid”. But they do go into town a couple times a month, they usually have electricity (solar, etc) and water. That’s fairly common, and about as close as you will see outside a few super-rare cases.

I’ve met some crazy hippies that do it, but they often live a nomadic existence and might crash at a commune at different times. But I know some people who live in Teepees out near Taos, and they have the weathered skin to prove it. A lot of the poorer hippies live in national forests when it’s warm enough. Also, serious hardcore Rainbow Tribe types live throughout the warmer months going from Rainbow Gathering to Festival to Rainbow Gathering, which might constitute living in the forest. I don’t know of anyone who lives a totally and completely primal existence in the forest, but that might be because we don’t travel in the same circles. :wink:

This is one of those places where PC destroys language. Hillbilly, has a negative connotation because people don’t want to be compared to actual hillibillies. Changing your euphemism won’t change the fact that people look down on poor people living in the woods.

It’s not 100% in the forest, but UC Santa Cruz had so many hippy-student types living in the woods that they had to open shower rooms for them. There were several cabins hidden away that would be passed from student to student, and sme lived in tents I’m sure there were plenty of others who didn’t make it out of the woods for long periods of time.