Ticaboo Creek aka Survivorman is a Fake?

Nick

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Aug 9, 2007
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I've been putting off this trip report for too long now. This is from the trip @Aldaron and I took back in January to see if we could track down exactly where the Survivorman Utah/Canyonlands episode had been filmed. As most of you know from this thread, what we found was rather depressing for anyone who might consider themselves a fan of Les Stroud and the Survivorman show. While Aldaron decided to post his evidence in a very well done, scientific, objective manner, I've decided to just post my usual trip report and say it like I see it. If you want to see screen shot comparisons, check out that other thread, there are many. And then if you really want to be entertained, go re-watch the episode. It's available on iTunes and Amazon Prime. It is in season one and called 'Canyonlands'.

We started the trip out leaving Salt Lake after work on a Friday night. We made it all the way down to Ticaboo Shelf Spring by about 10pm and setup camp. The weather was outstanding. I'd just been camping a couple weeks earlier in the swell and this felt so much warmer. A fine place to go during warm spells in the winter.

We built a fire and walked out to the rim of the canyon and took some night shots.
survivorman-faked-episode-2.jpg
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Ticaboo Shelf Spring is an interesting spot. It's piped into a covered circular building that looks like a yurt from a distance. It was overflowing out the edges with ice and water.
survivorman-faked-episode-1.jpg


The next morning we woke up and started the hike down into the canyon. This fork of Ticaboo Creek would most accurately be called South South Fork, I guess. There is a nice cattle trail that runs from the spring down to the canyon floor. It's about 500 feet down, but in the Survivorman episode, they like to call that 1500 feet. This pic is where Les stopped and said that filming the way down was just way too hard. It's probably 300 yards down the trail.
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I love hiking the desert in the winter.
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We debated which way to go once we got to the bottom of the canyon. For some reason I felt up and I got my way. We walked for about 5 minutes before finding Survivorman's campsite.
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The little cave he slept in was still full of rocks, sticks and tree bark. Way to LNT it, Les. Sage was not pleased.
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In case anyone wondered, this campsite was less than 1.2 miles from the nearest dirt road at the top of the cattle trail. In the episode, Les is supposedly dropped off by a helicopter on the east side of Smith Fork. Then for the first two nights he 'survives' less than 300 yards off of Highway 276 on the north side of Mount Holmes. The distance between his first campsite and this campsite is something like 23+ miles, much of which down a paved highway, the rest on a dirt road. I guess he could have walked all of that before lunch, but I kinda doubt it.
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With his campsite located so quickly, we started walking up the canyon to see what else we might find. That's his spot on the right in this shot.
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It didn't take long before we found the next shoot scene and this one was even more depressing. In the episode, Les finds a little puddle of water that he says has mouse poop around it. Then later in the episode, he finds a 'seep'. Well it turns out these two puddles were just feet apart and given the fact that the sand was wet and he mentioned recent flooding, there were likely hundreds, if not thousands of little puddles to choose from in this canyon. And mouse poop? Riiiiiiiight...

The 'mouse poop' puddle is bottom center in this photo. The boulder to the left is easy to identify in the episode. The 'seep' puddle is literally 10 feet further up the canyon under the boulder on the left right as the wash bends.
survivorman-faked-episode-12.jpg

The 'seep'
survivorman-faked-episode-13.jpg


It had been much drier prior to our visit. The sand was dry and Les' puddles were empty, but Sage still found sufficient drinking water.
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We walked further up this beautiful canyon.
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Sage.
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We walked and walked, nearly to the top of all of the many forks. Beyond the two puddles, it appears Les never went more than 100 yards or so up canyon (and that is being generous). He missed out - it's a pretty canyon.
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On the way back, Les' camp was in the shadows. Better for pictures...
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One of the sticks Les used to create his 'Pauite deadfalls'
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And one of his deadfalls. We didn't find them all, but we found a couple of them. We didn't try very hard though. This one was pretty much in his campsite.
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I took this shot to compare to his walking away shot on the last day, but I'm not motivated enough to gather all the screen shots. Trust me though, it's the same shot.
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At this point, I feel like blaming Survivorman for everything....
survivorman-faked-episode-23.jpg


We stopped by a small side canyon between his camp and the cattle trail which turned out to be the spot where he filmed most of his artsy canyon shots. A little further down, we found another one of his deadfalls - specifically the one he allegedly killed a squirrel in. This is about the same comp from the episode:
survivorman-faked-episode-24.jpg


The deadfall rock.
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That deadfall was nearly right at the bottom of the cattle trail. We still needed to find the 'cowboy camp' and his frozen pothole though. No worries, just walk 100 yards. This is the cowboy camp where he found the gallon can. The can was not still there.
survivorman-faked-episode-26.jpg


And would ya look at that... the pothole was right by the camp, literally right at the bottom of the cattle trail. He said this water wasn't really a good source since it was a 'half hour walk from camp'. This spot is only 1/3 of a mile from his camp. I would think Les could walk faster than .7 miles per hour.
survivorman-faked-episode-27.jpg


After that we walked down canyon for a while. I found two more scenes that he shot down here but it was just b-roll type footage and not very far down canyon. This shot was in the episode as well as a some little caves on a wall. With the exception of those two shots, all of the scenes from his 4 days in this canyon seem to have all been filmed within 1.2 miles of the trailhead.
survivorman-faked-episode-28.jpg

We made it back up for some nice late afternoon light. All in all, we spent about 5 hours down there poking around.
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Once back up on the mesa, a cold wind started blowing that was making life very uncomfortable. We decided we might have enough light to drive over to Les' first camp location and just knock it out and drive home. I don't mind winter camping, but a strong wind in the winter - no thanks.

This camp was pretty easy to figure out since you can pretty much see it from Google Street View. I had even picked out the exact tree sitting at home on my computer, and I turned out to be right. In the episode, Les sits here and says something like "the crew will have to fly in and clean this up later". Sadly, 9 years later, they have yet to 'fly' in. If budget was a concern, they could always just drive on the highway and walk the 300 yards?
survivorman-faked-episode-30.jpg

The view of Les' camp tree from the rocks behind. This angle was used a lot in the episode. Pointing the camera the other way would show the highway, so it make sense.
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This is the spot where Les gets 'ledged up' and can't make it to the 'flowing water' below. Well as it would be, there is no flowing water in Milk Creek (unless it's in flood stage). But I'll give Les credit here. There reallly was no way down RIGHT HERE.
survivorman-faked-episode-32.jpg

Yep. We were all 'ledged up'. Until I walked 100 yards up the canyon that is.
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Sage walking back up to camp 1.
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And this is just a picture of Sage, because I like her.
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With light fading fast, we made the long 283 yard trek back to the highway where my truck was waiting. You can see the tip of his camp tree coming over the slickrock dome on the center left.
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I know, this was a pretty snarky run down of the trip. It is what it is. I was a big Survivorman fan and it's a huge bummer to see that this is how it goes. Part of me really wants to believe that all of his other episodes are legit, but it's not easy after seeing this all first hand. I'll still watch and enjoy though. He still does some cool stuff and goes to some cool places, even if he really is just an over-glorified Bear Grylls.

I tried multiple times to reach Les Stroud to get a comment on this but never heard back.

Here's a map of these locations for those interested:
[parsehtml]<iframe src="https://mapsengine.google.com/map/u/0/embed?mid=zO3RqOwYLlrM.kWHzEaie1JTM" width="850" height="750"></iframe>[/parsehtml]https://mapsengine.google.com/map/edit?mid=zO3RqOwYLlrM.kWHzEaie1JTM

And be sure to read through the other discussion threads and Keith's analysis for much more info.
http://backcountrypost.com/forum/threads/survivorman-in-utah.1049/
http://backcountrypost.com/forum/threads/survivorman-utah-episode-discussion.2773/

Featured image for home page:
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Laura

freespirittraveler
Joined
Oct 1, 2012
Messages
957
Wow! I'll bet Les will respond if the right people see this. How did Bear Grylls get exposed? I'd send this to whatever group published that-then I'll bet Les will respond. I'm so disgusted with "reality" TV, and I already hated it before I read this! :rolleyes:
 
Joined
Jan 23, 2012
Messages
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Great report Nick! I posted something on his fan page over the weekend about leave no trace and expected at least a comment from a super fan, but nothing.
 

Howells Outdoors

Adventure is my middle name...actually it's Keith.
Joined
Sep 26, 2012
Messages
444
These threads kill me! I love it! I understand that it is a show and Hollywood work, but seriously. People eat this up like it is so legit. people tell me all the time, "Oh Bear Grylls is fake, but that Les Stroud is actually surviving in the wild. It's real!" In fake someone just told me that as I shared this thread with them...:facepalm:....hahahahaha
 

Nick

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One more photo I should have included (I have a lot more I didn't). This shot is of Les' first camp where he slept under the tree. Highway 276 is visible nearly all the way across the hill in the distance. Click for larger image.

survivorman-camp-1.jpg
 

Artemus

I walk
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Joined
Jun 25, 2012
Messages
4,420
Sorry for your disappointment guys.... Like I said before. I don't need TV backcountry heroes, I've got you guys and gals. And I still think you are real. So far....

I would start poring over your photos before you post them. If @Aldaron gets a glimpse of that tin structure in the wild where you shouldn't be he will notice. BCP-CSI-man!
 

jonmessina

Member
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Sep 26, 2012
Messages
61
Haha. Awesome. Watched the episode last night on Netflix and was laughing at the over the top drama. 300 yards from the highway!? Had to bail a day early with a 1.2 mile hike. Haha. Good thing they muted the sounds of the highway. A passing semi would really spoil the whole wilderness thing.

The thing that bothers me most from your sleuthing is his inability to clean anything up. What a joke. Nice LNT.
 

mike_offerman

Member
Joined
Feb 8, 2012
Messages
505
Well this post seems to be getting a whole lot of traction around the web in the last 24 hours. I'm thinking enough that we might see/hear something out of Les. Like and share this, people! Keep the momentum going.

Do you have some examples? I would like to see what others are saying.
 

Ravialdo

Member
Joined
Jan 9, 2013
Messages
29
You guys did AMAZING work sleuthing this out. Color me impressed!

And I'm more than a little disappointed in Les. I definitely preferred him to Bear mainly because Bear seems so packaged perfectly for TV; handsome guy with abs of steel and a British accent. The fact that my wife thinks Bear is "hawt" certainly doesnt hurt pushing me into the Les Stroud camp.
In any case, it shouldn't come as a surprise. "House Hunters" was another show that was recently revealed to be completely fabricated, and yet I (and many others) still watch it.
Similarly, I will probably still watch Survivorman. I view these shows like glorified travel shows. I love salivating over the locations and scenery. Some of us aren't as fortunate as you guys who get to live in Utah or points west; I get ONE trip out West a year, and so sitting down and watching someone tramp around the Sierra Nevada or "Canyonlands" is my version of outdoor porn, and has to hold me over until "next time" which is usually MONTHS away.

Additionally, he may have faked this stuff because of laziness? I'm not sure his survival skills and advice is necessarily thrown out the window. Some of his advice is still sound but now I'm going to be much more critical of everything.

In any case I'm sharing on my FB page....
 

Dave

Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"
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May 5, 2012
Messages
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I don't need TV backcountry heroes, I've got you guys and gals. And I still think you are real. So far....

I'd venture to assume many people like myself don't see Les as a hero at all, more a guy who appeared to take our hobby to an extreme for the sake of entertainment value. The result of @Nick and @Aldaron's sleuthing doesn't disappoint me. It simply serves as a reminder that Stroud's really not much different from the rest of us, with the exception that he fictionalizes his stories for the sake of drama.

Stroud's schtick has always been that he is actually solo on these outings, carting his own gear and not sneaking off to the crew tent at night to chow down and sleep on a cot. But is he really as far out in the wilderness as he pretends to be? Of course not.

The reality is that there are very few places left in this world that aren't within spitting distance of civilization. Acknowledging that on TV would dispel the mythos survival reality show producers hope to create. Integrity doesn't matter that much when there's money to be made, I suppose.
 

gnwatts

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May 19, 2012
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@Aldaron's sleuthing doesn't disappoint me. It simply serves as a reminder that Stroud's really not much different from the rest of us, with the exception that he fictionalizes his stories for the sake of drama.

This has been a great thread. Although I have never seen this show, the guy is clearly a fraud, and he is MUCH different from us, at least what I know of people on this site. You can't say he is not much different from us then lament the fact that he lies, and makes a great deal of money (probably) off his lies. Do we really think this is the only time he has been dropped off somewhere, trashed up the place, lied about it, and put it on TV?
I will stick to watching South Park re-runs, which is more real than Survivorman. I can't wait for their episode on this guy. Should be brutal!

BTW Nick, Sage is beautiful!
 
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