SEARSMONT—“History’s” Alone season three winner, Maine’s Zachary Fowler, was in his natural habitat Saturday night, surrounded by friends and family at Threshers Brewing Co. in Searsmont to talk about his stint on the unscripted show and his plans for the $500,000 prize that he won.
After unpacking a green rucksack of all of the hand-carved and handmade items he made in his 87 days living alone in Patagonia and laying them out for display, Fowler sat down with a beer and discussed the details he’d been contracted by “History” to keep under wraps for more than 10 weeks.
“Not even my parents knew I’d won,” said Fowler wearing his signature orange cap and red vest. “I had to tell them I’d come home after medically tapping out; that I never quit. They knew Jami [Fowler’s wife] had flown out to Patagonia; so I had to tell them something.”
Fowler said it wasn’t that hard to keep his win a secret, but that he’d enjoyed keeping everyone in the dark.
“If I were going to write a book, I wouldn’t even tell my best friend the ending,” he said.
“Life has been crazy since the last episode aired,” he said. “My phone blew up, almost worse than a Samsung Galaxy 7. I was just scrolling down through my messages within the first hour everyone learned I’d won, and it was non-stop texts, like 500 Facebook messages. Every day, I’m just trying to get back to everyone’s messages and answer their questions.”
Fowler stayed out in Patagonia the longest stretch the show has ever experienced, beating out nine other contestants. He remained in the wilderness 20 days longer than the finalist in season one and 30 days later than season two’s winner.
Alone for nearly three months with only a shelter he’d built out of bamboo, 10 tools he was allowed to bring and the handmade tools he crafted while out there, Fowler survived primarily on fish, the remnants of fish head soup and the occasional bird.
Fowler lost nearly 73 pounds in that time, worried that the show’s medical team might pull him out for a dangerous level of weight loss.
“I was burning calories left and right because I had a location that required I build a shelter up the mountain. (The walk to and from the lake was four stories). I had to construct it there or it would have been a wet, cold dark spot all day with a lake that could rise unexpectedly and swamp my shelter.
The show’s finale put Fowler up against two other long remaining contestants, Megan and Carleigh.
“I figured there were at least three or four other contestants still out there; because I wasn’t having that hard of a time, physically,” he said. “The mental game was a lot harder.”
The show allowed five pounds of rations to be substituted for one tool the contestants could bring and Fowler assumed everyone was still staying in the game because of stored rations.
“I didn’t know until the end I had caught almost twice as many fish as everyone else,” he said.
In the last scene of the season finale episode, Jami, Fowler’s wife, snuck up behind him and surprised him to let him know he was the winner.
“That was a mind blowing moment,” he recalled. “It took me an hour for it to sink in that I’d won, because it was so amazing she was there.”
A few weeks earlier, Fowler flew out to film a reunion show with the entire cast, which aired after the season finale. A slew of statewide media outlets have covered him and he has tasted local celebrity.
“It’s been cool. I love it,” he said.
Many want to know: what will the Fowlers do with the half million dollars?
“It seems like a lot of money at first, but once the government gets their hands on it, it’s really not that much,” he said.
No longer working at the boatyard where we first profiled him, Fowler said he has invested some of the prize money into electronics that will aid his next entrepreneurial venture, a YouTube channel called Fowler’s Makery and Mischief, where he makes things on his farm for fun and practical use.
The Fowlers with their young daughters, Abby, 4 and Sparrow 1, have been living in an off-the-grid yurt in Appleton for the past four years and with the money, they intend to build or buy a new home. The family recently moved into an apartment with electricity and running water, something Jami appreciates.
“Four years is a long time to go without it,” she said.
Fowler also wants to build what he calls a “she-shed” for Jami so she has a place of her own to work on her fiber arts.
It was a fitting end to Fowler’s experience to hold the final meet and greet at Threshers Brewing Co., which hosted the screening of the first episode, and all the subsequent ones after that.
“I’m a family guy,” he said with his daughter Sparrow strapped asleep to his back.” I don’t go out much, except here.”
By 6 p.m. Threshers was filled with friends and well wishers as Fowler gave a show-and-tell presentation of all of the items he’d made in the wilderness, many of which were featured on the show, including some of the bamboo wattle fencing, his carved slingshots and knitted nets and the Wizard Staff, which told the entire story of his journey with symbols, ending at the bottom with four letters: JAMI.
Check out Fowler’s first vlog in which he displays his ATM’s balance slip of $500,000 (with only $38.71 in the bank beforehand) all of the local support he has received, and his future plans.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org