A new season of History’s Alone debuted on the A&E Networks on Dec. 8, 2016. And Zachary Fowler, one of the show’s 10 contestants, happened to catch the episode surrounded by friends at Thresher’s Brewing Co. in Searsmont.
The show’s survivalist premise plunks 10 participants in the wilderness of Patagonia, where they will be put to the ultimate test of will and human endurance–surviving as long as they can, completely isolated and alone, with nothing but the contents of a small backpack. Each individual must create their own shelters, catch food from the land, overcome harsh terrain, bitter cold and contend with a host of deadly predators. They will truly be on their own.
Unlike other reality shows, there is no camera crew several feet away. The last one standing wins.
Of course Fowler cannot tell (and doesn’t yet know) who is the winner of this season, but he’s now back in Appleton with his wife, Jami, and two young daughters.
Fowler, 37, has lived off the grid on his 2.5 acre small farm Appleton for nearly a decade, living in a yurt with a greenhouse. He has always been self-reliant and practiced homesteading skills. As a Maker, he loves to forge his own tools, slingshots, catapults and rocket stoves—anything that captures his interest. Just for the fun of it, he even created a YouTube series called Makery and Mischief.
A fan of survivalist shows like, Alone, which began two seasons ago, he decided to write to the creators of the show last January. To his surprise, out of 50,000 applicants, he was invited to apply as a contestant on Season 3.
“They went on my Facebook page and scrolled through all of the photos I’ve taken of the knives and slingshots I made and then got back to me quickly,” he said. “They directed me to this website to apply, then sent me a camera to take a video and now that’s on their YouTube channel.” See his accompanying casting video.
The show invited 20 people initially, knowing some people would drop out. Each participant was given a very specific list of 10 items they could bring with them, and Zach chose to bring one of his handmade slingshots, among other handy items.
This past spring, he had to leave his boatbuilding job at Northeast Boat Yard, and his family, and immerse himself in a boot camp in upstate New York with the other participants to prepare for their trip — and no one knew where they were going to be sent off to.
“I was only able to tell people I was going away for a survival show and my boss was like ‘all right, see ya later,’” he said.
After a ton of paperwork, interviews, doctor’s evaluations and a three-day wilderness survival evaluation by experts, not everyone made it out of boot camp.
“A couple of people quit right off the bat, overwhelmed by it all,” he said. “When I first saw all of these people, who come from around the world, on the first day I was horribly intimidated. One of these guys was like ‘I’ve spent 50 days out in the wilderness and can rub two sticks together to make fire.’ And I was like, I don’t know how to rub two sticks together to make a fire. But, as time went on, I could see everyone was just human. And it was really fun. We all got along well.”
This past summer, the top 10 cast learned they were to be flown to the wilderness of Patagonia, outfitted with just their 10 items and a camera to shoot the raw footage for Alone.
Self-effacing, humorous and genial, Fowler is already one of the show’s stand out “characters,” not just because of his bushcraft skills, but because he doesn’t take himself as seriously as some of the other contestants do.
“My goal was to get in front of the camera as much as possible,” he joked.
Though he’s not allowed to reveal many details about the show itself, Fowler was just as excited as the rest of the patrons of thresher’s Brewing Co. to watch the first episode. Everyone cheered when he showed up larger than life on screen.
At various points in the show, Fowler gave Mystery Science Theater-like comments on what the audience was seeing. As far as the guy who could rub two sticks together?
“Yeah, but what you didn’t see is that it took him like 50 times,” he commented, sparking laughter from the audience.
Stay tuned each week to watch Fowler use his bushcraft and survivalist skills to stay alive. Will this Maine boy stay in the game and make our state proud? Only time will tell.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.