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Sports >  Outdoors

Lewiston family’s son a contestant on History Channel survival show

By Eric Barker Lewiston Tribune

Every Thursday, Adele and Ron Barnes of Lewiston watch their son on television.

They’ve seen him build a boat, forage for cranberries and bolete mushrooms, and even contend with a grizzly bear.

“I’m just really thankful that I know he is home safe and sound,” Adele Barnes said. “If this was being filmed live, I think I would be an absolute wreck. I can’t imagine how worried I would be if I didn’t know he was home safe.”

Colter Barnes was a contestant on the latest season of the survival show “Alone,” which was filmed last fall and is airing now. As of Thursday morning, Barnes was one of four remaining cast members. Clay Hayes, of Kendrick, Idaho, also is on the show and among the cast members still vying for the $500,000 prize. (Hayes was featured in The Spokesman-Review on July 2)

To win the money, they must survive alone on the shores of Chilko Lake in British Columbia.

Barnes grew up in Madras, Oregon, but his parents now live in Lewiston, as does his brother, Wes Barnes. Even though his mother would worry if she didn’t know he was safe, she and her husband are responsible for his participation in the program. Colter lives on a remote island in southeast Alaska. During a visit, his parents suggested they watch the show.

“We started watching it, and he kept saying the whole time, ‘Why didn’t you tell me about this. I would love to do this,’ ” Adele Barnes said.

They encouraged him to apply, and he was picked out of 18,000 other applicants to be on the show. Barnes teaches survival and homesteading skills in Alaska, where he has lived for 14 years.

His parents said he is no stranger to adventures, and this one, where contestants can “tap out” and summon rescue via a satellite phone, is far less dangerous than many of his trips. He has sailed on the Bering Sea, where the wind howled at 100 mph, and spent 18 days canoeing on the Yukon River.

“Some people probably think, ‘What kind of mother would encourage her son to go on this? It’s so dangerous.’ But this is what he has done all his adult life. He has had all these very dangerous adventures,” she said. “I can name six other adventures he went on that there was no satellite phone to tap out on.”

Like many families in the Pacific Northwest, the Barneses spent much of their free time outdoors.

“Him and his two brothers and I did a lot of hunting and a lot of fishing, so he got a lot of experience in Oregon,” Ron said.

Colter Barnes’ oldest brother, Shane, lives in Moxee, Washington, and helped him secure a critical piece of gear for the show. The contestants are allowed to take 10 survival items with them. Adele Barnes said her son was set to take a gillnet before learning local regulations wouldn’t allow him to use it during his first 45 days in the remote wilderness.

When he got the news, he opted to take a tarp instead and rushed to find one that would meet his needs. Eventually, he used the tarp to build a boat. But it almost didn’t happen. Barnes’ island home means he has to shop remotely. He enlisted the help of Shane Barnes, who found the type of tarp Colter wanted in Yakima and overnighted it to Alaska. But the package, slowed by COVID-19 health and travel restrictions, took nine days instead of one and arrived right before the contestants shipped out.

Adele Barnes thinks the tarp boat gives her son an important edge in procuring food.

“I believe Colter is still on that show because of that boat,” she said.

Ron Barnes believes his son has some key advantages in addition to the boat. Like the others who had yet to tap out, he has well-honed survival skills. He has 14 years of experience living and working near grizzly bears; he spends months alone each year, so he is accustomed to isolation; and he is a bachelor. Ron noted many contestants on the show drop out because they miss their families.

“He doesn’t have a wife and kids pulling at him,” he said.

The show airs at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays and streams for a fee on Amazon Prime.

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