How Not To Make Fire With A Magnesium Fire Starter

How Not To Make Fire With A Magnesium Fire Starter

I recently went camping with my Catching Creation team out in Iredell County, North Carolina and decided to try my hand at starting a fire using a magnesium fire starter tool.  I failed pretty miserably and realized that if our warmth and survival depended on my making a fire with this device that we may freeze to death on that cold low 20's night that we decided to camp on.  Alas, cooler (or should I say warmer) heads prevailed and Chance ended my failure at making fire by using a 2 dollar lighter to ignite the little tinder bundle I had merely thrown lazy sparks at.  The fire engulfed the tinder, the fire was started and all was right in the free world.  At least in our little corner of the woods.  Watch this VIDEO and see for yourself.


Catching Creation Adventure Playlist

Catching Creation Adventure Playlist

I have decided to make a playlist on YouTube to make it easier to find our adventure episodes since I post a variety of clips and teachings on the site.  This is around 20 videos and approximately 5 hours of creepy crawly good stuff!  Check it out!



If you'd like any of these adventures on DVD make sure to visit


Meerkats, Tortoises & Penguins Oh MY!

Jessica and I spent a few hours at the Greensboro Science Center, Zoo and Sciquarium and got to see all sorts of amazing animals.  Jess REALLY loves the meerkats and penguins, check it out! 

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Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 12.16.27 AM
Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 12.17.27 AM
Screen shot 2013-11-24 at 12.17.27 AM

Hanging Out In The Rattlesnake Den

Did you ever play that game when you were a kid that required you to pretend the floor was made of lava and the couches and other furniture were little islands impervious to being consumed by said lava?  Now imagine being grown and having a similar situation while out observing wildlife, except now substitute lava for deadly pit vipers and the couch for loose crumbling boulders.  Now that I have painted that beautiful picture, welcome to my most recent adventure.

My first Cottonmouth capture circa 2002

After a late night phone call and Facebook chat with a good friend and snake mentor of mine I got invited to go observe some rattlesnake dens in an area I hadn’t been before.  I jumped at the chance.  My friend Zach Orr has been showing me the wonders of the serpent world for the last 15 years or so.  I met him while in high school when he came and did a presentation on venomous snakes for our natural resources class.  It was one of those presentations that stuck in my mind since I was already quite passionate about snakes.  A few years later I linked up with Zach again at a reptile show and he gave me his contact info and we began a friendship that has been priceless to me.  I have learned so much from his hands on experience and seen so many things in nature that I wouldn’t have had the chance without him.  I held my first venomous snake (a large cottonmouth) with him behind the camera when I was 18 and fresh out of basic training.  I saw my first pygmy rattlesnake with him and countless other snake firsts.

Photo Credit Zach Orr

This adventure would be no different.  This particular journey began rather early for me as I waited at a local Starbucks for him to pick me up since I live at the approximate halfway point to our destination north and west from where we normally hunt for snakes.   After a dizzying ride through curves and back roads I stumbled out of the car wanting to vomit from motion sickness.  We had arrived.  I ambled up the steep incline to our destination taking many rest breaks along the way.  Partially because I’m out of shape and partially because the mountain was so steep you almost had to climb and scramble upward and had it been any steeper ropes might have been necessary, just to give you an idea.

bouldersOnce I finally reached the top, where Zach had been patiently waiting, I saw what looked like massive piles of rubble.  The ridgeline we were on housed hundreds, maybe thousands of Timber Rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus).  The piles of boulders ranged from gravel sized on up to car sized rocks.  Weathering and erosion over time created this habitat that proved to be the perfect winter resting place for cold blooded serpents.  I had been to rattlesnake dens before in other mountain ranges further south and east and this area’s topography was almost like an alien landscape to me.

zachThe boulders, no matter how big or small, weren’t exactly stable to walk on.  You really couldn’t tell whether the large rock you were standing on would support your weight or would slide and roll down the steep incline promoting a rockslide.  It was quite deceptive and each step was calculated but sometimes even when you were cautious the rocks would slide.  The terrifying part about this, aside from falling to an untimely death and being crushed by rocks, was that under most rocks contained a hiding viper.  I stepped on several moving boulders only to be shaken to my core by the telltale sound of an alarmed rattlesnake.  There were a few moments where the rock would shift, the snakes would rattle and I had to frantically deduce where the sound was coming from.  Was the sound coming from beneath me, beside me, where I’m about t put my hands/feet?

I'm starting to get a bit concerned after seeing so many snakes

After we had seen and heard approximately 25 rattlesnakes, which according to Zach was a “bad” day, I began to get quite nervous about this adventure.  As I was looking up the hill at Zach and seeing the rattlesnakes coiled under the craggy rocks above me, my cooler sized boulder began to shift without warning.  As the rock slid downhill I lost my balance and fell face first down the hill crashing chest first, then knees then hands into a pile of boulders.  I didn’t even give my body a chance to register to pain before I was up, catlike, balancing on new boulders after my fall.  My heart was pounding, my knees were shaking and I was praying, “Lord please don’t let me have landed on a viper.”  Once I was able to catch my breath and dust myself off I saw that I only sustained a few scratches and bruises, thankfully there weren’t any snakes ready to defend themselves and in my eyes it was truly a miracle that I didn’t get hurt worse than I did.

©2013 Zach Orr

Rattlesnakes will typically congregate in the fall in rocky outcroppings to den for the winter.  They will often communally hibernate together in these areas and utilize this seemingly perfect spot together twice a year.  You will see them out en mass in late fall as they are coming from miles away to find shelter and again in spring as they emerge from their wintry sleep.  Although I ran the very real risk of being greeted by an angry bite from a pit viper this trip I couldn’t have blamed the snake.  I was in his territory, his house and invading his space.  It’s only natural for him to defend himself and even though the risk was great, seeing these amazingly beautiful animals in their natural habit trumped any threat involved.  Rattlesnakes are a vital part of the ecosystem and their partnership with other predators in eating rats and mice carrying Lyme’s disease ridden ticks is vital to the health of an ecosystem.  They are one of natures systems for checks and balances and if we can truly see their beauty and try to understand them then perhaps our children will have the benefit of seeing these amazing creatures.  Remember that all created things were originally created good as it says in Genesis 1:31 and we shouldn’t villanize things we don’t understand.  Snakes are great!


I'm Not Sweating, I'm Thermoregulating!

Me and the CC team decided to go hiking on this first week of Autumn to see what we could find. We learned that snakes thermoregulate by basking, dogs by panting and me by sweating...a lot. 

Have you enjoyed the new Catching Creation videos incorporating the rest of the team?  Would you like to see more of them?

Leave us a comment and let us know where you'd like to see us film next, what topics or animals we should cover, what pranks we should pull on each other and anything else you'd like to see us do.

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Ringneck Snakes, Flat tires, and Shenanigans

In this short episode you get to see some of the other faces involved with Catching Creation. We all met in Union Grove, NC at Chance Feimster's house. Daniel Charles, Chance, Thomas LaVine and myself all loaded up in a small truck and went looking for snakes at some tin spots in Iredale county. We had quite a bit of fun initiating Thomas for his first time on camera, we found a ringneck snake, and got a flat tire. It was an adventure for sure.

Adventure Archive -- Bats In Coggin's Gold Mine

  This Adventure Archive takes us back to 2006 to the Coggin’s Mines near El Dorado NC.  Many of these mines are now closed off and it is encouraged that you don’t attempt to handle bats.  I worked in a research lab that studied bats when I was an undergraduate at UNCG and gained experience in proper handling and identification.  Many species of Bats in the US are now suffering from a condition called White Nose Syndrome and it has been suggested that human traffic in mines and caves could potentially spread this fungal infection to yet unreached areas.  Never handle bats unless you are properly trained.  These animals are very valuable to ecosystems and fit a specific niche.  They are truly wonderful animals!






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Catching Creation @ Fort Caswell

I got the opportunity to speak at Southport Christian Academy, Shoreline Baptist Church and Southport Baptist Church in the Oak Island/Southport NC area on the coast. It was an awesome trip and lots of fun! Great school and churches! We got to visit Fort Caswell and several beaches, not a bad way to spend the weekend!

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Adventure Archive Kuwaiti Uromastyx Lizard

This Adventure Archive takes us back to May of 2006 at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. I was stationed here while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I captured a Uromastyx microlepis lizard on base after many many failed attempts. This is still one of my favorite lizards! 

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Vacation At Sea

As I sit here to reflect on my recent cruise to the Bahamas I can still feel the boat moving.  My body has apparently become accustomed to a life at sea and now is taking time to adjust to life back on dry land.  This trip was my 3rd Cruise and my first one with my wife, Jessica.  It was quite a bit of fun and more than anything it provided us with much needed rest. We sailed out of Charleston, SC for our 5 day cruise to Nassau and Freeport Bahamas and were lucky enough to have our friend Bailey drop us off and pick us back up from the port.  This was so awesome because parking at the port for a week would have been super pricey.  We boarded the ship and made our way to our tiny room, dropped our bags and started exploring.  Although the cruise ship was massive it seemed so much smaller to me this trip than it was when I was a kid. 

I decided to take this opportunity to finally read Charles Darwin’s “Origin of Species” and I tried, I really did, but I only got around 5 chapters into it.  Every page seemed to take me ages to read because of all of the information saturated on each page.  This made me sleepy more often than not and I found myself taking shifts of reading on the deck, eating ice cream and then turning in for a nap.  It was amazing.  Neither Jess nor I were overly thrilled with the overall party atmosphere of the boat.  It was still quite fun for us just to chill and watch the rise and fall of the sea.

Our first stop was in Nassau, Bahamas.  This was my 3rd time in Nassau and it seems to go downhill each time.  We took a taxi from the port across a bridge to an amazingly beautiful hotel called the Atlantis.  They had a free beach access and so we walked through the elaborate lobby and connecting hallways.  There was an aquarium that ran the length of the entire bottom floor.  Our house will look like this one day if I ever win the lottery or something of that nature.  We finally made it out to the beach and immediately were being approached by eager salesmen.  The men asked about Jet Skis and the women about hair braiding and bracelets.  I got asked around 100 times if I wanted a Jet Ski and when I would say no I would get the follow up question of “do you want to party, I’ve got green mon.”


 I guess my tattoos put a label on me as a pot smoking partier but much to the dismay of my Island salesmen, I am not.  I did flip the script on one such salesman and tried to evangelize to him and that stopped his persistent salesmanship.  It did strike me that he seemed almost unaware of the Gospel, he was wearing a cross on a rosary and had no idea what the cross even represented.  Although he really didn’t want to talk with me about it, it really made me think.

I tried snorkeling just off the shore while Jess laid out in the sun and I successfully saw a bag of chips and lots of sand.  We walked down the beach to a look out point and were able to see a large crab on a rock and then a couple of manta rays danced through the water closer to where we were.  Those creatures look like they are flying through the water.  Aside from a handful of pigeons, doves, sea gulls and other birds that was really the only wildlife we saw in Nassau much to my chagrin. 

The next day we docked in Freeport, Bahamas and this day was quite an adventure.  I somehow found out the Island had a national forest with caves and I got more and more excited the closer we got to the taxi drivers.  Eagerly I walked up to the first man and confidently said “How much to Lucayane National Forest?”  He immediately shot down my hopes of going out there and told us it would be $100 dollars just to get there and back.  It was like someone stole Christmas from me and I hung my head and walked away and scanned a map.  Apparently the National Forest was around 30 miles or so from the port and gas was extremely expensive on this small island.  I believe one of the taxi drivers said it was around $5.70 there a gallon.  Jess and I decided to ask another taxi driver; maybe we could get a deal if we ask around.


The next guy said the same roundtrip would cost us $120.  Ouch.  This time I just sat down hopeless like a spoiled child.  I was so upset and angry because to be honest I really didn’t care much for the ocean, the parties, the ship or any of that, my only real desire was to see animals I hadn’t yet seen.  I decided in my mind that it wasn’t going to happen and even though I was extremely upset I decided to suck it up and drive on with the vacation.  We took a taxi to a nearby beach and on the walk towards the ocean we intermittently stopped and chased curly tailed lizards.  My mood changed as I tried to catch these lizards in the city.  I got to see a few males bobbing their heads in territorial displays.  I saw one male Bahamian Anole lizard flexing his rites as a male by bobbing and extending his bright dewlap as a display of his dominance.  To be honest these little lizards really helped to change my mood. 


We finally got to the beach and I made my way to the water with snorkel and goggles in tow.  I found myself quite terrified by the possibility of what I would see in the ocean this trip.  It was weird because for some reason I was really leery of the ocean even though I was neck deep in it.  I was pretty much completely alone in the water and only around 50 or so feet from the sandy shore.  I felt this really strong anxiety the whole time about what I could see, between sharks, jellyfish, stingrays or even the fear of stepping on an urchin.  I have no idea why this fear was so strong but I tried to fight through it.  I saw a few anemones, some small drab colored fish in the pieces of reef and seaweed near the shore, and a couple dinner plate sized fish that made me jump from fear each time one would cross my path.


I looked up one time and saw Jess buying bottled water from one of the men on the shore and then saw her having a conversation with him.  I emerged from the water as she motioned for me to come near.  Jess told me the man said he would take us to the National Forest for $30.  We were both a bit confused and surely he meant $30 each, which would have still been a deal but still out of our budget.  I walked over to him and asked him to clarify and he said he would, in fact, take us for $30 if we would also pay his way onto the National Forest.  It was only $3 a person so we agreed to take the trip.


I have to admit this may not have been the most intelligent decision I have ever made as we made our way alone into his personal van.  We drove for around 45 minutes in a direction opposite our cruise ship on an island I had only visited once as a kid and never to the extent of our current excursion.  We pulled into the National Forest and paid the attendant in the tiny parking area $9 for the 3 of us and then made our way to the first cave.  These limestone caves are mostly underground and fed by seawater.  We snaked our way down a spiral staircase into the first cave and the pungent perfume of bats filled my nostrils much to my enthusiasm.


I was so excited to be descending into this hole in the earth.  There were tropical fish of all sorts in the water under the small unstable bridge we were standing on.  We looked out across the small living room sized cave and saw scores of bats clinging to the low ceiling.  They weren’t close enough to us to get a decent picture but close enough to see them clearly by eye.  I was so eager to catch a bat but I knew it was impossible and just admired them from around 30 feet away.  We walked into another cave that was very similar, much darker and no bats, or at least none we could see.  I was so excited just to be in these primeval places.  We hiked through the forest and our guide showed us various plants that were good for this remedy and that ailment.  He then asked us if we wanted to go to a secluded beach.


We again reluctantly agreed and as we took our van off roading down a sandy road Jess and I were both a bit sketched out, that is until we saw the sea through the trees.  We walked out onto a beach that seemed like no one else knew about.  That was somewhat shattered when we saw the remnants of a campsite where we were but even that were amazing to see.  The beach was pristine.  There wasn’t another person for miles except Jessica, myself, and our shady new friend.  Jess started lying out under the quickly clouding sky and I walked into the water and tried to fake it like I wasn’t terrified of this newfound ocean habitat.  Again I have no idea why I was so afraid to snorkel alone, partly this time because my wife was on shore with a strange man and partly because of all the real possibilities of sharks.


We were told the beach we were visiting was the location that the first Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed so that was cool.  All in all I only seemed to see amazing habitat for sea life, some small reefs and urchins.  I am certain that if I hadn’t been struck with fear and swam out only a few more feet from the shore I would have seen much more diversity.  I am ashamed of myself for letting fear take away from my desire to explore the wild but it is what it is and next time I won’t let my head ruin what my heart wants to do.


We loaded back into the van and with the tradition of the islands, according to our guide, we filled jugs of water up at the ocean and poured them on our legs and feed at the van so as to not include the beach into his van.  The storm that had been brewing over top of us hit around the time the vans doors shut and lightening and thunder were flashing and booming all around.  We saw countless strikes that went straight to the ground very close to where we were.  One thunderclap seemed to have popped and boomed right outside the window of the van, it was quite loud and made Jess and I jump.  The trip overall was amazing and my fear of being zip tied and forced to wear a black hood never seemed to come to fruition so our guide wasn’t as shady as we may have projected onto him.  We got back to the cruise ship, hit up the lunch buffet and went back to relaxing for the rest of our cruise.  

Frog Calls, In-Laws, and Someone Call The Law Yall.

Today was one of those days that was awesome in almost every way except one, Hebrews class.  This is my second class in a literal crash course in Biblical languages and I could feel the anxiety welling up in my throat as my breaths became shorter and shorter with every unexplained new concept.  It hit a crescendo towards the end of class when the teacher called on me and the audio wasn't working to reply so she joking said I was pretending that it did not work to get out of answering the question.  Well it was a half truth, my audio did not work but I didn't know the answer anyway.  I had to be reminded this would be the second class out of 11 that I have knocked out so only 9 more to go.  That is at least a positive way to look at it.  

I decided to take my class from home this afternoon because my wife had been fighting off a gnarly cough and just felt drained overall so I wanted to be here for her.  As class was wrapping up I felt my throat tighten a bit with a tickling cough as if something was irritating it.  Almost as soon as my mouth produced the coughing noise my nose smelled the pungent smell of incense, that hellish smoke designed for non-bathing hippies and new age gurus.  Although my wife fits into neither of those categories, she still loves that nasty smelling stuff.  This made me crack the window in my office and in a moment of pure bliss I heard my favorite springtime noise.


Almost piercing through the relative silence of the outdoors I heard the sweet sweet sound of Upland Chorus Frogs calling from the marshy area behind our apartment complex.  I sprung out of my chair and ran full stride into the living room to where Jess was sitting.  "Guess what I heard outside" I said to Jess.  Knowing my childlike love and excitement for all things wild she aptly guessed the right answer.  I put on my critter getting clothes grabbed a couple big zip log bags, a flash light and my cell phone; and headed out the door.  I found an easy path down to my first obstacle, the large creek that runs between me and the swamp, and I crossed it with sloshy ease.  Making my way up a steep embankment, right into a thick briar patch, I scratched and unstuck my way to the marsh.


This area is essentially run off from various apartment complexes and to say it was a pristine habitat would be a huge stretch.  Actually this is probably one of the most polluted waterways I have ever hunted in but when I get the frog fever nothing really seems to stop me.  I strategically walked through the sucking mud towards the sounds of the calling frogs just as my phone began to ring.  My father-in-law called me back after I butt dialed him on the way out to the swamp and I abruptly answered and said "hey dude I'm in a swamp, can't talk."  Knowing the kind of man his daughter married, my father-in-law chuckled as we hung up our phones.


I decided after several minutes in this spot and an almost run in with a raccoon that I would try to move towards the other volleys of calls I heard.  I followed the river and checked every low spot with water and made a few observations.  For starters, there seemed to be significantly less biodiversity in these pools than the pristine pools I have studied in years past.  There were no copepods, amphipods, egg masses or salamander larvae to be found anywhere.  I did see a few tiny wolf and nursery web spiders and one or two small black swimming beetles. I noticed the amount of noise here was significantly greater than pristine spots as police cars, fire trucks and ambulances seemed to scream through the silence every 10 minutes. The one thing I did see en mass was copious amounts of mosquito larvae.  It seems that the animals that normally inhabit vernal pools (sometimes called ephemeral wetlands) were unable to survive in such a polluted environment.


It always amazes me to see God's creation working the way it was designed to.  God has created everything with such genetic diversity and adaptability that animals can find ways to survive in even the most unlikely habitats.  The early breeding amphibians are designed in such a way that, although they are cold blooded, can still manage to successfully reproduce even when their pools are frozen.  The conditions typically have to be perfect, the dew point, barometric pressure and temperature have to be just right for the males to start calling.  When it is too cold outside the frogs will secrete a glucose substance that is essentially biological anti-freeze.  You can't tell me our God is not creative and uncaring.  He designed these little frogs with such a complex adaptability so that they can survive and mate even when logic says they will just freeze in place.


As I finished up surveying smaller pools quite a bit away from the main pool I noticed a young boy across the creek and around 100 meters away from me just staring in fear at me.  I started to move towards him and he sprung up and jumped on his bike to ride away as he told an older lady of my whereabouts. I called out from the woods that I was just looking for frogs but neither of them really seemed convinced of my intentions.  I really didn't think much about it and started making my way back to the loudest volume of frog calls.  I stayed in this area for somewhere near an hour just sitting on small logs in the water with my light off.  Occasionally  the chorus of frogs would start up, peepers peeping in the distance and chorus frogs closer to where I was sitting.  It seemed as sporadically as the calling would start it would just abruptly end.  I stayed crouched in my watery stakeout waiting to shine my dim light on the closest calling male.  I could never pin point one and I convinced myself that they were ventriloquists putting on a show to confuse me.  In a final attempt to not admit defeat I decided to look at the base of the tufts of vegetation sticking out of the water where I last heard the calls.


After searching two or three spots I finally found a lone male clinging for dear life just above the water level behind the overhanging grasses.  I snatched him up and put him securely into my large ziplock bag and started to make my way back out of the stinking and nasty swamp.  Success!  Just as I made my way back to somewhat stable ground I saw another flashlight peering at me from the apartment complex behind mine.  I was asked to walk closer and as I made my way through the brush I heard the chatter of Police radios.  The police officer asked me if I were looking for frogs and I assured him that is exactly what I was doing and thankfully I had a recently caught specimen to prove my claims of innocence.  Of course I had no identification on me so I explained what I did and where I lived.  I talked to him about my animal ministry and after answering several questions he seemed satisfied with my purposes.


I told him that I would most likely be back in the coming weeks/months as the temperatures began to climb and more frogs began to breed and he seemed ok with it.  He advised me to just go home tonight because several people had called the police after seeing me and my flashlight lurking in the swampy woods for the last two hours.  He told me that since there weren't any No Trespassing signs and there weren't any laws against looking for frogs that I was cool.  I made my way home to Jess covered in slimy mud with a frog in my hand and a huge smile on my face.  Today was a good day.

"Chorus Frog Male"