CHIMACUM — Laura Hughes of Chimacum will make her small-screen debut on March 29 in an episode of “Naked and Afraid” on the Discovery Channel.
The reality television show is described as pairing two people, usually a man and woman, together and strands them in an extreme environment and literally strips them down to their bare skin and challenges them to survive in that environment for three weeks.
A watch party is planned at the Valley Tavern, 21 Chimacum Road, in Port Hadlock at 9 p.m. March 29, when the show airs.
So how did Hughes get involved in the show?
She got an email and has been friends with previous competitors on the show.
“They [producers] reached out and sent me an email a number of years ago. At the time I was married and my husband was like ‘no, I’m not comfortable with you doing that,’ so I didn’t do it. A few years later I got divorced and they had reached out again and I was like actually yes, I would like to do that,” Hughes said.
Hughes has been in the U.S. Army and has taught primitive/survival skills at North American Bushcraft School in Virginia.
“I was already fairly familiar with the show and people that had been on the show, so when they reached out it wasn’t like it was completely out of the blue or way out of left field that they would be contacting me about this challenge,” Hughes said.
Hughes’s episode was shot in late April in Baja, Mexico, about two hours outside of the town of San Felipe in the Sierra de Juarez mountains.
“So it’s really desolate … tons of cactus, just a really harsh environment,” Hughes said. “Where we were at it was really dry, you don’t get any rainfall … and they were already into their dry season down there.”
Hughes was paired with another competitor, Christopher James, from Calgary, Canada. Neither Hughes or James had ever experienced a climate quite like the dry desert and rocky mountains of Mexico.
One of the key components of the show is that the first task is to find the fellow competitor.
“You don’t know who your partner is until you actually begin filming,” Hughes said.
“They drive you out to the location, you strip all your clothes off and just walk off into whatever general location they tell you to start walking.
“You’re basically wandering up to the only other naked person in the desert — I’m assuming they’re my partner.”
They must work together to survive the elements, which in the deserts of Baja can include up to 27 species of poisonous scorpion, among other predatory animals.
A medical assistant is with the camera crew during the day and stays within shouting distance at night should any serious injuries occur.
Otherwise, the competitors are completely on their own.
Another element of the show allows the competitors to choose four items they would like to take with them during the challenge. The producers ultimately choose one of those items for competitors to use throughout the show. Hughes chose a Varusteleka Skrama, a type of tactical machete.
“It has two different edges on it, so you can use it for chopping and hacking or for real fine stuff like fleshing things out,” Hughes said.
James’ item was paracord, a type of rope originally used in parachutes that have become an overall utility cord.
Using just these tools, Hughes and James have to figure out how to build a shelter, find food and water and deal with other aspects of survival — all while being as vulnerable as a human can physically be in front of near-complete strangers, knowing that more complete strangers will be watching later.
“That was definitely weird … Disrobing in front of the camera crew for the first time, but you know you have to do it two or three times so they get takes that they want, so by the second or third time it’s like, whatever,” Hughes said.
“You’re kind of more focused on the discomfort and the coming challenge more than you’re worried about what people think.”
Hughes filmed a second episode in a different location in November, but she couldn’t say much about it as it does not have an air date yet.
Jefferson County reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].