Wilderness and survival expert Hazen Audel takes treacherous paths in this documentary series. Using his knowledge and skills, Audel sets off on a journey via lesser traveled roads, where the terrain is unstable and the elements are often harsh and unpredictable. Stopping in local communities, Audel speaks to native residents to gather as much information about the area as possible. Following in the footsteps of the Embera tribe, the survival guide goes on a jungle trek through the Darien Gap. In other episodes, he navigates the Arctic Circle with 200 reindeer in tow and crosses crocodile-infested lakes.
Extreme survivalists go head to head in a race across the Alaska wild. Using ingenuity, experience and just the gear they can carry in their packs, the participants have 60 hours to reach the finish point of each leg of the adventure -- the series features 13 legs -- and in addition to navigating treacherous glaciated river valleys, barren ridgelines, and high mountain peaks, the challengers battle hunger, dangerous predators and unpredictable weather. There is no grand prize awaiting each leg's winner, other than the pride of accomplishing a grueling feat. For season three, the 12 competitors are divided equally into four teams -- Military, Endurance, Alaskans and Lower 48.
When bears, wolves and foxes are your only neighbors, life can be pretty lonely. Add minus-60-degree days and a constant battle for the most basic necessities, and you have the daily challenges of people who live in remote corners of Alaska. This series takes viewers deep into an Alaskan winter to meet tough, resilient residents as they try to stay one step ahead of storms and man-eating beasts to survive the season. The closest neighbor to Sue Aikens is more than 300 miles away. Eric Salitan subsists solely on what he hunts and forages. Chip and Agnes Hailstone catch fish for currency in bartering for supplies, and Andy and Kate Bassich use their pack of sled dogs for transportation. Also highlighted is a time of year not always part of what viewers see in Alaska: spring! Ice is breaking, animals are waking, and residents face new tests before deep cold returns.
Each year adventurers make Alaska's mighty Yukon River their home for five weeks. They float downstream on homemade log rafts to sell firewood and other supplies to remote villages. The reality-documentary "Yukon River Run" presents hourlong episodes tracking the progress of various crews. As harsh winter months approach and threaten both safety and success, stakes are heightened as rafters endeavor to cash out and escape from the cold.
The old Dolly Parton hit "9 to 5" isn't a tune worth humming for the blue-collar pioneers featured in "Filthy Riches." The series spotlights ingenious Americans who skirt a conventional workplace in favor of making a living in the deep rivers, soggy mud flats and wild backwoods of the U.S. Ray Turner, for example, has been catching eels in Delaware for 30 years. He uses a self-made smokehouse in the woods to cook the critters and sell them. Billy Taylor and his sons hunt for prized ginseng root in the Appalachians. Taylor, a fully licensed wild ginseng dealer, promotes sustainability by planting its berries. In Maine, Jim Campbell and Andy Johns make the coastal mud flats their office, as they dig for valuable bloodworms to sell to fishermen. And Greg Dahl and Albert DeSilva are burl hunters. A burl is a hard, unwieldy outgrowth on a tree, usually at the trunk. Burls have value because of the spectacular patterns found in them when cut open.
Mick Dodge is one with the woods, having left modern conveniences behind 25 years ago to live among the trees, caves and animals in Washington state's Hoh Rain Forest. It's not an easy life by any means -- he sleeps in tree stumps and has no easy access to food -- but each day presents a different adventure, and as the always-barefoot Dodge says, "All I have to do is follow my feet." He's walking in the footsteps of four generations of Dodge men who have called the Olympic Peninsula their home, and because the intensely private former Marine allowed National Geographic access to his world, this time viewers are welcomed to witness the primal life of "The Forrest Gump of Middle Earth."
Money and goods mean nothing to the people in "Live Free or Die." The series depicts a trend called "rewilding" -- the undomestication of humans -- and follows those who've rejected a mainstream existence to live off the land, in simple homes without electricity or running water. Being self-sufficient is a constant challenge, as obstacles like brutal weather and depleted food stocks require quick, innovative solutions. Modern pioneers include Colbert, a former financial adviser now living in a Georgia swamp; Gabriel, whose California lifestyle alternates between the mountains and the sea; and Tony and Amelia, who turned a hillside in the Blue Ridge Mountains into a garden.