CLEARFIELD – Small-town America got a taste of success from a former resident in a big way.
Shiloh native Roland Welker, who now makes home in Alaska, showed his pride in being from a small town when he came back to Clearfield on Saturday evening on the main stage at the Clearfield County Fairgrounds to tell the story of his victory on History Channel’s season 7 of “ALONE.”
With nothing but 10 tools, clothing and some cameras, Welker outlasted a cast of nine others by surviving 100 days in the Canadian wilderness.
However, in his eyes, what he did compared to other seasons was beyond anything that had been seen on the show, and likely will never be seen again.
“They really decided to make it a challenge for season 7,” Welker said. “This was the latest they ever started a season – we’re looking at nearly October.
“It was the farthest north they ever did a season, and it was the biggest purse. When I heard they were doing a $1 million prize for 100 days, I was all in.”
Welker spoke of the application process for the show, and how it wasn’t just picking people at random to see how they would do.
He said it was a true interview process, from experience in the wilderness, to hunting and knowledge of the area.
But, the most critical part in his eyes was actually trying to choose what items he would take with him for the 100 days.
“They give you a list of things to choose from to bring to your area, and you can only pick 10. It’s not as easy as it seems; you have to really think about what you’d need and what is the most critical,” Welker said, “so that process was a lot harder than I expected.”
At drop off, he was left with his 10 pre-selected items, a bag of clothes and camera equipment. He was alone; there was no camera crew.
Welker had to build a permanent shelter and fire, gather food and document all the show’s footage of his survival journey himself.
At minimum, he was required to submit eight hours of daily camera footage. He admitted that some more exciting experiences were nearly missed.
“You constantly have a camera with you, so you’re trying to set up while also tracking an animal. It makes it challenging to balance both,” he said.
Attendees raised their drinks and applauded in approval as he spoke highly of his blue-collar family, particularly his mother and father.
He said the county’s rich history of hard-working people dedicated to earning their keep prepared him for his off-the-grid lifestyle and the survival show.
On the show, Welker had success from the early goings from catching fish and picking berries to building “Rock House.”
As he grappled with massive rock and logs in its construction, he initially called it “stone house,” but for him, that just didn’t bring the right “vibe.”
During one episode, Welker said he suddenly started calling it “Rock House,” and well that just stuck.
Fans were especially roused by the Alaskan big-game hunting guide’s story of slaying his eventual million-dollar musk-ox.
“It was getting dark and I was just collecting berries when I looked off into the clearing there,” he said. “I saw this odd shape – almost like a large rock. I watched it.
“When it started to move, I knew exactly what it was – a musk-ox. All it did was graze and every once in a while, it raised its head.
“I only had two arrows on me but went for it. The first one broke but the second one got it … it didn’t go down right away.”
Welker was then forced to decide whether to finish the slaying, or to wait until morning and risk having the musk-ox eaten by wolves or other predators.
With his straight-blade knife at his side, he jumped at the stocky, long-haired Arctic animal and stabbed it.
Still not dead and with cameras rolling, he jumped at the musk-ox stabbing it again and again until it fell to its death.
Afterwards, he radioed in: “big game down” with pride, and the musk-ox later became the symbol of his victory.
Welker brought home the skull and horns from his undoubtedly most-epic big-game kill yet, and had it on stage with him.
He also had leftovers, and brought those home, too. “It isn’t exactly pleasant on the pallet, but it was my food.”
And when District Attorney Ryan Sayers asked how much longer Welker could have survived – alone – he said with his stockpile of meat, fish and berries, he could have easily made it another 50 days.
Welker truly believes he’s set the bar for future seasons of ALONE with a lot of firsts from naming his shelter to conquering 100 days for $1 million.
But he emerged richer not just in money, but also with experience, knowledge and especially reflection.
“I give all the glory to the Lord above, because I truly believe it was He that blessed me the entire time, and allowed me to go 100 days,” Welker said.
Hell Bent – one of Welker’s favorite local bands, performed before and after his on-stage appearance.