“Timber” Tina Scheer, owner of the Great Maine Lumberjack Show in Ellsworth, is no stranger to TV. She’s appeared on everything from the Travel Channel show “Edge of America” to “The Jeff Probst Show,” and in 2006 was a contestant on “Survivor: Panama.” A celebrated timber sports athlete, she’s also no stranger to hard work out in the wilderness — which is why she was an ideal candidate to become one of the twelve outdoor survivalists featured on the second season of “Ultimate Survival Alaska,” a National Geographic Channel program that drops the cast members into the middle of the Alaskan frontier, pitting them and their wits and strength against the wild. For this season, the twelve cast members are broken into four teams of three: Military, Endurance, Mountaineers and Woodsmen, the latter of which is Scheer’s team, naturally, featuring her, Jimmy Gaydos and Yote Robertson. “Ultimate Survival Alaska” airs at 9 p.m. on Sundays on NGS; Scheer answered some questions about surviving in the wilderness, being the only woman on a team full of men, and how being a lumber “jill” prepared her for the show.
How did your skills as a lumberjill prepare you to survive the Alaskan wilderness?
I think the main thing for me was to be as fit as I could be prior to heading into the wilderness, and having the right mindset. I was riding a bike, running, hiking and paddling as much as I could before I left. And although I didn’t know that I was the only woman on the cast until I arrived, being in a traditionally male dominated sport all of my life came in handy because it didn’t phaze me. I met my fellow cast mates right away, they were excited to have me on the team and that was all that mattered to me.
How did you get involved with the show and eventually get cast? Did they find you? Did you have to audition?
Last November I went to Alaska to help a friend train her dog team for the Iditarod. While I was there several people were talking about this company looking for adventurers who would like to film an outdoor TV show, and they kept encouraging my friend to do it. I didn’t even consider it because I thought it was only for Alaskans, but I saw a Facebook post about it later on and I thought “What the heck!” It didn’t cost anything to submit an email application. Then, in January, I was invited to appear on “The Jeff Probst Show” to throw axes, and the night before I left, I got a call from a producer at National Geographic saying they received my application and would like to meet with me… and the next day I was in their offices in Los Angeles filming an audition tape. It was perfect timing! The original filming dates were mid-April to mid-June and they kept pushing it back to the point where I thought I couldn’t pull it off by leaving Maine all summer, so I sent an email asking to be taken out of the pool. Three weeks later they called and said “You’re in!” I asked later if they ever got the email and they said “Yes, but we didn’t believe you.”
At first, I was mostly concerned because I wanted to be a contributing member of my team, but I think everyone felt that way at first. It took us a day in the field to get to know each other and discover our strengths, weaknesses and what our roles would be. The first night we slept on a glacier in a shelter we built and when we got in our sleeping bags, I was thinking “I hope I don’t freeze!” But I was warm as toast and slept like a baby. The second day we pack rafted through a lake filled with moving icebergs into the Gilkey River, with class four rapids, so there was no avoiding getting soaked, and being cold and wet was about the worst feeling I had. I couldn’t feel my toes or fingers, but we finally stopped to make camp, got a fire going and got dry clothes on. I kept telling myself, “A lot of people have survived a lot worse than this, you can do this.” It’s no secret there’s a film crew and producers in the field with us, and although they’re not there to help us, it is in the back of your mind that they’re not likely going to let you die out there. So it eases your mind a little, which in turn allows you to go for it.
Which cast members did you connect with?
I am very close to Yote and Jimmy and talk to them both every few days! And I got to know the Military Team and the Endurance Team pretty well. I already knew Dallas from the Iditarod. Each of those men have amazing life stories and I’m hopeful they edit the show so that everyone gets to ‘know’ them. Yote, Jimmy, Ed and Dallas are the real deal when it comes to outdoor survivalists, and they all shared a lot of knowledge with me.
Well, I’m only on for one season obviously, but I love Alaska, so I will of course go back there. I feel very honored to have been the first woman to appear on the show, and I hope they have more women if there is a next season. And I was able to do things that I would never get to do in my ‘normal’ life, and now after having experiencing them, I can’t wait to get out and put it to use!