'He just loved the challenge,' friend says of survivalist

TORONTO - An outdoors enthusiast and avid fan of TV's "Survivorman" who apparently succumbed to the cold during an excursion into the Ontario bush loved the survivalist challenge but was not rash, those close to him said Thursday.

TORONTO - An outdoors enthusiast and avid fan of TV's "Survivorman" who apparently succumbed to the cold during an excursion into the Ontario bush loved the survivalist challenge but was not rash, those close to him said Thursday.

One friend, Barbara Ellis, said Richard Code's hobby might have been a response to an arthritic condition and chronic fatigue syndrome that often laid him up for days at a time.

"Maybe he felt when he was sick and he felt kind of helpless that way he could challenge the outdoors," said Ellis, who said Code was like a son to her.

"He just loved the challenge."

Provincial police found Code, 41, northeast of Huntsville, Ont., on Wednesday.

He had left his Toronto home early last Thursday for what was to be a four-day excursion into the bush, hitchhiking to his camp even though he had money for the bus.

While autopsy results were not known, police told his brother in Kitchener, Ont., that it appeared Code died of hypothermia.

Ellis said Code tried to program himself for cold weather, refusing to wear a parka. He did have several layers of clothing on his trip, including a hat, gloves and hiking boots.

Sister-in-law Barb Code said he had previously made about several excursions, including one in November, when there was a light dusting of snow on the ground.

However, this was his first in the dead of winter. Temperatures fell to -12 C at night in the area and snowstorms hit much of southern Ontario during the weekend.

"It was sort of a challenge - an adventure in seeing how little he could survive on and being successful at doing that," Code said.

"(But) he just didn't have what he needed to survive in cold temperatures."

Code's favourite television program was "Survivorman," a show focused on the skills needed to survive in hostile conditions. He also read up on the subject to learn survival techniques, and practised them when he could.

For example, he could strip bark off a tree and braid a rope, Ellis said.

"That was his hobby. That was his lifestyle," she said.

"He just loved doing that. He got such a kick out of that."

Code's brother, Stephen, said his passion for survivalism was a bit of a mystery for the family.

It seems as if he wanted to be able to "conquer the outdoors and survive without having a whole lot in the way of resources."

Although trained in computers, Code was unable to work due to his condition. He made a living helping Ellis, 86, with jobs around her east-end Toronto home for the last several years.

A member of the Airport Christian Fellowship church, Code played guitar as a hobby and tried writing music himself.

Those who knew him said he could be boisterous in a crowd, but he also liked his own time and to be alone.

"It's kind of hard to understand," Code said. "It just seems like a senseless tragedy to us."

Ellis said Code was well aware of the dangers, and prepared carefully for his trips, taking an axe, knife and a top-of-the-line 17-function utility tool.

He knew what he was going into, she said, adding was not rash and was "most sensible."

"I don't think it was a thrill so much as something he was trying to prove to himself," Ellis said.

"He didn't die in vain if others who consider doing what he was doing would give it a second thought."

 
 
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