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Roland Welker wins ‘ALONE’, keeps ties to Central Pa.

Roland Welker may be a nomad of North America, yet the man’s heart is in Pennsylvania.

In August, the world watched the Clearfield County native win HISTORY’s seventh season of “Alone” by surviving the northern Canadian winter for 100 days. His prize? A cool $1 million.

Welker had an advantage: He lived in the 49th state for many years, trekking to the bush to hunt, trap, forage and then guide others in the same. Yet, his journey started not in Alaska, but in Appalachia.

“Pennsylvania is dear to me,” he said. “The Appalachian hills were my training ground for all of this.”

Welker reveres the pioneers of this area and the traditions they passed down through generations. He talked about Pittsburgh’s legacy in the frontier and told the story of his great-great-great-grandfather, David Welker (from whom Roland gets his middle name), who took an unexpected river trip down the Susquehanna.

“I’m a huge fan of the old-timers,” he said.

When Welker, 48, was a young man, he followed the path of the pioneers, leaving his native Shiloh to live in the last frontier. He’s been there since. Yet, throughout the show, Welker reminisced on that decision.

“You want to go back to that time, but it’s terrifying because you make life-altering decisions without even realizing it,” he said in an interview earlier this month.

Welker’s life decisions led to his victory on the show, though his sacrifice was the many miles between him and his family. Ernest Welker, his father, still lives in Shiloh. His mother, Mona Welker, had passed away some months before Welker left to begin the competition.

In a way, Welker’s faith has been a bridge between the life he’s led and the one he’s given up.

“Faith is huge in everything I’ve done from 12 years old,” he said.

Nearing his last days on “Alone,” Welker sang “Standing on the Promises of God,” a hymn he remembered from his mother.

“We are a God-fearing and Jesus Christ-loving people in Central Pa.,” he said. “There is power in that.”

That power, he said, plugged seven words into his head from day two of “Alone”: “Fear not, for I am with you.”

After Welker left Canada, he spent three “strong” weeks with his father. He said he’s since fallen back into his nomadic lifestyle, yet plans to visit the homestead during Christmas.

Welker encouraged young people to “do whatever you’re passionate about” — whether that’s to stay somewhere to perpetuate the culture of a region, or go out into the world.

“Whatever you want to do, tackle that and don’t let anyone sway you,” he said. “But it all takes hard work and commitment.”

For those who want to follow in Welker’s footsteps (to hang out with the “100-day King,” he says), he’s looking to put a survivalist camping trip together in Montana and Alaska, and perhaps locally when he’s back for the holidays.

In the meantime, his simple advice to any aspiring young survivalist: Read.

What’s next for Roland?

Welker said he does plan to go back to Rock House (the name of his shelter on “Alone”) when the pandemic ends. In the meantime, he’s coming out from guiding Dall sheep hunts and looking forward to the cold weather.

“I just had a bangin’ hunting season and I’m thinking about all my Pa. people,” he said. ” I encourage all Pa. hunters to make their dreams happen this season.”

Those interested in keeping up with Welker can follow him through social media. He said there’s speculation of an “Alone” championship season in the future.

More on Welker

YouTube Channel: Roland Welker

Instagram: lastbushman

Twitter: rolandwelker

Webpage: rolandwelker.com

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