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My Battle
Posted On 10/24/2012 01:32:07

I prepared for this all year.  I worked out.  I sacrificed my diet.  I focused on the goal.  I had one goal in mind.  Nothing else mattered.  My whole being depended on this one moment in time.

 

My tie is perfect.  I chose it based on who I am to meet with today.  My suit was handmade and flawless and my shoes shine like glass.  The cuffs of my pants hang perfectly… my cufflinks sparkle in the light.  Even my socks are nothing short of the best.  My tools have been honed to perfection all year.  I am at the top of my game.  I know my target… and I am a dead aim.

 

My camo is perfect.  I chose it based on the environment I would be in today.  The rain is deflected off my suit.  My boots are handmade, waterproof and comfortable. Even my socks are nothing short of the best.   The broadhead on my arrow sparkles in the rain.  My weapon was honed to perfection all year.  I am at the top of my game.  I know my target… and I am a dead aim.


Wilderness Survival on the Rogue-Umpqua Divide
Posted On 05/15/2011 17:54:06

The year was 1995.  It was about 80 degrees and the sun was shining.  I was on my way to meet some family members for opening day of fishing season.  Oregon is nice in late May, and I wanted to get there as quick as possible.  I was travelling from Bend to an area about 20 miles away from Tiller up the South Umpqua River. 

 

That meant driving from the east side of the Cascades over to the west side.  A route that would take me south down Highway 97 to Diamond Lake Junction.  Then east on Highway 138 to Diamond Lake, then South on Highway 62 past Crater Lake and around Lost Creek Lake, then to Trail, then up Highway 227 to Tiller, then up Highway 46 (South Umpqua Road) and finally to camp.  It was about an 8 hour drive.

 

So I broke out my BLM maps and picked out a shortcut that would take me up over the Rogue-Umpqua Divide and essentially cut 4 hours off my trip.  I was driving a 1976 GMC Stepside with four wheel drive, so it seemed like a good idea.  Isn’t it funny how “seemed like a good idea” is always followed by “boy did I screw up”.

 

I drove the 3 hours down Highway 97, then over Highway 138, then down Highway 62.  Around 2:00 pm, I found the cutoff road that I had chosen to take me straight west over the Cascades instead of around them.  I said goodbye to civilization as my beer-bottle-brown truck rumbled onto the dirt road and disappeared into the woods due west.  The road was good and I made good time.  Climbing about 1000 feet of elevation per hour.  I stopped often to look at wildlife along the way.  It looked like I was going to make it to camp on the other side before nightfall.

 

That’s when things got bad… real bad.  I rounded a corner and came upon a big patch of snow.  I gingerly made my way through it to the other side and continued on.  A hundred more yards and came upon another.  I started to get worried, so I got out and turned my hubs so I could shift into four wheel drive.  That was a mistake.  Upon starting again from a stop, my tires began to slip, even in four wheel drive.  The problem was the road was slightly slanted back and to my left.  About two more feet to the left of my tires was an embankment into a canyon.  That meant I was two feet away from going over the bank, rolling the truck, and probably getting hurt up in the middle of nowhere! 

 

I tried one more time to inch forward but my tires still gained no traction and slipped.  This caused my truck to move about 6 inches closer to the bank.  My heart pounded.  Now I was past worried – I was genuinely afraid!  What was supposed to be a shortcut could very well end up being the last day of my life!  At the very least, it would be the last day for my trusty GMC.

 

I got out and surveyed the situation.  I measured the distance forward and the distance back.  I made a mental note of the angle of the road and the depth of the snow patch I was stuck on.  What should I do?  It obviously wasn’t able to move forward because of the slight incline.  I had to back off the snow patch.  It should be easy.  I figured the best thing to do was just inch my way back with as little gas as possible by riding the clutch with the engine at idle speed.

 

I got in, took a deep breath, put her in 4 low, and steadily let up on the clutch until I could feel it moving.  The wheels had dug themselves into a trough about ½ inch deep.  Again, the truck slide sideways a few inches toward the bank.

 

I got out again and used my hands to dig out the snow trough directly behind each of the four tires.  I got back in and tried the same maneuver, but still it slide sideways.  Now I was a mere 6 inches from the bank!

 

I had nothing else to do but keep trying until it rolled over the bank.  So I turned the front wheels to the right so the truck would back away from the bank if I was successful in moving it backward.  I let off the clutch again to back out.  This time the tires successfully popped out of the snow troughs and the truck moved back and away from the bank.  I pushed the clutch back in and applied the brakes.  Another big mistake.  The back of the truck stopped while the front of the truck slid directly toward the bank as if the front wheels were snowmobile skids! 

 

Over the bank they went.  I prepared myself for certain death.  At minimum some broken bones and stuck in the wilderness.

 

There I sat, white-knuckled on the steering wheel.  Both feet planted firmly on that brake pedal!  I was looking straight out the front window down at the bottom of the canyon.  The only thing left on the road was my two back tires.  The Chevy 350 rumbled obediently –  ready for me to make my next move.  I was literally hanging off the top of the bank by my back tires!  I looked behind me (up the bank) out my back window.  My fishing pole which was in the back of the truck rested precariously on the back of the cab. 

 

With very shaky legs, I carefully moved my left foot over to the emergency brake pedal and pressed it slowly down.  It felt like every click of that e-brake was a minute in time.  I pressed it so far down that I think I got into some virgin territory on that thing.  I then slowly let my right foot off the brake pedal.  The truck did not move.  I reached up and turned off the engine.  Carefully, I slowly opened the door and climbed out.  As soon as my feet hit the ground my knees buckled and I fell about 5 feet down the bank.  Once I came to a rest, I looked up at the GMC grill.  My truck seemed to be looking at me with great concern trying to figure out why I put it in this strange position.

 

I climbed up onto the road and sat for a while to think about my situation.  I could see the backend of my truck sticking up over the bank.  It was exactly perpendicular to the road and looked as if I parked it like that on purpose.

 

There I was – stuck near the top of the Rogue-Umpqua Divide.  I was about 30 miles from Highway 62 on the eastern side of the cascades and then the little town of Prospect another 20 miles south from there.  On the west side, I was 30 miles from the South Umpqua River and Highway 46 that runs along it.  I estimated that my family members would be camped another 5 or so miles down from that point.

 

I made the decision that I was better off hiking over the divide and down to the South Umpqua on the other side.  I could then have my stepdad drive back up and wench me out with his jeep.

 

All I had was a hunting knife, Army surplus wool blanket, three wooden matches, and a bag of Doritos.  I estimated I could walk about 2 miles per hour.  It would take me 15 hours and I had 4 hours of daylight left.  I stuffed my four things into a little daypack, took a last look at my good ole’ truck hanging there like a big brown bat, and began my trek west.

 

Within 3 miles, I discovered that the snow got worse.  The entire pass was snowed in about 3 feet deep.  Had I not been done in by that small patch back there, I would have had to turn around and drive back down anyway.  That made me feel even more like an idiot.  Luckily I had on my Danner boots and was able to keep my feet dry as I trudged through the snow.

 

At one point I completely lost the road which was invisible in the deep snow.  I scanned the next small horizon for what looked like a man made break in the forest which would indicate a road went through it.  I trudged toward it.  I realized that if this snow continued I was not going to keep to my 2 mile an hour goal.  I knew I was going to have to spend the night up there, but I had no desire to spend two nights!

 

The beauty of that mountain pass was astounding.  As I sat and rested from the trudging, I reveled in seeing this place during heavy snow cover, which few other people have ever witnessed that time of year due to its remoteness.  A person would have to snowshoe in there to see it like that. 

 

I came upon an area that looked like it contained a large pond once the snow melted.  It was framed by beautiful granite embankments half covered with snow.  I wished that I had a camera.  All that I was seeing on that hike would be just a memory in my mind.  So I took many opportunities to simply look around and try to etch those pictures into my mind.  The snowy ground, the rocks, the perfectly symmetrical Noble Firs, the large Douglas Firs, the huge mangled Ponderosa Pines, the Rhododendrons and wild rose.  I spotted some deer bedded down under a group of firs.  Their big ears strained directly at me as they probably wondered what the hell a person was doing up this high this time of year.  They were mule deer, so I determined I was unfortunately still on the eastern side of the pass.  The western side is habitat for the blacktail deer.  I took a deep breath, got up, and kept trudging.

 

I eventually made it over the pass and followed what looked like the road down hill and around the various banks and corners.  Finally, the snow began to be shallower and eventually gave way to patches.  I was relieved to see the brown of the dirt road under me.

 

I picked up my pace to an easy jog as the shadows of the forest grew long.  I had to make up valuable time before it got too dark to hike.  In my haste I spooked a big black bear as I jogged around a corner.  It let out a heavy and gruffy snort and barreled off into the trees and brush.  When I finally “came to” I realized that I was standing in the middle of the road, feet wide apart, and my hands up as if to fist fight someone.  The bear had scared me so bad that my mind shut off and my body went directly into fight or flight mode.  When the danger passed I regained my self-realization and found that I must have looked quite funny standing there ready to fist fight a bear!  I made a mental note that if it happened again, I should have the presence of mind to at least pull out my hunting knife.  Although I doubt it would do much good in a bear fight.

 

After that incident, I slowed down.  I listened and looked more.  I knew I was going to have to spend the night, so it made more sense to substitute carefulness for speed.

 

Once the pure darkness set in, I remembered an article I recently read about the burgeoning cougar population that year.  All of the factors such as habitat, food supply, the lack of any natural predator, and they outlawed hunting with dogs, made for a bumper crop of cats out there. 

 

As I walked I could hear sounds of movement above me on the bank in the thick brush.

I think my hair stood on end most of the time after the sun went down!  I would stop and listen in the pitch black of night.  Nothing.  So I would walk again – the crunch of the gravel road under my boots.  I started seeing things move against the pale of the road up ahead.

 

After a few hours of that nonsense I decided I better get a fire lit before I become cougar food.  I found a shoulder on the road and set about looking for firewood.  I had about 3 wooden matches so chances were good I was going to get one going. 

 

I scrambled in the night for dead branches, pine cones, and pine needles.  I scooped up some pine needles into a pile and placed a pinecone at the top of it.  Once I had the needles lit the pine cone ignited pretty easily.  Next went some small twigs, then small pieces of branches.  Before long I had a roaring fire.  I ate some Doritos and curled up under my blanket for some shuteye. 

 

I slept with one eye open because I felt I was being watched by cougars or a bigfoot.  I kept getting up and throwing more wood on the fire.  I had my hunting knife opened and laying by my head for a quick grab if attacked.

 

About 5 hours of that and light slowly began to creep through the forest as dawn arrived.  Lying on the hard cold ground was not comfortable so I got up, put my fire out, and headed down the road.

 

Thirst… my next big challenge.  I drank some melted snow the previous evening.  But all that jogging, bear fighting, and Dorito eating had me pretty dehydrated.  Being an experienced hiker, I knew that next I would get a dull headache as my body began dealing with the lack of water.  I kept vigilant for any sign of water as I made my way down the road. 

 

I estimated I had hiked about half way by now so it was 15 miles with little water, no valuable calories, and little sleep.  I needed to at least drink water or I wasn’t going to get much farther.  My feet were beginning to feel painful from the long miles.  They sweated in my Danners like a couple of hotcakes.  I strained to listen hoping to hear a creek somewhere.  I knew enough not to venture far from the road in case a vehicle comes along.  But also because picking my way through rocks and brush is more dangerous.

 

I finally did hear the faint call of a creek.  Or maybe it was just wind in the trees.  Was this the high country version of a mirage?  I walked on.  It got louder.  Sure enough I rounded a corner to find a small running creek passing under the road through a culvert and trickling into a 3 foot pool on the other side before disappearing into the dark underbrush.  I drank my fill and rested in the cold shadows.  Drank some more, then washed the sweat from my face.  Rejuvenated by water, I continued my journey down into the Umpqua basin.  Luckily, I only had about 10 more miles to hike!  I was somewhat relieved that I would not have to resort to eating grubs or chowing down on a lizard or something.

 

It was about noon when I finally placed my boot on the pavement of the South Umpqua Highway.  The flat man-made surface was a welcome sight.  I had made it to the bottom.  Now I had to figure out if I should walk up the road or down the road to find the campground where my relatives were staying.  I was very tired and hungry, so I did not want to make a mistake.  I sat there and thought about it for a long time.  I tried to figure out where I was from the brown non-descript forest service sign at the junction of the road I just walked down.  The white letters and arrow pointing up my dirt road said “Huckleberry Pass 28 miles”.  Holy crap, I had just walked 28 miles, plus the 5 or so miles to get up to the pass from my truck! 

 

The sign said if I turn right on the highway, I will eventually end up at Cover Camp.  I had been to Cover Camp many times as a kid, so I knew that was pretty far up the river.  If this sign had nothing more significant to point to than Cover Camp, then I surmised that I must be pretty far up the river!  The other direction pointed to Tiller 35 miles down.  Well, I divided some numbers, added 20, carried 5, multiplied by the power of 2 and figured I better turn left and see what happens.

 

It turned out to be a good decision.  About 3 miles down the road I came to a campground.  As I walked closer, I heard a vehicle start and doors slam.  The rumble told me that someone was driving out.  When I saw it come out of the trees I just shook my head and chuckled.  It was my stepdad’s jeep.  They saw me at the same time and turned around and went back to camp. 

 

I took a shortcut through a meadow and popped out at the camp site.  Everyone was glad to see me.  They were worried and had just left to look for me.  Imagine that – I hike over 30 miles all the way to camp just in time to witness them leaving to go look for me.  Now that there was some funny stuff!

 

I ate, I drank, I rested.  While changing out of my sweaty and crusty clothes I noticed another little surprise – ticks.  I was infested with them.  I think I pulled about 10 of them little buggers off me.  I probably became their lunch while I slept on the ground.  I spent the next month looking for symptoms of Lyme Disease.

 

Well like all adventures, this one came to an end.  My stepdad drove me back to my truck (the long way).  He laughed out loud when he caught sight of that GMC holding on to dear life with its back tires – just the back fenders and tailgate visible.  My mom took a bunch of pictures and kept saying, “oh my god!”  We through a line around a tree and hooked it to the rear axle.  We pulled her up on the road and headed to Prospect for lunch.

 

When I got back home I immediately bought 4 new tires with aggressive tread.

Tags: Wilderness Survival Rogue Umpqua Hiking 4x4


Skiing Big Bear
Posted On 03/28/2011 19:00:48

The breeze felt good under the hot sun.  I could hear some squirrels playing in a nearby pine, and birds chirped busily in their haste to build a nest.  I could see the brilliant blue of Big Bear Lake glittering in the distance.  My heart pounded as I stood atop a double black diamond run called “The Wall”.  About 200 yards of man-made snow clamped to the side of a nearly vertical drop.  The left side was carved into deep moguls.  The right side was a sheer drop.  Runs like this send people home in a cast or a helicopter.

 

I mentally planned my assault.  Dive off into the mogul field then pop out half way down when my legs were tired and speed ski down the right side.  I looked over at my son to see if he had any fear in his eyes.  There was none.  He is 12 years old, and it was just this morning that he clamped on a pair of skis for the very first time in his life. 

 

Earlier today, he was so excited to go skiing.  He looked up at that mountain with wide eyes and a huge grin as we trudged up the walk way to the bunny slope.  We flopped our gear on the ground and I showed him how to clamp his boots in the bindings.  Which ski to do first so he wouldn’t fall on a sloped area.  As soon as his skis were on he gave a push with his poles and instantly fell.  I told him to slow down and we will take it one step at a time. 

 

A ski school person trudged over and tried to sign him up.  I told her no thanks; I planned to teach him myself.  I wanted to teach him to parallel ski right off the bat so he wouldn’t have to unlearn the snowplow method of slowing and stopping.  She reluctantly left us to our own doings. 

 

It took about 20 minutes to show him how to position his skis for a turn or a stop.  How to keep his skis perpendicular to the slope of the hill if wants to stop.  How to dig an edge and how to use his poles to keep balance and rhythm. 

 

Time for his first ride up a ski lift!  Right to the top of the bunny slope.  I think he was more excited about riding the lift than he was skiing!  We bailed off the top of the lift with no hitches and made our way slowly down the slope practicing what I taught him.  A few little awkward slow speed spills as he learned where his center of balance was and how the skis could get away from him if he didn’t keep them in the right position.  But overall, he made it down quite nicely.  After three more bunny slope runs, I felt he was ready to tackle an easy run.  So we skied over to the real lift and headed up the mountain.

 

Surprisingly, he gobbled up some easy and intermediate runs like they were nothing.  He ran into some trouble on a lower portion right under the ski lift.  He heard the snickering from some kids on the lift above and got flustered.  I decided to buy him lunch and we would give it another try.

 

After lunch we went back over the basics at the bunny slope then headed back up.  That did the trick.  He was skiing like a pro as the techniques started to sink in and become a part of him.

 

We pretty much stayed on the intermediate runs the rest of the day.  Until now.

 

He stopped at the top of the double black and begged me to let him try it.  I tried to talk him out of it.  His rental skis would likely pop off as soon as he tried to catch an edge in the steep hardpack.  Being a beginner, they had his bindings set loose.  Once his skis popped off he would basically be falling off a cliff with no way to stop himself.

 

He didn’t care.  He was ready.  So I told him I would ski half way down and stop so if he fell I could catch him or his gear as it flew down the hill.

 

I dove off the edge with skis tight together and instantly carved left to slow my descent and enter the mogul field.  I freestyled to about half way down and popped out onto the sheer cliff-side.  Instead of pointing down and speed skiing the rest of the way, I dug my edges into the hardpack for a stop.  It was so steep that I could touch the slope with the end of my pole at eye level without leaning inward.  I thought to myself, “my wife is gonna kill me for letting him do this!”

 

He gently pushed out over the edge and carved left just like I did to slow himself down.  Then right back across the face of the run.  Then left again.  He was doing it!  When he got to me he simply just kept going.  All the way down the run without a spill!

 

I was actually taken aback by what he accomplished.  Think about it!  On his first day of skiing, he went from a beginner to an advanced skier.  It had taken me seven separate ski trips to reach the level he was at on his first day!  He is naturally athletic and has good balance from competing in gymnastics.  But this was something I’d never seen happen before.  Hittin’ a double black on his first day.

 

The rest of that day and all the next, we owned the mountain.  We skied any run we felt like.  Black diamonds, double blacks, intermediates, side trails… there wasn’t a run on that hill we didn’t try.  We hit the snowboard runs and took the jumps and half-pipes.  I showed him how to do 360s, table tops and scissor jumps.  Taught him how to ski backward.  By the end of the second day, our legs felt like wet noodles and we were absolutely exhausted.

 

He told me this is the greatest thing he had ever done.  He wanted to do this forever.  I told him that was how I felt too.  It’s the closest thing to flying without having to grow wings.  And then I told him that there were even better ski resorts than this, although pleasantly surprised by the quality of Big Bear.  I told him wait until he sees the endless runs at Squaw Valley, the thick powder of Mammoth, or the off-limits backside of Mt. Bachelor where you could see the Sun River to the east and the Three Sisters to the West. We could explore other mountains in Utah and Colorado.  Maybe some day hit the Alps. 

 

Just then, we made a pact to be ski buddies for life.  No matter what we are doing in the future, and no matter what problems we are dealing with, we would always take the time to meet at the top. 

 

I thought about the brevity of that.  How a mountain can bring father and son together.  And like the mountain, stand strong through the test of time.

 

 

Tags: Ski Skiing Snow Summit


Winterizing Your RV
Posted On 12/30/2010 16:36:46

Winterizing Your RV

 

Another exciting year of road trips and adventures in your RV has passed.  If you’re like me, you’ve been everywhere from Yellow Stone to Disneyland and everywhere in between!  Now the weather turned cold, kids are in school, and there’s work to be done.  Time to put the RV away for the winter and tell stories about all the cool places you’ve been and memories made.

 

Properly winterizing and storing your RV is absolutely necessary to avoid costly damages and ensure your coach is ready to go come springtime.  During inoperation, cold weather may cause trapped water to freeze and expand, causing severe damage to several areas of the plumbing system.  To avoid this costly damage, winterize your coach.

 

Winterization can seem daunting at first, but it can be really simple with a little guidance.  Simply stated, winterizing constitutes removing water from the water lines and fixtures and then introducing a 100% non-diluted, non-toxic antifreeze solution into the water supply system.  Be careful not to place the antifreeze solution in any appliance such as the water heater, fresh water tank, water filter or icemaker.  Doing so could destroy the appliances or renter them inoperable 

 

 

Drain all plumbing systems

 

  1. Drain the fresh water system.  Open the valve from the fresh water tank, turn on the outside shower and remove drain plug from the water heater.  See your owners manual for details about draining the water heater.
  2. The outside shower valves must be opened and the hose and shower head drained.
  3. Drain and clean out your holding tanks.
  4. Remove the water filter.
  5. If your RV is equipped with an icemaker, turn off the valve and drain the icemaker line.
  6. Turn the water pump switch on, allow the pump to run for 30 seconds and switch off.
  7. Any water remaining in the system may be removed by attaching a blowout plug adapter to the fill connection and blowing compressed air through the water lines.
  8. Leave all faucets and valves closed during storage.

 

Adding Antifreeze to the Fresh Water System

 

Never use automotive antifreeze in your water system!

 

 

  1. Turn the water heater selector valve to bypass the water heater.
  2. Turn the tank to pump selector valve to bypass the water tank and engage the antifreeze inlet to pump or suction port.
  3. Add the polypropylene based RV antifreeze (potable type) to the fresh water system by attaching a hose to the inlet to pump and introducing the antifreeze solution into the water system following the instructions found on the container.
  4. Activate the toilet valve and hold it open until the colored antifreeze appears.
  5. Slowly turn on the cold water at the kitchen sink.  When the colored fluid appears, turn the faucet off.  Repeat this procedure with the hot water.
  6. Repeat the steps above for each water outlet including the lavatory, shower, and outside shower.
  7. Disconnect the hose used to install the antifreeze solution.
  8. The residual antifreeze from running the faucet should be enough to protect the p-traps.  You’re now ready for a safe winter!

 

 

 

Sanitizing the Water System

 

Sanitize the on-board water storage system after long periods of non-use and after any suspected contamination.

 

  1. Ensure that the water filter is removed and the bypass installed.  This step ensures that chlorine residue will not be left in the filter elements which could result in a chlorine taste in your water.
  2. Prepare a chlorine solution using one gallon of water with ¼ cup of household bleach.  When the tank is empty, add one gallon of solution into the tank for each 15 gallons of capacity.
  3. Continue filling the tank with fresh water.  Open the faucets to release air.  Pressurize the system with the pump until water flows and a distinct odor of chlorine can be detected in the discharged water.  Turn off the pump.
  4. Allow water to stand for three to four hours.
  5. Drain the enter system including the water heater.
  6. Flush the entire system with fresh water and drain.  The water heater and all plumbing lines may be flushed using the outside water connection.
  7. To remove excessive chlorine taste or odor which may remain, prepare a solution of quart vinegar to five gallons of water and allow solution to agitate in the tank by vehicle motion.
  8. Drain the tank and again flush with potable fresh water.

 

Now you are ready to head out on new adventures!

Tags: Winterizing RV


Road Trip to Tahoe 2010
Posted On 10/17/2010 11:25:45

Road Trip to Tahoe

 

 

It’s a well known fact:  What we plan and what we get are often not the same - especially when you embark on a family road trip.  We became all too aware of that on our latest journey to the Lake Tahoe area.  Here is our story of plans gone wrong and making the best of what we had. 

 

 

The Plan:  Drive the motor home to an old spot we used to camp at.  It is up a little creek in the high Sierras just outside of Markleeville.  We would dry-camp for a week and pump water out of the creek giving us all the comforts of home in the middle of the wilderness.  A mile up the road was a “secret waterfall” we could hike to and swim. 

 

Reality:  The “camping spot” was no longer there due to a flood that wiped out the road.  The road was re-formed by the Forest Service.  Some parts were so narrow, with a 100 foot drop off to the creek, that passing in a small car was dangerous.

 

 We got there at night and when it became clear I was risking everyone’s lives and dumping this $80K coach in the creek, it was too late to back out.  I needed to wait until daylight.  So I carefully crept it up another mile to the first area I could wedge it off the road.  I backed it into a small wide spot, set the jack stands, slid out the tipouts, cracked open a beer, and called it camp.  Knowing that it was luck that got me past the narrow parts of the road, I figured I would wait until the other part of our party from Oregon got there so they can help guide me back down.  If I dumped it in the creek below, at least they could go for help. They weren’t due for a few more days, so there we camped.

 

We discovered the next day that because we had to drive farther up the road, we were only about 100 yards from the secret waterfall.  So we set up a spike camp near the creek.  We put up a mosquito shelter and built up the fire pit.  Back at our “base camp” I used a hatchet to hack away the brush around the front door and the generator exhaust.  I laid out the fake grass, staked out some solar powered yard lights, set up the portable table and barbeque, and settled in.  Our 34 foot coach looked quite odd tucked away in the brush where one should not be.

 

RV Camping

 

We had fun at the waterfall swimming in the hot afternoon.  Mosquitoes were as bad as ever so we kept a steady layer of Deep Woods Off on our skin.  My son, Zach, was recovering from a broken arm and wore a removable cast which he had to take off to swim.  I was worried that he would slip on the rocks without his cast and we would be stuck in the wilderness with no way to get him to a hospital.  I’d have to get my hunting knife and a couple sticks and do wilderness surgery.  Hey, I’m no doctor; I just play one in my own mind!

 

Secret Swimming Hole

 

Secret Falls

 

 

We left our water shoes and floaties down by the creek since we were the only ones crazy enough to be up there.  The next morning I found that some critter took a liking to my Tevas and ate them for dinner.  Nothing left but the Velcro and the rubber soles!

 

Plan:  Use the onboard water pump to draw water from the creek for hot showers, cooking, and washing dishes.

 

Reality:  Because we had to go past the “camping spot” and camp up the road a mile, we were about 200 yards from the creek and straight up hill.  There was no way the onboard pump can draw water that far and straight up… even if I had that much hose.

 

We ran out of water on day 3.  The term “dry camping” took on a whole new meaning.  We tried to hike up to a high spot on the mountain to get cell signal so we could tell our friends from Oregon to bring more hoses, but could not get signal.  On a good note, we managed to snag satellite signal and could watch the Burn Notice season premier.  It almost made up for having to take ice cold creek baths.  But not quite.

 

Plan:  On mine and my wife’s 11th anniversary we would mountain bike up to the secret waterfall and have a picnic.  I brought wine, a table cloth, finger foods, and iPod packed with romantic music.

 

Reality:  Because we were now only a short walk from the secret falls, it made no sense to leave the kids at the motor home and bike into the falls.  They would just show up a few minutes later wanting some finger food.

 

Instead, we stuck a bottle of wine in the backpack and hiked up the mountain to a high spot overlooking the camp.  There was no romance as it was very windy and cold.  But we did have some good conversation which is not normally possible with the kids around.  The view was spectacular and we enjoyed the time together.  I promised her that I would not drag her out in the woods on our anniversary anymore.  Next time we will take a cruise to Mexico or the Bahamas.  I don’t think she believed me, but I plan to surprise her.  Any woman that can follow my country butt through the woods on these special occasions is one to keep around.  Its time I give back a little and take her somewhere nice.

 

The Plan:  When family from Oregon showed up they would camp with us in a tent.  We would share the grand campfire and have fun visiting and talking of old times.  The comfort of TV, electricity, and hot showers just inside.

 

Reality:  Because we were in a very tight spot off the road, there was no room for a tent.  They ended up camping in the spike camp down by the creek near the secret waterfall.  I don’t think its secret anymore.  Since we were out of water, it was icy cold creek baths for everyone.

 

They arrived at night and we helped them set up camp.  I started a big camp fire to help light the area.  The next day was a lazy day.  We decided that instead of buying hoses we would buy water jugs and carry the water to the RV and draw that water into the tanks.  Problem is, there ain’t much at the Markleeville general store except a rude lady that cared little of our predicament.  Little did she know that millions of people would be reading about her and the store.  Just shows you, if you are in a position of customer service, at least pretend to care about your customer.  You never know who is going to ask you a question.  The beauty of the Internet is that it quickly brings to light the failures of those who don’t try as well as the success of those who do.  Next time you’re in Markleeville, tell the rude lady in the store (probably the owner) that you read about her on adventurousfamily.com. 

 

So we left the store with two cheap collapsible 2 gallon water tanks.  Try filling a collapsible in a creek.  Kind of like trying to push a cat into a bathtub.  I got soaking wet and scratched up, and only got about a gallon in each tank.

 

The Plan:  Drive to the Charity Valley Trailhead and hike into Hotsprings Waterfall.

 

Reality:  Friends from Oregon had no intention of hiking anywhere.  They wanted to head an hour and a half into Virginia City instead.

 

At first I thought that was the craziest thing I’d ever heard.  Would you rather hike into 50 foot waterfall or drive an hour and a half drive to Virginia City?  We took a vote and I was defeated in the primaries.  I should have made some campaign signs and bribed some family members.  Oh well, we needed supplies anyway.

 

Virginia City was the same as it was in the 70’s, except there were cell phones and the slots had little buttons along with the pull handles.  After several pushes of the button I walked away with $42.  I started feeling better about this Virginia City.  So I paid for the whole group to sit and watch a gunfight show.  We had lunch at the Delta Saloon on Main Street.  I played it safe and got chicken strips which are hard to screw up.  My daughter, Katlyn, did the same.  She got sick an hour later but I was spared.  I was starting to feel like this was my lucky day.  I should have played more slots!

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back we picked up ice, water, and six 7.5 gallon water jugs.  Why were they 7.5 gallons?  I don’t know - these things confuse me.  Back in the day you got a 5 gallon jug and that was that.  Now there’s metrics involved.  I thought just us rednecks with standard tape measures went camping, but I guess it’s popular with other folks, too.  My brother-in-law picked up a tent shower.  Guess creek baths were not part of his wilderness enjoyment agenda.  It actually turned out pretty nice.  I wanted one so later I went here to get a nice one at a very low cost.

 

Plan:  Spend all day at the secret falls, just chilling.

Reality:  Spent all day at the secret falls, just chilling.

 

 

Wow, we actually did something according to plan.  All day of swimming, talking, visiting, drinking, and having fun.  I got to spend some quality time with my nephew.  He is growing up way too fast. We all had a great time.  Hangovers and sunburns to prove it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan:  Slow cook a ten pound prime rib over a bed of charcoal.

 

Reality:  My son and I are the only ones that care for rare to medium-rare beef so feasting on prime rib was kind of out of the question.  Instead, I improvised and chopped it up into thinly sliced ribeye steaks (except mine and Zach’s were thick).

 

We were all pretty toasted by the time the steaks were done.  Sitting by the crackling campfire – laughing and being crazy.  I probably speak for only myself; but these had to be the best steaks I had ever cooked!  Slow broiled over charcoal with just the right seasoning.  My brother-in-law cooked baked potatoes in an outdoor oven to go with them.  It was quite a feast by the campfire out by secret falls up a no-name creek in the middle of the Toyabe National Forest.  Hopefully, it will be one of those memories we will all look back on someday.

 

Plan:  Go to Lake Tahoe on July 4th and see the fireworks over the lake.  Then camp somewhere back up near Markleeville.

 

Reality:  Finding a campsite over the 4th of July holiday?  I don’t think so.

 

I guess it was a bad idea to think we could camp somewhere over the 4th of July weekend near Lake Tahoe.  I was shaken up by the near death experience of taking that motor home down off the creek with my brother-in-law guiding me from outside.  One wrong move and people would be shaking their heads at the mess I made on the Six O’clock news!  I was just happy to be out of there, but we could not find a vacant spot anywhere unless we wanted to pay a pretty penny for it.  We went to Markleeville Campground – our rig was too big to get in there.  We went to Indian Creek Reservoir – they wanted $30 a night and it was over-crowded.  We went to Grover Hot Springs – again rig too big.  We passed right by Turtle Rock, which we knew would be too expensive.  So we decided to make our way to Tahoe and keep an eye out for a wide spot or campground.  All were full or too small for us.  People everywhere.  Folks of all ages, sizes, and nationalities were lined up along the Carson River throwing fishing lines over each other.  Dogs and kids running everywhere.  We high-tailed it out of there as fast as possible. 

 

Once we got just outside of Tahoe, my brother-in-law’s pickup broke down.  Luckily, we never found a campground up until then so instead of being stranded, we all piled into the motor home and waited for the tow truck.  We got lucky and found an auto parts store that was open on the 4th.  He picked up a new fuel filter and installed it right there in the parking lot.  We fired up the rigs and off we went to the Nevada side of the lake.

 

Improvised Plan:  Camp in a casino parking lot.  Watch the fireworks, grab a cheap buffet, and gamble a little.

 

Reality:  No chance, buddy.  Lots were full.

 

It was like spring break.  Half naked people walking, cruising, and yelling out phone numbers to each other.  Lawn chairs lined along every open spot possible.  It looked like fun.  If I was younger, had more hair, and didn’t look like I just crawled out of the bushes along some creek!

 

On the fly, I hit the Internet with my Blackberry while at a stoplight.  Looked up KOA and found one about 9 miles back down the road by where we broke down earlier.  I called them and told them we’re a commin’, so make room for us!  They stuck us in an over-flow area with no hook ups and still managed to wrangle $80 bucks from me.

 

Once we were set up, we jumped in the pick up and headed back to Tahoe.  We decided to eat at the Hard Rock Café.  We wolfed our food down just in time to run out and watch the fireworks.  Then we put my teenage daughter in charge of the boys at the arcade and headed to the slots and blackjack tables for an hour of fun.  I managed to pull $175 from the tables.  My gambling luck was strong on this trip.

 

‘Round about midnight, we rounded everyone up and headed back to KOA for some much needed sleep.  Our family from Oregon would head out the next morning.  Meanwhile, we would be on our own to do as we pleased for another four days.

 

The Plan:  Camp somewhere in the Markleeville area and fish the Carson River.

 

The Reality:  Every place was full or too small to accommodate us.

 

Now that we were on our own, I was determined to backtrack and do some things on my original plan.  We headed back to Markleeville and had lunch at the Cutthroat Saloon.  Then drove out to Grover Hot Springs to hike into Hotsprings Creek Falls. 

 

I didn’t know exactly where the trail was, so I stopped by the campground guard building to ask.  The gentleman manning the station was about as excited to help as a post office employee.  He was downright irritated that I was standing there asking questions.  By the time he finished answering me, he was so condescending that I just stood there and smiled at him in disbelief.  Once I pried the answer out of his miserable pie hole, I said, “thanks buddy”, and went back to the motor home and parked it on the side of the street.  I put some water, snacks, and night crawlers in a daypack and headed up the trail along with my wife and son.

 

We made it to the falls.  It was beautiful and worth the 2 mile hike in.  After taking some pictures, we through the line in and caught a couple browns that were too small to keep.  My wife found a rock with some shiny stuff on it so we broke it apart and put it in our pack figuring we would test it for gold later.  The way my luck was going it could be worth millions.

 

 

 

 

 

We made it back to the motor home about an hour before dark.  Time to find a spot to camp.  I hadn’t gotten a chance to fish the Carson River yet, so we looked for a wide spot by the river. 

 

The Plan:  Camp on the Carson River for a few days and fish.

 

The Reality:  I couldn’t find a spot that was big enough for our motor home.

 

Just couldn’t find a spot I felt comfortable pulling into.  The earlier experience up the creek left me a bit more cautious than before.  I bought a 34 footer so that it would be big enough for a family of four to live in, but small enough to get into some remote areas.  Turns out, it’s too small to live in and too big to get it in to the good spots.

 

So we headed up Monitor Pass which was on the long route home.  Right at dark we found an aspen patch about a half mile off the highway.  We headed out across the sagebrush on a double rut dirt road and parked her right at the aspens.

 

Once at the aspen patch we found a pretty nice campsite with a fire pit and some old pellet stove someone left out there.  That night was actually pretty fun.  We had a huge campfire, roasted hotdogs and drank wine.  And right in the middle of our fun, a deer walked through camp.  We named her Little Abbey because in my wine-induced intelligence I thought we were on Abbots Pass.  We were actually on Monitor Pass, so we should have named in Monty or Mona.  Oh well, it was neat that it walked through our camp.  When all the stories were told and the air grew cold we headed to bed.

 

 

The next day we woke to find that we had managed to camp in an amazing aspen patch that stretched for miles.  The old road continued up the mountain behind us so we made a daypack and headed up the road on our mountain bikes.  Zach had a broken arm so I installed buddy pegs on mine so he could ride with me.

 

We made it to the top and found an amazing thing.  The jeep road became a trail which ended on a cliff.  Standing on that cliff, one could see the entire valley below including Topaz Lake to the left and the Mono Lake valley to the right.  We had a view of about 300 miles in every direction.  You never know what you’ll find unless you take the time to stop and explore.  A dirt road into an aspen patch, then a mountain bike ride up the hill, a short hike to the cliff, and then a breath-taking experience.

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back down, my wife headed out ahead of us on her bike.  It was steep so I was standing on my peddles to give me more balance.  After all, I had Zach as a passenger. I noticed she was sitting on her seat when she disappeared around the corner.  I looked back at Zach and said, “She’s gonna wipe out and hurt herself”.  When we made it around the corner, sure enough, she was sitting on the ground covered in dirt.  Her bike a tangled mess beside her.  She had roadrash on her knee and shoulder and was spitting out dust.  Aside from being shaken, she seemed OK.

 

 

 

So Zach, Roadrash Kim, and I walked our bikes the rest of the way to camp.  She took a hot shower and slapped on some Neo-Sporin.  Meanwhile, I picked up camp, slid in the tipouts, and raised the stands.  Time to go.

 

The Plan:  Head down US 395 to Convict Lake to camp and fish.

 

The Reality:  Convict Lake campground was full.  Fishing was poor.

 

I had read in a fishing magazine that Convict Lake was stocked regularly with trophy sized trout.  I also heard from a friend of mine that it was a beautiful lake.  Well, he was right – it is a phenomenally beautiful lake.  Perched beneath a cliff on one side, a glacier on the other, and a pretty nice campground below it, the lake was definitely a sight to see. Which is why the entire state of California was camped there.  We decided to drive five miles back up the highway into the forested areas and camp on one of the old dirt roads we saw on the way down.  We could then come back the next day to snag a newly vacated campsite and fish all day.

 

We found our dirt road and set up a quick dry camp.  I barbequed the remaining ribeye steaks.  Zach found a patch of pine trees and built a fort.  While showing it to Kim, they spooked a bear cub (heard it call for momma bear).  I’ve never seen Kim run that fast!  I’m not even sure their feet touched the ground.  The bears ran just as fast the other direction. 

 

The next day, we headed back to Convict Lake.  Still no campsites.  So we parked her in the day use area and spent the day fishing.  We got skunked at the lake.  Not even a bite.  So Zach and I headed down the creek.  We spent all day wading and bushwhacking and managed to catch one scraggly little rainbow planter just big enough to keep.  We decided that Convict Lake sucked.  Fishing was poor, camping was over-crowded, and now we had to find a spot to sleep before it got dark.

 

 

 

 

We blasted down US 395 with the music playing – enjoying the scenery of mixed sage, pine, and distant alpine peaks.  Around midnight we couldn’t keep our eyes open, so we turned off the road to Goodale Creek campground just north of Independence.  It was empty, we were tired, and this looked like a spot to rest.

 

The next morning we woke to find ourselves camped in an empty campground out in the sagebrush next to a tiny creek that was swollen with snowmelt.  The Eastern High Sierras glistening in the distance.  The morning temps were already reaching 100 degrees so I figured it would get up to 110 out there in the sagebrush by noon.  Yeah, this oughta be fun, I thought.

 

 

We were hot and miserable.  Zach was complaining all the way to the creek.  He decided that he wasn’t a “country-boy” like his Dad and this bothered him.  I told him that he should just be himself.  If he doesn’t like camping on the road for 2 weeks, then that is OK.  Not everyone gets excited about the open road, or deep woods camping.  Not everyone’s eyes light up at the thought of bug spray and bushwhacking.  He needs to be his own person and do the things he likes to do.  Meanwhile, I need to be more sensitive about dragging everyone out on my harebrained adventures.

 

We got to the creek and it didn’t look very promising.  Very small, deep and fast.  More like a drainage ditch overgrown with brush.  Just for the heck of it, I pulled out enough line to drop a worm and bounce it down a few feet.  WHAM!  Pulled out a huge rainbow planter!  Dropped in another worm and caught another.  Then another.  We walked about a mile up the creek and found ourselves limited out on planters.  I even had a very large native brown on, but of course it got loose.  We brought the fish back and had them for dinner that night.

 

We be-bopped down the dirt road back to 395, then headed toward home.  We made it to Boulder Creek RV resort.  This RV resort is out in the middle of nowhere, but it was the first time in 2 weeks that we had full hookups.  Plus, there was a pool!  After the 2 weeks we just had, we felt like we were staying at the Ritz.  We had a 50 amp, water, and sewer.  The AC buzzed, the showers were hot, the TV was on, and Zach and Kim swam in the pool all afternoon and the next morning.  What a nice break, and the price was very reasonable at $35 a night.

 

We headed out the next morning for the final leg of our trip home.  We made it home before dark and enjoyed long showers and a home-cooked meal.  It

Tags: RV Camping Tahoe Carson Markleeville Toyabe


Paraprosdokian sentence
Posted On 09/14/2010 13:49:15

A figure of speech that uses an unexpected ending to a series or
phrase.
     
    
     Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it
in a fruit salad.
   
    The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the
cheese.
   
    Evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening', and then
proceed to tell you why it isn't.
   
    To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is
research.
   
    A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train
stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
   
    How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a
whole box to start a campfire?
   
   
    Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion
stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
   
    Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street
with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.
   
    Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president
and 50 for Miss America ?
   
    Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a
successful man is usually another woman.
   
    A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
   
    You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to
skydive twice.
   
    The voices in my head may not be real, but they have some good
ideas!
   
    Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.
    
    Hospitality: making your guests feel like they're at home, even if
you wish they were.
   
    Money can't buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live
with.
    
    
    Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

    I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.
   
    I always take life with a grain of salt, plus a slice of lemon, and
a shot of tequila.
   
    When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire
Department usually uses water.
   
    You're never too old to learn something stupid.
   
    To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you
hit the target.
   
    Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.
   
    Some people hear voices. Some see invisible people. Others have no
imagination whatsoever.
   
    A bus is a vehicle that runs twice as fast when you are after it as
when you are in it.
    
    Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.


The Camp Forget List
Posted On 08/22/2010 21:57:56

The Camp Forget List

 

There I was… sitting by the campfire all forlorn.  A bottle of wine in one hand and a pocketknife in the other.  The cork all gouged out and broken.  I had forgotten to pack a corkscrew.  Then there was the time I had to cook my food on the blade of a shovel because I forgot to bring a pan. 

 

For all you campers out there that have pounded your tent stakes in with a rock or made coffee by pouring boiling water over regular grounds in your cup; here is my official “Camp Forget List”.  It is not meant to be an all inclusive list of things to bring.  It’s more of a “wish I would have brought that” list.  Little extras that make things easier or more fun.

 

  1. Small can of diesel – this stuff is great to clean things with.  It takes off sap, grease, gum, etc.  It also makes a terrific fire starter.  Unlike gas, it is less combustible.  You can soak a couple pieces off wood with it and light it without singing your eye brows off.
  2. Cork Screw – as mentioned above… better have one if you plan to crack open a bottle of wine.  Or you will have to literally crack it open.
  3. Small chainsaw – depending on how much room you have in your vehicle, this is a nice thing to bring along.  Use it for firewood or clearing the road if blocked by a fallen tree.
  4. A hammer – makes setting up a tent much easier.
  5. Instant coffee – just add hot water and your done.  And some of it tastes better than regular coffee.
  6. Extra batteries – dead flashlight?  No problem.
  7. Shovel – all kinds of uses for this one.  Once I was caught in a surprise rain storm and had to dig a trench around my tent with a flat head screw driver and my hands.  I would have paid $100 for a shovel that day.
  8. Small hand broom – for sweeping out the tent or car.
  9. Can opener – I’ve ruined many knives by pounding my way into a can of chili.
  10. Can of chili – If you never had chili while camping, then you’re missing out on a treat.  Plus, it’s quick, easy, and nutritious.  Kids love it.
  11.  Extra long dog chain.  If you camp with pets in a campground, it is nice to give them some room to walk around while you are focusing on other things.
  12.  Frozen hash browns – make your breakfast tasty and filling.
  13.  Fly swatter – just in case they get out of hand.

 

Can you think of anything else? 

 

Tags: Camping Gear Equipment


I Love You
Posted On 08/16/2010 01:26:13
You know what...
 
I've slept on the high desert in a 50 mph dust storm with the full moon glowing through from above.
I've skied the off-limits backside of Mt. Bachelor and rested on the lonely east side to watch the sun rise.
I've walked the high country of the South Sister with the freezing wind biting through my wool coat.
I've sat in the midst of horned monsters on a cold September Oregon morning, listening to their ancient bugle.
I've stood on the banks of the Pontchartrain at sunset and felt the warm, salty breeze on my face.
I've floated on my back as the forces of nature tore down 150 year old palm trees.
I've lounged beneath a magnolia tree on a hot Southern night listening to the acacia bug's song.
I've rested on the face of the Mogollon Rim and listened to the thunder.
I've worked a 50 pound swordfish out of the deep while swaying to the earth's gentle tide.
I've watched the hot sun set across the northern Arizona desert while snow began to fall.
I've felt the splash of sea water as the tide crashed against ancient tribal burial grounds on the Maui coast.
I've trudged through the mud and towering bamboo to stand beneath a 150 foot waterfall.
I've sat beneath a long forgotten waterfall on a no-name creek in the High Sierras.
 
But none of that compares to watching you smile at me from across the dinner table.
 
I love you Kim.

Tags: Ponchartrain Bachelor Oregon Magnolia Mogollon Thunder Swordfish Bamboo Sie


Chapter Three - Discovering the Bow
Posted On 05/01/2010 17:13:40

Chapter Three – Discovering the Bow

I saw too often where an orange hat rested his thirty ‘ought six on the hood of a rig, peering down a high-powered scope to drop a deer a mile away. That ain’t hunting. It’s not supposed to be that easy.

Someone once said that happiness is in the journey, not the destination. In this case, the journey is the hunt. The destination is the dead deer at your feet.

Besides, there are just too darn many rifle hunters out there. Around every corner is a rig slowly driving up and down the road looking for the easy kill. On top of every unit is a parked car with a person peering out through binoculars. More than once, I would sneak along a ridge and spy an orange hat peering at me through the scope on his rifle. More than once I would sit quietly in a thicket overlooking a good area and have a hunter walk right by me not realizing I was there. Often, I would peer up at the mountains at night and see the straight line of a spotlight and get angry.

Then I discovered bowhunting.

Relatively few hunters are out in bow season, and those that are out are more experienced and consciencous. Bowhunters get closer to nature because they have to in order to succeed. They have to be smart about what they are doing. The have to be physically fit. They have to practice all year. Bowhunters have to study the area they plan to hunt and learn the patterns of the game far in advance of the season. They have to take care of their equipment so it doesn’t fail them when it’s needed. It’s not a two week a year sport. It’s an all year sport that culminates in a small window of opportunity. And if you do all that, you probably still won’t succeed. But remember, happiness is in the journey, not the destination.

Let me tell you about an experience I had in my early years of bowhunting that converted me for good. Yep, another huntin’ story. Grab your popcorn and listen in.

Practicing with my old PSE bow and buying a dozen new Beman ICS Hunter arrows which in my opinion were the best arrows on the market. Tipped with lethal Wasp broadheads. I was heading into the Ochoco National Forest for a three week hunting trip. I was going to live in my two man tent and focus on bagging my first elk.

It was a four hour drive from Bend into the wilderness area. My beer-bottle-brown GMC packed high. I was careful to pack all the essentials I would need for a longe excursion. The tent (which, believe it or not, was the same tent my Dad and I spent a few weeks in at Whitehorse 18 years earlier), backpacks, clothes, food, tools, bow kit, a keg of Deschutes Black Butte Porter, three 5 gallon water jugs, two gas cans, and my lucky huntin’ hat. All wrapped up in a camouflaged tarp and tied down tight. My new wife, Kim, just shook her head and probably thought to herself, “who did I just marry?”

I rolled into camp on the east side of Snow Mountain toward Whiskey Flats.  It was early evening. My cousins Nick and Shanna and their families were already there hunting the early season and were leaving the next day. I set my tent up in my usual spot. I buried the keg of Black Butte a few feet away with nothing but the tap showing and hung my hammock close to it for easy access on those hot afternoons. When all was done, I sat down and ate canned chili with my cousins and their families. We talked about how their hunt went, where the bulls were, and what areas to focus on.

The next morning, they packed up and headed out. All the ruckus and noise of families packing camp was deafening. I helped pack, tie, and beat the kids. Just kidding. They headed out in a big plume of dust and noise, waiving goodbye and the kids yelling out the window, “good luck!”

Silence. For the first time since I got there, I could hear the sounds of nature creep in. It was very good to sit in camp and let nature envelope me. I felt my stress go away. I feel more at home out there than anywhere else. There’s no politics, no office talk, no employees, no budgets, no planning, no idiot drivers, no criminals in the shadows… just me and Earth. I was home.

Now that I was home, I realized I was hungry. Thinking I was fully prepared for anything, I strutted over to the cooler and pulled out a bag of frozen chicken breasts. The afternoon sky was growing ominously dark as a storm was moving in. Snow started falling and then blowing sideways. I wasn’t worried… until I realized I forgot to pack my cooking utensils!

I had no pans, no spatulas, no nothing. All those months of preparation and I forgot the basics!

Plenty of food, but no way to cook it. After about an hour of sitting in the new snow feeling sorry for myself, I looked over at the shovel I used to bury the keg. It became a long handled frying pan. I dug through a bag of trash I found and pulled out a large chili can. I peeled off the label and washed it out with soap and water. That became my sauce pan. Since I didn’t have any tongs, spatulas, or silverware I used my Gerber hunting knife to cook and eat with.

I dug out my small Coleman backpacking stove that took both unleaded gas and propane. I had it for many years and it always came through for me, but of course, this time it didn’t work. I sat in the sideways snow pumping and lighting and pumping and lighting. Gas squirted out from the side onto my pant leg. A few minutes later the flame from my lighter caught it on fire and I jumped up and patted it out. I thought to myself, “Really? Did I just catch my pant leg on fire?”

I finally gave up and dumped the gas out of the stove onto the wet wood in the fire pit and lit it. The temperature was dropping drastically as the storm took hold. My brain was numb from the cold and my leg was fried.  But before long, I had a roaring fire. Warm but still hungry I cooked me up two frozen chicken breasts and a steaming bowl of Ramen Noodles using my shovel and chili can. Mmm… tasty. Hey, don’t knock it ‘till you try it. I call it “shovel chicken”.

I spent that first evening basking in my bon fire drinking beer and listening to the wind and snow whistle through the pines. I thought about how peaceful this was despite the weather. How alone I was, and how grateful I was to be alone. This, to me, was heaven. Just me and nature. How man was supposed to live before we grew a brain and came up with stuff.

My heart at ease, I settled into the two-man tent I’d call home for a while which brought back the memory of me and my Dad hunting at Whitehorse back in ‘82. The flicker of flame and shadow on my tent wall and the call of the coyotes just outside the firelight lulled me to sleep. I dreamt that night of the hunt the next morning. I was going to spend the first day scouting the region by road. In previous years, that was when we saw the most deer and elk, so I was excited to drive what we called “The Circle” early in the morning.

That was what we called ten miles of jeep trail that circled around several units of logged off area, re-prod, and old growth timber on the southeast side of Snow Mountain Lookout. “The Circle” was thick with deer. Elk moved through there daily on their round trip between the top and bottom of the wilderness area.

In years past, we found ourselves piling out of the rig and chasing down six-by-six bulls and trophy muleys. Fruitless to do such things with a bow, but every now and then a wild-eyed buck would stop just outside of 30 yards and look back. Just enough to make you think you might take a shot. Then it would take a few more steps and disappear. A rifle hunter would have his kill and be done. Bowhunters have a lot more work ahead of them.

We would often drive “The Circle” just for those encounters. We knew we would not get a shot, but seeing those trophies motivated us to keep focused on our goals and work harder to get in close on the next hunt.  I didn’t see any on that first morning drive. It takes about 2 hours to drive the whole thing, so it used up the morning. I headed back to camp and shoveled me up some chow (literally). Scrambled eggs ala shovel. I got the map out and planned my hunts for the remaining week. The rest of my party would not arrive for a few more days, so I wanted to get in some good quality hunting before then.

The night before they left, Nick and George had told tales of seeing the elk of legend down in the wilderness area. Over the years, we had all talked about getting a glimpse of this monster bull. So old that it no longer ran with a herd. But so powerful and smart that it still ruled the forest on its own.  Its bugle sent chills down your spine. A cross between a full grown grizzly and an angry herford. There had been sightings. Its body was darker than the normal elk, which is how it got the name Black Bart. Its horns were massive and seemed to weigh its head down as if under years of surviving in this harsh area. Some said it was eight by nine. Others laughed and said there was no such thing.  It no longer vied for a mate, or it had to work harder at it, so they say he was covered with mud. It likely ruled the herd for many years before being beat out by a young bull just a bit more agile. The trees and brush seemed to shy away as if in respect of this magnificent creature as it sauntered through.

That next morning, I found myself sneaking along a shelf on the steep forested slope about 100 yards into the wilderness area. I wore full camo and face paint. Small drops of scent block on my boots and clothes. One step every minute or so, and only when the wind blew so it masked the crunch of my boot on dry twigs. Pause, look carefully around, listen, smell the scents. Take another step. I was essentially invisible.

A few hours later I had almost made it to Utley Butte. The forest was thick and the ground was steep. I was down in a steep ravine that ran vertically from top to bottom of the ridge. I let out one solitary and faint cow call from the Hoochi Mama call hanging at my neck.

THUD! CRASH! More thuds, more crashing about 25 yards away. I couldn’t see what it was through the thick brush and timber but whatever it was, it was pissed! My heart pounded and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. This thing sounded huge and was madder than heck. I had nothing but a stick and a string with the words PSE painted on it.

Then it let out a hideous and gnarly throat grunt. I’m scared to death of bears because they’re big and smart and at this point I felt very little and stupid. It let out another grunt and thrashed more limbs. I mentally made a multiple choice list of what I should do next:

1. Run
2. Pee my pants
3. Skinny up a tree as fast as possible
4. Hunker down and hope I don’t get killed.

I chose option 4 and hunkered down.

It got quiet all of a sudden. I thought I might actually get out of there alive. Then the beast let out a shrill cry that sounded like a moo cow but then ended with a growl. That was when I realized I was dealing with none other than Black Bart!

I began picturing this prized elk hanging back at camp when the rest of my hunting party finally showed up in a few days. Oh how sweet that would be. The legendary Black Bart bagged and tagged. Me, laying in my hammock drinking beer.

I let out another cow call and got some more thrashing and grunts but sounded as if it was heading out away from me. Did I do it wrong? Did it smell me or see me? Frantically, I let out another mew on the call. Black Bart responded with its half-bugle-half-growl. I pinpointed his location. He was circling me.

Then I heard a twig snap on the opposite side of me and whirled around on my knees to see what was up there. I spotted movement through the brush and was able to make out the shape of an elk. A few seconds later, it stepped out from behind a tree. It was a spike elk about 35 yards up the hill from me. Moving in on the ruckus of what it thought was a cow calling to Black Bart. It was carelessly biting at small green limbs as it meandered forward.

Black Bart let out another bugle-growl, this time much farther out. I worried that I would lose him so I let out another cow call, while keeping my eye on the spike above me. As soon as the mew sounded, that spike elk looked me straight in the eye across 35 yards of brush and timber. Our eyes met, and at that moment we spoke the same language. He said, “I see you. You are Man, and you mean to kill me. I’m outta here!”. I might as well have been standing up dancing the Macerana. He had me dead to rights, and in less than a millisecond it went stealth and silently disappeared into the trees at high speed.

I spewed forth a few more cow calls hoping either the spike or Black Bart would come back and visit for a while. I had more things to say. But they were both gone.

Now normally after an experience like this, I would get up, gather my things and stomp back to the rig thinking everything has been scared out of there. Not this time. I was very pleased with being able to put the sneak on the legendary Black Bart, so I wanted to exit the area very carefully and quietly like I did coming in. I climbed slowly out of my spot and snuck up the steep forested hillside to the top. Taking considerable care to move slowly and quietly. Once at the top, I continued the sneak.

Only take a step when the wind blew through the tree tops. Take one or two steps then stop and look and listen. I kept thinking this was futile and I should just trudge back to the rig. But it was good practice, so I continued for about an hour.

I saw what I thought was a tree branch moving in the wind but something made me think it was different. Not normal. Maybe the wind didn’t blow when it moved or it moved the wrong way. I stopped and observed.

There it was again. About 30 yards away, it appeared to be a branch moving. Then it jerked back and forth. Then my knees went weak and my adrenalin kicked in (again in one morning). It was about a 3 point bull elk browsing on grass and brush. It was intent on feeding and did not know I was there.

I knocked an arrow. After all I experienced this morning I was determined to get my first elk with a bow.

Should I move up closer? Should I draw and take the shot? There was considerable brush in the way and I would have to compensate.

Suddenly out from behind a brush pile to the right about 10 yards away, a full grown bull elk with probably six on each side pranced slowly in between me and the 3 point. Its head was way back and nose straight up trying to catch my scent. Broadside to me its antlers touched its hind-quarters as it strutted across the clearing. So close I could smell the urine and mud and see the flies buzz around its ears. I could hear its heavy breath as it walked. To be this close to such a magnificent creature in its own habitat was amazing.

I simply watched in awe as it pranced across. My knees were wobbly and I couldn’t feel my hands as I raised my bow to take a shot. I didn’t want to mess this up. This trophy bull was mine!

He saw me as soon as I started to raise my bow. He let out a snort and lit out of there. All of a sudden I heard snorts all around me! Cows and smaller herd bulls and calves all sounded their alarms and looked right at me. Somehow, I had managed to sneak my way into the middle of a full blown heard of about 25 elk!

They were in front of me. They were to my right. They were to my left. There was even a dumb one behind me! You should have heard the woods come alive! Branches crashed, limbs broke, logs got pushed, the ground thumped, animals snorted, squirrels ran for cover, birds took off, flashes of brown and white moved everywhere as they all headed out.

I just stood there and tried not to wet myself.

So, why do I bow hunt? I don’t know, you tell me!

Tags: Bow Hunting Elk Oregon Camping




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