Thursday, January 16, 2014

Excerpts from the Diaries: Day 2; Potato Lake

5:00 pm, Day 2

We set up camp yesterday. I'm calling it the Onion Camp. The plan is that while I'm here I'm going to peel off the layers of society like an onion. Its been a long ten years and it has injured me. I need some healing time before I start this adventure. This being Potato Lake, the Onion reference seems apropo. Friday, I moved my car to Roni's house with all my possessions in it, not knowing why I couldn't reach her or if it would be towed and I would never see those things again. Then I had to walk up Cave Creek to Cactus Boulevard and a few miles East to Darl's house to catch a ride up here. It was over a hundred degrees in Phoenix and the sidewalks damaged Maya's foot pads. The limestone up here is brutal on her poor burnt paws. We're taking it easy today to get our heads right and give her time to rest.

I built a fire pit last night. There's a ban on fires up here right now. When we rolled in, we saw two different camps with fires anyway. Nice for them, if they get caught they might get a stern talking to or a ticket. I can't tolerate the scrutiny. So I built my fire pit so it's two feet high 7/8ths of the way around. I've taken care to seal the holes so the only light that escapes is facing toward me. There is little glow to draw attention. I keep the fires small. Just enough to boil my water and cook my dinner. I feed small Ponderosa twigs in, and I'll only use the fire for cooking and water purification. I don't dare risk it for heat or entertainment.

Tomorrow I have to find the trail to the lake for water. Darl and I drove it, but there were switchbacks and curves and I'll bet there's a shorter way. We have a two liter of agua left, plus whatever is in the canned vegetables that I figure will do in dire times. There's a lot of salt in canned veggie water, but hiking in the dry Arizona climate, I need to keep well salted for water retention anyway. Usually, I get most of my salt from meat but I have very little meat now and don't know when I will.

I'm hoping to trade my guitar for a tent since Roni wasn't there to hook me up. My tarp probably isn't very water resistant because it's tiny.  I have two tarps, that I cut from the floor of an old army tent. The top tarp is pretty small. The floor tarp is smaller. Each is about 5'x8' give or take. Fortunately there hasn't been a cloud in the sky.

There are two very important tools missing from my pack. One was a bone handled hunting knife that I found in a median on 75th avenue by the mall (I don't want to know), the other is my can opener. I'll have to use the machete for both. It'll be interesting to see how well I can clean a fish with such a large blade. When I was fixing dinner last night, I found a way to open my cans.

I put the point of the machete in the middle of the can and strike the end of the handle with the heel of my hand. Then I turn the blade and do it again. This cuts two three inch slits in the top of the can in a cross pattern. I used my needle nose pliers to bend the corners back. Dinner last night was a can of that fake chinese food with the water chestnut can taped to the top. I have tied some bailing wire to the large can for a handle, and am using it for a coffee pot and to boil my water. 

I've made shelter with a tarp and rope, used a machete to open cans, and built a coffee pot. I'm excited to see what else I learn to fashion from materials at hand. Maybe some day I'll write a book about the adventure if it ever gets off the ground. Where I'm probably going, it'll be good to have something to do to pass the time.

The shelter I made is about thirty inches wide at the shoulders and narrower at the feet. It's like a Boonie Sack, really. There is no room to move and just enough for me and Maya. The small quarters kept us warm. Sometime after we went to sleep, I was awakened by Maya grunting somewhat quietly. That's something she does when she is alerting, but doesn't want to alert whatever she's alerting to. I quickly hushed her, as I didn't want her drawing the attention of bears, wolves, or other predators.

A few moments later I heard a strange noise I had never heard before. It was loud, loud enough to be big. I searched my inventory of animal sounds and came up flat. It wasn't a big cat, wolf, coyote, or any other predator I had ever met. It was loud enough to be big and it was crunching in the limestone just feet from our flimsy little shelter. I'd never seen a bear, but I saw them on TV and they didn't sound like this. Honestly though, my experience is limited to "The life and Times of Judge Roy Bean", episodes of Grizzly Adams, and a few old Marlin Perkins or Disney films. Again, I cautioned Maya to be quiet.

If I had to describe it, I'd call it a bark, with a kind of a squeak at the end. It was obvious that whatever it was, it had something to say about our being there. It was close. I began to regret camping off the beaten path. I worried that an instinctual response from Miss Maya would result in our being eaten. It seemed like hours that we listened to the crunching around and occasional “barking”.

I was worn out and didn't really give a shit (or I wouldn't have been here, right?) so I went to sleep half expecting to wake up in some carnivorous disaster. I slept the night and heard no more complaints from Miss Maya.

This morning I looked around and found some hoofed tracks within ten feet of our tarp. I consulted with Clyde Ormond's “Complete Book of Outdoor Lore” and identified the tracks as Elk. Turns out the book was right and I was camped right on an Elk path.

I've read a lot of survival books, and subscribe to several websites. I even watched a few TV shows and they all disappointed me. I have no desire to learn from those “Survivalists” that I have seen drinking their own urine while camping in the snow. Like Don Juan told Carlos: “They are just indulging in being masters”. Or maybe they just like drinking urine.

Mister Ormond lays it down. Its the most comprehensive collection of actually useful material I've ever found. Get on Amazon right now and order a copy. If you like it send me one, as I gave mine away years ago. Better yet, send one to a ten year old kid; a nephew or somebody. Seriously. If you are interested in the subject, you need to have this in your collection. This book is why I'm writing stories from the forest instead of a survival guide: I don't think it would be possible to do any better than Mr. Ormond. 

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