Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Journal Excerpts Day 3

Day 3

Woke up late today. The sun is high. There is nothing below my bed but a canvas tarp and my old wool poncho from Mexico and the cold seeps right through to my bones. I only have a Mexican blanket to cover us and even with the heat of the dog, I wake cold and clenched several times throughout the night.

At the library, I learned how to judge hiking distances by sliding beads on a string. I've devised such a cord to measure the trip to the lake and to help me know where I am on the trail. The cord I used is tight in the beads, so when I slide them they stay slid.

Here's how it works. There are 1,760 yards to a mile. My typical stride, being 6'1' tall, is just over a yard. For every 100 steps I take I slide a bead. When all 17 beads have been moved, I should have traveled a mile. I don't plan to hike so many miles that I cannot remember which one I am on, but if I did I could just string up some more beads.

I left the Maya dog at camp because of her feet and hiked to the lake for water. I removed the tarp from the rope and fastened her lead to it so she could move along the length between the trees.

When Darl and I drove to the lake, we went south on the track where I'm camped and then turned to the east. The road wound around to the left fairly constantly. I estimated that if I hiked north along the trail past my camp and down the hill, then turned east, It would bring me to the road and shorten the hike by about 15%.

A few hundred yards up the trail from my camp I crested a hill and a few feet further was a tree growing in the middle of it. The dirt around the tree was powdery and loose and I saw my first bear tracks. The hind feet were easily as big as mine. I don't know enough about bears to guess how big this would make it. Big enough that I looked around warily, but saw no sign of the animal. I worried for Maya, alone and tethered back at Onion camp. I saw my first bear scat. Each turd was connected to the next by a network of animal hair. It was dry so I picked it up using a leaf and it hung like a chain.

Just past the tree, the trail narrowed again and descended into a heavily wooded area thickly carpeted with ferns. A few hundred yards further along, the woods ended in a clearing and a fire road. I followed the fire road and came out on the forest road just as I had hoped. I followed the several curves to the left and counted three more dirt roads on the left and one large meadow with dry a stream bed before I came to the longer road that leads back to the lake.

At the lake, I filled my 6 water jugs from a depth of about eighteen inches to avoid any contaminants on the surface, I left them with my pack on the west bank of the lake and hiked the perimeter. It's a small lake. On my way around, I saw several minnows but no crawdads. There were elk tracks in abundance, but no sign of bear. On the way back, I stopped at a large fallen tree and climbed up to sit, rest, and survey the area before returning to camp.

My bead count estimated the distance I traveled at three point two miles. My water weight in the pack was just over twenty five pounds. A gallon of water weighs 8 pounds.

I returned the way I came, again counting the jeep trails before I left the forest road. The third one had a culvert that ran below the road and dropped of into a slight ravine. I noticed a Mountain Dew bottle and Bud Light can at the bottom of the ditch. I found the forest road through the meadow and encouraged by the success of my shortcut, tried another overland and off trail. It was a failure and led to deeper forest rather than coming out where I had hoped.

Everything looked alike in the thick trees, and they obscured any landmarks. I panicked a little, as the sun was below the trees and I had no conception of time and needed to get back to Maya before dark when the predators roam. I was able to retrace my steps and return to the trail I needed. Back at camp, Maya was fine. The whole adventure took about four and a half hours.

I took Maya off the lead and replaced the tarp on the rope in a pretty strong wind. I had to orient just right to accomplish this. We crawled into the shelter and napped until just before dusk. I was feeling the altitude.

When we awoke, I boiled drinking water and cooked a can of chicken noodle soup. All day I had seen no sign of any people on the road or at the lake. It was an awesome feeling, being alone in the woods with Maya and the bears and the elk. I felt good. I was starting to unwind. I loaded a bowl and got out the guitar. When darkness came, the wind stopped. I was fearful of being caught with a fire, but it was too perfect so I kept it going, even after all the water was boiled and we were fed. I kept it very small, just a six inch twig or two at a time.

I had twelve liters of water and treated six. Maya can take hers straight. With Maya sticking close and resting her pads, it should last us two days, three if I conserve my share and drink water from the canned goods. I'm using the canned stuff first to drop pack weight rapidly in case we need to move on earlier than excpected.


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