Friday, November 5, 2010

Into the whiled: Hike

Day 3, Monday Oct. 25th

This morning, when I was forced out of my nice warm sleeping bag by my insistent bladder, the ground was not nearly as mushy as it had been before. It wasn't that it had dried out... it had frozen solid. There was snow falling gently, the way it does in movies whenever a Christmas miracle is about to happen. The wind, pushing the soft puffs of frosty beauty around in the air like tiny dancing fairies..... or some analogy much more manly. As if fresh snow wasn't enough, we're having bacon with breakfast today. Oh joy, oh rapture. That wasn't meant to sound sarcastic.

This is the day we decided it was time to get a toilet built. There is a group of pine trees not far from camp (but far enough that we shouldn't be able to smell the toilet while cooking or eating meals) that we've decided will make the perfect support for our ghetto outhouse (and here you thought regular outhouses were ghetto). Uncle Pat is the primary engineer on this job, and it's a good working environment where the rest of us feel free to make suggestions as we see fit. We cut some pine saplings, 2 to 3 inches across generally, to be the beams the toilet seat would sit on, and screwed them at what seemed a comfortable height onto the trunks of the main trees. Don't worry, hippies, we didn't hurt the environment, we only cut small trees that were growing so close to larger trees that they would either die slowly from lack of water and sunlight, or grow taller and become a fire hazard to more established trees. Our crapper was one way in which we were protecting the forest. As one American Hunter magazine recently noted, "hunters make the best conservationists". After we put the beams and seat over the hole, we each did a dressed rehearsal to see if it was sturdy enough. The front beam sagged a little too much for our liking, so we cut a couple of legs out of some scrap we had left over, and screwed them in place. That seemed to work just fine. We wrapped it with tarps, put the shaved pine boughs on the ground at the foot of the throne (which helped mask the scent a bit, and acted as a visual barrier), and put a can full of ashes next to the seat. I also had brought a strawberry scented candle with this in mind, which I set next to the seat to be lit when the outhouse was in use. We're not complete barbarians.

With one of the most important elements of camp all taken care of, we decided to go off on a hike, to get more ideas about where we were hunting. In the fresh snow we saw elk tracks, deer tracks, and cow tracks pretty clearly... some pretty close to camp. We walked down the road a bit (or up, rather... sort of the theme of the day) and hooked off across a field into a heavily wooded area, which is where elk like to hang out. Apparently, animals that are food like to hang out where animals that try to eat them don't like to hang out. The snow is sticking to the ground less now, and the rising sun is dispatching what little had held there in the first place. We've come across a few areas that we can see they've been laying, some game trails, and a scrape (which we've established is much too low to be an elk). If you don't know what a scrape is, watch Bambi... right before we get informed about animals being twitterpated, Bambi makes a scrape on the tree, which rubs the bark off of the tree, and the velvet off of his antlers. It also sharpens them, making them perfect for when he wants to roast a bunch of marshmellows all at once... though that part got cut out of the movie because it took away from the drama of the forest fire scene. We also saw a couple of deer, as they bounced away from the other side of a clearing and into the forest.

After making a decent sized loop away from camp, and up to the top of "the bowl" (the valley we're camping in), we decided it was time for snacks. Fortunately, the top compartment on my backpack is stuffed with them. After some refreshments, uncle Pat hands me his 9mm Taurus pistol, and flips the safety into "you sure as hell better not be pointing this at anything you don't intend to shoot" mode, and I take aim at a knot on a tree about 35 feet in front of me and squeeze the trigger. This thing doesn't kick as much as my 30-06 rifle does. Perhaps distracted by the fact that the gun didn't try to jump out of my hands, I didn't see where (if anywhere on the tree) my bullet hit. I turn the gun a bit to the side, to make sure that the safety is off, but neglect to take my finger off the trigger (rookie mistake). This thing really does not take much pressure to get it to fire. The bullet darts off into the forest to my left, and the rest of the company jumps back a bit, except uncle Pat, who probably didn't even hear the gun go off. Lesson learned: the finger stays off the trigger until you mean to shoot.

Heading back to camp, we decide to take as straight a path as the trees and the barbed wire fences would allow. It worked out well to have a gps that worked off road... unlike mine. The one we used also doesn't have a russian accent, and doesn't tell you "In 500 feet, turn right." 20 seconds after you were supposed to turn. The thick brush on the way back and the lack of desire to go anywhere other than directly ahead meant it was convenient that I had my machete strapped to my back pack. I successfully chopped my way back to safety.

Back at camp, a whole lot of nothing to do.... which is actually fine by me. It gave me time to focus on important things. "What kind of important things?" you ask? The important kind.
I took the top of one of the saplings we had cut down (but turned out not to need), and cut off the smooth green bark from most of it, and carved out what I believe to be a perfectly Erika sized walking stick. Since she's not here to use it, I'll have to bring it back with me and give it to her some time. I also cut a notch on the uphill side of the already cut section of the thick part of the stick and made it look like a deer hoof. After fire hardening the whole thing, and actually burning the deer hoof section for color, it's ready for use.

The rest of the day was spent perfecting Erika's walking stick, changing something about it every time I look at it, dodging the smoke, eating, and dodging more smoke. Now I'm off to bed before any more of my words run together. Good night, Neverland.

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