Day 8. Saturday, Oct. 30th.
I burned my thumb on the edge of the stove this morning. Fortunately, I'm a manly man, and I didn't even wince until I was sure no one was looking.
Uncle Pat and my dad went up to the elk convention center this morning, hoping to find them all sleeping... or at least just standing around with their fingers up their noses. Grandpa took off with his gun and a chair, and will be sitting somewhere up the road. After we get more firewood cut (provided we can get Gabe's saw started) Mark and I will see if we can scare something up toward Pat and Papa. He refuses to carry the pistol, even though I'm sure he'd be a better shot if we got attacked by a cougar. Maybe, if we see one, I'll get the pistol out of the holster, and it will accidentally slip and land in his hand.
With the men-folk gone, Mark and I spent the morning cutting, splitting, and stacking firewood to let it dry, and kept the home fires burning. Mark did the cutting, and brought the wood to me, and I split and stacked it. The only trouble with stacking the wood around the fire is that the wood at the bottom tends to dry out fastest, and is difficult to get to when it needs to be added to the fire. Sometimes it actually catches fire before we can get to it. We got so busy with firewood that the rest of the group came back to camp before we were ready to head up and meet them.
In the afternoon, I walked up with Papa to where they'd been in the morning. We followed game trails up behind camp, and over a few hills until the wet ground flattened out and we were in what seemed like the heart of the forest. It was still somewhat cold and dark in there, but you'd catch glimpses of sunlight as it splashed on the ground, and the whole canopy seemed to be glowing green like the sludge that the Ninja Turtles rolled around in. We spread out a bit and took opposite sides of a fallen tree, and I found a small trail heading in the direction we wanted to go, so I followed it. I'm glad I did, because doing so meant I came away with a souvenir. Laying on the ground just off the side of the path, shining in a patch of sunlight as though God in Heaven was displaying it to me, signifying by divine providence that I would be King of the forest if I pulled it out of its resting place... was a mule deer antler. It wasn't quite as beautiful as I'd hoped to find. A year or two of weathering has left small cracks, and turned parts of it green... and it's nowhere near as attractive as a white-tail antler... but it's decent size, has four prongs, and hasn't been chewed to hell by wild rodents. So I'm keeping it, and happy to be doing so. Maybe I'll turn it into a hat rack that I won't be allowed to display in the house when I'm married. That's fine. It'll go better with the theme in my man cave.
After sitting at the top of a draw, looking down a drainage (these are technical terms which I have learned to use properly, I think), and across a meadow, and not seeing any elk for roughly 3/4 of eternity, we decided to head back to camp. We made another trip up to the only place where there's ever a hint of cell service, and I was fortunate enough to actually get enough service to make a call... in the rain... on speaker phone, with my phone up over my head so I could get a signal. It was good to be able to talk to Erika for a little bit, but service cut out before I was able to tell her how much I love her and miss her. Stupid rain clouds getting in the way. Oh well, I'm sure she'll be reading this.