Elk Lake

I did go camping for three days.  The morning that I was to leave I almost did not make it.  I was, reluctant.  Why, I cannot ascertain.  Instead of hitting the road a 8:00 am, I left around noon. 

To be sure, once I got on the road I began to feel better about going.  I had left instructions with Eliza about where I was going.  I left the grid coordinates and physical landmarks of my limits of advance for each direction.  The result was a rectangle of land about five miles N/S and 12 miles E/W.  I also left with two motorola radios with back up batteries.  I did not not so much for my own safety, but for the peace of mind of Eliza and my Dad.  My Dad has told me of nights spent in the woods as a kid, and he worries that I’ll be eaten by a bear or fall in an avalanche or something of the sort.  To be sure, hiking in the wilderness alone isn’t too bright, but I am confident in my navigation and first aid abilities, plus how much grit I actually have when push comes to shove.

So I departed for the SW edge of Bull of the Woods Wilderness area.  When I arrived I noted that there were little or no areas for hiking or camping other than the parking lot entrance, and that already had 9 cars in it.  This, coupled with the knowledge that the nearest lake on my nifty printable map at REI (it is the coolest, you go to the area you want and presto!) was several miles inland and that I would be going through human hiker traffic, AND that there was a fee to get inside, and I turned my rig around and continued on.  I had a backup plan.

My backup plan meant going through the mountains and coming out at Detroit Lake, then turning North onto a 4WD road and upward to Elk Lake.  There was one sign when I left the blacktop, and then nothing!  Not even signs to tell me which logginng road or National Forest road I was on.  Fortunately I had bought a protractor and with my compass and map I was easily able to tell exactly where I was and which fork in the road that wasn’t on my map to take.

The road was very rocky and I had to take it at a walking speed.  But I made it to Elk Lake.  Once there I found that only one other vehicle had set up camp, a grandfather and two boys, whom I got to talk to a few times.  I even gave some of my military glow sticks to the boys.

I set my camp up and made a fire.  I hadn’t found any large pieces of wood, so my first few hours at the campsite was really glorified campfire maintenance.  I resolved to find some good wood the next day.  Fortunately I found a log that was easily split into pieces that afforded a nice 7 hour campire fire the next day.

Darkness came a little later in the mountains, not getting fully dark until about 10:30 or so.  The twilight hour seemed to last a long time.  I was getting antsy.  I still didn’t feel at peace.  Some trigger happy fool was shooting what sounded like a .22 out in the distance and I kept half of my mind on that direction.  The sounds of the boys on the pond fishing got to me also.  Then a deer walked nearly into my camp.  I was so wound up with something, (anger?  frustration?  what?) that I immediately chased the deer.  When I had berated myself for such a dumb act, I chased another deer off shortly after.

I finally laid down to get some sleep and hoping for a better day when I awoke.  Dawn came at 04:30 and I was freezing to the bone.  The ground had sapped all my warmth from me.   I finally got up and about and decided to go on a short hike.  On my map there was a marshy area a mile away or so and it had a small pond in it.  I followed a stream until the game trails ended, then I beat my way through the underbrush (coming home with lots of scratches) and eventually found the small pond.

The rest of the day had me at the campsite, eating food, drinking coffee and sitting next to the lake, trying to let myself quiet down a little, still trying to feel the Earth under my feet.

That night I marvelled at the Milky Way.  It looks so clear from a 3700 feet up in a wilderness area.  I could watch satellites orbit high in the sky.  Every now and then a shooting star would go by.  All day I had been talking to the gods, and then as soon as I say or ask something I would immediately attack myself for being so wishy washy, or so demanding, or so pleading.  Where was the strength?  Where was my self reliance?  Why ask for help?  But I realize that this, too, was the opposite side of the coin that I was facing (still) and so I tried to simply quiet down, to breath and listen.  This was why, on my second night, was finally able to bask in the chorus of frogs and stand in awe beneath the heavens.

The next day I went on a hike through a couple of miles of the Bull of the Woods wilderness.  The first stretch of the hike was the hardest as I had to climb about 1000 feet up the side of a slope of Battle Axe Mountain.  But once I got to around 4700 feet in elevation the trail tapers into a rolling trail with little climbs at all.  Most of the trail had its views obscurred but occaisionally I could catch a glimpse of Mt Jefferson’s snow covered peak nearby.  After a while I came to a spot that was open and had lots of rocks, small water ponds, and access to a couple of different avenues of approach.  It was the perfect spot for the congregation of all sorts of animals, predators included.  I scanned the ground and sure enough I saw scat from cats, likely a bobcat, and tracks as well.  One of the tracks was pretty fresh.  I noted with a grin that I had left my pistol at the campsite, as I rarely hike with it.  Cougar attacks are very rare but they have been known to happen.  So I had my walking stick in one hand and my drawn Ka-Bar knife in the other.  I was not able to be silent, with the rocks on the ground and my fanny pack of gear and water.    So I walked on the ready.  After passing through the area I put my knife away and continued on, relatively sure that nothing would happen.

Another couple of miles I came to yet another of the many rivelets of water that eventually form into a stream that forms into a creek that form into a river.  I was at 4800 feet and I drank my fill from the stream and filled a water bottle as well.  The water bottle is in my room, not to be drank but used in rituals.  It is very clear with no particles at all floating within it, and it tastes very good!

Back at the camp I picked up my campsite and loaded up to go home.  The drive home was okay.  Eliza was glad to have me back, she missed me.  I missed her also, but I needed my time alone, to try and find my balance.  I’m not quite there, but I’m closer than I was when I left. 

A little fellow who shared a breakfast with me of mashed potatos with broccoli and cheese.


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