Saturday, April 21, 2012
Post Bugout AAR #1
My ass is kicked.
Our Hero & his band of Merry Assholes took a two day bugout to the Charles C. Deem wilderness area with minimal kit and no food to practice our bushcraft and foraging skills. A side note: most of the foraging was highly illegal, but then again, most of the dope smoking and sodomy probably was as well.
Spring is here and we've been itching to get into woods for at least an overnight. On the whole, we hiked about 23-24 miles, with about 6 miles of it being backbreaking off trail hikes up and down those karst formation hills. We had a GPS as backup but we were mostly navigating by compass; on the whole, we managed to navigate both on trail and overland with few problems. The GPS went haywire on the last day and was trying to dump us in the lake so we were glad for the compasses. Quick Protip: If you suspect your GPS or your compass is haywire, you will need two compasses to verify whether the compass or GPS is off.
We had meant for the whole thing to be quasi-competetive, but we ended up working together a lot. It's just the way we're wired I suppose; all of our gaming is co-op too. Anyway, I do want to make this point: solo survival in the woods is a goddamn fantasy. If your plan is to bug out by yourself to the middle of nowhere and "live off the land" then enjoy the sublime pleasure of starving to death, you stupid motherfucker. Living off the land is a staggering amount of work, and even if you are the 2nd incarnation of Baden Powell you can still slip a disc and starve with your arm stretched out towards a mushroom right in front of you.
Speaking of mushrooms, we did not find a single goddamn mushroom the entire time. Either the locals have already been through and picked them clean well ahead of season, or I've just lost the eye (far more likely) but we combed the ground for hours without finding a single morel. I'm a quasi experienced mushroom hunter, but all my experience is when I was a kid so it woudln't surprise me to learn I trampled a hundred tasty mushrooms...but it also wouldn't surprise me that the locals picked everything clean. When we were scouting for this bugout, #2 and I went out to the trails and saw a bunch of furtive people hiding their breadsacks (this was well ahead of legal mushroom season) so it is possible that it was just too late. Either way, though, I need to practice-and apparently get out earlier.
The first night we set up "Camp Ron Swanson" down at the far eastern end after a jaunty 13 mile hike. We found a good spot with a water source and plenty of dry firewood, but the surrounding area was dead-seriously. No squirrels, no deer sign, no birds-the entire area was dead silent except for us and this random stray dog that had been following us the whole time. I set up a squirrel pole or two, but was at a loss for where to put them-there were no signs of squirrel activity for a five hundred yard radius around the campsite. There weren't even any mosquitos, grubs or waterbugs-It was some kind of creepy Pet Semetary kind of deal and we kept making jokes about how if you see the floating green head, you shouldn't talk to it. Anyway, that left us well hydrated and warm, but hungry.
The second night we set up "Camp John Rambo" and that was down by the lake after a short 4 miles, mostly on trail. It was a much better prospect even though firewood was not as easy to get; over the course of the day we managed to catch a small snapper and a big catfish and that meant we had enough energy for our hike back; I was seriously worried that if we had no food we wouldn't be able to make it back. Incidentally, running a trot line is a complicated job-but highly rewarding. I'm pretty much of the opinion that in a survival situation, pole fishing is a waste of time and I want a pole that you don't have to man. We also stalked some ducks and a beaver, but they escaped our hungry grasp. Planning on heading back in the morning, we also made sure we had some water purified for the trip and filled our canteens.
Finally on the morning of the third day we packed up our shit and hiked out, about five miles, both on and off trail as well as along the road. Breaking camp is a lot easier when you have a minimal kit. The hike back, though, was brutal-we had eaten very little and camping by the lake and going to the fire tower meant we had to go from the lowest point to the highest. We made it back about 10:30 on the 20th, smoked a victory bowl, and went to the Log Cabin Inn & Resturaunt to RZ with the girls for a tearful and greasy reunion.
I'll post a "Lessons Learned" post as per usual about the bugout, but I want to say this first and foremost-if you don't eat enough, all your physical and mental abilities go to hell. There were some stupid and dangerous decisions made on that second day with no food in our bellies. I am a pretty strong guy but I was having trouble unscrewing the lid to my nalgene by the end of the 2nd day.
Still, my worst day starving in the woods is better than the best day at work, so fuck it. I'm glad we went.