It's now 6:15 on Friday and I just got back from my camp outing. I'm exausted and waiting for some real coffee to brew in the perculator my mom just gave me. I don't mind instant, but 2 days of it has been enough lol. Gimme some real perculated coffee!!
I got there later than expected on Wednsday, but still managed to get into the woods at around 4pm. I had planned to go further northeast, but I heard 4 wheelers and a truck. I assumed it was the loggers back for the spring, so I settled on a small clearing near the edge of my parents woods, right near the old fence to the west side. I cut a small sapling with lots of brances and used it as a rake to clear a spot for the tent, just so I could easily check for roots, stones or sticks.
When it was clear, I refilled the area with around 2" of leaves and set up the tent. Once that was done, I used the small folding shovel to dig a fire pit around 30" wide and roughly 8" deep. There were plenty of stones around to circle the pit with, all from years of digging them out of my parents gardens and carting them off into the woods. The trail that was once there is long grown over, but stones and traces of dads bad habit of dumping junk left me knowing exactly where I was.
I gathered kindling and firewood, which was extremely easy with all the trees that had fallen down around the area. It didn't take long before I had a pile of firewood 6 feet long and close to 2 feet high. I piled small branches for kindling in the front, set some inside and decided it was time for some coffee. Rather than take the easy way out and use my lighter, I opted for the Strikemaster Firestarter I got for Christmas, using the homemade starters of TP rolls and drier lint I had sealed in a gallon freezer bag. The TP-lint starters worked great, and with a little kindling quickly added, I had a fire in no time. Since I had no grill top to use over the fire, I bent over a tall sapling tree, made a stake from a stick driven in the ground, and tied it off over the fire. It hung around 4 feet over the fire, so I used paracord attached to a cutoff section of tree as a hook. It worked great! The water from my canteen was heating over the fire in a small pot as I went back to work gathering firewood. While I was gathering, I tripped and grabbed a tree to catch my fall, only to find out the tree was dead, and ended up having a handfull of very dry dead bark. I looked at it and realized it was PERFECT tinder for the fire, so I stripped the dead tree of as much bark as I could reach, setting it near the pile of firewood on top of a piece of log to keep it off the ground. I found some old pieces of fencing laying in the woods, which I cut with the multi tool and formed into a grill top. I thought it might be handy, but I never used it.
As the coffee water was heating, a strong wind whipped through the woods and into my little clearing, blowing the fire and cooling it down. I decided that a wind break was in order, so I bent and staked over another sapling around 6 feet from the fire, to the southwest, being the direction the wind blew in from. I cut smaller finger size saplings, cutting off the branches, and laced it in a criss-cross pattern along the larger one, tying the ends with the roll of paracord I had in my pack. About 50 yards away I spotted an evergreen with thick full branches, and cut off enough to lace into the frame and tie off. Taaa-daaa, instant wind break. The sapling I had bent over for the frame was roughly 2 1/2" in diameter, and I cut off all the branches, leaving the ones at the top with close to 2" from the main trunk. I used these as hooks to hang my Camelback, jacket, sweatshirt,and gun belt from. So, I had a combination wind break and handy gear hanger. Not too shabby for my first 2 hours in the woods.
I decided on an easy dinner, so since I already had a large pot of water heating up, I went for the Mountain House freeze dried pack of chili mac and some crackers I had tucked away in my food bag. It only takes 10-15 minutes to "cook" inside the same bag it is packaged in, so while it was cooking, I tossed my sleeping bag inside the tent with my bedroll, camera, book, notebook, and anything else small I wanted to keep dry. I took a square light that my dad had given me that has two 8" flourescent bulbs, and hung it on the tiny gear net in the center of the tent. I figured that if I couldn't sleep, I could at least sit and read, or at least make it easier to find something in the night if need be. By the time I had things ready inside the tent, the chili mac was hot enough to eat; so I poured a cup of water, added some instant coffee, and leaned against a tree to have dinner. Gourmet? Of course not. But it was good food, and I was in the woods. I think even 3 day old reheated McDonalds would have tasted good in that setting. I was in total peace, with hot food, hot coffee, a nice fire going, and totally relaxed. Yep...this is why I wanted this trip.
I had forgotten how fast it gets dark in the woods.It's been a great many years since I have camped this way, with no lanterns or giant raging bonfire. I checked the time on my cell phone, and saw that it was only 8:00. I sat against that tree near the fire for another hour, sipping instant coffee and just listening to nothing but nature. I let the fire burn down, and crawled into the tent at around 9:00. I don't have a cold weather sleeping bag. I took my old Coleman with me, along with a fleece summer bag tucked inside. Even though it got fairly chilly through the night, I stayed warm the whole time. I had to laugh just a little bit since here I am, sleeping on the ground in a bag when we have the matress at home that isn't even a week old yet. I curled up my jacket and sweatshirt as a pillow and went to sleep to the sound of tree frogs, crickets, and bullfrogs in the tiny pond not 60 yards away. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.......Before I went to sleep, I texted Lisa to tell her goodnight and I miss her, this is what I got back-" I love you too honey, watch out for Yeti's!!" I smiled as I layed back to go to sleep.
I woke wide awake and it was still dark outside, and cold inside the tent. I was warm other than my arm I had stuck out of the bag in my sleep, so I flipped on the light over my head and checked the tiny 2" square thermometer I had taken just to log the whole experience. It was 51 degrees and 4:30.....umm...yea.... I may be camping, but I'm not getting up yet, lol. I turned off the light, layed back down, and fell half asleep for about an hour. When the sun started coming up, I crawled out of the bag, slipped on my boots, and started a fire for warmth and for some morning coffee. There was a lot of dew on everything, which made starting a fire a little more difficult, but not too bad. Once the fire was going well and there was water heating up for coffee, I realized that the heat from the fire was wasted, most traveling straight up into the air. I need some form of shelter to contain the heat. I'll work on that later. I sat around the fire, had a cup of hot coffee once the water got hot, and gathered some basic gear to take a walk. I just grabbed a canteen of water (which I dropped 2 spoons of TANG in lol), my folding camp saw, binoculars, small knife, and .22 rifle. After my second cup of coffee, I headed out for a walk, just to see what I could see, scout for deer and turkey, and take a chance on seeing a squirrel or rabbit for lunch.
I walked about a half mile to the field near where Tammie and I had seen the turkeys 2 weeks ago, pulled back into a line of trees and brush, and just sat, watched and listened. I heard the turkeys off in the distance, in exactly the same spot where we had seen them before. Now I know where they feed. Two deer passed by me as I was sitting there, one of them within 10 feet without noticing me at all. It was so peacefull and serene. Before I knew it, I had sat there against that tree for two hours. I lost all track of time like I normally do when I get into the woods. I don't know if I really lose track or just don't care. Either way, two hours had passed and I figured I should get up and go explore some more. I walked around the fields, staying tight to the treelines watching for squirrels. I did see a few but I never took a shot. I was enjoying myself out there and took enough to eat for 2 days. If I decide to get some game later, I will, but for now I'll just enjoy the walk and the scenery.Of course,of all things, I left my camera back at camp...oops!!
After another hour or so, I headed back to camp, figuring I should gather more firewood and get some other things done. On the way back, I took a different route through the woods, passing through the area that the loggers had started last year. What a horrible disgusting mess that was. I hate knowing that someone is destroying those woods just for a buck. In my mind, they're destroying a piece of my past, and it makes me crazy and mad. While I hurried through the area the best I could, something orange caught my eye. There layed a pile of empty gallon jugs of chain oil. They never bothered to pick them up. They just left them lay in the woods, leaking. I put them all in a pile, to kind of leave them a message, when I found a roll of black plastic that they had left behind. I don't know what they had used it for, but obviously it wasn't important enough to pick up. I stuffed it in my bag and headed to camp, thinking of what I can use it for. When I got back, I gathered more firewood and started gathering more vines for the garden thingymabobs. As I was winding them into wreath like circles for transport, I looked at my fire ring and knew what I would use that plastic for.
I bent over another two saplings that were near my tent and over the fire ring, staking them to the ground with sticks the same as I did the one over the fire. I cut more and used the paracord to make the same criss-cross pattern along it horizontally about every 3 feet.
The frame ended up being rather dome shaped, around 10x10 feet and 4 feet tall in the center. I twisted the corners of the plastic to make a holding point, attached the two ends to the back bottom of the frame, streched it tight along the whole length, cut it, and again twisted the corners and tied it off to another horizontal sapling. I repeated the process 3 times to cover the whole frame, and when I was done, I twisted the lowest sapling tight, cranking it like a wind up canopy and tying it off tight. In the center over the fire pit, I pulled apart the seams, leaving a diamond shape 3 feet long and 2 feet wide, just enough to let smoke escape but trap the heat inside the dome. As I started a fire to make lunch, I found out how well it worked. While the temperature outside was 71, the temp inside the domed structure climbed to 90. The plastic moved a bit with the heat, which actually worked well since it streched it tighter onto the frame as it heated and begin to shrink. I now had a cover that would not only retain the heat of the fire, but would also keep my camp area fairly dry in case it rained. Thanks jackass loggers! I guess you're good for something afterall!!
I ate a lunch of hot oatmeal and coffee, while I sat and admired my work. It's not really pretty, but I was happy with it. After I ate, I walked about 30 feet from camp to get rid of the morning coffee, when something silver caught my eye. I kicked this silver thing that was half hidden by leaves and debris, and out popped a reminder of my youth. There it was, dented and dirty, but still there. That genuine Boy Scout canteen I had lost when building a treehouse when I was about 12 years old. I picked it up and it still had water in it after all these years. It didn't leak at all, that water had been in there somewhere around 23 years. I carried it back to camp and snapped a picture. What a funny coinicidence that I find a piece of camping gear from that many years ago while I was camping. I smiled when I looked at it, remembering making that treehouse when I lost it, remembering how sad I was to have lost it. It took me 23 years, but I had it in my hands once again. I didn't bring it back with me. I left it where I had set up camp on Wednsday. I figured that it had a permanent home in those woods near a place I camped many years ago, and now it can stay where I camped now. It just seemed only fitting.
After lunch, I really didn't do much of anything. I gathered more firewood and vines, and spent a lot of time just sitting. I did wander around a bit, looking for berry patches to revisit later in the year, but I had very little luck. I found an area elsewhere where someone else had dumped off a bunch of junk in the woods, and scavenged a 5 gallon bucket to use as a seat back at camp. I don't mind sitting on the ground against a tree all the time, but sometimes my back doesn't tend to agree with me on that. A bucket seat it is, just like sitting on one at lunch on a jobsite. I was a bit disappointed in the fact that I never really sought out any small game for a meal, but no matter. I know that I know how to hunt, shoot, clean and cook a rabbit or a squirrel. I really don't need a reminder. I came back to camp, sat and watched chipmunks and birds for a while, read a bit, and figured I deserved a small nap. I fell asleep inside the tent with the door open for not even an hour, got up and had a drink from my TANG canteen. I read a while longer and went for another walk, still taking the .22 in case I changed my mind.
When I sat against another tree to scan for game, I looked at the rifle I was carrying and remembered when I bought it. I was 20 years old and bought it at the Woolworth store I worked at for my sister. It was my 16th birthday gift to her. She did carry it through the woods a few times, even though she has never shot any game in her life. That rifle has had barely 50 rounds shot through it, almost always at empty cans in dads backyard. When she moved out, got married and started a family she left it there. I asked her about it one day and she told me to take it since she never used it anymore. So here I am, almost 25 years later, carrying that good old Marlin 25 into the woods. I never appreciated it's simplicity before, but now I do. I'll never get rid of this rifle, never.
When I once again headed back to camp around 5, it was time to start dinner. The Strikemaster and lint starter once again did the trick perfectly, and with the treebark tinder, dinner was cooking in no time. In a pot, I added water with instant rice, 3 chicken boullion cubes, TVP,(textured vegetable protein-a meat substtute), dehydrated onions, and dehydrated jalepeno peppers. It smelled wonderful wafting through the woods as it simmered over a fire. I started another small pot for coffee and relaxed against the tree while I waited.
The tree I always sat against at camp made me laugh to myself every time I looked at it. At some point in time, my dad had dumped some junk in the woods, and this tree grew with a piece of fan belt stuck in it. The tree now stands well over 30 feet high and around 14" in diameter, with that piece of hose sticking out the west side about 4 feet off the ground. Later when I had gotten to their house on Friday, dad asked me if I saw that tree with the belt, which made me laugh out loud. "yea dad, thats where I set up camp". Funny how he remembered one particular tree and that happened to be where I sat up. Coinicidence??? I snapped a picture of it with my cell phone and sent it to Lisa....I got back in response "Stop using your phone, your battery will die, I love you". I had to laugh.
I sat on that bucket and had dinner with coffee. It wasn't really bad at all, it just needed a bit of salt, which I had in tiny containers. I *had* some black pepper, but the container came open and spilled all through my bag, oops. I ate and wrote notes for this entry in my notebook,and just relaxed with some more coffee. It wasn't a busy day by any means at all, but I just sat and watched nothing special. As the temperature started to slowly drop and the sun started to set, I sat under the shelter and added more wood to the fire. THIS was what it was all about. Sitting around doing nothing at all and watching a fire. No noise, no distractions, just me, nature, and the glow of a warm fire. I don't want to leave this. I considered another day and night, and wondered about the forecast. Since I can get the Weather Channel on my phone, I checked and it still called for rain and thunderstorms in the morning around 8-9:00. I was a bit disappointed, but I missed Lisa and a nice comfy new mattress. I had a permanant camp set up now. I can always come back again, and I will, probably several times.
I woke up early again, long before the sun and layed in the tent until the sun started to peek over the hill. I got up, started a fire to get some heat, (it was 54), and make some coffee. As I got light from the fire and from the rising sun, I checked the forecast again, hoping something had changed but it didn't. It called for rain starting around 9am and storms rolling in around 10. As the water heated, and I warmed up under the shelter, I began to pack things up to head back. Of course, nothing packed up as easily as it did at the house. How the hell did all of this fit in that pack anyway??? Arrrrggghhhhh!!!!! The last of the things finally packed, and I sat back for my last cup of coffee in the woods, which ended up being three, lol. I don't want to head back. I want to stay here one more day, or seven. But, I can't. I really don't want to sit through a thunderstorm right now. Maybe on another trip, but not this one. I finished the coffee, smothered the fire, strapped on my pack, and walked to mom and dads at 9am.
I walked in the door to my dad yelling "hey! It's Jeremiah Rambo!" I had to laugh, cause it was kinda funny and normally he isn't. Even though I had oatmeal back at camp, mom insisted on making bacon and eggs. We ate breakfast and sat down in the living room with dad in front of the t.v. that's on all day. For once, something interesting was on, and we watched three episodes of Lock N' Load with R. Lee Ermey. Great show with a great host. Watching that show got us to talking about guns and shooting like old times again. While we watched, I got in his gun cabinet and one by one brought out all the rifles and shotguns, wiping them down and checking for rust. We talked about each and every one as I cleaned them. When he got them, where he got them, and what he did with them.
I brought out an old single shot bolt action WInchester, and he had a hundred stories about it, everyone one of which I enjoyed. Grandma had gotten him that rifle for Christmas when he was 12 years old. He told me that grandma had hidden it in the couch and he found it, shooting it when she was at work, and cleaning and putting it back every day till Christmas morning. He told me how he would pick and sell berries to make money for ammo for it all summer, and how he would sit in the back and shoot pennies into a tree and walnuts off another one. I've heard from people my whole life that it's impossible to shoot the bore out of a rifle, but believe me, this one is. I shot it once 20 years ago and was lucky to hit a pie plate with it, lol. It's worn out. The bore is gone, the bolt is loose, and you have to hold it closed to even fire it. It's old, beat to death, and basically worthless as a firearm. But as a piece of family history, it's priceless. He told me to take it home, but I didn't. I will someday, but not now, not yet.
We sat around and talked the rest of the day, which turned out to be nice, of course. That 9am rain didn't start until almost 3:00. Those thunderstorms never came. But I had a great time in the woods and a great day with my dad. It was well worth taking those 2 days off of everything. I didn't practice any of the skills I intended to. I didn't try making that solar still. I didn't set snares to catch or shoot any wild game to cook over a fire. I didn't gather and eat any wild plants. I spent my time either wandering around the woods or just sitting and staring off into the trees. None of this is what I expected but it was everything I wanted. I have no regrets on this trip, other than I wish I had stayed longer. Well....there's always next time. And believe me, there will be a next time.
I can't wait to get out there again. I don't know when I will be able to, but I am definitly going back several times throughout the spring and summer, maybe even fall when I want to squirrel hunt. I loved my solo trip, but I kinda wish I had company. Lisa will camp with me, but there has to be a potty (LOL) and she can't sleep on bare ground. My friend Mike had mentioned he might want to go, but I'll talk to him about it for the next trip maybe. I know my bud Tammie would love it there as much as I do, but I don't see that happening again. Yanno....that whole thing with spouses and all. It's silly, she's my bud, but I understand the whole view from her husbands perspective. I'll just show her my camp when we get out for more vines and materials or later in the year during hunting season. For now, I'll enjoy the memories of those two short days on my own, and revisit the new camp area when I get time. The neighbor is giving me a camoflage tarp he has on his utility trailer sometime soon, and I'll use it to add a second layer to the shelter frame for more water resistance. (I won't always avoid camping in the rain!)
I had a wonderful time out there. I cleared my head and came back refreshed, which was the main purpose of the whole trip. I think I am going to do a second part of this entry about the trip, making it a gear review of everything I took with me. Some things I took along were new, some not so new. Some worked well, and others didn't. I packed a lot of things that I didn't use, some things I didn't really need, and some things I forgot or ended up needing. I may start that entry this weekend, but for now I'm going to close this now longest blog post in history. Thanks for reading, and I hope you've enjoyed it!
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