When You Need a Compass - Part 2

           According to the topo map, the ridge we were now on, would take us several miles off course and eventually we would end up almost six or seven miles away from our camp, before it connected again with the skyline ridge where camp was, but many miles north of camp. If we continued on the present course we would, after connecting with the skyline ridge, have to back track the additional six or seven miles, making a total of about 14 more miles than we needed to go. That would take the rest of the night.  Having that map and compass saved us! And Jim especially was the man of the hour, I don’t believe I would have done nearly so well, and probably gotten “dead” lost. Like I said, Jim knew his stuff a lot better than I did, and saved us.  We back tracked only about a mile at the most, until we knew were back on the right ridge according to the map and compass, then we proceeded in the right direction.

            Soon we heard a loud noise which startled us, and we heard a thud, thud, thud, thud-then silence. The ground shook at each thud, something big and heavy was in the timber with us, but we couldn’t see but a few feet in the fog with the flashlight. All of a sudden the blast of an elk bugling penetrated our ears and even our bones. I had never heard a full on bugle from so close.  That bull couldn’t have been more than a hundred feet away if that. I called to Jim to get behind the biggest tree he could find, and stay close up against it. We did so. If the bull charged, it was our best chance to avoid his antlers. Silence. We waited for a minute or two, which seemed like an hour. We turned off the light and kept waiting in the blackness. We could hear nothing. Total silence. Finally we decided the bull had slipped off. We eased forward real slow trying hard to discern any movement ahead, but never saw anything. Soon we were hiking again. 

            It wasn’t long until we broke out of the dark blanket of fog.  It was a clean moonlit night, very bright. The stars in the sky were also a very welcome sight. It was so good to be out of the blackness we’d been in. We were both grateful to God. We continued on for what seemed forever. My legs were starting to cramp, I was getting Charlie horses and had to massage my legs. Jim was hurting even worse with his ulcer. We were both weak from hunger, we should have taken more food with us than we did, that was foolish. My knees were starting to lock up and wouldn’t bend very good, I was definitely making some silent resolves in my mind about what to do to be better prepared. Never again.

            At last we stumbled into camp. The horse was still tied where we’d left him, standing silent like a statue, till we got close, then he was snorting and stomping a little. We had some oats for him and some alfalfa pellets. Boy he was eager for that. Jim got those out and fed him right away.

            Then we sat down and dug into our packs to get some food for ourselves. The first two things I got my hands on were a bag of raisins and a can of corn beef. I was not fond of corn beef, I’d eaten too much of it on my mission, out of necessity on the island of Niue, but I had some at home, so I threw it in. It looked like a T-bone steak to me now. I put the key in, or I mean I put the tab in the key and started to turn it till the can was open. I pulled the lid back and slipped, accidentally sliced my thumb open pretty bad, and blood gushed out. I didn’t care. I got a big hunk of that greasy meat between my bleeding thumb and fingers and stuffed it in my mouth, blood and all. Tasted so fine. I opened the raisins, and got a gob of them and down the hatch. So fine! I alternated meat, raisins, meat, raisins till it was all down. Drank a bunch of cold water. I was in heaven. It was two A.M. Fixed my thumb finally, got in my sleeping bag said goodnight to Jim, and he back. We zonked out. Woke up at 10 A.M. the next morning, so much for an early hunt. We were just glad to be back at camp, in our sleeping bags with plenty of food. Funny how the great outdoors boils things down to the bear necessities, I salute you Balou! And there’s nothing like a map and compass when you really need it-and a good friend with the knowhow.

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