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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Sanctuary Among The Trees: Part 2

The rain hasn’t stopped for several hours. A cold wind whips down through the trees, sending droplets of water streaming into my face. At least most of the mosquitos have given me a little break. Like a dog shaking dry its fur, I shake the water from my boonie hat; the tiny flow of cold water stops rolling down the back of my neck.

For most of the afternoon I have trudged through the slippery foliage against the driving rain. The incessant rain continued unabated throughout my trek, making the going even more difficult than before. Underneath my feet the saturated ground gives way to a quagmire of mud which threatens to slip my ankle at every turn. Already the extra burden of watching every foot-fall has taken its toll—my legs muscles scream for a rest.

I stop and look around me; casting a quick glance at my wristwatch I see that time has once again slipped by. It’s near evening, and already the coming darkness quickly interfuses with the foreboding dark of the forest. Across to my right I see a small trail; a tiny sliver of brown amidst the green surrounding it. A few quick steps and I understand what I am seeing; an age old game trail that has been used by bear and moose alike to work their way down out of these mountains. This is evidenced by the many fresh bear tracks, some only hours old. Others indeterminable.

To my left a steep hillside rises higher into these eternal mountains; to my right a terraced drop-off leading down to a stream. I am halfway between the high and low ground—halfway between the light remaining overhead, and the night that is hungrily approaching.

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With no time left to find a suitable camp, I spot a tangle of trees. Branches run amok among their heights; my eyes following along a thick branch jutting out from among the rest. The height is a mere twenty feet from the ground, but it’s girth will allow me to remain safely out of reach in this bear trodden area. It seems to be my only choice. Already my sore muscles congratulate me, as already my feet are carrying me towards my sleeping area.

Dropping may rucksack, and securing my rifle and gear to it; I attach a fifty foot length of cammie rope to it; the other end tied to by belt loop. The rough bark of this aged tree scrapes against my fingers as I begin my ascent into its awaiting clutches. Using every branch as a hand and foot hold, I find myself climbing higher within its lofty view until I can climb no more.

The wind whispers through my hair as I look around me taking in the magnificent view below. To some men, this view would would cost them a million dollars—to me it is but a few moments of strenuous climbing.

My rucksack is tied against the tall tree trunk. Crammed between two outwardly pointing limbs, I have secured myself a perch. I will not be able to lay down, but having positioned my rucksack just so—I am able to sit on it and lean back without fear of falling. Later I will tie myself to this tree to keep me safe up here; but for now I am content to be off the well travelled bear trail. Safely tucked up here where the wind will carry my scent away.

Laying on my back with my legs dangling over the edge of the limbs, I truly feel alive out here among the wilds that so few have experienced. It’s not often that humanity veers from it’s modernized path to find itself a guest among nature. As I lay here gazing across the lush expanse of the forest below, and feeling the pitter-patter of rain drops against my poncho; I am reminded that our humanity is fragile as a jetliner passes quietly overhead. Its blinking lights a testament to humankinds inventions—a reminder that technology is weak when compared against nature. There is no noise as the jet fades from view, only the sound of the rain against my clothing. and the sound of my chewing the Wheat Bread rations that I have brought with me.

Tonight's meal will be cold. Military crackers smeared with peanut butter and jelly; washed down with lukewarm instant hot chocolate. A scrumptious feast among the swaying branches; a delicacy nourishing the body and mind. Twenty feet below the rain cascades from the base of this old tree, its wave of water spreading outwards to be hungrily drank by the thirsty forest floor.

Already the night has once again crept up on me. My eyes have adjusted to the almost dark. The rains make for a darker night, but the darkness hides me from the savage below; the cold wind sending my smell higher among the tall trees; denying the bears my presence.

My poncho is worn like a cape to protect me from the driving rain. Here and there I have to adjust my position to keep out small wet stains. The toes of my boots are soaked, but so far my feet remain dry. With my head peeking out from under the rubberized hood, and safely tucked away inside of my rain suit; I will probably stay relatively dry up here. I’d rather be soaking wet, than be bloody dead down there.

Most of these game trails have existed for centuries before man came to this place. The trail is dotted with scat from different animals; fresh prints mingle with old prints. Wolf, Moose, Bears, and small rodents use this trail. It is not a safe place for my kind to remain long. Even remaining in close proximity requires careful planning. This place is not for the uninitiated who wildly tromp through its confines demanding all around to bend to their will. Many have learned the difficulties of this; many have learned it the hard way. One cannot bargain with nature or its wild beast; one cannot hope to force their will upon either. Many travellers to this wild country have vanished, to never be heard from again—Ever!

As I slip off to sleep, my mind wanders across the far reaches of time. I remember the reason that I came here; the nexus of all that has sent me to this place. I imagine a world gone sour; the suffering of humanity, the pain of reliance upon technologies that are apt to fail. I feel a loss inside of my very heart when contemplating these things. My mind’s eye plays vivid movies of these things—and I vow to myself that I will not allow these things to corrupt me. I remember the jetliner cruising across my vision earlier. I can almost see the passengers sipping drinks, and staring thousands of feet below into the darkness that keeps me safe. I wonder if these people understand the unnaturalness of their flight. That should nature unleash its fury; their delightful journey may suddenly come to an abrupt end. It’s not my nature to dwell upon these events; I dare not challenge the universe. But deep inside of all that I am, of all that I have come to be—I understand the meaning to my purpose, and I understand the urgency that has been imparted to me. My only regret is that many people exists with their unseeing eyes. They are blind to their environment. They have become deaf to the sounds of mother earth’s discontent—and perhaps in our lifetimes she will remind us even more that we, like our animals cousins, are simply as fragile as seeds sowed upon the winds.

******

Daylight finds me once again working the kinks out of my sore back, It’s been a very long night up in the safety of those trees. Earlier as daylight made its appearance, I spotted a grizzly bear with her three cubs plodding along the trail below my perch. The little ones looked happy romping along behind momma—and she, like so many other animals in this forest, intent on feeding her small family.

The rain had stopped somewhere in the early dark hours of the morning. I was oblivious, tucked inside of my makeshift poncho tent. Occasionally a gust of wind would ruffled the edges of the poncho, but soon the tiredness sent me spiraling back down into my sleep.

Now, as my feet once again feel the firmness of the ground; I hurry away from this area, my belly growling for food. With my left foot placed in front of my right, I leave the sanctuary of the trees and head further uphill to assuage my wet and tired muscles.

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Less than an hour later I see the perfect spot. Overlooking a large stream I set about to dry my gear, and get some hot food inside of me.

Wisps of steam rise from the canteen cup of boiling water. A bag of freeze dried scrambled eggs and peppers will provide the sustenance that is needed to make the last few miles into the Safe Area. Several cups of coffee will also help to shake the coldness from my bones. While waiting for the water to boil, I strip down my weapons and carefully clean and oil each component.

The sunlight against my face warms me somewhat; but more importantly—it tells me that todays journey might be a little easier. All around me the scent of raw nature floods my senses. The smell of damp grass, the way that the earth smells; intermingling with the smell of pine trees. It’s quickly becoming a paradise, a place that I could forever remain. But my destination calls out to me. I have reason to continue my trek through the myriad of spectacular countryside ahead of me.

With one final look backwards, my feet begin their journey forward into the trees. My eyes scan the skies overhead, noting the potion of the sun; and just as quick, my eyes begin their systematic search of the undergrowth as I am carried along this odyssey deep within the jungle called Alaska.

Along the way I encounter many animals; the small chipmunks, rabbits, ptarmigans, and grouse. These creatures make their home here among the trees; and they pay little attention to me as I work my way through the tangled undergrowth. The ground is littered with Moose tracks. Fresh droppings tell me that meat will not be a problem here. The problem is when Man enters these woods to slaughter these magnificent animals for sport, or to acquire a trophy. It trespasses upon all that I hold sacred. I have arrived here from a long line of hunters dating back to the beginning of time itself. My bow and arrow feel as natural to me as cell-phones feel to others. It is a way to feed those that are hungry, it is a means to provide hide shelters from the cold rains—it is not a sport to relish and cherish; as taking the life of an animal needlessly upsets the balance of nature’s energy. There will be an accounting for this in another life.

***

A few hours later I arrive at my Safe Area. Hidden from view along a series of ridges, the area that I have chosen is the perfect spot. I look around to reacquaint myself; and am surprised to see that I am not the only one calling this place home. A pair of Swan have made it their own, and I watch from the tree line as they nurture each other in their own magnificent way.  These two have mated for life. Each becoming part of the other; these heavenly creatures will spend their lives in perfect harmony with nature, and in perfect harmony with each other.

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I walk around the edges of the pond to see what animals are drinking from it. The many trails leading down to its banks tells me that game is plentiful. I will not go hungry in this place. Nature will provide me with what I require, as long as I do not abuse the privilege.

***

Unearthing my cache from deep within its hidden lair, I am astonished to learn that everything that I have stashed two years ago has remained safe. Contained in several buckets are essential supplies that will carry me through rough times. Food, clothing, tools, and other gear that has been laboriously hauled up here by snow-machine. My buried supplies are one of many such “caches” that have become an integral part of my survival planning. I have no false-illusions that living off the land during the winter months is possible. Animals head further towards the coastal areas when the deep snows cover the land; edible plants remain under five feet of snow. Life in the Alaska bush in the winter is severe.

I spend the next hour setting up a series of snares; hoping to catch a wild rabbit or two. I have plenty of food with me, but it’s always good to supplement my rations with fresh meat.

Trap (4)

With my camp all prepared for the coming darkness, I find myself inexorably drawn to the comfort of a moss covered spot. Arranging some branches to hide my form, I slip down onto the warm earth and find contentment in the sounds of nature. All around me the quiet noises of the forest lulls me down into a satisfying sleep.

I have chosen this place as a refuge in case things back in The World goes south. Here among the craggy peaks of the mountains, I find myself drawn backwards in time to an age where a Man, such as I have arisen from, made his solitary way throughout his existence. I am sure, insomuch as is possible—that he and I share many of the same thoughts when so confronted with the beauty and bounty of nature. Deep within me I sometimes feel his presence urging me onwards, guiding me through the tangle of these woods, and sometimes through the tangles of life among humanity as well. The ancestral bond remains unbroken out here. It grows and nourishes the spirit of him, and those that came after him; flooding my sense of identification with this place, this time—and thus all that it means to me.

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I have named this place—Home…

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