For the past few months, two friends from work and myself have been planing a three day trip to the Sierras. Having only been out of Los Angeles twice their entire lives, let alone in the wilderness, I was really looking forward to seeing their reactions. Manny and Jose are brothers. Manny is 22 and Jose 19. Both are quiet and hardworking; just the sort of guys I'd want to share a campfire with.
Part of the plan was to have The Brothers purchase Volumes Two and Three of Ron Hood's Woodsmaster video series. I knew these vidoes would provide them with a better understanding on why I was having them gather certain items for the trip. I also knew that the videos would cover the life saving Rule of Threes as well as other crucial wilderness priorities.
I tried to keep some of the costs down because we didn't know how often The Brothers would use the equipment after the trip. We rented back packs instead of purchasing them, used poly tarps instead of tents, and borrowed some old sleeping bags (dog bedding) from lost and found at work. For some inexpensive yet durable knives, we purchased a few Bushman blades from Coldsteel. Manny and Jose said they wanted to "hang" with me so because I was re-testing equipment for the upcoming June Tractor trip, much of their gear was the same as mine.
Preparing Our Gear
We ended up hitting the trail Friday morning about 11:00 am. Our destination would take us about seven miles back into the High Sierra backcountry.
On the Trail
We were making good time. The Brothers were doing a great job, never complaining once. They were really enjoying themselves even though the packs were fairly heavy. At times, they even left me in the dust!
First Camp Area
When we got down into the first meadow, I found a horseshoe that I would later try to forge into a primitive knife using heat from the campfire and a rock. We kept traveling until we reached a nice meadow and what I had thought should be our first campsite. It was now around 4:00pm and because we needed some time to search for shelter sites I thought we should get started right away.
I helped the guys get started by choosing a site on a south facing slope about fifty feet up the side. I tried to explain the best I could the process of choosing a good site. And because the next morning there would be frost in the meadow below us, they understood. I pointed out a tree that would provide them with some good limbs to form a shelter with their tarps. I gave them some ideas then turned them loose. They did a great job. I found a nearby tree and made a pine needle bed with my body bag.
When it came time for dinner, I started a fire and pulled out some Ramen noodles. When The Brothers pulled out their food they had about twenty Cup o Soups and forty Snickers! "She made us!" they said referring to their mother. I was cracking up!
I slept good that night only waking up a couple times to reposition some pine needles. I tried to time the trip with a full moon so there would be plenty of light. In fact there was so much light that evening, I had to cover my eyes so I could sleep. The weather was gorgeous!
I woke up early to the sounds of coyotes in the distance. What a beautiful but spine tingling sound.
I banked the fire from the night before so bringing it back to life was easy. As I began cooking my pine needle tea, a coyote appeared, walking right up to The Brother's shelters! They were still sleeping so they never knew it was there. The Visitor looked at me for a moment then proceeded to crap right beside the shelters. A territory thing I guess. The coyote stood motionless for a while, looked at me, then left. My pack was not close by so I could not have shot it should it have become a threat. I'm kind of glad because it was one of those moments that didn't really warrant a response of that nature. When The Brothers woke up, they were quite shocked when I showed them the coyote tracks and the pile of dung it left. I guess Jose didn't sleep at all because of the coyotes howling all night.
We packed up and headed out to our final destination, a large meadow about two miles away. When we arrived, one of the first things we noticed were a set of bear tracks. I could tell by the looks on The Brothers' faces that they were feeling a bit nervous. I reassured them that if we were smart about hanging and preparing our food we should be all right.
Because it was still early in the day we decided to construct some fishing poles and try our luck with some fishing. Well, I had no luck at all. Feeling a bit frustrated, I heard a rustling sound coming from the grass. A moment went by and I heard it again. I looked at the grass in front of me on the other side and noticed a hint of orange color in the grass. When I parted the grass with my stick, I noticed a trout still alive lying in the grass! "Weird" I thought. As I parted the grass, a snake's head appeared. It had caught the fish and was hanging on while it died. I have to admit I was a little jealous and thought about hijacking his meal! The little hunter seemed to know what I was thinking so he slid into the water and out of sight. It the end I caught one but released it because there was just no way it would have fit into my cook pot. I'll have to talk to Ron and Karen to learn some of their secrets for catching these little trout.
Jose's First Fire
When it was time for dinner, I walked the guys through the basics of fire building including the importance of the different stages of tinder, kindling, and fuel. Using cotton balls, they succeeded with the first try! I told them they were naturals! Not only with fire, but the whole outdoor "thing". I felt good when they thanked me for showing them things and for taking them on the trip. It was a nice feeling knowing that I was contributing to their newly found appreciation for the outdoors.
Life is Good...
That night I experimented with the horseshoe I found earlier. I heated it in the coals then pounded it on a rock, with another rock. I formed a basic "edge" but that was about all the time I put into it. Had I gone further, I think the basic shape of the shoe would allow one side to be used as the handle, while the other side would serve as the cutting edge. Kind of along the principle of Ron's ATAX design. I hung it on a nearby tree so I could continue the work on another trip.
That night The Brothers only made one shelter for the two of them to stay in. (I think the bear tracks got to them!). I camped nearby only this time draped my tarp over two rocks forming a small hut. I sealed the edges to the ground with some rocks, and threw in some pine needles. I slept very well that evening.
The next morning we ate breakfast, packed our gear and hit the trail to head back. We had a long day ahead of us which included our drive home.
Ready to Hit the Trail
On the way back we snacked on some snow along the trail. The snow was a nice treat to help cool ourselves and provide us with some fluids. I let The Brothers take the lead on the way back but there were several times when they lost the trail. I had all of us make an impression in the dirt with our shoes so we could see each individuals shoe signature. I told them to look for our tracks from the day before. They did well at finding the trail again after a bit of track comparison, so we were soon on our way.
When we arrived at the last meadow just before what would be our final accent, I had The Brothers rest while I went to check on a hunch that I had.
In the distance, I thought that I could see the peak of the mountain that was in the area where we stayed the night before. It was visible through a "V" formation of rocks at the end of a nearby creek. Sure enough, when I checked it out, I recognized it as the same area where Ron had stood explaining landmarks to the hosts of a television show I had once seen. He was explaining how to line up certain landmarks with the mountain to find their way back out. I then realized was standing on the remains of the rock damn where Ron and the two hosts had once stood. I then decided that I would take that same route the next time I travel to that area.
At the last stream crossing we noticed some Golden Trout just hanging out motionless in the moss. I caught two with my hands. Jose caught two as well. There was little need to start a fire so I slapped the fish across my hand and ate him raw just like the Woodsmaster himself! Of course The Brothers loved the show and had to take pictures of me eating the fish as well as the remains on the ground! We were all having a good laugh.
A Good Team
Overall, this trip was one to remember. I got to share trails and campfires with two hardworking, appreciative individuals. I never heard one complaint from Manny and Jose the entire trip. They only had great things to say about our adventure. We all look forward to our next trip together.
The Anaconda is an outstanding wilderness blade. I chopped and pried everything in sight and it never let me down. Thank you Ron, Karen, and Mike Fuller for pulling some strings so I could have it by the trip!
Copyright © 2001 by Eric Stoskopf.
Back to the Woodsdrummer Contents page.