PART III OF VI
This is part three of a six part series where I will share my journal with you. Because it is a copy of my journal, I will get intimate and emotional at times. I will mention gear, what worked and what didn’t for future reference. And I will try to capture the context of the hunt so that I can reflect on it years from now. I hope you enjoy the hunt!
Wednesday Sept 21st
5:32 AM – I did not sleep much last night. The tarp on our tent flapped in the wind and I kept replaying yesterday’s miss in my head. Jeremy snored as if he were at home. I peek out of the vestibule to rain and heavy fog. After making a plan with Scott and Chris, Jeremy and I pack 3 days’ worth of supplies into our packs and hike 4 miles up the mountain in the rain. Our plan is to spike out closer to the elk and get on them early before the thermals turn uphill. The trail is slick with greasy mud making for a long and tiring hike with our heavy packs. Once we get to our prospective camp site it takes nearly an hour to find a place to setup our tent, away from a dead trees that could become widow makers. We get my small tent staked down just as a storm rolls in. It is a Big Agnes UL2, rated for two men. But they must be small men. Rather than get soaked and risk getting struck by lightning we climb into the tent and tell stories until dark. 15 hours until my AM alarm. It will be a long night. Total miles: 5, 1,500ft elevation gain.
Thursday Sept. 22nd
5:45 AM – I can’t lay here any longer. Much of the night was spent listening to Jeremy snore, staring at the tent ceiling and watching the lightening flash. Our backs are sore from 15 hours on the ground in tight quarters. I am struggling mentally, I laid awake most of the night missing my family. We have no cell signal, so calls home are limited to satellite phone only, and those are very brief. I start to question why I am here, 15 hours from my wife and son, sleeping in a tent dodging lightning strikes in the middle of the Wilderness. Maybe I am being selfish? I dial Elizabeth on the satellite phone and she tells me her and Maddox are sick. That makes me want to be home worse. Next I call our packer for a weather update, and she tells me to expect bad weather for the next 3 days. Not what I wanted to hear. I pump myself up with a good prayer and some motivational quotes I have saved on my phone. Rain or shine, we came to kill elk and pouting won’t help things. Jeremy and I break camp and decide to hunt our way out, following a narrow bench on a steep ridge with the wind and rain in our face. We cut a fresh elk track and follow it for a half mile before losing it in the deadfalls. Soaked, low on rations and with more storms rolling in we decide to hike all the way back down to base camp to regroup, dry out and hopefully get a report from Scott and Chris. Half way down the mountain we hear a gunshot fairly close. Rifle season doesn’t start for two more weeks, so a shot is sketchy! Nearly to camp we see a fresh boot track headed the opposite way. We settle into camp, brew some coffee and start drying out our gear over the Coleman stove.
6:30 pm- Jeremy and I are in the wall tent reading assassin books by Tom Wood and we hear a bull bugle right outside our tent. It sounds like a mature bull with a deep growling bugle. We scramble out of the tent, grab my bow and follow the bugles across the creek. He answers back, but we can’t turn him and his bugles get farther away. Maybe he smelled our camp? Maybe he had cows with him? Either way, it’s encouraging to hear bugles and have a bull coming off the mountain to the lower elevations. With any luck this storm will push more elk down. As we are back in our tent cleaning up for bed, he rips another bugle on the ridge above us. It will be hard to sleep tonight. Satellite phone battery is low. No word yet from Scott and Chris who are up high in the storm.
8:30 pm- we hear voices outside. Just as we unzip the main tent Scott and Chris walk into camp, and they look like they just escaped death. You might say they did, if you consider 24 hours of thunder and lightning, camped at 11,500ft, leaky tents, a 3 hour descent in the dark and rain on a mountain that is one step away from requiring repelling gear, only having one flashlight, and a run in with a mountain lion to be dangerous… I was relieved to see them back in camp.
9:30- Fed and in bed. Total miles: 5 miles, 1,500ft elevation loss, 4” rain.