The last two times I’ve driven west out of Augusta, the sky has looked like this.
Saturday was supposed to be fairly warm, but instead it rained, snowed a tiny bit, and howled east at 30 mph all day long.
The ground looked well into spring, with no snow and the first hints of green grass, while the sky was still close to winter.
Packrafting was not particularly appealing, even with the rivers at ideal levels. I motivated to get on the water with a big fire and liters of hot drinks.
The day dawned clear and grew warmer. With plenty of time to make the distance, I took a big detour around this hill to do some hunt practice on a herd of bighorn ewes, eventually crawling within 40 yards.
I brought my toy shotgun along to hunt small game, and ate fried and braised squirrel and onion the first night. After stalking the sheep I was back up the hill at my pack eating chocolate when a squirrel trilled in the woods. After some hurrying and some standing and listening I located the little fellow. Walking over to retrieve the carcass, I found an impressive elk shed.
Which along with the squirrel haul added training weight for the pack out.
I’ve long struggled with out and backs like this route. Packrafting helps in that it makes things less repetitive, but I’ve still found more relevance on point-to-point trips where desire and necessity are one and the same. Recently, this has ceased to be the case, and watching animals, hunting small game, hanging around camp, and rambling through patches off trail have become a focus, with urgency a less-frequent companion. I see better now, and more than anything want to fill the time and stretch the hours as full as they’ll go.
This was a full 48 hours. I drove in Friday night and hiked a few miles in by moonlight, to a meadow I’d wanted to camp in for a few years. The wind the next day was occasionally scary; it seemed that every thirty minutes a tree fell in the distance with the sound of a shelf collapsing in a lumbar room, and once on the river I occasionally had to throw out a brace to keep the tailwind from flipping me. I floated up within 10 feet of a fat river otter wrestling with a trout before it noticed me and dove, and arrived in a scenic grass camp amongst boulders very wet and cold. Staying focused and warm all day sucked up a lot of calories and energy, and has left me still tired today.
The next began with a cold and wet final stretch of packrafting, and then the aforementioned diversion to stalk sheep. It was impressive that my crabwalking downhill in diagonals, never moving too much or going directly towards the herd of 20, I was able to get within bow range fairly quickly. And then just sit and watch them eat grass, bed down, stand up again, and chew. And once sheep spook they run off in herd, on each others heels, wheeling as a unit with a precision which defies the human understanding of mammalian communication. I left the other herds on that hillside alone, and followed elk trails back to the human trail, and then to the car, the road, and a cheeseburger. It was a good weekend.