Bouncing Back from Injury: Reaching the Trailhead
Posted on August 14, 2013
The third part of this featured article brings you a look at how this bowhunter discovered that the path of difficulty can sometimes lead to the greatest reward of all. Find out what happened when he reached the trailhead. Check out Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed them and be sure to stay tuned for more!
Reaching the Trailhead
Two days before opening day, I loaded up all my gear. I drove all day and then grabbed a hotel about 10 p.m. I was up at 5 a.m. the next morning. I fueled the truck and grabbed breakfast on the go. I wanted to be at the trailhead near daybreak.
Heading north out of town, I saw few cars coming and going on the major state highway. I finally got to the sandy, dirt road intersection and followed the “ranch road,” heading northwest for nearly two hours. I started seeing more sage, more jackrabbits (hundreds, it seemed) and more wild stallions than signs of human presence. I was officially out in the middle of nowhere.
It took some mighty fine map reading to reach the trailhead, which was unmarked and showed little sign of use. I gathered a few last-minute things, locked the vehicle and strapped on my patellar-knee braces for the hike in.
During the hike in, I followed a well-cut trail but realized it was made by cattle or game and not hikers. It dead-ended into major rock and brush. I backtracked and eventually found the trail just to the left of where I started. A few minutes into the hunt, and I was already making mistakes. Not good.
Excited to finally be on track, I glided along, using my new Easton walking staffs to help minimize knee fatigue from my bulky, heavy load. The trail was mostly washed or brushed out, and it was challenging just staying on course.
I came to a fork in the trail where I needed to cross a creek. As I did this, I noticed my waist belt shifting a bit. I reached down and discovered the padded waist belt had completely broken on one side. My heart practically fell out of my chest! How could I now carry 85 pounds without a waist belt?
I was 5 miles in, I had no extra backpack at the truck and there were no decent sporting goods stores less than a day’s drive away. I was doomed.
Then, I heard the small voice, saying, “No challenge is too big.” I could fix this thing! I love to tinker and to modify stuff. I decided to get going.
I began gathering extra nylon webbing, a thin extra belt and some twine. I then began fashioning a method to reattach the belt to the pack’s internal frame. I cut slits in the belt and threaded the webbing and string through. With some magical “MacGyver” finesse, I got it to work.
A couple of hours off schedule now, I hiked into my camping area right at dark. I pitched the tent and quickly fired up my Jetboil stove to warm water.
Soon enough, I had a hot bag of freeze-dried spaghetti in my hand, dunking my fork in to get yet another bite of delicious noodles. I could even see two trophy bull elk up on the ridge above me, feeding in the sage. With the trees rustling and the creek beside me gurgling, it was all pretty therapeutic.
I had a feeling about this place and felt tickled just to be here. In many ways, I had conquered all my fears. I was in base camp and feeling good.
I tossed and turned most of the night (rarely do I sleep well the first night of a solo hunt). After all, things make noise at night. Then, I was up well before light.
Stay tuned for the final segment of this feature!
By Joe Bell