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“Sportsman’s Quest” – Wilderness Misadventures

We’ve all experienced misadventures, but somehow they seem more dramatic when experienced in the wilderness.

Most hunters, fishermen and outdoor folks appreciate the adventure of the chase, and the often beautiful, remarkable, even romantic places in which they find themselves. Those that have strayed a bit farther from the road also know that at anytime they can find themselves in “interesting” situations.

My friend, Chef Chris Meakins, recently had some fun. He was float tubing on a reasonably-sized lake and was dong quite well catching two- and three-pound rainbow trout while fly fishing chironimids and hairy mayflies. He was having such a great time he didn’t notice the wind changing and was blown across to the other side, a considerable distance. He may have even trolled a streamer while drifting.

After waiting a reasonable amount of time for the wind to die down, or shift, he decided to make the long walk back. Then the fun began; the long walk included climbing up a cliff, over hills and old fallen trees while carrying his deflated tube and gear. Did I mention it was a hot humid day and all he had to wear was his wet-suit?

Five hours later he was back to his 1980 Dodge, D50, 4×4 pickup, which he promptly bogged down on the way out. No problem; he jacked it up, rebuilt part of the road and carried on. It was a nice day’s misadventure. He learned a lesson from the experience and was back fishing the next day. That’s “hard-core fishing,” but then Chris is a hard-core fly fisherman.

He won’t make that mistake again.

My own misadventures have more to do with my impulse to focus on the moment and continue to charge forward, often believing there is a way out of, or around, “interesting” situations. It’s that “push through it” attitude. Sound familiar? Many interesting situations start out with this great anticipation.

While on a moose hunt I tracked what appeared to be a great bull for several miles and could eventually hear him moving through the trees and brush. I came out onto a lake and he stood broadside on the shore. This was going to be easy. One shot and he was down, but that’s when it got interesting. He made one great leap and landed in about three feet of water. Have you ever tried dressing a 1,200-pound moose under water?

I’ll never do that again.

Then there was the time, while rafting on an isolated wilderness river, the sound of “an exhilarating small rapid” could be heard ahead. Normally one goes to shore and walks down the trail to check it out, but this one didn’t sound bad. You guessed it, that’s when it got interesting. I guess I had someone looking out for me that time, but made it, drenched, and the raft, after bouncing off several sharp rocks, had to be repaired.

I won’t do that again.

Another life-instructing moment came while driving in sheep country. The plan is to drive as far as possible, then walk; that’s really a good plan. First I traveled the dirt and gravel road, then just gravel as it went up a slight hill; my Jeep could handle it. As the road narrowed it turned into a wide trail; my Jeep could handle it.

Besides, that’s where the sheep live and I could see tracks. The trail then became narrower, and I could see the top of the long hill. Did I mention there was a straight drop-off on the passenger side? That’s when it got interesting. I stopped and looked down, way down and noticed the gravel was loose — oops.

Slowly I backed down, sliding a bit, ready to jump out. I’ve been told God loves fools.

I won’t do that again.

It’s not just me, though. Another friend, a professional guide, and I made a long trek and stalked a mountain goat. They tend to live in rocky, steep mountains and near cliffs. That’s not a problem you just wait for them to come up, or go down. We found a great billy, got above him and waited. As he came up, my friend, “Mike the guide,” got ready, waited and made a great shot as it came onto the ridge. That’s when things got interesting. Like my moose it made one jump, went over the edge and “hung up” halfway down. I then discovered Mike was afraid of heights and I was selected to retrieve the goat.

The first part wasn’t bad and I like mountain hiking. Then came a couple of small cliffs. That seemed OK, even if they were hand and toe crawls. Finally reaching the billy, he was big, I looked up and down thinking, “What am I doing here; I don’t belong here.” I managed to cape him out, but there was no way I was going to carry him up the cliff. So, I gave him a shove and the meat bounced down the fast way, instant tenderizing. I picked the meat up on the way back to camp.

That’s when it got interesting. There was also no way I was going to make it back up either. A very long rope tied to one of the pack horses was called into action and helped me, bruised and bleeding, make it back to the top. Guess I had someone looking out for me that time too.

I’m not going to do that again.

The point of relating these misadventures is to remind us that getting lost, going down a wrong trail or going too far is common, but has consequences. Gee, that sounds like a metaphor for life.

We’re sometimes rescued, sometimes found and sometimes not found or rescued. It’s better under these circumstances to stop, evaluate the situation, then back up and start down the trail you recognize as the right one.

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