Day 1, Leg 1:
Covered a little more than 12 miles. Trip still has the feel of a weekend hiking trip and the entire way I had to keep telling myself “3 weeks”. I avoided State Highways (crossing only one) and tried to stick to dirt roads for my road time. Approximately 5 miles of this portion was cross country, with the remainder covered on the road. Studying the map, this 12 miles could probably be cut to 8-10 miles cross country in a true SHTF scenario (read not worried about private property anymore).
Weather was great. Forecast was for partly cloudy and a high of 70 but I do not believe it ever made it out of the high 60′s and there was a gentle breeze blowing all day. Honestly could not ask for a better start with the weather.
Overall, the trip was uneventful, even though I did get some curious stares from people passing me in cars. One older gentleman did stop and offer me a ride, which I politely declined. Also, a game warden stopped me along a dirt road and asked if I was hunting. I cringed a little when he stopped me but when he asked what I was doing, I replied “Wounded Warrior Walk to raise money”. He let me go about my way without another question. Other than spotting a turkey hunter leaving his hide (which he had no clue I was even there), that was the only live contact I had all day.
Lunch? Well, if you call a couple of Datrex bars during breaks lunch, then… I consumed about 1,200 calories worth during breaks. All I can say is have plenty of water on hand. The taste was not bad but vacuum sealed bars are going to be dry. Refilled my water bottle at the next creek.
Arriving at campsite with about three hours of daylight left. Campsite is in the middle of a tract of timberland with the closest public road being 1/2 mile away. Since rain is forecast for Day 2 and plan is to move early in the morning so I will forgo elaborate campsite and shelter. Setting up LW hammock to sleep in and will use my poncho/poncho liner as my sleeping bag.
Scouting around campsite remainder of the afternoon. Found a nice flowing creek, refilled all my canteens by straining through a bandana and treating the water with two “Potable Aqua” tablets. Decided not to risk a fire because of dry conditions and breeze, otherwise, I would have strained, boiled, and then treated the water. I also filled my Lifestraw water bottle. Found two potential locations for caches, risky being on timberland but the locations are in areas that are unlikely to be disturbed during normal logging operations or discovered. Area definitely not a high traffic area and other than the occasional piece of marking tape no signs of human activity. Game trails are relatively abundant and if staying for longer than one night, would set a few snares. Saw two deer and six hen turkeys during as well as plenty of squirrels and rabbits. No edible plants or berries – time of year and a pine forest working against me. Will settle for MRE for dinner.
Checked comms with my wife via text to let her know I was stationary for the night. MRE (chili with beans) before dark, probably the first time in my life I consumed an entire MRE in one sitting. Stuffed but satisfied, wasn’t half bad. Fighting urge to check in on the world through technology – forecast cloudy next two days so need to conserve battery – only have full charge on lantern. Oiling firearms and double checking waterproofing of supplies prior to turning in, wrapped ruck and harness in poncho and suspended off the ground, removed my top and boots, turned in for the night.
Do not remember falling asleep, but I dang sure remember a critical piece of gear I forgot! Ugh, my urine bottle. So much for a full night’s sleep. Will find something along the side of the road in the morning to substitute.
Day 2, Leg1:
Waking up to the vibration of a cell phone before daylight. Light rain falling but apparently a strong line of thunderstorms moving into my area. “FLASH FLOOD WARNING IN AFFECT”. Would have had no idea in grid down scenario. Great, wonder what it will do for the creek crossing.
Dress and break things down quickly. Shook water off poncho and repacked in compression sack. Packed hammock damp, thunder rumbling in distance. Checked area to ensure not leaving anything behind. Fished two Datrex bars from ruck, will eat on the run. Need to make creek crossing ahead of rain. Ten miles to crossing, all cross country.
Breaking brush at a decent clip, no way family could maintain this pace. Wind and rain picking up, thunder getting closer. Pretty obvious will not make creek crossing before weather. One hour in and approximately 4 miles down, maybe a little less. Luckily forest is established pines, so pretty easy movement – not a lot of briars, heavy brush, and wait a minute vines. Been orienteering, so pace count is out the window. Will stop for break in another 30 to 45 minutes, should be at a road crossing, and will study map for exact location. May have to detour to bridge crossing, so might as well plan for it.
Raining buckets and lightning popping every where. Made road crossing and planned attempting resection for exact location but visibility is crap. Could pull GPS but if grid is down, then it would be useless. Road intersection on map should be 1/4 mile away from current location, tied trail marker in tree where I am and headed toward intersection for verification of position. Find road intersection a little over 1/4 mile and know exact location on ground. Taking shelter under cedar tree, rain not letting up, seems to be getting worse. Study map, two possible bridge crossings – one 6 miles off course, other 8+ miles off course – select the 6 mile option if it comes to it. Fish two more Datrex bars from ruck and eat while I rest. Still have not consumed a complete pack of Datrex, I swear they swell. Attempt to text wife but no cell service. Only parts of my body not wet are feet and top of my head. Luckily temperature not too cool. Will head toward original creek crossing and detour to bridge if necessary. Lightning has passed for most part and rain seems to be slacking off. Re-plot course and head out.
Mile from creek crossing and ground is sloping down. Maintaining a steady pace but no reason to be in a hurry now, figure creek will be a no go regardless. Rain has all but quit but water is standing or flowing everywhere. Best guess is 3+ inches have fallen. Temp has fallen some but probably still in the 60′s. Thinking about it now, may have to add a day for planning purposes for such eventualities with weather.
Can see the creek bottom and I can hear the creek. It is obvious the creek is almost out of its banks and the ground has become swampy where I am now. No way I am going to attempt crossing by myself without someone to tether to. Doubling back to old logging trail and turning toward the road for a bridge crossing. Should have seen this one coming and adjusted my route accordingly in the planning phase. It would add an additional day with family in tow, but will be more realistic as an option. Will rest again before I reach the road.
Eating a Datrex and kicking myself for not seeing this eventuality coming. Will cover about 22 miles before I am done today. No way my family would be able to make 22 miles and no way I would or should move like I did because of the weather unless it meant life or death. If bugging out on foot, life already sucks, so might as well embrace it. Dreading the remainder of the trip because it will be a long night.
Crossing creek on bridge, no way I could have crossed it without some serious risk. Luckily, logging road was in decent shape so I made good time on detour. Road t’s across creek and will get me close to tonight’s campsite. Cloud cover is still thick so it will get dark early. Doubt I will be able to scout much around planned campsite.
Starting to rain again as I close on campsite. Refilled my canteens at creek crossing and treated with tablets again. Taste of chemically treated water not as bad as I remember. Figure I have 30 minutes of daylight left and everything is soaked, so no reason to make an attempt at a fire. Find a nice cedar with low hanging limbs and decide to shelter under it for the night. Situate my ruck to act as a chair back and get poncho/poncho liner out for sleeping bag. Prepare an MRE (Asian Beef Strips) and make coffee in the provided hot beverage bag. Coffee really hit the spot but had to make myself eat the MRE. Retrieved the UXO candle holder from ruck and hung it from branch above, warmed my hands as much as possible and then checked my firearms, oiled them again. Performed personal hygiene, changed into dry clothes and put watch cap on for the evening – figure once the front finally moves through temps will drop. Packed everything up, texted wife my location, and settled into my bag to try to warm up. Planning on a long night but did find a discarded Gatorade bottle next to the road, so I won’t leave the bag.
Thinking back on the day, I will definitely adjust the route to account for crossing the creek on the bridge, even though it will add a day to a real event. Will also have to find another potential campsite. Looking forward to tomorrow because I should make hole up location by lunch or a little after. Today definitely did not feel like a weekend hike and my feet and muscles hurt.
Day 3, Leg 1:
Pretty miserable night, even changing into dry clothes did not help much with the wet chill in my bones. Still misting rain and slight breeze, figure rain will pick back up soon enough. Taking time to gather thoughts, will probably abandon this campsite because of the distance taking the bridge route and adding an additional day. Studying map, route could still pass this location or at least close enough for a cache. Will probably scout around before leaving area. Two miles cross country, then breaking out of state forest will leave eight road miles for day. Could easily scout and make hole up location by lunch or a little after. Looking forward to a roof, cot, and a hot freeze dried meal.
Breakfast? Couple of Datrex bars and a pack of peanuts. Really need to look at other options for compressed rations. Datrex not bad but three days in already “bored” with no variety. Brush teeth, take a couple pain relievers, rub feet down with Absorbine Jr. One good thing about weather, still have not had to use insect repellant. Pack everything back up and get ready to move.
Start scouting, working my way back toward the creek just to satisfy my curiosity. Gets swampy just before creek edge but more approachable than opposite side. Creek still flowing at a steady pace and out of banks in spots. Plenty of game trails but not much game movement because of rain. Nice hardwood bottom but no real good cache locations close to the creek – worried area might flood. Turn back toward bridge crossing, zig zagging or angling toward road. About 100 yards off road, spot a large limestone rock, seems odd but I do not believe it was placed there. Makes an excellent reference point for a cache, GPSd coords as possibility. Worked way back to campsite to retrieve ruck and head out.
Other than rain, the two miles of remaining overland movement uneventful. Hit the road for the home stretch into the hole up location and looking forward to it. Very little traffic so far, maybe ten houses so far – can’t call some of them “houses”. Looks like very rural/poor area which can be good and bad. Those I have seen do not appear to give much thought to my presence. Crossing another state highway which is well traveled and could be problematic in BO situation – may need to identify another campsite just prior to and cross in limited visibility or adjust time as necessary.
Still raining, decided to take a break and observe to road for awhile. Traffic over an hour was not terribly heavy and since this highway is a major north south highway it is reasonable to expect traffic could be much heavier in a SHTF scenario. Ate another Datrex and drank some more water.
A storage shed never looked so good. Just started developing it and Steve has been gracious enough to allow me to place the storage building at his Bugout location. With the rain continuing, any roof and four walls is better than nothing. Temperature is dropping, will probably be a cool night. After all the rain, the river is at least three feet higher than I had seen it last, not much of a bank on either side. Opened the shed and moved all my gear inside. Unpacked Bugout bag and harness completely, hung up to dry. Spread out poncho and poncho liner so it could dry as much as possible. Remainder of gear remained dry, so will not unpack compression sacks at this point. Need to launder my clothes but with no sun, not much use at this point. Since I am already wet, decide to set a couple of set-hooks for fish and a couple of small game snares just to see how it works out – river is muddy and swift, so not expecting much out of set-hooks. Decide to leave harness in shed and just carry drop leg with 9mm – probably not a very good idea in true scenario.
Hooks and snares set – not holding out much hope on either at this point. River is full of fish but tend to get lock jaw in high water and cool snap. Temperature continuing to drop, guessing it will hit 40′s tonight. Time to get out of wet clothes and warm up. Hopefully rain will move out and sun will shine so I can launder and dry clothes. Caught up a pot full of water, will boil on camp stove stored in shed – only have one gas bottle so need to conserve. Gear is not going to dry much in shed with all the moisture. Change out of wet clothes, warm cloth bath felt good. Only clothing not wet are fleece and long underwear – need to store some extra clothes in the shed or plan on packing more.
Rain picking back up. Sitting here making list of what I wish I had stored in shed or better yet things I wish I had access to. Definitely need more small gas bottles for small camp stove or maybe a single burner fish cooker with bigger gas bottles would provide more heat or could go with fish cooker and heating element. Other immediate needs to store in shed: dry kindling, battery operated lantern, bigger pot(s), big frying pan, extra clothes, hand tools (axe, bow saw, hammer, etc.), tent, tarps, extra boots, scrub board, personal hygiene supplies, dish & laundry soap, dry goods (food and spices mainly), etc. Still in the development stage so, plenty to do if all works out.
Does not look like rain will slack off today, at least not before dark. Still chilled – survival candle helps but far from optimum. Hopefully sun will shine tomorrow and river will start to drop – really do not want to sleep in the canoe on the river leg. Forecast calling for rain again for Day 9 – 11. Plan remains to spend Day 4-5 here and head out on Day 6 for start of Leg 2. Broke all firearms down, cleaned and oiled – definitely need more firearms cleaning supplies in shed. Texted wife again to let her know all is ok, looking forward to a night on a cot.