… Upon waking up not only was it still raining steady, but the wind had picked up as well. Temperatures had dropped, and now the tents in which we were sleeping had become so saturated they could not repel any more water. Everything that was not sealed up in a waterproof bag was soaked. I barely slept that night, but with the wind whipping rain I decided to stay put in my tent until 10:00am or so to try and stay as dry as I could. There were breaks in the rain at times and I finally exited my tent mid morning to try and start a fire. Wet wood doesn’t light very easily as you might guess, but my skills provided me with the know how to get the fire going and get warm. Yes, I watched an episode of Survivorman once ;-). As noon approached we decided to break out the satellite phone and make a few calls and try to get a detailed weather report for the next few hours. The sky to the west was looking grey and we needed to make sure we were not going to be stuck with terrible weather as everything we had was already soaked. The first call was not necessarily a shocker as we were informed that there was a massive storm heading our way. The window of opportunity to hike out of our camp was about 3 hours and we would be in bad weather for another full afternoon and all night if we stayed. The report was for over a few inches of rain, then temperatures to the teens, and then followed by a dumping of snow. Obviously this was going to suck! The next call, because we are always looking for a better opinion was closely the same, only now this report was that our window was an hour or so. We had a talk amongst each other and decided if the weather was going to be this bad we needed to cut our losses and make haste. To be completely honest I was not too pleased. I tried to explain that we could hunker down and by the next morning we would be back to the hunt… I was turned down. I am however a smart man I think and staying at camp by myself may have been the dumbest thing I could have done, so I began packing my gear. Our second forecast was dead on as the sky turned black with clouds and the wind began to blow 30 knots or better. As we readied our gear for the hike down the rain started dumping. Other than the rain we had only one major obstacle ahead and that was crossing the creek.
Half a mile or so down hill from camp we needed to cross the creek to reach the main trail back to the entrance and our vehicle. Already raging with whitewater rapids from all the nights previous rain this was going to be a treat. Carrying a 60lb pack across slippery rocks and rushing water is not an easy feat by any stretch. We took two bags we used for clothes and put them over our boots duct taping them as well as possible to try and keep our feet dry. The crossing was difficult, but each of us made it without falling and our boots stayed somewhat dry. Once across we made our way down the mountain.
The hike down was not anything like we had envisioned though. Last time we hunted this mountain the hike down was fairly easy. Hiking with a pack as heavy as these in nasty, slippery mud was a totally different animal. Every step had to be made with caution as the ground under our feet gave way almost immediately. A few slip and falls were common and helping each other up out of the mud was becoming very normal. The weather never let up a bit as pouring rain was met with whipping wind gusts. Finally, with about a mile to go we were given some release from the downpour and a light sprinkle persisted. Reaching the vehicle was a very happy time for our bodies as the trek down had turned all of our muscles to jello. Within minutes though from reaching the truck the rain poured harder which was met with a disgusted sense of happiness. Cold, soaking wet, and disappointed as we were, no one was hurt or injured and we were safe. However, our hunt was over.
The Ride Home
The ride back to Jim’s house was a quiet one as we were all pretty beat. We rolled into Jim;s place a little after dark and unloaded the soaking wet gear. He had however made some hot pasta for us which was really nice after the energy depleting hike down. After a long sleep that night we woke up to still more rain. By maybe mid morning or so just like they had said, the rain had stopped and a blue sky took over. As we gazed upon the surrounding mountains though we realized how much snow had dumped upon the peaks. Most of even the low mountains were completely covered to the bottom. This meant we would have been in feet of snow had we stayed up at camp. Not only was there a ton of snow, but these extreme effects usually drive the Elk down from the mountain to the valleys where they spend their winters. Had we stayed we may not have seen an Elk as it is.
Whether you are hunting or fishing, sometimes all of your weeks and months of preparation turn around to bite you in the backside, but have no fear. God willing you will rise up through this adversity to plan another trip. Which in turn hopefully will be much better than the last. So keep your head up!!