The other day I was on a hike going from the mouth of a canyon near my house with the objective of getting up into the fresh snow falling high in the mountains. My journey started at the trail head putting my pack on, stuffing the patch pockets of my tactical pants with trail snacks, attaching my camera to my front harness and the tripod on the side. Besides the snow I was after, I wanted to shoot some various footage for upcoming YouTube videos.
I started up the trail, it was a cool morning, I had on my NorthFace polyester long sleeved tee and Wilderness Innovation polo over top. The temperatures were just around freezing and there was a brisk cold breeze in my face, as the cold air from high above flowed down the canyon like an invisible stream. What a great day to be out and hiking in the canyons. The trail up the canyon was quite steep for a good ways, gaining lots of altitude quickly. The canyon walls are steep on both sides, the North side being extremely rugged with sharp rock faces and jagged canyons that extended up into the clouds. Staring up high into the trees I could see that they were frosted with snow, I love that sight, to me it is one of the most beautiful things about snowfall.
I followed the trail as it wound up the the canyon, I was soon seeing some snow along the South side of the trail, with little patches on the trail. Up ahead a small spring still flowing out of the hillside and across the trail, there is frost on it’s edges with paper thin transparent ice forming in spots. A little farther up the trail another familiar spring, much larger flowed creating a little oasis of much different plant life than found most other places along the trail.
It was just after I passed this second spring that I saw up ahead on the trail, a man who appeared to be dragging something, perhaps a deer I thought, until I got closer. He was dragging two logs with ropes tied to them and up over his shoulder. Getting even closer I could see his ragged profile. Here was a man who obviously lived in the canyon.
His face was weathered, yet clean, he had a long grey beard with white streaks in it. He was wearing some ragged but solid clothing. I could see places where the clothing had torn and he had carefully taken a needle and thread, and making a sort of zigzag stitch had closed it all in again, nice and sturdy.
Being curious as I am and always enjoying people no matter their circumstances, I smiled and said to him, it’s a beautiful day in the canyon isn’t it? A slight grin came over his cracking lips as he replied that it was indeed. I then asked him about the wood he was dragging, “are you stocking up on firewood?” “I am,” said he. Then being a little bolder I said to him, “do you live here, in this canyon?” To which the man replied almost proudly, “yes I do, I’m trying to gather my firewood before winter. I built a little cabin near here out of stones. Last year I put a roof on it, got it done just before snowfall.” “Wow that’s great I replied, it’s probably a lot more comfortable now isn’t it?” “Yes, ” he said, “it is much better now.” Then seeing an urgency in his eyes, I excused myself and said, “nice to meet you, I better let you get back to work so you can get ready for winter, I’m heading up to the top, into the snow, I’ll see you later perhaps.” Then he told me all kinds of details about the trail and the area and what I would find at the top, and about some workers he had seen recently up there. We parted and I continued on my way, and he on his, dragging his logs down the trail.
My first reaction, the outdoor adventure man in me was pretty excited, think about it, this man lives in the canyon, and he built a small rock cabin, oh all the adventure is overwhelming. The euphoria, soon subsides as reality sets in. I have always taught the 5 essentials of survival; shelter, fire, water, food and medical, to which while writing my book on survival, I had realized that I missed one, social. The company of another person is generally always better, and in long term survival, essential for proper mental conditioning, and for labor sharing. This man was lacking the social aspect, well I don’t know for sure if there is anyone else, he only talked of himself.
I know from my testing and training episodes, which have nearly always been solo events for me, that the evenings are lonely, night comes quickly and there is no one to talk to, I have generally busied myself with with writing notes, and thoughts details about the experience.
So this guy has somehow provided himself with Shelter, fire, water, to a degree food, I don’t know about medical, and finally social seems to be lacking. Perhaps he is there to avoid social interactions, I don’t know. He seems to have made the best of the situation and has lived in this condition for at least two years. On my way down the trail I searched to see his cabin. I was able to just see it through the trees, stone walls, and a wood and tar paper roof. There were two clotheslines with clothes hanging on them. He seemed elevated a little more than many of the hobo’s I’ve seen before, not just existing, but actually trying steadily to make improvements.
Just today I was thinking about him again, and I thought that perhaps I would load up my backpack with canned food and hike it up there to him, surely he could use it. We have a couple bags of goods that were to be picked up for the needy, and ours were missed, so now I’m going to take them to him. Perhaps we could all be mindful of those in need around us and lend a hand. Meeting this man has aroused a reminder in me to do these things, and so I shall. I may have some additional things to write in future blogs, if I get to know this man and his story.
Until next time, Perry Peacock, all about “Simplifying Survival”