Sunday, January 11, 2009

Candy from Strangers?

The great thing about paranoia is you get to meet so many wonderful people.

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Me and a few of my friends from the Equipped to Survive forums

I spend a lot of time on assorted forums devoted to wilderness survival, emergency preparedness, and and assort other sites for, um, cautious people. When you live in an area prone to flooding, hurricanes, numerous power outages, violent crime, and the most dangerous light rail system in the USA you need to be ready for stuff. Being an adventurer with a great family also means I want to return from my adventures in a condition conducive to unimpaired employment. So I like to stack the deck in my favor and that means hanging out with like-minded folk.

Which, in light of the paranoia this implies, it probably seems odd that I'd head off into the woods on an overnighter with a guy I just met through the Zombie Squad forum (We Make Dead Things Deader!).

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No worries though, he bought me a beer first, so I figured he was cool. I was right, too!

BabaB and I were able to escape our families and all other obligations for a great overnighter along Spring Creek during the Christmas holidays. His job involves flying to Angola twice a month to fix airplanes, which you can guess is a high-stress sort of occupation. According to him the food sucks, too.

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Not to worry, stickbread to the rescue!

I'm getting pretty good at stickbread. I've taken to using those 49-cent packets of pizza dough flour from Walmart. I'll dump 5/7 of the packet into a quart ziploc bag, add a strong dash of Italian seasonings, salt, and garlic powder then add the warm water a little bit at a time. I knead the dough inside the ziploc bag until it reaches a consistency like play-do, then set it aside for a while to let it rise. Finally, I coat my hands with the unused portion of pizza dough flour (this prevents the dough from sticking to my hands) and wad the dough around a 1.5" green stick whose bark I peeled off. The wad of dough is slowly rotated over a bed of hot coals until it's golden brown and the woods are filled with the smell of a pizzeria. Now that's good eating!

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A sandy version of Nirvana (a place of eternal peace for enlightened people, not the band (who totally rocked)!)

As men have done since time immortal, BabaB and I talked of many things as daylight turned to dancing flames then glowing embers. We covered books, movies, comicbooks, music, past loves, future hopes, and current fears.

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With the occasion dose of liquid wisdom and a puff of ambrosial leaves. Tell me how sitting home watching television can possible compare to this? Sure, the howling pack of wild dogs was a bit unnerving but they were on the far bank and never bothered to swim over to our side.

This being Houston, the weatherman lied. It was supposed to be a mellow evening in the mid-40's so of course when we woke up our tents and gear were covered in frost.

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How to predict if it'll drop below freezing in Houston? Find out if I'm going camping...

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In spite of the frost, it was a beautiful morning. I actually slept until 8am. BabaB had been up for a while and had the fire going. Soon I was filling my cold stomach with warm maple/brown sugar oatmeal with a packet of hot chocolate mixed added. Now that is a woodman's breakfast!

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Another shot of the sandbar.

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Filtering the water.

Spring Creek is free of industrial and agricultural pollutants. It's only danger is due to high bacteria counts, so it can be rendered safe to drink with either boiling, filtering, or chemically treating it to kill the bugs. This makes camping along its banks much easier as one doesn't need to lug lots of water along. I prefer the simplicity (and thriftiness) of just boiling it. I do filter (before boiling) the bits of silt and other chunkies out by running the water through a bag made from the leg of an old pair of jeans. This works like a military Milbank bag Water treated this way still tastes a little funky, but tea and powdered drink mixes take care of that.

The sandbar had lots of beaver sign (tracks and trees chewed down), deer tracks, dog (coyote?) prints, and piles of clams shells left behind by raccoons, but nothing visited us while we were there. The only non-bird wildlife we saw were armadillos, one while we were walking around in the woods and the other was hanging out near an old building.

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I love these guys. They are blind as bats and tough as steel.

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My home away from home.

Longtime readers know I'm too lazy to bother with a tent while camping. The picture above was my tarp in a Forrester configuration. I tried this setup out to see if it'd work better than my normal C-fly configuration. I think if my tarp had more tiedowns it would have worked better. This Forrester shape didn't give me enough room (though maybe because I'm really big) and I had a problem with dew and other moisture condensing on everything inside the tarp. I may breakdown and start using a tent again to see if I still dislike them.

Alas, after 24 hours we had to return to our homes. We were a bit sandy, a bit smelly, and a bit smokey. In other words, we were perfect! Hopefully our schedules will match up so we can do this again soon, maybe with a few others along, too (Pointing a finger at you Clark, Wildcat, LoneStarC, Valkyrie, Wildcat, Izzy, Kmat, BigDaddyTex, Desperado, Nighthiker, Gizmojumpjet, SBRaider, Wildman800, Bennjamin, OldBaldGuy, Blitz, Canoedogs, Windrider, Crogan, Ironraven, Thorian and all my other friends who live modern but dream primitive...). Trust me, it'll be great!

Adventure! Excitement! Woodtime!

-Merriwether

10 comments:

BigDaddyTX said...

I can't wait, I'm finally officially out of work on Jan 30th, and I'll be home in Dickinson (HOME!) that night never to return to Austin except to visit, we'll definitely have to work something out. My word verif is sploop, thats awesome.
-M

Brad said...

I know I had a blast. Came home relaxed and recharged. The dog was a little upset that she didn't get to go though.

I've got the last week of this month off and the last week of Feb off. Looking at doing something in Feb.

My werification word is damucker. Makes me sound like I'm from dabronx.

Lone Star Chris said...

I'm there.

Christina E. Rodriguez said...

Love that little armadillo!

Izzy G. said...

Good trip report.

Merriwether said...

Christina, I didn't have you on the list because I figured your husband wouldn't like you running wild with me. If this assumption is wrong PLEASE let me know! :-)

BigDaddyTX, how is your back doing?

Lone Star Chris, damn straight you'll be there! :-) We need to set up another family camping trip after deer season.

My word was "flueke", it made me laugh.

BigDaddyTX said...

Well, it'll never be better ya know, these injuries are pretty much permanent, but PT has helped quite a bit, and with the exception of flare ups, it seems to be somewhat under control. Good and bad days basically, with a constant pain level of 3-4 or so. I need to get a new MRI, something I need to try to schedule soon, we'll see what happens. It's been good the last two weeks, hopefully that holds. That's what is going to suck, finding new doctors when I move, because I've got a bunch of them. Hopefully some of the pain management shots will help.. they certainly cost enough that they better.

BigDaddyTX said...

I should mention that the best thing for it is to get out and get walking, which is the thing I'm looking to most about having a lot of time off. Just getting out and finding some good areas around the house to go exploring and getting to count that as exercise. Going to be good not to be stuck behind a desk all day long for a while.

Mike_H said...

Love the latest stories! You are making me jealous with all of your adventures.

Hopefully once my 10th month old gets a bit older, he and I can go on some great father/son camping trips. For now, I have to make due with the scouts.

And lucky you getting to test some of Doug's new toys!

Packman said...

Mike_H,

Take the ten month old out now if the weather allows. You'll both have a great time.

We took our older son hiking for the first time when he was one year old, and the younger when he was about two months old.

You'll need a child-carrier of some sort, and don't plan on an all-day death march, but there's no reason to stay out of the woods.

See my blog if you want to see what our hikes looked like (shameless self-promotion).