Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The sun hung low and orange in the sky. I figured only an hour to set the two man tent up and get a fire started before dark. I had camped out alone many times but the feeling of impending doom that over comes me if I do not have a fire by dark always tickles me. After the sun had fallen I was able to get a small fire going and leaned back against a log I had drug down for the fire. I hadn't set there long jotting down notes in my field book when I first thought I heard the sound. ch.....ch....ch. It sounded like turkeys walking or humans! I don't scare easy and I am always heavily armed even when I am just hiking, but the sound of something staggering around in circles in the middle of the woods an hour after dark is unnerving. I finally couldn't take it anymore, and decided to investigate. At the time I was only 27 year old, extremely fit and a little cocky. I was probably just about a 2 hour brisk walk from the pavement and where my truck was stashed in what would today be the North Cumberland (or Sundquist) WMA. I had decided to scout this area for the impending deer season and was sorely disappointed in my findings today and had planned to push farther west in the morning. It was the lack of deer sign and indecisiveness that had led to me setting up camp late. I started out easing toward the walking sound then I thought "sneaking up on someone in the dark is a good way to get shot" so I turned on my flashlight and said in as manly a voice I could manage (I am only 5'7") CAN YOU HEAR ME? ...........yeah.........was the weak reply. I said OVER HEAR......he said OK. A minute later an older gentleman had walked into my light. He seemed a little disoriented but other than that fine. I said "what are you doing out here walking around at night. he said he had just misjudged how long his walk would take and and after it got dark it was hard to follow the trail and was taking him even longer. I told him he was still 2 hours from the road and he could use my cell phone to call who ever he needed to and sleep in my camp (fulfilling the good turn requirements I had learned as a scout in Elementary school.) The next morning I was more interested in getting my new buddy back to his car than running around steep ridges that held more geriatric hikers than deer. We made the walk to my truck in about 3 hours my comrade was not very chatty and seemed tired. after loading my truck up we drove north up the highway for at least a mile before coming to his car, this is when I first realized how lost this guy was. After dropping him off I thought how lucky he was to come across me that night and how getting lost can happen to anyone even a guy who had been hiking in that area for 20 years hunting ginseng and grouse. I re-learned a lesson from my scouting days at Copper Ridge Elementary that day.......Always be prepared, so lost can become found.