Sunday, July 14, 2013

Part 136 - He Hit the Ground Faster Than 22 mph

It would have been nice to stay longer under the shade of the trees as most were doing; in fact, many would camp there for the evening and leave early in the morning, but what the group does didn’t apply to me.  I had to hike to the beat of my own drummer, and my drum said it was 5:00 p.m. and time to get moving.

Runs-with-Elk departed a few minutes before I did, and it would be days and miles before I ever saw her again.  I had to roadwalk for about a mile along Highway 96 before intersecting with the trail, which proceeded straight up the mountain.  I knew I was going to be climbing for the rest of the day and most of tomorrow, so I set a slow speed that allowed me to keep moving forward without overextending my oxygen system and forcing a continuous mode of stop and rest.  I employed my step-counting method and was pleased with the slow but steady progress I made up the mountain.

At times, the vistas would open up and I could see back down to the Klamath River and Seiad Valley. During my time on the trail this evening, no one passed me and I hiked until nine o'clock, all the while looking for a flat place to camp, but without success.  I passed through a burn area, the remains of the Goff fire started by lightning on August 5, 2012.  The ground was still black with soot; the trees, what was left of them, stood like fallen warriors, and the stems of the shrubbery looked like pipe cleaners stuck in the ground.  

The trail took a turn to the left, but as I looked to my right, through the charred remains of Douglas-fir and incense cedar, in the dim twilight, I could make out the slopes of two small mounds that I hoped might be flat on top.  I left the trail and walked thirty meters to the mounds, and found both suitable for a bedroll.

Not long after I had retired for the night, Swiss Army came to my camp area.  He, too, was looking for a flat place to camp.  I told him there was room enough beside me, but he elected to sleep closer to the trail.  Camp was made at mile 1,664, for a total of twenty miles today.

I still had the majority of the climb ahead of me, so I left camp at 3:00 a.m.  I passed Swiss Army who had camped just off the trail; he wanted me to wake him up when I left, but it was too early to do so; I let him sleep.  He’s a fast enough hiker that he’ll be able to catch up with me in a day or two.  I enjoy being on the trail in the early morning hours, when the air is cool, the sun is below the horizon, and the stars still illuminate the sky; I can make good miles and it gives me a chance to think and reminisce.

He Hit the Ground Faster than 22 miles per hour

As I walked, almost simultaneously two thoughts, two memories vied for dominance in my conscious mind, and I let the first of the two take precedence.

During my time in the Utah National Guard – Special Forces unit, I made sixteen parachute jumps from a variety of aircraft, the names of three which I can remember are: C-47, C-119, and the C-130.  

The C-47 was the standard aircraft used by the army for instructional purposes at Fort Benning, Georgia, in training large numbers of parachutists.  It was a side exit aircraft and two lines of parachutists could exit the aircraft at the same time.  During my jump training at Fort Benning, I made five jumps from that plane.

The C-119 was affectionately known as the Flying Boxcar, as the inside dimensions of the plane was almost exactly that of a railroad boxcar.  It also looked like an oversized metal shipping container, the kind carried on container ships with tails sticking out either side.  It, too, was a side exit aircraft, and two lines of parachutists could exit the aircraft at the same time.

The third aircraft and my favorite was the C-130. This was a humongous plane that could carry ninety-two parachutists, but instead of exiting from the sides, the tail, which functioned as a ramp, would lower, and the parachutist would simply walk off the back of the aircraft. 

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