Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Part 194 - What Keeps I'm Fine Going

When I got to my back pack, which had rolled about twenty feet in the snow I noticed that my camera had fallen out of my hip belt pocket. I dug all around in the snow, went downhill, back uphill, nothing.  I had lost the only thing making me feel somewhat connected to the outside world/people.  I lost my video diaries of this whole misadventure.  Felt more alone.  I continued forward until the ground got a lot flatter and stumbled through a patch of small trees all bent over under the weight of the snow from knee to chest height.

I reached one more small cliff and dropped down to the scree slopes of the canyon below and started following the creek at the bottom downstream until after about a quarter mile it dropped off steeply into a section of canyon with 20 foot vertical walls.  I back tracked until I reached another waterfall.  Each side of the canyon was too steep to ascend; so on the floor of the canyon between two branches of the creek, I stomped down and scooped out as much snow as I could on the flattest spot I could find and set up my tent.

And I waited, and waited, and waited... and starved, and froze; and waited some more.
On day 2 for some reason I had a premonition that after nine nights in my tent I would be rescued.  I spent those nine nights rationing food at 300-500 calories per day; the first couple days were closer to six or seven hundred.  The first five or six nights were very cold, and during this period the snow would melt a little during the day, then usually more snow would fall back to its original level.  After that it warmed up enough to rain, and even the nights held only slightly below freezing.  After nine nights, the snow was mostly melted.  During this period I spent all day, either hoping, day dreaming, thinking, going crazy with hunger pains, and sometimes experiencing intense anxiety, or laying down calmly to escape in a day dream.

I would sometimes feel good in my decision to wait for help, and other times I contemplated trying anything I could to make an escape.  I would drift back and forth between feeling relatively calm and sedated, to helplessness and anxiousness.  At times I was confident that I would survive, and other times I was less hopeful.  By the fifth or sixth day I began imagining airplane sounds from the noise the creek was making; by the seventh or 8th day I began imagining helicopter noises, and by day nine or ten I would constantly hear both airplanes and helicopters so I wore earplugs for the last two days to try to protect my sanity the best I could.

After the ninth night the snow had melted enough that I should have made a break for it then, but I decided to wait the day out in lieu of my premonition, and if I hadn't been rescued I would go for it the next day.  This was my first full day with zero calorie intake.  The day came and went, and when I woke up the next morning I decided that if I were going to die in the wilderness, I wasn't going to die laying in a nylon coffin in that god forsaken canyon which I had grown to detest.

I packed up and headed for the waterfall upstream, and carefully climbed hand over hand beside it, then followed the creek above to a low spot in the small cliff above the steep canyon wall, the only possible chance I had of climbing out.  I crawled up the small scree slope on my hands and knees, then grabbed onto rocks and roots to climb up the canyon wall.  I reached a shelf between the small canyon wall I climbed up and a large canyon wall on the other side.

I fought through thick undergrowth and trees until I reached an exposed section and climbed up a small knoll to view the surrounding area.  I spotted my best chance of getting up the canyon wall and back onto the ridge line that I originally ended up on after glacier creek.  Leading up to this small spot was a steep scree slope, which I crossed very carefully, each ill placed step sliding out.  When I got to the point I would attempt to climb; I started up, and grabbing onto the frigid rock face for dear life, made it up.

The Kennedy bridge is down, but not out. It's only a matter of time before a high spring run-off will completely destroy this vital bridge, and the Forest Service may not replace it.

Signs along the trail.

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