Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Trying out the old ways.



Somehow, the early morning sunlight has a way of lifting one’s spirits on cold days like these. Crystalline frozen air sparkles all around me as I emerge from my makeshift shelter. Pine and fir tree boughs lashed together with now frozen willow bark and covered with a thick layer of forest debris make up the bulk of my shelter. A rock fire pit blackened by fire still holds heat from the night before and I nurse the coals back to life. My elk skin clothes are frozen stiff from the wet snow the day before, and will take hours to dry out once this fire warms the inside of my lean too shelter. The creek is covered with a thin coat of ice at the place where I take my ritual morning bath; I quickly slip out of my long johns and dive headfirst into the frozen water. As soon as my body enters the water, the breath escapes me and the bite of nearly frozen water engulfs my entire being. I retreat from the water like an icicle torpedo and practically dive back into my long handles. Somewhere I read that the Native American warriors used to perform this ritual every day in order to toughen their bodies and keep themselves at the height of health. As I shiver near my now seemingly heat free fire I wonder if this is only some ancient lie conjured up just to see if anyone would be stupid enough to actually try it. I am certain of my abilities to survive in the wild places with whatever nature will provide me, and realize that no matter what I think of my abilities while undertaking these adventures of self-testing and awareness. I could easily fall victim to any number of accidents, predators or natural disasters. So why would I dive into frozen water on a cold November day thirty miles from the nearest trailhead. And sixty miles from the closest civilization. No, I am not entirely crazy, nor am I completely without common sense or brain function. I am simply one of those individuals who find the need to try to duplicate the ancient ways of doing things whenever I can. Sometimes to test myself and see if I can actually do the things as ancient peoples may have done them, and sometimes to find that practicality wins over modern inventions even after thousands of years. For example, I use a lighter or matches to start fire most of the time, but always carry a bow and drill or flint and steel as backup. Years ago, I fell into a river and nearly died of hypothermia, my lighter and matches were so wet I could not use them. Luckily, my flint and steel were still functioning and I was able to build a huge fire and save myself. Once while surviving in the Montana wilderness I was able to build snares out of braided tree bark and trap snowshoe hares and grouse in order to feed myself, when game was too scarce for hunting with my bow. A fish trap built from willows has staved off starvation while living in the wilds after a big snow pushed all the wild game to lower elevations. Sometimes ancient ways are still the best chance for comfort and survival while chasing adventure in the wild places. However I would not recommend the ancient art of cold water bathing, the detrimental side effects to one’s manhood are instant and even the warmest fire takes a while to bring things back around to their former glory.. Hawk a/ho

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Great story. Made me laugh at the end! Thanks for your time. Cromm

fishing guy said...

Hawk: Another great post that took a while coming, I've been waiting. I laughed when you talked of the morning bath and how someone might have made it up. I'm glad you have survived these ordeals to share them with me so I don't have to ever try them except in reading. Hold tight to your faith and I'm proud to count you as a friend.

fishing guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TSannie said...

That was wonderful! Your sense of humor is just lovely.

And you couldn't pay me enough money to take that kind of bath!

Lloyd Ryan Beere said...

Good read sir...the end was funny, and yes some old ways may take some getting used too.

Stacey Huston said...

Glory Hu??? (wink)

Sandy said...

I, too, don't think I could take a November dip in the ice-skimmed water. Make my toes curl and goosebumps raise just reading it!

RainforestRobin said...

GREAT story Hawk. Been running waaaay behind but I loved this. I wish it was mandatory for all high school students to take a wilderness survival course. Wouldn't that be so wonderful!! I laughed over the ending of this. I love how your humor shines through in some of these post. You writing is absolutely incredible.