Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tracks..

Snow falls silently around me while a soft wind teases the edge of my silk neckerchief. West winds spell trouble up this high, I can already feel the change coming on in the weather. Ominous grey clouds seem to close in on the mountain peaks, lodge pole pines in this thick forest begin to creak with the first comings of new wind. The tracks I am following have been getting fresher as the last hours have wore on. With each step I can almost see the person I am following through the sign he is leaving. Tracks tell more of the story than just slight scuff marks along broken terrain.I can tell that this man is about One hundred and fifty pounds by the depth of depression and his length of stride matches mine perfectly telling me his height is somewhere near six feet . the staggering steps over the last hour tell me he is getting tired, twenty yards ago he placed his hand on a rock in the new snow. Pulling his fingers together he made a small snow ball and more than likely ate it in a bid to secure moisture from the small ball. his fingers left small lines in the snow. little flakes have formed a thin line down the center of the hand print, given the rate of snowfall and the lack of wind i believe he was here less than an hour ago. I quicken my pace, breath comes in ragged gasps up this high when it gets cold. Laboring up the slope I follow his tracks to the edge of a long finger ridge heading west right into the heart of the fast approaching storm. He slid down the slope mostly on his backside, telling me he is getting very tired , near the bottom I find where he sat and ate more snow large hand fulls of snow all around his sitting spot. Thirty minutes later I labor up another steep ridge, his tracks are fresher now and his plodding even more labored and erratic. Suddenly the sky opens up snow begins blowing from all directions at once, I follow the fading racks in the storm with renewed vigor, if this turns into a whiteout he is going to perish up here. Plodding forward as the tracks fade with wind driven snow falling on the trail, I pray to the creator for a break, well to be honest i cursed him for the weather and hoped for a break anyway. A small stream half frozen over cascades down the mountain at breakneck speed, ice forms and breaks loose causing a constant creaking noise as the water moves. The tracks are little more than depressions on the other side of the creek and filling up fast, I blow warm breath into a track depression and the new snow moves away with my breath leaving only the weathered track. This works for a few more yards and I am forced to track by last line of sight instead of by actual sign.After a dozen yards the snow becomes so fierce I am forced to take cover beside a large boulder on the opposite side of the pounding winds. I pull my wool coat closer around me and hunker down, cursing the wind and the driving snow even as it threatens to drive the life's warmth from me.So close, two days of following this track and this is where it ends, Come next spring some mushroom picker or antler hunter may find his bones ... but probably not up this high. I am still cursing my luck and the snow when I hear something on the wind, singing singing ... I rise into the storm and search the timber, there he is, ten yards away and singing at the top of his lungs. Shall we gather at the river, the beautiful riivver... the eee beeauuutiffful riiiver.. I stand over the half frozen mad and offer a hand, "My name is Hawk I have come for you"...."I ain't dead yet am I." he answers. "No! But you and I both will be if we don't hunker down and wait this storm out. I pull a tarp from my pack and we hunker under it near the large rock for the rest of the night and most of the next day. A small fire keeps us alive, food and water bring his strength back and long hours of silence surround us as we wait out the storm. I built a large signal fire and made enough smoke for the space shuttle to spot and rescue found us by noon. We drew our names on the rock in charcoal and his date of rebirth, of my finding him before his almost certain demise. As the sun shone on a white wonderland I silently said a prayer of forgiveness to the creator after all my storm cursing. Larry, the man I was tracking lived and last I heard was happily married and had seven children I survived to track another day and was fortunate to have many survivors over the years as I tracked missing persons and fugitives in the wilderness. Sometimes all our efforts, training and vigilance comes down to nothing at all....even failing faith can be answered with a miracle....Hawk

6 comments:

Greg Darling said...

Nice post Hawk you're the real deal..

Luke Johnson said...

That was very well written, Hawk. I was right along beside you, cursing and tracking down "Lost Larry"! Being a tracker would be very rewarding and exciting at the same time, I'm sure. Thank you for bringing me along.
Luke J.

ke7cjw said...

Great story Hawk. This is the reason I have always volunteered to help train search and rescue teams. I have been lucky not to need rescue myself, but I have rescued a few people myself over the years and I know how that miracle feels.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Hawk: Truly enjoyed the rescue story, loved the ending.

Nate Bailey said...

Thanks for the honesty. Not many will admit that they Argue with the Creator, but even less, will admit they were wrong by doing so, and ask for forgiveness from Him. Your piece took me back to such times I have had with the Creator. sepk'eec'a...Nate

sarina said...

Vivian and Caleb loved this one! I had this story in my mind all day long....