When I woke the next morning, I felt that it was still quite cold outside of my sleeping bag, and while still fully clothed I stepped out of the hollow to be faced with deep snow surrounding my campsite, with some of last night’s campfire partially buried. Thankful that I had collected some extra wood and kindling to make a fire for breakfast, which had managed to stay dry, I soon had my fireplace going again, and began to heat up some water to make a cup of tea.
While waiting for the water to boil, I trudged through the snow to relieve myself, and after using hand sanitiser, I went looking for some more wood, that was not too damp from the snow and rain, which I knew would be a hard ask.
Finding a fallen tree with plenty of dead branches on it that were off the ground, I began breaking off pieces, large and small, so as to have a good supply of wood, since it looks like I would be here for a day or two at least.
I only had enough food for six days in total, so knew that I needed to conserve what I have left, so I decided that I would skip my lunch meal, to try and stretch out my supplies some more. While collecting some wood, I heard the sound of running water, so I headed back to my camp with what wood I had collected.
With the firewood stacked off the ground and under cover, I grabbed my canvas bucket, and headed for towards the sound of the river, using my multi took to make the trees as I go, so I can find the camp again, and when I finally reached the water source, I was surprised to see that it was a small river or creek, with plenty of rocks in it forming rapids.
As I was filling the bucket with fresh water, I heard a splash sound and after looking around, I saw a fish jumping out and splashing back into the creek, and I smiled, knowing that I now have another food source, and all I had to do was catch it.
I stood in the freezing cold water in my bare feet for a good twenty minutes before I had caught my first fish by hand, and shortly after that, I caught two more. “Happy with that, I put my boots back on and headed back to camp, which I was glad was quite easy to see, as my fire was now producing a fair amount of smoke from a slightly wet piece of wood, that I had placed on it before leaving the camp.
When I arrived back, I was shocked to see that part of the Hootchie had melted from the heat of the fire, and I cursed at my stupidity of allowing for this to happen, and placing the fish on the wood pile, I undid the ropes, to release the destroyed Hootchie, and I put it to one side, while I retrieved the spare one, and this time, I tied a rope between the two trees, at a height of about two and a half metres off the ground, which was as far up as I could reach on the second tree.
With that done, I attached ropes to each corner, of the width of the Hootchie, and tied them to two other trees about a metre away from the rope strung between the two big trees, and once I had the Hootchie over that centre rope, I used the stakes I had made to peg the other end down to the ground, so it now provided a one end enclosed area between the two larger trees and an open area on the other side.
Once I had done this, I emptied my backpack and headed back to the creek, where I managed to find some good-sized rocks that have at least one side that is flat, and I hauled them back to the campsite, which was quite a task.
Now with better rocks, I made a better camp fire in the centre of the shelter, so as to try and contain the heat a bit more, and not have a repeat of last time, and once that was done, I kept my backpack on my back and headed off to where I had seen some good size tree branches, that would help to improve the shelter.
For this hiking trip, I had increased the number of supplies that I had with me, so apart from the water bucket, I also have a wire saw and a hatchet, and with these two items with me, I was able to cut some good-sized branches, that are fairly straight, some at about two metres and a few at three metres long, with some of the short ones having a Y shape at the top, and strapping them to my backpack, I made my way back to the camp.
Once I had the branches stacked up, I began to scale and clean the three brown trout, that I had caught, and with some green twigs, I weaved a mat, with some good gaps between the, and with that done I found four green branches with a strong side branch, and after cutting it to size, I dug four holes around the edge of the fire pit and buried the sticks about two feet down, with rocks around the base, before placing the stick mat into place over the sticks, and made a few adjustments until I was happy with it.
Placing the fish on the weave mat, I placed it to one side, and started up the fire again, this time keeping the flames low, so as not to melt the Hootchie. Once I had a great feed of fresh fish, I cleaned up the campsite, and well away from the campsite, I dug a hole to bury the remains of the fish.
Back at the campsite, I used to of the sticks with a short Y on the top, to prop up the rope that supports the shelter, and I used a longer length as a cross bar. Once that had been done, I used the longer lengths, to lean against the cross bar, on the inside of the shelter.
Once I had done that, I headed out and found a heap of fairly straight thinner pieces of sticks, and back at the campsite, I weaved them through the upright sticks, so I now have a support wall & ceiling for the Hootchie. Heading back down to the creek, this time with my empty backpack, where there is a huge amount of bracken fern, I have to work to cut as much bracken fern that I can carry, both in the backpack and in my arms, before heading back to camp.
With all of the green bracken fern, I weaved it into the wooden support wall, so as to create a protective layer between the fireplace and the Hootchie roof, which would allow me to now have a bigger fire to stay warm. After temporarily packing up my tent, I used all of the left over bracken leaves, to soften the floor of the hollow tree, as it was fairly hard to sleep on at night.
When done, I put the tent back up inside the tree, and laid out my sleeping bag once again. With daylight fading quickly, I got to work making a weaved screen form the rest of the larger sticks, until I had a two metre by three metre wooden screen, which I will use to partially block of the open side of the camp.
This will help to keep the snow, rain and cold wind out, and using some rope, I attached it to the eyelets a quarter of the way along the Hootchie, so that it will stay upright in strong winds, and I pegged the bottom of the screen down to the ground.
With a fair amount of wood stacked up against the shelter wall, I stoked up the fire, as the temperature again plummeted quickly, so I sat on a log end that I had found near by, and kept close to the fire for as long as I could, before heading into my tent, to stay warmer, inside my sleeping bag.
Using my small torch, I took out my compass and topographical map, and I looked at it carefully, to try and work out exactly where I am, as this is my third night in the forest, and I needed to start looking at finding a way to get back to the manor, before Mum starts getting worried, as I am due back no later than the day after tomorrow.
I decided that I need to go for a long hike tomorrow, to get to higher ground to pinpoint my location, then from there I should be able to get to the Mt Jukes Lookout on the Mt Jukes Road, and once on there I can hike west along the dirt road to a nearby Hydro-Electric power station.
As expected it began to snow again during the night, and when I woke in the morning, it was a lot higher than the previous morning, and I was now very glad that I had built the screen, as there was snow banked up against it, and virtually no snow in my camp area under the Hootchie canopy.
After getting the fire going again, I cooked up one of my breakfast packets, which do not look very appetising, but they do taste fairly good. Once I had eaten, I heated up some water, and gave my self a brisk sponge bath, with the warmth of the water disappearing quickly once it cold air got to it.
Once I had changed into my only spare change of clothes, I cleaned up the campsite, stoked up the fire with a mixture of dry and green wood, before grabbing my water bottle, compass and map, and I started heading northeast up the nearest ridge, so get a better idea where I am.
When I felt I was near the top of the ridge, I turned around, and all I could see was just trees, as it was just as thick with vegetation as it is further down, so after a little bit of searching, I found a tree with enough lower branches, that I could climb up it, and when I was about 6 metres off the ground, I was finally able to look around me.
I could see the smoke of my campsite due south of me, deep in a valley, and I smiled about that, looking to the northwest I could see the King River, and looking to the east I could see a gravel road, which I presumed to be the Mount Jukes Road.
Once I had climbed back down to the ground, I retrieved my map, and using what I saw up high, I was able to pinpoint the hill that I am standing on, and where the camp site, and I was able to work out that I was less than three kilometres away from the road if I remain in the valley and follow them towards the road, on the map.
Satisfied with what I had achieved, I headed back to my campsite, where I would spend one last night, before packing up and heading off for the road in the morning, hopefully with less rain this time, as I was finding it hard to walk through it, where it hadn’t melted, which was about 50 metres higher than the campsite.
Once back at camp, I carefully pulled off the green wood, and put it to one side, and I stoked the fire with dry wood to heat up some water for a well-earned cup of black tea, and a late lunch meal in a packet. Once I had cleaned up, I laid back and enjoyed the peaceful sounds of the forest.
I must have counted about twenty different bird sounds over the time that I sat there, and just as it started to get cold again, I heard a distinct snap of a branch, which was definitely not made by a bird, and I froze still waiting to see if I would hear any more.
I heard another snap, but this was quickly followed by the sound of a kangaroo or wallaby bounding away from the sound, but it was heading in this direction, so I stayed still. When I heard it stop close to the camp, I carefully looked in that direction and saw a wallaby looking back in the direction that it came, and a loud crack of another dead branch made the wallaby start off again, bouncing right past my camp and disappearing into the forest down near the creek.
“Seen anything yet Bill?” I know he must be here somewhere, I saw the smoke clearly about an hour ago,” I clearly heard a voice say, “What? no, just a wallaby scaring the crap out of me just ahead,” the second voice replied, and I heard a chuckle coming from the first man, as I stood up, “If you are looking for me, I am right here,” I called out.
“Mr Crawford is it?” one of the men called back, “yes, that is me, why?” I responded, “We came looking for you, as your mother was getting a little concerned, especially with this sudden storm that appeared out of know where the other night,” one of the men said as they approached.
“Oh you are just a teenager, your mother didn’t say what age you were, only that you were an experienced outdoor bloke, who maybe in trouble with this storm,” one of the men said as they appeared out of the forest. “That is why I found a good spot to shelter, and after today’s check on my surrounds from the ridge to the north, I know exactly where I am, and I was going to head for the Mount Jukes Road and the Hydro plant tomorrow,” I responded.
Copyright Preston Wigglesworth All Rights Reserved July 2020