Wednesday, December 22, 2010

November 9: Day 4

Waking up at 6:30 in a public restroom, Harold decided to forgo breakfast while still feeling pretty good about the fact that he was able to keep a small amount of mashed potatoes down. Harold doubled up on the electrolites in his water with hopes of preventing cramping and hitting the energy wall, after all he had not kept much food down for the past three days.

Going about the business of melting snow and sending an e-mail from the SPOT satellite transmission device to notify the pickup team that they were exiting and needed picked up later that day, Harold and Derek set out on the last day at 9:00am.

Having stopped off at Horseshoe Lake for it's public restrooms, the duo had 8 miles to hike that day, Derek with blisters from his wet boots, Harold with a broken boot and the flu, both with a 100 lb pack on a sled dragging behind, and a huge sense of disappointment.

Not the easiest of days.

With all the snow that had fallen, the two had to hike out past the trail head and down the road knowing that the pickup team (Harold's family) would not be able to get to them through the drifts.

Just as Derek spotted the gate at the highway, Harold's brother, wife, and daughter pulled up in the envoy. Harold's wife Mickie said, "Geez! I didn't recognize you! I don't know why. You just don't look like you." Harold's brother agreed saying Harold looked sickly and white.

Harold broke down saying, "I didn't want to come back." Even though after four days and three nights he had kept down food for only one!

"I know that we made the right decision to turn around, with the broken boot and being sick, but especially the wet sleeping bag," says Harold looking back, "Still, that was a hard decision, emotionally, to make. It was exactly then that I vowed to myself that I was gonna come back."

November 8: day 3

Harold was sick.

The chicken soup from dinner had made it's way back up during the night. Still, Harold wanted to keep going north toward the goal of the Columbia Gorge.

Derek disagreed with Harold pointing out that not only was Harold sick, but Derek's sleeping bag was wet.

Surprised by this news, Harold had no idea that Derek had been sleeping in a wet bag for the past two nights. Derek's bivey sac failed the first night in the driving rain and had been wet ever since.

The two proceeded to try and dry the bag with their stoves but it was no use. The bag was not going to dry in the cold.
Knowing that a wet sleep sac was much more dangerous than the flu, Harold and Derek made the tough decision to turn around.

"It was snowing like a banshee," remembers Harold when Derek spotted bear tracks crossing the trail.

"Our tracks were filling up with snow within 10 minutes," said Harold, "and yet I could still see the the bear's claw marks in the snow. That woke me me up real quick!" Checking to make sure his gun was still on his hip, Harold and Derek hiked as fast as they could, stopping for Harold to puke every hour or two.

When it was time to take a break, Derek suggested that it would be better for them to stay the night at Horseshoe Lake, which had restrooms, instead of Breitenbush Lake.

"I wondered why the restrooms were that important to him," smiled Harold, "until Derek explained that he wanted to stay the night inside them rather than set up and tear down camp since I was sick." This seemed to make even more sense considering that Derek's bag was wet and the shelter of a restroom would keep them extra dry and warm.

With a towel taped over the vent to keep in the heat, a plastic bag was put over the toilet to keep the smell at a minimum. They laid tarps on the floor, slipped their sleep sacs into more plastic bags and set them up on either side of the john. Harold joked saying, "At least I don't have far to go if I have to throw up again!" while Derek made mashed potatoes and gravy. A big hit that Derek enjoyed and Harold was able to keep down.

November 7, 2010: day 2

Waking up to 3 inches of new snow, Derek soon learned not to leave his boots or coat out.

Over night, the rain had blown under the bottom of his tarp and into his boots, freezing them solid. To get them on, Derek had to melt the boot liners with his hand warmers until the they were pliable enough to slip onto his feet. His coat, which Derek hung on a tree the calm evening before, was iced solid to the trunk. After beating off the ice, Derek reclaimed his coat.

Breakfast was a meal of two Quaker instant oatmeal packets. Harold had a hard time choking his down. The oats just weren't sitting well in his stomach.

Once the two packed up and headed out they were surprised to find the trail went straight down into what looked like a lake. There was flooding in the area that forced Derek and Harold to go off trail and navigate around the water.

After about 40 minutes of bushwhacking, Harold wondered if they were going to make it passed the flooding or if they would have to back-track and find another way. After a bit more, the two were able to find a collection of floating debris - branches, pine needles, and such - that was just dense enough to hold their weight and allow them passage.

By that time, the two were way off the trail and mighty thankful for the Garmin GPS, which got them back on track.

When it was time to refill their water bladders and take a little break, Harold told Derek that he wasn't feeling too good. Derek could tell and asked Harold what he wanted to do. Knowing he was getting sick but not willing to give up that easily, Harold chose to push on another 1+1/2 mile to Ollalie Lake where the two decided they would rest a couple days until Harold felt better.

Back on the trail, the two were passing some large boulders and rocks. No sooner had they commented on the perfect conditions for a cougar den than the two spotted some cat tracks in the snow all about them. Their eyes were peeled and their steps quickened after that.

Finally reaching Ollalie Lake, Derek began making chicken soup for dinner. The smell of warm soup attracted a curious raccoon who kept himself concealed while turning over Derek's sled, moving his 100 lb pack around to get at Derek's coat, and began chewing at the coat to get to the bubble gum it smelled in the pocket.

After that, Derek was yelling and chasing off raccoons until 2:00am. Sick Harold finally had enough and decided to scare it off with the couple of gun shots. The second shot hit the ground right in front of the raccoon and blew earth up into its face. It worked and the raccoons left them alone for the rest of the night.

November 6 2010: day 1

And so it begins . . .

7:00am - Derek and Harold hop in the van and head up to the Cascade Range with Harold's wife and daughter. With snow on the road, the duo was only able to come within a 1/4 mile of the trail head.

Derek Arneson

Harold Wood

The trek up the road to the trail is steep and 51-year-old Harold remembers thinking within the first 200 meters, "Holy crap! My lungs are already burning!" Still the team pressed on.

"When we were only a mile in," remembers Harold, "We were going up a steep climb over sharp rocks and I felt a 'POP,' and thought, 'Is that my foot?'" Come to find out, the 260 pounds of Harold paired with the 100 pounds strapped to his back proved too much for the nylon shank in the sole of his boot. Knowing there was over 36 yards of hand-rolled duct tape, the outdoorsman's cure-all, in his pack, Harold pressed on.

Hoping to cover three miles from the trail head, Harold and Derek felt surprisingly good at the two mile marker and continued on for another 2 miles making it all the way to Upper Lake by 5:00, just in time to set up camp, repair Harold's boot shank with duct tape, hang-up a couple of  tarped hammocks, and cook up dinner.

"It was a horrible, horrible attempt at clam chowder," groaned Harold remembering the meal. "The chowder mix had so much pepper that it was inedible! After twenty minutes the potatoes still hadn't re-hydrated but we ate it anyway. And here we thought that it was going to be a treat for our first night out. Not!"

It was dark. They were fed. It was time to slip off boots, crawl into hammocks, snuggle into a bivey sac covered sleeping bag and snooze and recharge.

Mother Nature had other ideas.

First was 35mph winds and rain. Then it was hail pounding their tarps. Still, after a few hours of the constant barrage, the two fell asleep to the roar of the storm swirling around them.

Challenge Conception

Harold Wood and Derek Arneson served the Salem, OR community together through various Networking Exchange Club, a national service organization, charity events and fundraisers.

Still, they wanted to do more for the people these charities hope to benefit, namely the Child Abuse Prevention Center.

During an Exchange Sponsored Child Abuse Prevention Effort (E.S.C.A.P.E) fundraising brainstorming session, Harold and Derek tossed around a number of different ideas . . .

Try to set a record for time spent perched on a billboard? They didn't have two years to spend on a ledge over I-5.

Plan a hiking trip and let people pledge per mile that is covered? Not unusual enough.

Backpack in the winter on the crest of the Cascade Range, turning a common trip into an uncommon survival situation? PERFECT!

With similar intersts in survival skills, outdoor adventuring, forest service work, and more, a winter survival challenge seemed like a perfect fit.

Serious planning began in Oct. 2010 for a Nov. 6, 2010 departure. It wasn't long into the preparation process that Harold and Derek found out just how unusual their plan was. Finding the perfect sled for the unusual mountainous hike through snow and rock proved difficult.

In the end, the two purchased basic, light-weight sleds and modified them to to suite their needs, fabricating light weight pulks (poles that attach the sled to a harness so it may be pulled behind the hiker).

They modified snow pants and backpacks. Created extra straps and hand rolled duct tape to save space. They purchased special water proof bags for gear, hats and neck gators with omni-heat lining, special boots, Spot 2 transmitting device for communication and emergencies, and much much more.

Come November 6th, Team E.S.C.A.P.E Survival Challenge was pumped and ready to hit the trail.