I feel like I did not sleep at all, but I know did as tired and beat up as I was.
After a couple of hours, I finally stopped cramping.
My mind would stop working, trying to figure out:
Where Dude was?
Was he safe?
Was he scared?
What was he going to do to survive?
Would I ever see him again?
I decided that the 1st thing Dude would do would be to try to go back. Back to the truck. Back home.
I don't think he could make it out of the bush alone.
Then I thought that if he couldn't go back, he would stay where he was.
I also thought about all the opportunities/signs that I had not to attempt what I was doing alone.
Dude objecting and trying to go back
Me cramping at the side trail trailhead
Losing my tent poles 3 weeks earlier.
And I thought if Dude was able to know/predict danger then our connection would be enough for me to find him in the morning.
I know it's a stretch, but it's all I had to hold on to.
I was in survival mode and really had no time or energy to be sad. I had work to do.
I got up to pee in the middle of the night and it was snowing. Great!
Every time I woke or rolled over I would yell for Dude
I halfway thought I would see him in camp in the morning. This was not the case.
My plan was to search the bootleg trail to Brushy Ridge trailhead 1st to see if he made it out of the bush.
Honestly, I was terrified to go back into the bush after how bad it whooped my ass the day before.
I got water (It was fucking freezing).
Made some oatmeal and ate till I was full.
My ankle was about 70% and I was beaten up and sore all over.
I started up a VERY steep incline and in less than 10 minutes I recognized some of the features I passed yesterday. I was .1mi away from camp when I got lost. Holy Shit!
No luck on the trail. No Dude to be found. I have to back into the dark bush that destroyed me yesterday to find my dog.
I used strips of a bandana to mark my path. My plan is to go in as deep into the woods as the bandana will allow me. When I’m out of bandana, I’m done searching.
This is a huge forest and Dude could be anywhere by now, or he could be dead.
All I have to hold on to is that our connection to each other would bring us back together.
The Scream Heard Around The World
It’s much easier to maneuver without the weight and bulk of my pack, but still a struggle.
I’m yelling for Dude and marking my way with the bandana.
I’m seeing things that look familiar to me. I think I’m close. Close to where Dude and I got separated yesterday.
But I’m running out of bandana and hope.
I tie the last strip of the bandana and go as far as I can, keeping it in sight. I get where I can’t go further without losing my security bandana.
I’m yelling, whistling, clapping and I got nothing. No Dude.
The reality is setting in. I start to picture my ride home without him. I see myself telling my family and friends that he’s gone. I picture Dude scared, cold, hurt, dead. I see his face looking at me in my heart and I lost my shit.
I begin to scream. I scream louder than I have ever screamed in my life. All the fear, pain, anger, and anxiety were released thru a series of screams.
I start to ball like a baby, confessing that it is all my fault. How could I be so careless and arrogant? My heart is broken and bleeding all over the gorge.
Leaving the Bush
I start to make my way back to the trail, following my red bandanna. I turn and take one last look at the landscape where my life is going to change forever, and there he fucking is!
Dude is about 20 yards from me gazing toward the river. I yell “DUDE?!”, half doubting that he is actually there. But there he is….
His head spins around and we make eye contact. I really can’t believe it! We start slogging through the brush, logs, and uneven forest floor toward each other, both of us excited and relieved to be back together.
His backpack must have been torn from his harness during his adventure. All the stuff he needed to comfortably survive was uselessly on his back. No thumbs.
It takes us a minute to reach each other, but we finally connect and fall to the sloping forest floor hugging each other. It was really like a love scene out of a movie.
Reality kicks back in when we start sliding down the mountain. It’s time to get the hell out of here.
Rest & Extraction
It’s time for us to make our way back to camp. We are both more than ready to do so.
Although I feel like I have to coax Dude back to our camp, he does not lang but a few steps behind. I think he figured out that this was a major deal.
I wonder if he is mad at me, or confused about what is happening, or does he even give a shit.
In less than 15 min we are back at our base camp.
I get him some water and because the temperature is now in the low 20s, get him in my tent and cover him with my sleeping bag.
I feed him some beef jerky and chips I had for snacks.
I actually contemplate staying the 2nd night. What an idiot!
We both fall asleep for an hour or so and then it was time to pack up and head out.
It’s a long and draggy trip out as we are both pretty beaten down.
But it’s all worth it when I see my truck. It was a sight to behold
We made it!
We gain wisdom in 3 ways:
Reflection - The noblest way
Imitation - The easiest way
Experience - The suckiest way
This wisdom was gained by #3
Always check and double-check your map before leaving the terminus.
Pay attention to your dog when he/she is acting out of character.
If you get off trail, try your best to backtrack. Blazing your own trail probably won’t end well.
Don’t go out alone on trails you are unfamiliar with.
Carry a GPS locating device in case of emergencies.
Put one on your dog as well.
I was very fortunate to make it out alive and even more fortunate to get my best buddy home safely.
My hope is that you gain this piece of wisdom by Imitation.
That Is All.