I’ve spent the last few months plotting a training exercise. When you have multiple jobs, two kids and a wife, it’s hard to get out for more than a few hours of training.
In the last year, I’ve done my fair share of training in the Smokies, so I wanted to check out a new location. After some time on Google Earth, I decided to recon the Lone Mountain State Forest, an area 3500+ acres large, about an hour west of me.
Finally luck smiled on me and I setup the training for 0530 Saturday morning. Only problem was that I happened to have the flu in a bad way, but I figured I’d go anyway, even if it killed me. It was about 20 degrees on Saturday when I rolled out of bed and into the cammies. My kit was already packed the night before so I tossed my gear in the truck and hit the road.
Arrived at the trailhead about 0640. The sun was just peeking up over the horizon. Temps were about 20 degrees, but it felt great considering I was running a high fever. But then I remembered real quick that I was sick after I hoisted my ruck. I felt every 80lbs in a bad way. So after some proper bitching and moaning I headed down the trailhead.
The plan was to hike in 2 miles on the trail to the mountain and then split off to find a shelter site. After about 1.5 miles in, I was dead tired. Elevation gain was about 1500 feet over some rough terrain. I only embrace the suck for so long. So I broke off the trail and headed up the mountain, going slow but after 20 minutes, I hit a ridgeline that looked promising. I dropped the pack once I found some good cover and then set off to scout the surrounding area.
In about 15 minutes I was able to recon in a 360 around the area. The location had all the features I wanted, easy to tick off the list:
- High ground
- Good cover & concealment
- Suitable shelter site
- Limited access from 2 directions
First step after finding a good site is to start collecting materials. I try to find as much decent dead wood on the ground to use for my shelter rather than spending excessive calories and time cutting down trees. It took about an hour but then the shelter was done. I had an opportunity to try out a new saw, the Silky Pocket Boy, made by Silky in Japan. I almost forgot about collecting dead wood since the Silky takes down trees like a beast. Well worth the price tag.
It was about 11.30 by this time so I set off to get some wood for a small fire. Broke out the oatmeal, MRE peanut butter and some snacks, enjoying a quiet breakfast by the fire.
After eating, I sat back and just listened. After about 15 minutes, the animals starting coming out. Squirrels racing in the trees, mice poking around the brush, even saw deer in the distance from my position. It was amazing to just observe nature and all the sounds you don’t hear over the noise of life. It may not sound like much, but the simple action of sitting in stillness and quiet is the best part of the adventure. My life is so completely immersed in technology that my soul craves a complete disconnect from it all. The forest is the only place where I feel that I can stop time and soak in beauty that is all around us, but is rarely appreciated.
After I snapped out of my Mother Nature induced trance, the sun was creeping down the skyline and it was time to pack up and head out. I would have preferred to stay all night, but that’s for the next time, this was just a recon exercise. Overall, it was an excellent experience carrying a full sustainment load for a lengthy distance. It always good to remind myself how much a full kit weighs so I don’t get cocky.
The big takeaway from this exercise is that I learned the value of conserving energy and time. Each time I go out I always build a shelter. After so many times, it’s a no brainer to setup a shelter. Why spend the time and energy building a shelter when I can use a basha or zeltbahn? I can use that extra time to collect firewood, do more scouting and just enjoy the experience.
Thanks as always for dropping and checking out the post, drop me a comment and share with your friends…and before I forgot, don’t leave without watching the video as well!