Late February, 09, I set out early in a light snow storm with three inches of new snow. Temperatures were in the teens, with the light wind takin' the wind-chill below zero. The snow was light, cold and slick. It wasn't deep enough to hold my moccasins in place, but fluffy and slick enough to make every two steps equal one.
I took a reading from my brass compass, returned it to my pouch, and took off through the dreary snow-filled day headin' north by northwest. The twisted and rugged ravines filled with brambles and brush kept me constantly zagging back and forth. The slippery steep slopes were taxing on my fifty-year-old body, but the little boy inside me loved the adventure.
After trudging through the brush, and seemingly getting no closer to the familiar area I was hikin' towards, the sun finally came out. The problem was, as I headed north by northwest, the sun should have been on my right shoulder. The sun came out in the wrong place! The sun was on my left shoulder. What had happened to the world as I knew it? During a little snow storm, the entire solar system spiraled out of orbit. Then, to my embarrassment, I realized I had spent the morning workin' my way into a huge horseshoe and was now headed south! That made more sense than the sun shiftin' but didn't get me any closer to my rendezvous sight.
Well, I looked around to make sure no one was watchin', then, turning my right shoulder to the almost noon sun, I began my despondent trudging north by northwest. In about three quarters of a mile, I passed the spot I had started from four hours earlier.
I hung my moccasins and leggin's by the fire to dry and boiled some beans and staid close to the fire as darkness settled in. I melted snow in my pot and slowly re-filled my canteen. I got it a little too full, and the water was too hot to sip some out, so I placed the cork about halfway in and set it on the far side of my blanket to cool.
Well after dark, everything was dry. I had been sitting in my blanket next to the fire with only my breach clout on while my leggin's and mocs dried. When I arose to get dressed in my dry clothes before crawling into the blanket to sleep, I noticed a very chill wind around my hind quarters. While I had been sitting in the blanket, my canteen had tipped over and the cork eased out. About half my canteen had been dumped into my blanket and puddled around my breach clout while I sat in the blanket. My wool blanket kept me so warm, I hadn't noticed the dampness till the subzero breeze hit it!
I was so tired I thought of just crawling into the wet blanket and sleeping. But, the thought of freezing to death before dawn prompted me to stand with my back to the fire, holding my blanket in the hot smoke for the next hour or so. Finally, with everything dry, I laid my blanket back down and fastened the blanket pins to keep my feet from stickin' out in the freezing night air.
With parts from Track of the Wolf and The Hawken Shop, I built the best reproduction I could figure of an 1820s, full-stock, .54 caliber, flintlock Hawken rifle.
I'm no blacksmith, but enjoy hammerin' on iron. I broke the end off a file and rather than toss it, I hammered out a knife. The handle is white-tail rack and pewter, the sheath is raw deer hide.
My small Delaware axe hangs off the back of my shootin' pouch. A speed-loader, used tow, vent pick and brush hang from the strap.
I couldn't find a buffalo horn big enough to suit me, so I carved out a black walnut limb for a plug to add some extra powder storage. The strap can be let out for wearin' over a coat. An 80 grain brass powder measure is attached to the strap.
After hikin' all day, I was despairing of findin' a dry place to sleep. But, next to a frozen pond, I came across southern exposure on a slope where the afternoon sun had been able to clear the snow. Building a debris wind-break, I laid in boughs so I didn't have to sleep in the mud.
I emptied the powder from the pan of my flintlock, plugged the vent with a feather from my patch box, and closed the frizzen on a small square of linen char cloth from my tinder box. On the second klatch of the lock I had a spark. Dropping the char cloth into a bird's nest of white oak leaves I had pulled from the tree, I began to blow. I got a little carried away and flames
leapt to life in my beard. It was so cold that for a second I couldn't decide if I wanted to stack twigs on my face or slap the flames out. But, I beat out the fire on my face while still blowing and soon had a fire in my fire ring too.
I busted-up more firewood than I thought I would need, intendin' to keep a fire goin' all night long. I didn't want to have to stir-up a fire in the morning while shakin' from the cold. I stacked the wood near the head of my blanket so I could just reach out and feed the fire. I could finally relax with my canteen and a few hand-fulls of parched corn.
With two large rocks from the fire ring inside my Wilde Weavery blanket to keep my feet warm, I slept comfortably till about two in the morning. But, my core temperature had dropped in the sub-zero weather and I was shaken awake. Reaching from under my blanket, I added about five logs to the fire and waited for the warmth to come. Even laying on my side with my back to the fire and a hot rock against my stomach, I couldn't get warm enough.
I finally had to give-up my soft bough bed and curl up around the fire on the frozen mud. I fed the fire and changed out the hot rocks for my feet two more times before the sun began to rise. Even as uncomfortable as I was, I wasn't goin' to
get out of my blanket till I could look the sun in the eye. I boiled some oatmeal and walnuts for breakfast, ran some round balls on the cooling coals of my fire, cleaned the debris from my blanket and fastened it around my shoulders against the morning chill. All in all, it was a good night, I was still alive.