Leader of the (survival) pack
Sometime between the end of October and the middle of November, I perform a ritual. The fire pack is taken from the car and replaced with the winter survival pack.That special, ready-to-go-anywhere bag has served me well over the years.Stuffed with two weeks worth of clothes, a sleeping bag, a small tent and an air mattress, it seems to grow heavier each year when ceremoniously stored away in the camp trailer.Years ago, the pack was rather abruptly retrieved when called to a fire in southern California a few days before Thanksgiving. But this fall it feels right to get ready for an early winter.Unlike the fire pack that is never pilfered, the winter survival pack must first be found and refurbished.So, why does someone like me go to such trouble to prepare for the coming cold weather?Obsessed is the best way the family describes my fall packing routine.But they weren’t with me that deceitfully beautiful New Mexico fall day in November well over 20 years ago.That day, the old cowboy John Gatlin, caretaker of the Cleveland Ranch, and I saddled up the old Bronco “… or was it a Suburban.”Anyway, we got ready to do some patrol work up near the rugged Malpais country with our lady friend and co-worker from back east.We had driven off the pavement 30 miles down a winding dirt road when the truck decided to quit running. There was nothing we could do to coax it back to life.In those days, there were no cell phones and the two-way radio was out of range.Having no survival pack with us and not wanting to spend a cold and hungry night in the outback, I volunteered to hike cross-country and get help.Night came quickly. But a full moon and the North Star guided me over the basalt mesas some eight miles to a country store and a pay phone on the highway between Quemado and the Arizona border.That experience taught me to be prepared for the onslaught of winter.Here in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, survival takes on a whole different meaning. All because of a little four-letter word … snow.Now that I’ve finally found the huge sack with a strap, I can start packing it with anti-snow stuff.First are the snow boots, or pacs, with extra liners. Snowshoes are next. Then a snow shovel. Notice all the “snow” words.Insulated winter gloves are thrown in along with a change of clothes if you get soaked to the bone from shoveling snow.A down jacket and outer Gore-Tex shell are must-haves, as well as a winter sleeping bag.A flashlight with extra batteries and railroad flares or fuses are thrown in too.Last is the separate food and water pack not left in the car to freeze.Items like toilet paper, a good book and other personal necessities are left to your imagination.”I’m ready to go now.””But Dad! We’re only going to Denver.”Writing with over 25 years of experience working in the backcountry with federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories with readers every other week.
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