If you missed Phase 1, you can find it HERE.
The hike started off as all other hikes I have ever done. I stood there with a heavy pack and gobs of motivation. I took another look at my strip map, got my bearings, and mentally noted my initial turn which I called Check Point 1 (CP1). I ensured that I had informed Jackie of my route, and we decided that we would establish check points at all the turns that I had to make or, in the cases of long stretches of roads, notable land features or county roads that intersected; and that I would text which check point I was crossing. We established this for safety reasons and so that progress could be tracked as well as data compiled (speed of movement, rest breaks taken, etc.) to aid in future events.
I stepped off with a smile. I was going to do this as I had done so many hikes in my youth…ah youth…such a lie that we believe that we stay forever young, but only in memories. It only took about a quarter of a mile until I realized that I have grown older. I had no doubts as to my capabilities; I knew that I was strong and stubborn. I knew that as long as I had the will that I would keep along my path to the end, or until the buzzards claimed my corpse. And even then I would get the last laugh as I have no doubt that I would be of the toughest of meats, with a gamey taste that would definitely lead to some kicking heartburn. Time to raise the sign of pure 80’s metal (not that glam rock crap either) and kick this beast in the ass.
Welcome to the Suck
Within the next 10 minutes of the hike the suck appeared. As I was lummoxing along, I noted that my pack was loose. Not an issue! It was time to stop for a gear adjustment anyway. I have found that it is always good to do a quick stop 15 to 20 minutes into a hike for a gear adjustment; meaning that your pack in motion settles, usually in an uncomfortable way, and so you take note, stop, and adjust the pack/gear so that it more comfortably and evenly fits. At times this means a quick repacking to even out weight, or as in the case of some packs, a readjustment of the straps and tie downs. This 10 minute halt can save you unneeded suck factor later.
In my case i had to attach an additional day pack to my main pack (a Fieldline Tactical Alpha OPS Internal Frame Pack) in order to make enough space to pack my entire bug out gear. The manner in which it was attached was substandard and when it had settled it looked like a lead turd was strapped in using a bowl of spaghetti. D- to me in engineering. D- to me in art. Horrible. After my adjustments were made I stepped off again and all seemed ok, for a time. That time was short lived as once again my pack felt loose and then I realized, the tension buckle kept slipping down the pack strap. Not just on one side, hell no! If something is going to suck then it should be celebrated in full! Both tension buckles kept slipping. Then so began the game of walk a little, hike the pack up on your back and attempt to secure the tension buckles. Rinse and repeat. What a not fun game it was. I could take it though; I had played this game before with the old ALICE Packs that we were so lovingly issued back in the day. It was then that I giggled between vile cursing as I knew that the suck had been reached!
As I proceeded down the road I took note of as much as I could. Food sources, water sources, the terrain, etc. Here is some of what I noted:
Water sources: I had planned on using the various natural water sources that I had seen along the route via map reconnaissance that I had conducted earlier. I knew for the most part that they were going to be there. What I had not anticipated was how I was going to get to them. For example, one of the water sources, a small stock pond, was nestled behind a brown field of corn. Another was surrounded by some very angry sounding cows. A third was at the bottom of a very muddy and steep cut out. All of them were surrounded by barbed wire. I had never considered how I was going to breach the wire, if I had to, to claim the water. Should I climb the fence and risk falling or getting cut by the wire? Leading to who knows what in the way of infection? Do I continue on and look for other water sources? Do I take that chance? I will touch on this more later.
Food sources: I had not planned on living off of the land (the angry cows should appreciate that) and packed the food that I thought that I would need. Food can be heavy but I wanted to be sure that I had the food that I needed and didn’t have to scavenge. What I did take note of was all of the food sources that were right in front of me. Like the field corn. Sure it wasn’t sweet corn, it is tough and hard to chew, but it is edible. Of course there were the angry cows. Mooing at me with such contempt that I just know that they were issuing me a challenge of mortal combat. Those sources were obvious. The sources that I had not considered were the billions of grasshoppers that skirted the fields, always one hop ahead of me. The nesting birds in the shelter belts that I had passed, along with the squirrels. The rabbit that was a little bit squished in the middle of the road as it lost a game of real life Frogger. Yep, it was filled with maggots, but maggots are edible. I took note of all of this but didn’t try any of the cuisine. I brought food and eating bugs and drinking turd water has already been done for the sake of “teaching others how to do it in order to survive”. Really? You don’t have to demonstrate drinking water out of a turd for me to believe that it can be done…I will take your word for it.
Terrain: You know what is on the other side of every hill you are going up? Another hill that is calling you a bitch! Even a slight incline can seem like hell when you are miles into a hike especially if it is a long hill. That coupled with the little narrow skinny bridges that span washouts, washouts themselves, slough areas (mosquitoes love these), long stretches without shade, and the like. Also, there was the hardball road that I was walking on. It was hard and unforgiving with each step. That and the heat that radiated from it definitely can take a toll on your feet. I found it easier and more soothing to walk alongside the hardball, in the gravel areas, as they seem to give a bit more with the pounding of your feet and didn’t force feed heat into your boots.
Constructive thoughts soon gave way, as the miles increased, to mentally blocking the stiffness in the legs and shoulders that I was beginning to feel, as well to how hot my feet were becoming. At first I entertained these delights. I was reminiscing about previous times that I hiked down the road. What I should have said to that chick in the bar. How I could fix the state of the union. It is amazing how much time you can waste doing this. It is equally disturbing how much you miss by doing this. I say this for a couple of reasons.
First, when situational awareness gives way to frivolous thoughts, you will miss things. Like a resource that you can exploit, or a turnoff that you need, an unexpected change in terrain, or a weather system coming in. Hell, if it were a real life SHTF you could find yourself the victim of some nasty things at the hands of others.
The other is when you get so deep into pretend land that you begin driving emotionally. You weaken yourself mentally enough to where you let emotions overtake your actions, and the emotions are always exaggerated whenever we are uncomfortable and frustrated. This can cause you to step carelessly, injuring yourself. It can cause you to yell or run in frustration, burning extra calories. Or, more serious yet, it can cause you to talk yourself into dumping some of your gear. You may think, “I don’t really need this, the weather is beautiful,” or even a more dangerous, “I can go without this gallon of water because there is a lake a few miles down the road.” I say this because I was there once. I was in the service and we were on a 25 mile hike with full combat load. Between the pack, weapon, and combat load it weighed approximately a shitload. 18 miles into the hike I took a package of M&Ms out of my pack and tossed it into a ditch, relieved that my pack just got lighter. That may seem inconsequential and ridiculous but there was also a person who threw the spare barrel of the .50 cal. Machine Gun into a tree line as he was tired and wanted to lighten his burden. He had just reached a different stage of where my mind was at the time.
When all Good Things Come to an End
I wish that I could boast to everyone about how successful my first bug out experience was. I also wish that fiestas were a mandatory event that occurred city-wide every quarter. Unfortunately, I can’t pass on to you either of those as they are both untrue. My good time came to an end between miles 12 and 15. As I was clipping along, the pack failed. The entire harness system ripped away from the pack, leaving a gaping hole along the failed seam line and exposing all my gear.
I was rather furious at this time and contemplated shooting my pack numerous times. Had it just been the pack I might have, but I couldn’t punish the gear inside as it had nothing to do with the weakness of my pack. It was at this time that I called the operation over. The goal wasn’t to play Person vs. Wild. There are plenty of shows out there that do that. The point was to bug out and test my gear and my gear failed. Operation over. Call for extraction.
I also think back, sure I was pissed when it happened, but I wasn’t very far into the hike. How would I have felt had this happened at mile 40? Would I have been thankful had this happened at mile 50 or 60? Or would I have been just as angry? I can’t say for certain as I don’t know. Just the thought that I may have been thankful disturbs me and makes me realize that I still have much prepping to do. Not just prepping of my gear and resources, but also the prepping of me, physically and mentally, so that I do not come apart at the seams as easily as that pack did.
For full review of the Fieldline Tactical Alpha OPS Internal Frame Pack, click HERE.