So, Spot and I headed back to the ‘Mystery River’ for another look-see. I have become more vague about naming such places as I see lazier folk wanting to track me there – someone had visited only the day before, though last time I was there clearly no-one had been there for YEARS. (I will go back over other of my posts to blur the locations somewhat: there ARE trolls!) As a consequence the deer were much ‘spookier’ than previously (no doubt the ‘intruders’ were wearing camo, as it has this effect!) We saw only nine deer – though we heard a lot more; all were either hinds (& fauns) or spikers, though there is much sign of stag activity. I could have taken at least two hinds on the opposite bank of the river but the difficulty of recovering them across an unfordable (winter) river means I can resist temptation – and there was Spot to consider. Two on ‘my’ side were chancy shots: I NEVER want to leave a wounded animal to suffer.
Of course, at need I can paddle across a still section on my Neoair pad, and have done so on a number of occasions, lashing my pack onto it to keep it safe and using the whole assembly as a belly board. It is in situations like this that these new packrafts might come in handy (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/lightweight-packrafts/) or if you are shy a bit of the ready you can try making your own ‘faux’ packrafts as I have, see here: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/home-made-pack-raft/ These are cheap enough you can stow them in a drum/s at your favourite spot/s against need. Canoe drums can be bought at the factory for a fraction of the store price, from about $10 ea eg Ampi Plastics Dandenong (http://www.ampiplastics.com.au/)
I had made a few minor improvements to my tent (http://www.theultralighthiker.com/tyvek-solo-fire-shelter/), which worked well. I think I will alter the positions (upward ~2”) of the two windward outer tie downs as these were preventing the tent from tautening perfectly on slightly uneven ground. It doesn’t matter, but it would look better. I may tape an extra bit onto the floor to make it wider so one can sit up straighter. I will update the post when I have done this. The additional glue-on tie outs about 1’ up on this side certainly held the fabric further away from us. Between laying the fire and lighting it a couple of hours later (after a quiet stalk) the wind altered its (forecast) direction and instead of blowing NNW was blowing from the South (which I failed to note) so that the smoke was inclined to scoot into the shelter annoyingly. I cured this by closing one of the storm flaps so the smoke just sailed on past. It would have been annoying to have had to move the shelter in the night. Note to self: take more care with forecast and wind direction.
PS: I have since developed this tent into this excellent accommodation: http://www.theultralighthiker.com/the-deer-hunters-tent/
You may notice my chair in the bottom photo. This is a Big Agnes Cyclone SL Chair https://www.bigagnes.com/Products/Detail/Accessory/CycloneSLChairKit which weighs about 170 grams. It is just wonderful to have a comfy chair at the end of a hard day. You can imagine the glass of wine to go with it: Myself, I go for Bacardi 151 and water – it is the lightest booze on the trail! You can pretty much use any inflatable hiking mat to form the chair (in this case it is the Thermarest Neoair Xlite Women’s (340 grams R 3.9 ie good down to approx minus 10C). I see Amazon have the chair from $44.95. Another Big Agnes product I highly recommend (if you don’t want to afford the Neoair mat) is their Insulated Air Core range which are much cheaper, probably more durable and have a higher R-rating than Thermarest’s pads, so down to minus 15C: https://www.bigagnes.com/Products/Specs/Pad
I use a -1C degree Montbell UL Spiral Stretch bag http://www.moontrail.com/montbell-ul-spiral-down-hugger-3-reg.php (624 grams) which is enough for most Victorian conditions. You CAN lower its comfort limit by up to 8C with one of these http://www.seatosummit.com.au/products/liners/thermolite-reactor-liner/ but it adds 248 grams to your pack. I carry a UL Montbell insulated down coat and vest (which together weigh about 400 grams, and a pair of these https://goosefeetgear.com/products/1-down-socks which weigh about 60 grams and instead of a down balaclava (also available there) I have an insulated helmet Della made me from a Rayway kit http://www.rayjardine.com/ray-way/Insulated-Hat-Kit/index.htm which weighs 30 grams. As all of these items add nothing to my packweight as I would need them in camp anyway; if I wear them to bed they reduce the comfort level of the bag by a corresponding amount. (Tip: I wear the vest upside down from approx my knees to my waist). Tip Two: To avoid a cold nose I pull the insulated helmet down to the tip of my nose which works wonderfully. NEVER breathe (or sweat!) into your sleeping bag: moisture rapidly reduces its insulative ability, and you WILL freeze!
I found an old packtrack on this trip, but I have not cleared it yet. They are wonderful things. Another elsewhere which I cleared for a distance of over 30kms (and injudiciously informed various ‘friends’ of) has become somewhat of a magnet for hunters who never before hiked and camped out in their lives: I always leave a pile of wood at each of my camps so that if I arrive in camp late I do not have to collect it before dark. It is just common sense and good manners really. There is always a limited number of places which share all the qualities needed: a level spot, out of the wind, near to water, available firewood. I was annoyed one night to arrive at one of my camps to find two chaps already burning ‘my’ wood quite needlessly (it was a warm enough night no fire was needed).
Some people have not understood that one of the chief reasons folk were nomads is that a group quickly depletes the available firewood in an area, requiring that they move on. This situation has become even moreso as a result of the bushfires. I was forced to travel further on to another camp in the twilight. Even though I asked them to replace ‘my’ wood, they did not. They clearly thought I was some sort of public servant whose facilities they could just wantonly make use of. The things you see when you DO have a gun!
This (new) packtrack extends many kilometres along the river (I followed it for at least five) and also it (interestingly) snakes up a large valley I am yet to explore. At the point I turned back I could see some splendid flats opening up further along the river in the distance (to which the packtrack clearly provides access). Another time. These packtracks, built by cattlemen, diggers, etc long ago are such a treasure. They are not marked on any map. As is usual they skirt high above steep-sided sections of the river which would make difficult walking. They are almost always at just the ideal height for deer to bed down near them for the night so that when they are clear enough so you can make your way along them undetected, they make easy hunting opportunities. There is one opposite Huggetts on the Avon, for example. I have not cleared it either. Another I have previously mentioned descends into Blue Jacket from the Southern side where it meets the Woods Point Road. Another can be followed to the Marble Quarry off the eponymous track, just before the lookout where the walking track markers descend to the Thompson…
I intended to stay away two nights, perhaps three, but I am home after one. Such is the penalty for increasing deafness. When I called Della on the sat phone I was surprised she expected me home after only one night, but I thought something must have come up she did not want to mention on the phone, or… anyway her wish is my command – only it wasn’t evidently. I will stay a little longer another time. I have another more remote spot I often go which takes me 3-4 days each way to get to/from & which I haven’t yet visited this year. Winter is the ideal time for camping out; if I appear to disappear for a week or so, you will know I have heard the mountains’ call once more.
Some Other Hunting Related Posts (there are many more):