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My First Backpacking Trip
by Jerry Adsitt

While growing up in Northwest Montana my friend Norm and I started backpacking into the Cabinet Mountains. As soon as we were old enough to take along real guns that is. We were 12 years old. We had BB guns and pellet guns but those didn’t have much of an impact on a grizzly bear. We practiced camping out for years in our yards. But even those were in the immediate neighborhood of where bears were frequently sighted. Did I mention that I have this weird aversion to bears. In fact I’m petrified of them. When I was about six or seven my parents had the foresight to take me to the movie “Night of the Grizzly,” a particularly scary movie for a child of that age. It wouldn’t have been so bad but I think I recognized that grizzly from the neighborhood. About every other year or so one would come out of the mountains to kill a neighbors calf. Once I actually watched a bear take steaks off the neighbors barbecue. I thought this a little peculiar because the neighbor had just put them on and they weren’t even done yet. Obviously bears have no culinary aptitude.

Just imagine....Me and Norm setting up camp in my front yard. We would camp in the back yard but that was way to close to the bears. My Dad moves in to get a shot of us in our sleeping bags in our little pup tent. How cute! He steps on a twig “snap!” Click- picture! Of course you can’t really see much because it would be a picture of the stars and half a tennis shoe as we run over the top of him on our way back into the house.

As we got older and braver we ventured deeper into the mountains. I will never forget my first actual “backpacking trip.” True, it was only an over nighter which is a good thing because my pack alone weighed upwards of seventy-five pounds which coincidently, was about how much I weighed . It is amazing all the stuff you need to camp out in the mountains for one night. We decided against the tent as it seemed a little restricting if a bear was standing in the door. We opted instead for two tarps roped together and strung between trees to keep the stars off of us. This way we could leave our sleeping bags in any direction to escape a bear or any other critter venturing to close to our camp.

We had all the other “necessary” stuff for camping out: Sleeping bag, road flares, entire box of kitchen matches each carefully dipped in wax to make them waterproof and light proof. Emergency whistle, compass, binoculars (we each had our own), emergency rations consisting of three Hershey wrappers and an empty bag of trail mix (our thought process is such that we believed in not waiting to the last minute to get the sugar rush going in case we saw a bear on the trail. We would be ready!), canteen (empty), assorted packets of Lipton dried soups to keep the weight down, two cans of chili, a can of Dinty Moore Stew, a six pack of pop, Kool-aid packets in case we ran out of pop. 500 rounds of ammo for our rifles (each), assorted pots and pans, iron skillet (in case we caught a fish), 30 large flash bulbs (bear trap), and other assorted necessities.

Imagine...Me and Norm on the side of a mountain “camping.” The two tarps are lashed together so that they have a big gaping slit between them. This is not intentional but we reason that we can keep an eye out for bears in the trees that way. We have opted to leave our packs in camp rather than hoist them up into the trees for safety from the critters. Unless a bear knows how to use a P-38 can opener our packs are pretty safe. Besides we have “The Trap.” I should mention here that Norm and I are not dummies. We know that bears and other creatures of the night travel around game trails looking for kids like us to eat. They have superb night vision and are curious by nature. Thus “ The Trap” is a sophisticated apparatus which we designed for the sole purpose of eliminating the bears sight with thirty large flashbulbs all wired together and hung on a nearby tree. We have slyly hid a trip wire all around the camp so that if a bear steps on it- POOF!! Thirty flashbulbs go off at once temporarily blinding the bear while we are streaking up the nearest tree. It might even give us enough time to get off a shot or two although hopefully not at each other.

Back to the campsite...still imagining? ....Me and Norm sound asleep in our sleeping bags when Norm feels nature calling. He gets up to relieve himself behind a nearby bush. POOF! Norm steps on the trip wire and sets off the flash bulbs! I am awakened by the light and commotion and immediately empty 17 rounds into my backpack which looks exactly like a bear at the moment. This causes the flares to ignite in my pack giving us plenty of light to see by so that we don’t hurt ourselves climbing down out of the trees.

Copyright © 2002 Jerry Adsitt All Rights Reserved.
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If a man ain't huntin' and fishin' he's just fritterin' away his life!" Patrick McManus