Let's see now, I left off at realizing that I was on my own and possibly even lost. Well true enough, as I waited there for over an hour with no one showing up and the rain coming down harder I had to do something.
The reality was that I was in deed lost, alone and not well equipped for the conditions. I opted for plan B. follow the stream downhill and trust that I will meet a road before nightfall. I went on my way semi frantic, adrenalin surging and very determined to find the valley bottom and a road. In short, a young woman on a mission. Oh, did I mention I was scared too? Yes most definitely. I bushwhacked for 4 hours before nightfall set in. In that time the precipitation continued and I was soaked by dark. All my gear was wet too. My equipment consisted of; down Gerry sleeping bag (circa 1974),wool hat, wool socks, cotton turtlenecks, jeans, light coat, 1 cast iron skillet, bag of garbage, container of Sucrets (throat lozenge's), 1 Swiss army knife,1 Gerber knife and the best of all 2 cubes of Oleomargarine. The boots I had on were a pair of Browning Kangaroo upland boots my dad had gotten me as a gift.
I was laying under a big tree on a little knob or crown so to speak. It was uncomfortable as hell and yet I was so exhausted from stumbling and thrashing about from bushwhacking that it didn't really matter. The temperature was dropping and the rain was subsiding. Throughout the afternoon I continued to yell for help every so often. I took my backpack off and took out my gear to see if anything was dry that I could put on. Nothing at all, everything was wet. My sleeping bag had dry spots, but that was about all. I laid out the Sucrets, knives, bag of garbage and 2 cubes of margarine. I tried to get comfortable but wasn't having much luck. I didn't have a flashlight either which I really could have used.
Above me or in a tree near by was an owl and the first time he "whoo whoo whooed" I just about jumped out of my skin. After awhile I found comfort in the regularity of the owls vocalization. I was worried about bears and whatever else might be in the woods on a cold dark night. I was in my mostly wet sleeping bag with my canvas pack laying over the top of my shoulders to try and keep the precipitation off for as long as possible. Eventually I was completely soaked and had it not been for my wool hat the outcome may have been different. In a fetal position with a wet sleeping bag stretched tightly across my body, and wearing nothing more than my cotton briefs I began to shuffle my hat from my head to my feet and to my belly. Warming each area as I went. All night long I did this. The temperature had dropped below freezing and I knew the potential for hypothermia was very real. This was serious and I had been without food since breakfast and needed something for fuel, anything. I found one of the cubes of Oleo margarine and peeled the paper back and began eating it. Not the greatest flavor, but that was a non issue.
Throughout the night I was yelling help in all four directions and one straight up to the heavens , just in case. I did this at about 20 minute intervals and after a few hours of doing this I got to have a real good sense of time. I would guess that 20 min. had passed then look at my watch and sure enough, I'd be within a minute or two. I did manage to doze off occasionally but not for long and I am thankful of that. Eventually the lower half of my sleeping bag that wasn't stretched over my body was beginning to freeze. Eventually it did freeze rock hard. I kept up with rotating my wool hat to my head, feet and belly. I was shivering and my hip muscles were spasming as I shuffled the hat. Then freezing rain began to fall and I just couldn't believe this was really happening to me. I was thinking of my friends who were sleeping in a warm dry cabin and I was a bit agitated at that thought. I wondered what the coach thought when he got to Pinkham Notch and came up 1 short. I was thinking about a lot of stuff, some not so good.
I was looking forward to daybreak and knew I had to make it to see another day. As the light crept over the horizon I took inventory of what else I had to eat. I figured I would save the bag of garbage for the last resort. The rain and drizzle was intermittent with interspersed light snowfall and as I extracted myself from my half frozen mummy bag I was thankful to see the light of day! Everything was coated in a not so thin layer of ice, including my wet clothes and boots. I began scraping ice of my clothes and boots so I could get dressed and continue downhill following the stream. I was partly dressed when I heard a faint voice in the distance. I hoped my mind wasn't playing tricks on me and I answered back with a very hoarse, help. Then another reply, and I was just about in dis belief that I had been found. A warm rush of adrenaline surged through my body and I was warmer now than I had been since nightfall. I continued to yell until we had a visual of one another. Then I was able to see a couple men in bright colored clothing, search and rescue had found me.
As they got to within eyesight they said my name and I responded affirming that yes it is me. They had dry wool sweaters, pants and socks for me to put on. Needless to say all modesty vanished while I got dressed. I was still shaking from being cold and they began to offer me food. I remember eating an apple, a PBJ sandwich followed by a pork chop and topped off with a brownie. You should've seen the expression on my coach's face, relieved beyond words. We gathered my wet and still partly frozen gear before heading to Pinkham Notch Headquarters to fill out some paperwork. As we headed down the mountain the rescue guys actually got off trail twice too, although not for very far. That made me feel a bit better and not like such a dummy. They even agreed that the conditions were difficult and that even an experienced hiker can have difficulty navigating. It took me several hours to get the chill out of my bones and days for my muscles to get over being knotted up and sore from shivering.
In all I lost 6 pounds from shivering all night long. Had a case of laryngitis from yelling and was the 117 th. person lost that year and some of the others with less fortunate outcomes. I was 30 minutes away from Pinkham Notch where they found me and I was headed in the right direction. Had they not found me by noon they were going to begin an aerial search. Fortunately my parents did not know I was lost until after I had been found. The rescue men said that I was very fortunate and that eating that cube of margarine probably saved my life. Along with being a woman and the added layer of fat plus being in excellent health to begin with. It is an experience that has stayed with me to this very day. I can still guess what time it is and be within 10 minutes. It was a life lesson and I continue to listen to that little voice inside me when I am in the woods hunting big game. No animal is ever worth getting lost over. I may get razzed a bit by my friends about not wanting to venture off to far yet all I can say is that unless you've spent a night like I have, you won't truly understand where I am coming from. That is also why I carry more gear when I hunt than I probably need to. Better safe than sorry, wet or cold or all the above. When I hear of people lost and the search is on, my heart goes out to them. It is about survival, plain and simple!
Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt