Monday, February 23, 2009

Forest Park Overnight

It's been a busy few weeks at work. My team released our new website and it took a lot of work to get it done on schedule. I was in the mode where if I wasn't working, I was thinking about work. The launch was very successful. During the final stretch, I promised myself I would spend at least one day by myself in the woods.

Saturday I had my brother drop me off on the SW side of Forest Park around 2:30pm. I had a school sized back pack with my sleeping bag, my medium sized (camera case) survival kit, rain jacket, felt hat, a nalgene and a snapple bottle of water, my knife, a headlamp and a relatively small amount of food. The food consisted of a bagel (no cream cheese), about three dehydrated apples in chip form, about 12 ounces of beef jerky and a Hershey's bar. I also had other non-survival stuff including my phone, iPod, keys, wallet and a book. I didn't have a tent, cooking gear, change of clothes, tooth brush, etc..

The place I was dropped off was not an entrance to the park. It was just the side of a road. Luckily it was on the uphill side of the park so my journey was mostly downhill. I bushwhacked through the forest for about two hours. Along the way I came close to a few houses and tried to stay out of sight. I'm not entirely sure I was inside the park the whole time. I tried to follow deer trails as much as possible to make the hike easier. Finally as I made my way down a ridge I spotted the Wildwood Trail, a 30 mile trail spanning the length of Forest Park and into Washington Park.

At this point it was about an hour and half till dark so I prepared a shelter a ways back up the hill out of site from the trail. I found two Douglas Fir trees that were about my arm span apart. I was a little concerned about rain, so I decided to sleep between the trees so I had some canopy cover. I cleared the brush away and gathered fir balms that had fallen for insulation and cushioning. While gathering I realized that there wasn't enough insulating material around to construct any kind of debris shelter in a reasonable amount of time. Survival there without a sleeping bag would've been a challenge. I took the poncho and part of the para cord strap from my survival kit and tied it to the trees above my sleeping bag. The poncho was the thinnest plastic you could imagine. You could easily see through it. I was able to rig up a shelter with it but I won't be putting it back in my survival kit. I'd rather have a sturdy trash bag. Luckily it didn't more than drizzle and there was little wind to worry about.

I gathered several fists full of twigs no more than pinky thick to make a small fire. The fire was mainly just for fun and to test my kit. I was able to start the fire with one match from my survival kit. The fire was small enough that I could huddle with my legs on either side. The challenge was to keep the fire small while at the same time providing it enough fuel and oxygen so it didn't smoke me out. Using such small sized fuel allowed me to completely burn up the fuel leaving only white ash.

I went to bed early. The temperature probably got to the low 40s which wasn't a problem for my 20 degree bag. I did close up the hole to my sleeping bag as much as I could. I never really got cold though. The fir balms didn't end up being as much cushion as I hoped and woke up often.

The next morning I broke camp at about 7am and headed for the trail. I started off with the bagel and ate apple chips and beef jerky as I hiked. Overall I covered about 11 miles in about 4 and 1/2 hours. The best part was when I remembered I had a Hershey's bar. Everything tastes so much better when you are hungry.

When I reached Pittock Mansion less than 4 miles from the end of the Wildwood Trail, I called my brother to come pick me up. I was out of food, water and my ankle was starting to hurt. Before he arrived I took a quick look at Portland from the back of the mansion. It was cool to see the city with Mt. Hood in the distance.

It was a fun little overnight. I got to somewhat rough it and test a few things in my survival kit. I also got to explore Forest Park and enjoy the nice weather.