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The Great Outdoors

While I'm no Ray Mears, Bear Grylls or Dave Canterbury I'm a big proponent of homesteading and the outdoors in general.

In this thread I'll talk a bit about my past adventures and developments on my mountain land in the Rocky Mountains.

The story starts in the summer of 2012...


Going through all the ‘Gatekeeper’ areas of airports on both sides of the Atlantic was a bit of an ordeal. But nothing to worry anyone who has traveled about a bit and doesn’t get intimidated easily.
I had the paperwork for temporarily exporting my trusty Benelli shotgun.
The customs folk at the British Airport were most intrigued!
I had all the necessary paperwork, yet a few questions were asked.
On arriving at the first airport I had to pass through the auspices of the DHS!
They didn’t like my passport as it was quite rough and tumble in appearance.
After asking me a barrage of questions I made my answers back. I’d wrongly assumed that as other country’s were ok with my passport’s condition that the USA would too. How wrong I was
I was sent into ‘secondary inspections’ with a red flagged folder!
Was I now in Team America’s bad books?

The secondary inspections area had a sign outside it that assured being treated with respect and courtesy etc. That looked good, although the somewhat shabby waiting room, manned by another 3 DHS guys, had an edge of oppression, even fear to it.
Sat down were a few roguish characters, Black, Mexican and of course TD who now was in their midst…
I walked right to the front.
Nobody said anything to me, not even the DHS dudes who were wordlessly tapping away at computer screens. They were almost in another world the concentration they had.
As I looked around for some ticket machine like some banks have I saw nothing.
Then a fourth DHS guy came in through a side door and, without a word, snatched the red folder containing my passport and other papers from my hands.
He walked around the counter, threw it in an ‘in-tray’ then told me to take a seat.
I asked him was it ok to go get my bags from the baggage area.
“Nope, wait here until you’re called forward. Don’t worry about your bags, they’ll be kicked off to the side when it’s done moving.’
Rough and tumble indeed!
After watching a Mexican sounding lady get the third degree it was my turn to be assayed before the gatekeepers of the USA.

He asked me similar questions to what I’d been asked earlier. I answered again, honestly, in my chirpy, happy go lucky manner. Or at least as best I could given the long flight over the Atlantic!
‘Ok go get your bags.’ He said neutrally after the barrage was over.
I did so, noting the sniffer dogs being brought out nearby.
The DHS certainly isn’t for show that’s for sure!
As I walked back in the door with my Bergen on my back and jumbo-bag trundling in the young DHS dude’s eye’s were astounded at my set-up.
The guy wondered, after marveling at 120 liter capacity Bergen, short haircut and style if I was going to join a militia! LOL.
I told him I was ex-military doing some adventure travel around the US, which is the truth of course. This seemed to set him at ease.
Is there some kind of a hidden-license having a military background with government / federal types I wonder??
Just prior to starting on my bags I told him the jumbo one had my shotgun inside with all the trimmings, tags etc.
Before he had chance to grill me I showed him my approval paperwork from the ATF gatekeepers.
<The ATF they did a rapid 1 week processing of this when I‘d applied for my shotgun to be temporarily exported. They also do this for free too!>
He looked at it briefly and seemed ok with it but asked some of his companions for a second opinion.
They were talking about getting the ATF to come and look at it, but in the end he did his own check, comparing the serial numbers on the paperwork to that of the Beneli.
One of his companion’s amusingly said they’d seized 2 firearms yesterday.
If I hadn’t of gotten the approval papers from the ATF I’m sure mine would of made a third!
After the first few items of specialist equipment bags being searched I reminded him of my ex-military background, otherwise he really would of reckoned me to be a rebel militia dude. He chilled out a bit then and one of the DHS was an ex-marine chirped up a few friendly comments (as I was Army not Marines).
After pulling all my stuff from my Bergen and jumbo-bag I had to put it back in. He did apologize for having to search my stuff and as I put my stuff back in the bags he went back to the computer counter and began tapping away at the keys.

I was told to sit down again, after a few more minutes he called me forward again.
‘You’re good, have a nice trip.’ He said, slamming a stamp into my battered passport giving it the mark of approval for a few months of travel.

Comments

Arrival

I arrived at the city retreat exhausted but happy to of made it.
I was in my friend Mike’s neck of the woods now.
I got to a motel not far from Mike’s place having arrived at the infamous Denver Airport.


[video=youtube;VRRyBJnRlpQ]https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=VRRyBJnRlpQ[/video]

His nickname is Mountain Man Mike and for short I'll refer to him as MMM.
Meeting up with MMM was interesting.
He’d earlier told me he’d often scare the city twin’s he’d had on his land the previous year by walking up silently behind them, I soon realised that MMM’s claim was not unfounded.

As I checked out of the motel (where I’d arranged to meet MMM) I stood talking to the motel woman behind the counter. I’d envisaged Mike waiting outside in his pick-up.
He wasn’t, he was sat about twelve feet behind me in the lobby, I’d not even noticed him sat stealthily there!

Compared to the video footage taken of him he’s a lot taller than I thought, taller even than me in fact!
We had roughly ten days or even less before we needed to be on the road to the Mountain Hold (MMM’s land) so the clock was ticking.

Before we even went to his city location it was off to the sprawling Wal-Mart behemoth for supplies.
I’d taken a fair chunk of change with me and it was a hard temptation to resist buying all the goodies and gigdits they had on offer.
I still needed the essentials though so here’s what I got...

Two tents for both the city set-up and the Wilderness. One small and light, the other large and substantial. I’ll explain more on this later.
Several Weeks Food supplies (various dried foods etc)
Shotgun shells (Various Types)
Propane Gas and Stove
SupplyBox.jpg


Getting a vehicle is surely one of the most troublesome and challenging things for most folks when it comes to transport.
Faced with doing this in a ‘foreign’ country was even more difficult.
However I had all my papers and without a decent 4x4 machine we were either walking up to MMM’s place or pedaling!

Mike wasn’t in a position to get a BOV as he’d sold his old truck when times had gotten hard, his resources were tight too.
My last BOV in the USA met a strange demise and it was time for another to replace it.
I’d been scanning craigslist for a while and finally found some possible matches.
Mike was adamant we avoid dealers, I on the other hand had no luck getting hold of any of the private sellers on CL. They either wouldn’t return emails or calls would be days in delay.
The dealers on the other hand seemed more promising…
I was more keen on just using raw instinct and coursework to get a decent one. Hoping some of my luck might carry the day
I settled on two vehicles for inspection.
One was a Ford Explorer, the other a Jeep Grand Cherokee

I’d earlier done some checking with the Ford Explorer at Carsurvey.org and the general consensus was they were pretty reliable. The Jeep on the other hand was more mixed results…

The dealer was an interesting arab fellow who’d been in the states since 1981!

The Jeep was in ragged condition, as I checked it I found the front bumper was loose while the rear bumper damn near came off in my hand.
The interior was dirty, the fan blower vibrated the whole machine, door trim was loose (you know when the interior door handle is about done).
Nearly all the power windows wouldn’t work.
The engine didn’t start first time either.
It would cost at least $1000 to get it back to BOV standards. The final straw was it had no roof bars.
They wanted $2500 for that one which was nearly 20 years old!

The other one was the Explorer, something my instincts seemed in-tune with.
Everything was mostly ok on this, and it even had on-the-fly 4x4 controls!
There were roof bars fitted also.
For less than 3000 dollars it seemed ok and a good deal.
I was a bit concerned that the ABS light was on and there was the sound of a worn bearing from the front driver’s side. Something I reckoned to be connected.
All in all for the price it was an ok deal. The ‘book price’ for it was about $4700.
One test drive later and I was good to go!
The ‘gatekeeper tests’ aka emission’s evaluation it flew through ok too.
Such a vehicle needed a name so I came up with ‘The Wolverine’ or the ‘Wolf’ for short as it had a kinda wolverine vibe about it when you slammed it into low-ratio 4x4!

RydersWolverine.jpg


Mike’s garden in the city was by no means without nature. I set my backpacker tent up...
Backpackingtent.jpg


Big tree’s and squirrels scurried about every morning!

SquirrelScurry.jpg

 
I’d feed them oats on this stump and they’d soon make short work of it!
CityNature.jpg


SquirrelFeedingStump.jpg


Getting to the Wilderness Area…


The stove set-up I'd be relying on mostly for food cooking etc.
Mike's place does have a campfire area, but Forestry restrictions mean using it can be dicey with all the fires raging about in Colorado...

For getting up to the Mountain Hold where Mike had his base there we had some challenges.

The Oregon Kid was coming in by bus on the Friday (following an epic 30 hour trip!) which initially meant we’d be going all in one vehicle. That would mean not much space for gear.

Our luck turned though as MMM managed to secure the use of an old pickup to go up there with.
It was an old battlebus of a pickup but it just kept on truckin’.

MountainMobile.jpg


We’d be going up as a convoy now and we’d be able to take with us everything but the kitchen sink!
P1070470.jpg
 
Filled Up!



WolverineLoadedUpandReadytoRoll.jpg


The waterproof sheeting was pretty easy to secure, bungee's then rope as an added safety factor.
The last time MMM was in his Mountain Hold not that much was done, this time though hopefully they’ll be lots of projects completed.

We met up with the Oregon Kid (OK) without incident. Young, from a large city but quite keen to learn the basics of survivalism. He hadn't made many posts on the S Boards but MMM was throwing him a friendly invitation all the same
smile.gif


P1070489.jpg


 
MountainMoon.jpg


P1070483.jpg

Into the Mountains!

Getting to MMM’s Retreat was a bit tricky due to the dreadful forest fire that raged through parts of Colorado in early June. It was so bad that one of the key highways was closed and MM reckoned we’d have to detour via Cheyenne.

The day we were due to travel, the road was re-opened and the way was clear once more.
smile.gif

It was quite a sight too, once we were about a quarter of the way there we could see ash and smoke in the distance!

P1070497.jpg

 
It was my first time driving at such high-elevations and the ‘Wolverine’ struggled to climb up some of the mountain highway stretches. I feared my engine was about to fail. (I later learned this was to do with the 91 octane fuel I’d added earlier so no worries).

We pulled in at some awesome views on the Snowy Range.

P1070511.jpg


P1070512.jpg



This is one of the viewpoint positions! It look's like a pocket fort.

P1070505.jpg

 
P1070508.jpg



There was a couple in the area from Indiana who were travelling through, we chatted for a while then, like the olden times when partings must, we headed north and they headed south!

I asked MMM If his old battered machine was suffering from reduced power and he confirmed it,
When we reached the mile-stone of Encampment the power to my engine was back.

Then while making the final move to the Mountain Retreat the ascent saw my vehicle loosing power again, it coped ok with the roads though. (It coped even better when I went back to 87-88 octane)

After climbing up into the mountains once more we made a turn and rumbled on down a private dirt road. The state highway used to be like the dirt road until twenty or so years ago...


Once at the clear dividing line of Mike’s Base Spring which is the entrance I put the ‘Wolverine’ into 4x4 mode and blasted on through.

P1070519.jpg


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Arrival.

To tell of the land mike has could take a lifetime so I’ll instead talk of the areas without giving an exact layout or tactical map for obvious reasons.

Pictures are hard to show off Mikes Retreat in all it’s glory. Mike showed us around pointing out areas of interest and where might be good to set-up tents.
It was like something off an adventure book - streams of spring water ran down through it, meandering about somewhat but all crossable.
The pleasant scent of forest flowers and pine was in the air while little chipmunks sometimes came out to see what we were up to.
Vast complexes of wooden timbers mike had built single-handed reached up almost as high as the engleman spruces and fir-trees that were EVERYWHERE!
I pride myself on self-reliance, but even I’d be unable to put together the buildings Mike has thrown together over the years.

P1070521.jpg

Decentralised areas of raw building materials were hither and thither. Make no mistake if Mike had the time to do so there would be cabin’s, workshops and tunnels all over the place. As it is there are vast resources that Mike’s accumulated at very little cost over the years.
 
In detail:

The disused ‘sheds’. I call them pocket-warehouses as they stretch for many yards towards the side of the mountain.
These dominate a small portion MMM Base. Yet to see how MMM has situated it you have to be trespassing as the dense forest conceals much from the eye.
Had there not been a partial collapse of the shed-warehouse due to snowfall it would have been able to catche vast supplies.
I looked at it as a project but it would require such a concentrated effort to rebuild all other work would have to be suspended.
Indeed a previous shed area had suffered a similar, more complete collapse and it made me think of Mike battling it out by building structures against the winter elements. Two of his battles were partially lost during the pounding winter snows.
Yet his third installation, An Underground Bunker was much more successful...

P1070530.jpg

But before I can speak about that we had a lot to do. Gear had to be unloaded and some areas de-winterised for access and use!
smile.gif


This is the sight that greeted me on 'popping the trunk'. I had to get this to a suitable area of shelter deep in the Mountain Hold! My fitness was tested, but stood the challenge
smile.gif

 
Mike sorts out the 'tuff shed', I gave him a hand as the nails were deep and embedded on the ply-shield.Picture MMM's mean machine await's, but can it be awakened?

P1070527.jpg
 
Mike’s Bunker – The Overview

The crowning achievement would have to be the bunker Mike’s built.

I specifically requested MMM not show me where it was on arrival, as I wanted to see how hard it would be for an absolute stranger or group to find his strongpoint.

I’d seen the pictures and video, but they only give the slightest idea of the lay of the land. After about two minutes of scampering about I still couldn’t locate it!
With the shed and store areas to confuse and bewilder I had to ask for an indication, which Mike pointed to and I was very impressed at the camouflage effect he has achieved. It blends in very well and even the outer entrance is deceptive to the eye.

Entering it is in fairly tight confines. Any attacker would have an absolute nightmare trying to ferret out MMM from this fortification.

On arriving at the Mountain Hold Mike’s first move was to check on his bunker. Great locks and chains prevented all but the most prepared and determined intruder from breaking in in his absence.
The steel door is heavy-duty, industrial rated.

P1070534.jpg


P1070537.jpg


All sorts of gear was crammed inside. One of the most critical bit’s of kit was Mike’s Big Berkey Water Filter!
British-made no less and we’d use it for our drinking water. It was a slow way but we’d constantly top it up and have enough water for three easily at any one time.


P1070540.jpg


As an aside Mike’s water supply’s were clean, but cows would soon arrive in the coming months in areas above MMM land and their vile waste could potentially taint the water a bit.
Also the system for re-filling the 6 gallon jug was awkward and cumbersome. I made a note to improve that later!

The next part, will be about setting up my tent and about living on MMM land, plus lot's of other stuff...

The Mountain Cut!


On the second day of getting to the land I was reminded of how things can turn if you aren’t careful.
While I was working on getting some water plumbed in from the nearby spring to my tent Mike took a stumble about a hundred yards away and sliced his hand open.

It’s easy to do if you lose concentration to take a stumble.
Part of the reason was he was concerned about the Oregon Kid and trying to keep an eye on him. This is understandable as if anything happens to him Mike could take heat due to his young age.
Anyway I’m just finishing up the hose system while Mike is before me obviously embarrassed his hand is a bloody mess.
I could tell Mike didn’t want to make a big deal about it to the Oregon Kid either.
With his hand bleeding from a one inch or so cut I could see it wasn’t pumping and seemed to partly gashed in two places.
I grabbed my trusty EDC and pulled out my first aid kit. Just before I could begin Mike asked if I could film it! My camera was at my side and I obliged.

P1070549.jpg

The wound looked like a clean cut, no dirt or debris in the wound.

I made up three narrow butterfly stitches using zinc-oxide tape and the tiny scissors from my EDC, prior to putting the B. stitches on I put some antiseptic cream on the cut.
Mike hardly even flinched when I put them on!
That’s Mountain Man levels of pain threshold!
It should be noted that Butterfly stitches are not *true* sutures or stitches, but are ok for light to medium cuts. Mike’s I would reckon was at least a medium cut possibly more!
I also believe that they leave a ‘cleaner’ scar than invasive stitches…

After I’d done that I put a large band-aid over the stitches.

 
P1070550.jpg

Despite the clean cut I advised MMM that a clinic or hospital might be a good idea for antibiotics and a second-opinion as to whether needle and thread sutures would be needed.
I was 50/50 in my heart on whether wounds of beyond 1 inch long and deep looking required more than what I’d performed.
Although I’ve been patched up myself a few times and know basic first aid. I’m not a paramedic and would be ****ed off if he ended up with a septic wound etc.
MMM said he’d see how he’d get on as the days progressed and, in the spirit of the libertarian way I wasn’t going to object to the Mountain Man trusting his rugged immune system.
2 days after injury
P1070648.jpg


Mike insisted on keeping the stitches in for 4 days or so, stating that constantly changing dressings can make the wound worse. MMM mentioned the Vietnam War as a reference and I wasn’t going to argue in either case.
A part of me did fear the wound might develop an infection after being bound up for that long.
No smell of it ‘going-off’ over the following days.
Then it became time 4 days later for MMM to remove my handywork….
P1080020.jpg


Looking good.
MMM did state it felt a bit numb at first, along with it being slightly paler but that’s normal when a wound is bound up without getting full blood flow.

No infection and the cut seem’s to be mending well!
He didn’t have any pain from it and his healing rate is impressive.

So there you have it folks, MMM take’ them knocks and keep’s on truckin’
I'm a lot younger than he is and reckon I'd of ended up with AT LEAST a longer healing period. I think mountain living does make you a healthier person, all the time MMM's been up here has given his healing metabolism a boost for sure.

Here is the video of the beginning to end saga of the hand injury! It’s quite graphic but nothing rough and tumble folks would flinch at.
[video=youtube;prEoU3oe4LU]https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=prEoU3oe4LU[/video]
 
Living on the Mountain Land


Living on the Mountain Hold Mike has made his own isn’t for everyone. The elevation will kill if you are not careful. It get’s cold (as I type this entry it’s 2200 hrs and the temperature is about 40 farenheit), during the daytime, dusk and dawn. For a couple of months insects can be bothersome if you aren’t savvy.

Also you need to be able to cook, clean and be capable of using a field latrine, or even dig your own hole (away from the Mountain Hold of course).

The area that the previous ‘guest’ had lived on last year was unsuitable for me. Trash, beer cans and other rubbish was all over that area. We got that sorted later though. What we couldn’t burn we’d take back to a city and trashcan / recycle.

It took me 2 hours to choose my tent-site.
Then unloading the SUV of all my gear, food and equipment then setting up the tent had me exhausted.

P1070520.jpg


The next day I started thinking on where I wanted X, Y and Z.
I used my small tent at first as land is sloping and undulating.
In a few weeks I hope to set up the 2 Room Cabin Tent nearby. At the moment wood, materials and the like is on the area suitable for it. So that will have to be moved at some point…
Back to the first tent area.
I made my sleeping area flat with some wooden boards, then got two layers of padding down underneath the tent for insulation.
This area had numerous advantages. It was close to the side of a mountain, where I had some ideas for building projects, it was also near to Mike’s Bunker which had attachment areas for some of my kit.
Finally it also had a nice spring running next to it. I mentally made a note to run a water supply hose down to it as the spring was quite narrow and low-flowing.

P1070524.jpg


As a finishing touch I added a camo tarp as a windbreak. This had the added effect of some privacy and concealment from prying eyes driving up and down the main approach road.
 
14 June 2012​

Out House Overhaul!

Mike’s field-latrine had seen better days. Indeed it needed an overhaul.


Perhaps against my better judgement I pushed Mike into making this a priority on day 2.
We managed to incinerate the human waste after several hours but it was a tricky job and tempers flared late in the day!


 


The smell wasn’t as repulsive as I expected but the biggest issue was keeping the adjacent tree’s soaked in water. Just in case they ignited.
Mike was a stalwart, he’d done this before and managed the fire well.
We had to keep a steady stream of water going in buckets from the spring.
As the blaze raged on for a while it kept trying to creep out underneath to another storage catche of materials. The memory of the horrendous forest fire in Colorado was fresh in our minds and we didn’t want any of Wyoming’s lush forest suffering the same fate.

Nevertheless it did nearly ignite a part of a catche nearby.
The initial ‘whoomph’ of the fire roaring up in the air gave us a big shock. Only a half-dozen buckets made it think again.
The smell of some synthetic materials was atrocious and it gave me a willowy head-ache for a few hours.
Mike was certain it wouldn’t of started a forest fire due to the surroundings etc. Plus he’d done it many times before safely.

By the end of the day we’d had enough and doused the fire completely.

In the following few days we resumed the work…



 







We finished off the Outhouse with privacy trappings, replaced the twin-plywood boards and MMM widened the ‘hole’.

As a finishing touch Mike added a thick plastic sheet to act as a swinging door for more privacy.
It’s a squat-type toilet, which may take some getting used to for those who have never used one before.
It also may not be rated to 200 pound + rated beef-cakes so if you climb atop it make sure you gingerly test your weight first!!
 
[video=youtube;YMFii7QDVos]https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=YMFii7QDVos[/video]

Now it was ready we didn’t need to keep digging holes around the perimeter of MMM’s land every time nature called!
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Although not everyone decided to use to outhouse, which had unforeseen consequences later…
 
This video is quite long, it's showing Mike on a gardening spree and his method's for keeping the critters from eating the seeds
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[video=youtube;Y3Zhg5WN3To]https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=Y3Zhg5WN3To[/video]
 
A shorter one showing the near mythical big berkely filter we rely on in action.

[video=youtube;j5H1BCRRhhM]https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=j5H1BCRRhhM[/video]
 
Only two ceramic filters are in use now and Mike will have to get more if he want's it at quadruple filter capacity
smile.gif


Assembly and Cleaning of BB

[video=youtube;jP0DCre59Us]https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&amp;v=jP0DCre59Us[/video]
 

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