Baker Pond Survival
By Charlie Reitze
Some time ago I spoke of creating a series on survival from my Baker Pond trips. Well, here 'tis, the first of a three-part series, more or less, probably more. The problem is most of the time I ain't got a clue; everyone thinks I'm crazy - even Paul, Twiggie, and good ole Vic. But I ain't. I've never met anybody I like better than myself. If I did I'd be the first one to tell you. All my life people would call or stop by and ask, "Where's Charlie?" Always the answer was the same: "Where do you think he is? Off in the woods again!" So here we go! I hope you enjoy reading about these adventures as much as I did making them, and remember, there's never any bloviating from me - especially windily.
One of the things I've learned over the years is to make do with what I have on hand. I don't sweat the small stuff, don't fret, and don't get all worked up into a lather just because I don't have rain gear, a tent, a good pair of boots, a water purifier, or anything else except a little bit of food in my backpack. I've developed an "I don't care" attitude; it will all come out in the end, and hopefully you will too.
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The first time I ever went to Baker Pond was back somewhere around 1973. The only directions I had were from my brother-in-law. He emphasized that it was about a ten-mile hike. Well, that didn't bother me a bit. I'd been wandering the hills since I was knee-high to a frog. I was after some trout, and I knew there were some good old-timers in Baker.
I struck out with a small blow-up rubber tub, a three-foot paddle, and a little bitty backpack with food enough for about seven days - that's if you eat a lot, which I did. I didn't take anything to cook with - no utensils, no stove, no sleeping bag, nothing but me, a swim suit, my fishing pole, a sheetrock utility knife, a lighter and some matches. Oops, I forgot! I always take duct tape, and on this trip, my maiden voyage, it was a good thing I did. The only thing I had in my favor was the duct tape. I had dressed warm; I had a hooded poncho and my (I-didn't-know-were-rotten sneakers.) So as you will see, even my fishing trips usually turn into survival trips. But I do have fun, even though when I go with my kids now, they won't let me do the packing. I guess there ain't too many of us old-timers left who still have the bark on.
Back in those years the old road was washed out in many places. In several places the rain had washed out a six-foot deep channel right down the middle of the road. You also had to walk through a beaver bog that was about two feet deep and fifty yards long. I never will understand how the beavers had the audacity to build a dam right in the middle of the bloody road. The dubs.
I hiked over some fairly good-sized rocks in the middle of the washed-out road. When I came to the beaver bog, (The inset is my old VW dune buggy I bought and started using a few years later) I took my trousers off and walked through in my sneakers. Mind you, it was early spring, and the water was plumb cold. Not to mention it was overcast and the air was crisp. I didn't know if it was going to rain, snow, or both. It did both.
It took me seven hours to get to an ancient campsite about fifty yards from the stream that flowed into Baker. It had been a hard hike. Did I mind? No. Why? Because even though I didn't have any gear, I knew how to take care of myself. I rounded up some twigs, some birch bark, started a fire, set an open can of Franco American spaghetti on a rock in the middle of the fire, and in about five minutes I had a meal. For dessert, I had some sugarcoated donuts. I had about enough water for about two meals. After eating I brushed my teeth with a cattail. Then I gathered more dry twigs, birch bark, and some old pinecones. If it rained or snowed the next morning, I would have dry wood without having to fetch it.
By the time I had eaten, it was dark. So, I used the old picnic table for a bed, the rubber raft for a pillow, and the poncho to cover me so I could keep dry. I put everything else under the picnic table and went to sleep. It rained a fair amount during the night, but I kept dry under my poncho. I woke up to the coyotes howling about twenty yards from me, and the sun poking through the clouds. Yes, it was going to be a good day!
To Be Continued . . .
Charlie Reitze is a published author and outdoor writer. He also is a graduate of Tom Brown's Wilderness Survival School.
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