I am on vacation this week. This Thursday is Christmas, according to most people I've spoken to recently. Especially those folks at the mall who are always trying to sell stuff to me. This year, Spring and I have cut down on shopping. We're a bit preoccupied with the the impending arrival of a little boy. The nice doctor says that our little boy should pop out in about a month.
This morning I decided to get a little exercise and hike down into the valley. It was cold. It was cold and windy and really cold.
So I bundled up and wore thick gloves and a bunch of other clothes. I threw a napsack on my back. I trudged across the park through the thick snow, down the hill into the valley and over and under and around trees and undergrowth until I reached a little section of forest.
I unpacked my napsack onto a wool blanket I had doubled over and laid out onto a small area of snow I had compacted with my boots.
My napsack contained my Gransfors-Bruks Small Forest Axe, a kettle, an IKEA stainless steel cutlery drainer (yes, really - you'll see), a 1 litre Nalgene bottle full of warm water, 10 feet of rope, my fire kit (a piece of quartz, my Hudson Bay Fire Steel, a piece of fatwood, charcloth and jute string). For some strange reason I forgot my Mora knife (which has never happened before, I swear). Good thing I'd sharpened my axe recently.
I also carried an MRE ration pack, a wool blanket and a fork/spoon thingy.
I could hear the chattering of squirrels and the occasional squawk from a crow high up in the trees. There were deer tracks and squirrel tracks and rabbit tracks around.
The deer tracks looked very fresh, I wondered if I had scared them off on my way through the pathways.
I put some birchbark and the piece of fatwood which I had shaved up using my sharp axe and some matchstick thin pine kindling into the IKEA cutlery drainer, which I laid onto the lid of the kettle. It would make for a nice hobo stove. Using the piece of quartz, a sliver of charcloth, and my steel striker I struck a few sparks until the charcloth took an ember. I wrapped the ember in some unraveled jute twine and got a flame going in no time.
I dropped the flame into the hobo stove and got the twigs burning. They flared up and I got the water boiling very quickly. Next step to get the stove up and running properly, I need to cut a large opening with a Dremel Tool (Santa, are you listening?) so that I can feed the flame easily without removing the kettle or the pot from the top. Also, I need to make a proper stand, using nuts and bolts and some steel legs.
Now that I had the water ready, I added some apple cider mix and sat back and relaxed with a hot drink. It warmed my hands - I had removed my mitts to get everything ready, and the cold, damp and freezing wind was turning my fingers into little painful ice cubes.
Next I opened up the thick plastic bag contained the Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) ration pack. It contained a foil pack of Chicken Breast Strips with Chunky Style Salsa (whatever that means), some bread, Cherry Jubilee, an Oatmeal cookie, some Grape Jelly, coffee/sugar/sweetener, an electrolyte powdered drink mix, salt, pepper, a heavy-duty plastic spoon, a wet wipe (to clean up) and a serviette.
I had also brought an MRE heater pack.
You just add a couple of tablespoons of water, and put the meal bag into the sack - and pop these two items into the box that the meal comes in, and wait for 15 minutes for it all to heat up. The end of the instructions reads 'Careful - contents will be hot!' So I set it up, leaned it up against a tree as instructed and waited.
I made coffee. It was weak because I added too much water. Apparently this brand of coffee is the 'Deep Rich' brand. Next time I'll bring my own. Taste rating: 2 out of 5. The sugar helped.
I waited and waited and soon my hiking hunger took over and I opened the package containing the whole wheat bread. Despite it having sat quietly in the package for several years (along with everything else), I covered it in Grape Jelly and munched it on down. The bread was actually pretty good - it tasted cakey/cakish/cakesque and was moist and crumbly and filling. Taste rating: 4 out of 5.
After 15 minutes I removed the foil entree from the box and the bag. It was cool. Cooler than room temperature, but not frozen. The heater obviously had been defective. Cold chunky chicken salsa stew tastes pretty bad. But I choked it on down, adding the pepper and salt to season it. I had used my water for the drink and to activate the heater, and didn't have the wherewithall to boil the bag using melted snow. Taste rating: 1 out of 5.
I finished with a crumbly, sugary sweet cookie. Blech. Taste rating: 2 out of 5.
The cherry jubilee was actually really good. I wasn't sure if I was to eat it hot or cold, so I ate it cold and thoroughly enjoyed it. Taste rating: 5 out of 5.
I packed the unfinished hobo stove and fire kit into the kettle.
I closed the lid, and put it back into my napsack. I packed the garbage into the MRE plastic sac, and into my napsack. I rolled up the blanket and stuffed it away.
Then I got another fire going with the remnants of the embers from the hobo stove, by using some fluffy weed heads from the field behind the woods. I sat back and warmed myself up to the crackling of the fire. Then I made my way back past the river, through the thick snow in the woods and out of the valley again. Three hours later I got back home. It was a great morning.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone!
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