Four years ago I suffered an injury to my lower back. The diagnosis was: Ruptured Disk with Free Fragments. The Neurosurgeon suggested that my back packing days were over. I have been very fortunate to avoid surgery, and even luckier that I have been able to stay very active in the outdoors.
Sweat dripped from my brow, stinging my eyes, as I followed my guide, Randy Johnson, upward through a series of steep sandstone ledges. For the past six days the oppressive desert heat and rugged terrain had kicked our butts and taken a toll on leg muscles that strained to push us onward. I have been on some tough hunts in my life but this one was shaping up to be one of the roughest I have ever encountered. Stopping briefly for a quick breather, Randy whispered to stay quiet and nodded that the area we were approaching was a prime location for sheep to bed down in, protected from the blistering heat of the blazing afternoon sun.
I have to admit, I really don’t enjoy pumping water in the backcountry. You wouldn’t know it by the amount of different water filters I own; in fact you would probably think the opposite after seeing my inventory. I actually don’t know when I began to feel this way. It just seems anymore, the thought of sitting next to a water source and physically pumping water into all my containers is a chore I despise. So much so, I began to skimp on my water intake just so I didn’t have to pump more water. For those of you that backpack, not drinking enough filtered water is never a good thing in the wilderness and drinking untreated water was not an option. I tried purifying pills and drops but I could not get used to the after taste. Since I couldn’t find a volunteer to trek up the mountain with me and be my full time “water boy” while I was out hunting, I knew I needed to figure out an easier way to keep an ample supply water in my camp without having the fear of running out.
The recoil from my 7mm sent a jolt through my body and my head bounced up just in time to see the flames fly from my barrel. Despite being precariously positioned high on a cliff-face, I frantically worked the action of my gun, loading another round into the chamber. In the dimming evening light, I squinted through my rifle scope and continued searching through the boulders that scattered the river-bottom below me, hoping to see the huge black bear once again. As the shadows faded into the blackness, I could only hope that my first shot had hit home.