Exploring South of Netalzul

November 18, 2020

Once upon a time, when I was working as a prospector, I arrived by helicopter at a camp northwest of Lake Babine, 80 kilometers or more from any highway. Just two of us were there.

It was an almost completely forested area, flat, with mountains nearby; it was south of the Netalzul Mountains. We only had an old map of the area from a few years before that featured the drainage patterns – rivers, streams and lakes, nothing more. If we had had a better map, perhaps we would not have had problems.

I arrived mid-morning to a waiting assistant.  After lunch we went to explore. A few hours later, we didn’t know where we were on the old map. The streams had changed their courses and the map was useless. We were lost, with no food.  We had just one pack of licorice Nibs, and a half dozen matches carefully dipped in wax and kept in a medicine vial to protect against the wet.

Twilight arrived in the dense forest where bears, wolverines, pumas and wolves were common.  Not knowing where to go, we prepared a bed under the limbs of an evergreen using branches from a cedar (for its smell). We hoped that the tree would be our roof against the rain.

The next day, we climbed a ridge to see if we could see our camp, with no luck.  So, we prepared another lean to camp on top of the ridge and built a fire. We looked for something to eat, more than bits of licorice, without luck either. We only found juniper berries and they tasted horrible. Until this day, I don’t like gin.  We ate the little pieces of licorice, one each for breakfast, two for lunch, two for dinner.

The third day, as the licorice ran low, I got to thinking if we took a compass line in the direction we thought our tents were, maybe we would be safe. Without a map to guide you, sometimes you have to improvise and create your own path to your goal. Life’s like that.

We started walking on the compass line I had chosen. We came down from our cliff and followed the compass line. It was very difficult to follow the line because of the streams, downed trees, swampy thick patches of devils club (a tall very thorny plant) and a forest so dense that we couldn’t see a point in the distance that we would need to hold the line.

After more than a few hours of fighting through the forest, as dusk was forming, we were at the point of abandoning the line and walking to Lake Babine 20 kilometers away realizing it might take a day or two to do so.  Then we heard the sound of a helicopter.

In the forest, the sound bounces everywhere and because of that, we did not know the direction of the sound. Ah – we thought – Maybe they came to look for us after three days of not checking in on our regular radio schedule.

Hoping to see a helicopter searching for us or landing at our encampment, my assistant climbed a large tree up about twenty meters.

For the first time, luck. Amazingly, our tents were only a couple hundred meters or so behind us on the left side of our line. We had passed the tents without seeing them through the forest. If he hadn’t climbed the tree, we couldn’t have seen them. We thanked the sound that stopped us and caused us to climb the tree.

When we finally reached the camp, we radioed our base. “We no longer need a helicopter; we are back in camp.”

The base replied “We didn’t know you had any problems … What happened to you …?” They did not notice our disappearance and they had never sent the helicopter. And there was no one or any helicopters in the entire area.

So, was the helicopter, or the sound of one, an illusion or a hallucination?

We sat in the twilight, again, this time eating a dinner of canned beans and thinking about our own twilight zone.

I guess, you have to be ready for suggestions that help you reach your goals. Although sometimes those suggestions may come from unknown, even unexpected places.

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