Exploring South of Netalzul

By | January 14, 2021

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 many mountains nearby; it was just south of the Netalzul Mountains. I only had an old drainage map of the area, from a few years before. That map featured the rivers, streams and lakes, nothing more. If I had had a better map, perhaps I would have had no problems.

After arriving and having lunch we went to explore, my helper and I, and after a few hours 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. Twilight arrived in the dense forest where bears, wolverines, pumas and wolves lived.

Not knowing where to go, we prepared a bed under the limbs of an evergreen using branches of a cedar (for its smell). We hoped that the tree would be our roof against the rain.

The next day, we climbed a ridge towards Netalzul to see if we could see our camp. But no luck.  So, we prepared another lean to camp on top of that ridge and built a fire so we would be easy to find and gathered evergreen branches that would create smoke.

We looked for something to eat, more than bits of licorice, without luck either. We only found juniper berries and they tasted horrible. Unto this day, I don’t like gin. We portioned the Nibs, 2 each for breakfast, 1 for lunch, three 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.

We started walking on the 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 patches of devils club and a forest so dense that we couldn’t see any point in the distance that we would need to hold the line.

After more than a few hours of fighting through the forest, dusk was forming. We were at the point of abandoning the line and walking back east to Lake Babine 20 kilometers away.  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 from our camp radio.

Hoping to see a helicopter searching for us or landing at our encampment, my assistant climbed a large tree up about twenty meters (60 feet – the trees were big).

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 would never have seen them. Thanks to the sound that stopped us and caused us to climb the tree.

When we finally reached the camp, we radioed our base in town. “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 a helicopter. And there was no one or any other helicopters in the area.

So, was the helicopter, or the sound, an illusion or hallucination?

We sat in the twilight, again, this time eating dinner and thinking.  I guess, you have to be ready for suggestions that help you reach your goals. Although sometimes those suggestions may come from unknown and unexpected places.

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