“Without leaps of imagination, or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.” - Gloria Steinen
“Adventure is just bad planning.” - Roald Amundsen
“Good planning is important. I’ve also regarded a sense of humor as one of the most important things on a big expedition. When you’re in a difficult or dangerous situation, or when you’re depressed about the chances of success, someone who can make you laugh eases the tension. “ - Sir Edmund Hillary
When the vicious, ceaseless rains of January descend like mean high tide on your hopelessly stranded and badly leaking wooden boat, mired deeply on some far away sand bar…well, you need a plan.
When the inevitably leaky boots and all of my socks get soaked, all four and a half pairs of socks, I tie myself to the wood burner and stuff it with split hardwood. Not a bad way to go, but after a while I consume the indoor chores and get a little mentally stir fried. Anxiously awaiting the slick haired TV weather fortune tellers to predict the rescue of the impending return of the sun.
The trouble with wishful thinking and these slicks is that in between their extensive meteorological guesswork and the drying out of the socks and boots, I get nauseous. Big nausea, from commercials by lawyers professing the ability to wrestle settlements from evil insurance salesmen, for me, in amounts of money that would make Bernie Madoff salivate.
You get the group ‘Wet-Your-Pants and Feefe' who try to make it clear that they really do care about what’s been done and what needs to be done. There are a couple of down right goobers dressed in suits and ties who actually think that if you can stand on top of an 18 wheeler, bow legged, with crossed arms, you will hire them to get you anything you could possibly need to be made whole again.
My wife asks, “Why does the one with no hair, in the suit and tie, try to look more bow legged than the other goofy one?” I ask myself if anybody has ever really cared that they’ve seen a man on top of an 18 wheeler with anything other than a greasy hat that said Peterbuilt or Mack?
Then there’s ‘M. Jarck and M. Chark’. These two don’t seem to want to stand on top of big trailers for some reason. I guess that dynamic legal duo, sporting bow ties, must think that truck climbing may be a tad undignified. Maybe they haven’t just got around to thinking about how a good truck climb can help their wallet.
Who knows what really goes on in the minds of people that have passed an exam at some bar. They say they’re certified. Lots of folks at bars are certified. A great many, are completely certifiable.
I became so despondent by all of this sort of TV, and the rain and the mud, that the other night I stuffed the handiest double barrel with #6s. I was intent on an assault of the old Zenith. It took my bride a full Yeti thermos of aiming fluid and about 45 good minutes of psychiatric soothing to persuade me to come down off of that ledge.
When you find yourself in this ‘January-state-of-mind’ you need a plan. I start planning spring thaw camping trips. I like to think of them as expeditions rather than something as trivial as just a ‘trip’. Expeditions invoke escape from the known. A mere trip can entail something as mundane as a short trip to the nearest aiming fluid dealer.
Decent and lengthy expeditions, one worthy of the name, take careful, thoughtful and thorough planning. Most important in the planning of any serious expedition, and there are far too many facets of good expedition planning to elucidate at this time, is the planning of the groceries.
If you don’t think good groceries are of paramount consideration on an extended expedition, just ask the Nazi’s when they out ran their supply line in the dead of the Russian winter. Ask the Donner party! Ask any starving expedition survivor who ever looked at another frozen and deceased expedition member and, wondered quietly to himself, if that liver might have gone bad yet.
No! Planning the groceries well is a surefire way to avoid the inhumane insanity that sneaks up on the most horrifying portion of your psyche. Good grocery planning definitely prevents your worst being from cascading you into something resembling some starved, dark, depraved carnivore.
Bad expedition groceries can take you close to the most horrific abyss.
We were spending our thirteen days and nights above 10,000 feet. The tree line and water was somewhere off in the steep distance below us. It was a long, lower back cracking horse ride, followed by a torturous uphill hike to where we were scratched out a spot to sleep in the shale. All of this high altitude, air sucking exertion necessitated light weight groceries contained in tiny aluminum foil, vacuum sealed bags.
You boiled water and poured it in the bag, scalding your cold hands. You waited many agonizing minutes for the nasty, stale dehydrated contents of the little bags to turn into some kind of hot, slimy mush. Then, you struggled to guess what it was that this slimy bag of noodle filled gunk was supposed to represent. Every meal was as depressing as the last.
By the third bag, I decided that I might not make it. Go ahead boys cook up my liver when I kick it! I began to whine out loud about hamburgers.
The host liked to say, after every bag of this dehydrated warm bag of goop, “If you don’t like this stuff boys, you ain’t really hungry.” He didn’t seem to appreciate any expedition member that whined out loud. Pass the Texas Pete!
Breakfast was almost as unbearable. TANG should have been left in space. TANG should have never been unleashed on earthly beings. I’ll have to admit, in a fit of transparency, it did offer some respite from straight Vodka, but it’s still disgusting.
Instant coffee is really not coffee at all. Every bonafide coffee lover knows this to be as true as the fact as chickens do indeed have lips, snakes do roll in hoops and chase young boys in Georgia, and Sasquatch is among us.
I have it on very good authority that the inventors of instant coffee were a bunch of fire ant researchers who lost their government research grants. These rouge scientists were caught red handed by the faculty at LSU after they discovered the ant researchers were freeze drying fire ant mounds. This team of rouge researchers were discovered to be making millions peddling fire ant dirt diggings as freeze dried coffee to the bunch of morons at NASA who thought TANG in space was a great idea.
If it hadn’t have been for a few slow, white, snowshoe rabbits and some of the most stupid grouse ever known to man, I would have surely perished on that particular expedition. I swore off of dehydrated groceries after that expedition about as fast as most fighters of the NVA, the Republican Guard and the Taliban, swore off of MREs.
So let’s get to the good expeditionary groceries;
BREAKFAST - Real coffee. Milk, sugar, honey and brandy. Doctored to each individual’s taste.
Eggs, cooked any style, with ramps when you can find them. (you don’t necessarily have to cook your eggs if you have plenty of brandy in your coffee).
Grits (with butter. No sugar).
Pork (any cut you have handy but sausage and bacon are staples of any decent expeditionary start), beef (preferably fried or grilled, with brown gravy and onions), spam (fried).
Cathead biscuits and potatoes (golden brown, smothered in sawmill gravy, butter and honey).
Garden ripe tomatoes. More grits.
After breakfast you’ll need a Swisher Sweet with your brandy and coffee.
A brief note about any decent breakfast; If you’re one of those hard charger types who wants to get at the day before sunup and you don’t want to get up at four in the morning and start cooking, a good breakfast can wait to be consumed at the lunch hour. Eat your lunch for breakfast and eat your breakfast at the lunch hour. (Expeditionary rules clearly allow this sort of lack of patience and wanton gluttony.)
LUNCH: There are a couple of kinds of lunches on most expeditions.
First lunch type — there’s the mobile, carry your large lunch in your game bag, tackle box, or any other suitable, non-crushable container for a mobile lunch. (read; 48 to 60 gallon Igloo)
Second lunch type — there’s the canned, jam it in any available pocket and hope you don’t sit on it and squash it flat in a plastic bag kind of lunch. Often this is one of the toughest decisions one has to make early in the morning, after excessive amounts of brandy in your coffee.
Sandwiches. Stay away from p-nut butter and mayonnaise and bananas. When you sit on one of these bad boys you’ll think your birddog has puked in your baggies and it will surely ruin your appetite. Apples, oranges, tangerines, prunes, raisins and candy bars are good. If you’re rich, you can substitute power bars and ‘protein’ bars, and other advertised HIGH ENERGY HIGH DOLLAR supplements. Remember, the lawyers aren’t the only ones that tell lies in order to empty bank accounts.
Beware candy bars in tropical environments. Once overheated, a hot melted candy bar, especially the beloved Baby Ruth, resembles your Beagle dog’s other business end and, that too, will negatively affect most appetites. Although, I have witnessed deranged hunger being overcome by an expedition member with his face in what appeared to be a big plastic bag of wrapped dog dodo. Hard candy is better, but not nearly as tasty. Hard boiled eggs are not really all that hard especially when you plop your self down to eat lunch and pull one out of your chest pocket in 50,000 pieces. Be careful with Little Debbies too. The cellophane Little Debbie uses is cheap, non-expeditionary grade junk.
It’s hard to beat canned little Vienna sausages, beans-weenies and pork-an-beans. But, be careful to remember the p38. Many an expeditionary member has limped back to camp missing a finger from hungrily trying to pry open one of these little ‘easy opening’ cans of pork-an-beans with a cheap knife. Johnny Numb Thumb is a nickname that sticks for life.
Don’t forget some kind of refreshing liquid to get the jelly like slime off of your hands.That juicy looking slime substance that little sausage manufacturers seem to believe cushions the little limp sausages. This vile looking, sticky stuff bears a very strong resemblance to goat and mule spit. This gunk smells like something that grows rapidly between Sumo wrestler’s toes. On one memorable expedition, I actually witnessed a deranged and sad member slurp this vile jelly from the can. That terrible incident took place shortly after he had cut off a good portion of his left index finger trying to get the last of the juice from the badly dented can. That sad scene was after he wrapped the bloody stub and the loose piece of finger in a piece of his filthy T-shirt. We tried to sew it back on with dental floss but it kept falling off. I think he threw the extra piece in the stew pot that night, but we never got a confession out of the poor soul. We dumped the stew in the fire just to be safe.YUK!
While not one of the major food groups, always remember a piece of a roll of some flimsy paper product for the purpose of wiping stuff off where it doesn’t belong. If you forget this necessary little luncheon commodity, you may have to slice up a perfectly good undershirt.
THE EXPEDITIONARY EVENING MEAL;
The creme-de La-creme of any expedition! Where to start?
Chili, beef stew (minus any severed fingers), hot dogs, anything that comes housed in sheep intestines and can be grilled, liver and onions, gravy, pork or beef, fried or grilled anything that walked, flew, climbed, ran, hopped or swam surrounding the day’s previous two meals.The best squirrel ever cooked should be on every menu as an appetizer. More potatoes, with slabs of butter, salt and pepper. (don’t fool with all that other unneeded crap restaurants slather on potatoes. It’s an expedition after all).
More beans, white or pinto, or mixed, will suffice. Corn, okra, green beans and tomatoes any way you like.
More ramps and onions, maybe a salad if you think that’s necessary.
Hot sauce and ketchup.
Cornbread or biscuits cooked in a cast iron skillet, or a dutch oven with a good layer of lard.
Dessert cooked in a dutch oven. (preferably overly sweet and hot).
More coffee and cigars by the fire.
As you have probably figured out by now, if you don’t happen to have a good friend who knows a nearby Sherpa with twenty-two Yaks to pack the expedition into the unknown of spring, your’e going to need at least, a four wheel drive and a trailer to get good groceries where your’e going. If you actually have to use a trailer to haul all this stuff into the wilderness, just be extra careful.
There are these guys out there, wearing cheap dark suits and ties, and they seem to have a tendency to want to jump up on trailers and stand bow legged on your expedition’s groceries. Maybe it’s best that you leave in the dark of night when they are sleeping or they are slobbering in some bar somewhere. Maybe while it’s still raining. Planning is so important in January.
WOMR Note: Readers recalled fond memories of football, Beagles and fox hounds. David writes, “This one took me back. We had about five Beagles, but really only needed “Little Joe”. “Rusty” was special too. He was so old that he was good for one rabbit, then my brother Mark would carry him the rest of the day in his game pouch on his back. He just couldn’t stand to leave Rusty behind.”
Terry writes, "I had a chinstrap, but only a single bar for the face mask and I hated mouth pieces as I was the quarterback. Hated them until my coach at Lafayette High made the mouth piece mandatory after I almost had my tongue chewed off and my O line couldn’t understand the snap count. It was a long time ago."
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