June 22, 2018

The first rays of light peek over the hills and kiss my face with a wholesome warmth. I feel more alive right now than I have in years, and glad to even be drawing breath. My pack is full but I have resolved myself to carrying what is left of this corpse.


I set about making a sled to drag it, lashing five branches across to make the base. A thin layer of snow goes down which the cuts of meat worth saving I wedge into place. Then comes a slightly more generous layer of snow, which I then cover with the pelt laid inside out to help it cure in the light. Tying the front of my sled to the bottom of my pack, I am ready to break camp.


Dragging around a sled is not exactly fun, it makes the hills that much steeper, somehow in both directions. It is fine though; a little extra work is not enough to sour my mood. By mid-day I have discarded two layers of clothing. In that time I have travelled maybe 25 kilometers, and only two thirds of that if we are talking about as the crow flies. Still it is good progress and I am that much closer to my destination. Not wanting to overexert myself I stop for a short break.


Reaching the top of the hill I find a nice sized log and have a seat. It feels good to rest my feet and while seated I rummage through the sled and pull out some flank meat that was buried in the snow. I don’t have time to build a fire but that doesn’t mean I have to eat like an animal. Compressing the thin piece of meat between my arms I raise it to my head. Without word or ritual, just will, I cook the meat. Its takes all of five minutes and then I happily dig in.


Sitting on the log and picking at my lunch my mind wanders. Like a child exploring a nearby woods, lost but unconcerned with both time and place. Guided by both intuition and happenstance. As I take my last bite my mind returns as if it had never gone at all. Readying myself to continue I see it. At first what I am seeing does not register as anything more than confusion. Then all once it is there, a wolf, not thirty meters along the trail just waiting. Its blank expression making it seem all the more sinister. There can be no mistaking it, the beast is looking straight at me.


What to do? It does not seem like I am in immediate danger. Even if I traveled straight through I would not reach the lodge until some time tomorrow and the wolves would have any number of chances at me on the way, but if I make camp here I might not be able to reach the lodge by nightfall tomorrow. I will keep going for one more turn and then build camp for the night. Breaking a branch off the log I venture forward. Luckily the wolf breaks off as I approach.


If it was not for last night such a creature would seem graceful. Its large paws keep it on top of the snow maintaining its speed and agility. Two things I lack with my many encumbrances. To hopefully keeps the wolves away and keep me calm I sing a song as I walk. “Toulane, Toulane, come back to me Toulane. Last I saw ye, you were just a lass and I your bonny man. Toulane, Toulane, where have you gone Toulane? Over the hills or across the ocean I would have followed your plan. Toulane, Toulane, my poor sweet Toulane. If I never see you again I will remember you while I can.”


The singing does seem to help and I have yet to see any more wolves. As planned I keep going for another turn until I come to a low hilltop, rather squat on top but falling off steeply on one side. Here I will prepare for them. Here they will not reach me. First order of business is to drop my pack and set about gathering as much firewood as I can get my hands on. All sizes: small twigs up to branches as thick as my thigh, sorted into piles. Once I have enough small stuff to start three fires I focus exclusively on gathering a stockpile of bigger branches to keep these fires going.


After a full turn of gathering wood and I have a lot to work with. The first fire will going along the steep edge of the hill. I brush the snow away down to bare dirt and start stacking.  A base of twigs leaned against one another to maintain optimal ventilation. I repeat this process two more times forming an equilateral triangle of four meters per side. As dusk approaches I light my fires and say a quick prayer.

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