“THERE”, I shouted and dad slowly brought our white Dodge pickup to a stop. I pointed vigorously in the direction of a hay stack on the far side of the field. We all slowly crawled out of the opposite side of the truck as dad steadied.
BLAM BLAM BLAM … dad usually hit the deer by the third shot. Dad was so cool and he was the best hunter I knew. I felt a sense of pride because my true worth in this hunting party was essential. I located deer minutes before anyone else could. My job was the spotter. No one could locate deer as fast as I could. I could almost smell deer before we rounded bends in the road and my long distance vision was top notch.
I really never hunted down and killed anything large enough to put in a freezer but I grew up in a community of hunters. We had to hunt. Hunting was a necessity and if you didn’t contribute to putting meat in the “ice box” as dad used to call it, then you really didn’t have any worth. The true hunters were heroes. I contributed when I could carrying heart, liver, and if I was lucky help drag the carcass. But my true place was as a spotter and everyone looked to me to find the deer. I was even asked to go along in the upper level hunting parties. Hunting trips with the “boys”, the men. It was the super bowl of hunting for me.
About 35 years later … “THERE”, I shouted and Dave looked back at me to see what I was pointing at. “Down there”.
“Yea, way to go Bill, you have an eagle eye”, Dave yelled back as we hustled towards a check point I. I felt a big rush of accomplishment and approval. I was flashing back to 35 years ago and this was one of the few times my dad showed appreciation. Oh how I yearned to get that feeling again. Too bad dad and I were not closer. As we walked down to the orange check point I told Dave the story of how I was regarded as the “deer spotter”. At least now I was making a contribution to our race.
Our first check point of the 2011 Grizzly Man Adventure Race was not easy. We arrived in a region that was much larger then it seemed on a map but we soon adjusted and was knocking off check points. Sometimes with relative ease and at other times with pure luck. One check point was deep in a wooded thicket in deep snow. That one was hard to spot. But now we were nearing the end of our first sweep grabbing as many points as we could on the farthest point of the course.
Since this morning I was finally contributing. I was able to be a sort of the route sheriff. Walking behind Dave I was constantly checking and re checking our heading and altitude. This initial push would later be a critical part of our success. Another critical part of our success was at check point “G”.
“It is right at this elevation and it should be right here”, I shouted with anger in my voice wavering just a tad because of being out of breath. I had ran all over this square acre. Dave was 200 feet below me and finally he just stopped.
“Dude, it’s time to move on.”
“But its here some where … I mean …”
“This is just a waste of F$%&ing time. Dude let’s go. Come on!!!”
I reluctantly followed him to the next check point. I was pissed. Our perfect loop was marred. I kept telling him how disappointed I was we couldn’t find that damn check point. I felt like a failure. But Dave just calmly continued as if it were no big deal. How could he know that in the end a mere 10 minutes would separate us from one place on the podium.
We had plenty of time to make it to the 2 PM cut off at River Put In. By noon we were back on our bikes heading back to River Camp. I was about to re hash something about checkpoint “G” when Dave yelled “FLAT” from behind. Soon enough he was on the side of the trail which was looking totally like a cycling yard sale. He had the tire levers out and struggling with a tire repair. I began to realize that we would be cutting things close to making the cut off. Good thing Dave forced me to abandon that checkpoint.
Dave finally got the bike fixed and we made it back to the transition area. We refueled, dropped off the bikes, and began a trail run to the Kayaks. On our way we needed to capture two checkpoints along the way. If we didn’t do it by 2 PM we had to skip the white water section and be penalized 11 points. We really needed those points.
We only had a half hour to go when we stopped on a ridge. Looking around I couldn’t spot the checkpoint we needed to get. We had been searching frantically along with about 4 other adventure racers but this one was really hidden. Now when we needed the “deer spotter” the most our time was running out. Could we make it or would we just chalk this race up to a good time and talk about how we missed the kayak part.
Another team spotted the check point and we got in line to punch our passports. I lowered my head. No approval from dad on this kill. I sure hope we can make the time cut off. And if we did … I had my fear of water to overcome next.
To be continued …