Mack takes a quick nap.

A friend of mine shared a video with me recently, which is funny and touching and inspiring. This guy, Isaac, had been in a terrible skydiving accident and was not expected to walk again. In the video he hikes and scrambles to the top of a volcano, despite not having quads or sensation in his left leg. One of my favorite parts of the video shows him driving a motorcycle, “A real motorcycle, not a dumbass little scooter.” To shift he has to swing his numb left foot in the general direction of the clutch. It looks crazy, but it works. He praises gasoline for being the great equalizer. We laughed and it’s true.

We spent the weekend around some gas-powered machines. It’s hunting season in the West.

Days in the mountains this time of year are cool, and the nights are cold. The aspen leaves are changing color, the fish are slow and deliberate. We packed our warmest sleeping bags, beanies and puff jackets and headed into the mountains expecting a few people, but secretly hoping for none.

We spent the middle of the day hiking to the creek and fishing our way back to the car. For several hours it felt like we had the canyon to ourselves. As we drank a beer on the tailgate a couple of trucks went by, cowboys we figured. Then we drove a few miles back to our favorite camping site. Every campsite along the way was filled with compounds of RV trailers, big-ass trucks, ATVs, the occasional horse trailer and even a cabin tent or two. Dudes in camo and blaze orange tossed footballs.

We did find a sweet campsite, tucked into a grove of fir and aspens, just over the hill from one of the trailer compounds, but out of sight. Not out of hearing, however, as one of our neighbors ran a generator all night. When he turned it off (5:30 AM?), there was about 30 seconds of silence and then all of the ATVs started up and chugged up and down the road looking for elk.

We watched several of them park, pull out lawn chairs and survey the trees with giant binoculars. A few weeks ago, in this same canyon, we watched 3 elk with our own binoculars, eating and moving in and out of the tree line. For all of the dudes, trailers, and ATVs, however, we only heard about 4 sets of gunshots (and they were loud! The crack and boom ricocheted through the valley).

We have a couple of questions. Why do they need ATVs since they don’t leave the road? Why not use the trucks? Also, am I the only one with the idea that hunting is creeping around silently in the woods? Being stealthy, like a hunter… right? These guys weighed so heavily on the land, their presence was ever-present.

RK posited the notion that most hunters these days aren’t up to the physical and mental challenge of old-school hunting, so they use gasoline to make up for it, to equalize. Maybe so. They certainly require a lot of stuff. I love gear as much as the next person, but I also like being nimble and leaving the indoors behind when I am in the outdoors.

Fall colors and a view of Mount Terrill
Fall colors and a view of Mount Terrill

If it wasn’t for generator-guy, though, the night would have been perfect. The moon was almost new and the sky was brilliant with stars. The milky way was directly overhead. It was cold enough to be able to snuggle into my sleeping bag without kicking out a leg. In the morning we drank our coffee wearing puffy jackets, while the sun lit up the slopes of Mounts Terrill and Marvine, vivid with color.

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA