The Adventures of John McCloud


The Adventures of John McCloud by Energyzippo, Messiah, Triumph, Breezy & Jerry D Young.

All mistakes by Jerry D Young alone.

The Adventures of John McCloud – Chapter 1

John McCloud was not a happy camper. Actually, he hadn’t been camping in over fifteen years. The last time had been with his Uncle Rick ‘Pale Moon’ McCloud when John was twelve. Many things had happened to John since that short trip to learn outdoor skills.

His parents had been killed in a plane crash. Instead of going to live with his Uncle Rick, he’d been placed in a foster care home. Rick was a Marine, on active duty, and moved around too much for John to live with him.

The Strantons had been a nice enough family, although very liberal in their thinking. John didn’t have many opportunities to enjoy the outdoors while he lived with them. Which was until his eighteenth birthday. He left then, off to college, on a sports scholarship. For baseball. There his dark good looks, due in part to his one eight American Indian heritage, attracted the attention of the ladies. Quite a few gave up on him when he trashed his knee sliding in to home plate in a game in his sophomore year.

One didn’t give up. Rebecca Henderson had her eye set on John and pursued him during the low times when he found out he’d never play college or professional sports. Rebecca was there every time he turned around, it seemed, and he wound up falling madly in love with her. They were married three days after they graduated.

Three months later Rebecca was pregnant with their first child. Three months into the pregnancy she was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. Another month and she and the unborn child were dead. His Uncle Rick got leave to come home for the funeral. John took the deaths hard. Rick did his best to bring his nephew out of the doldrums, but wasn’t sure he’d had much success when he had to return to Iraq.

John found a job in his minor, going into teaching at the Junior High School level. He seemed to be all right, but the few that knew him very well at all could tell he still mourned his parents passing, and most especially, Rebecca and his unborn child.

One of those that did manage to get to know him was a fellow teacher at the Junior High School. Samantha Gudengast taught English to John’s history. They began to date and to others, John seemed to be coming out of his despondency. Samantha knew better. She went with him every few months to visit Rebecca’s grave and put flowers down. He wasn’t over his former love.

John didn’t really push for intimacy, but Samantha did, slightly. They got to the point where they would sleep together, without sex, for comfort. Samantha didn’t want to just be there to support him. She wanted something more. But not the way John was now. She wouldn’t allow sex, when John finally asked. The intimacy they shared of sleeping together in one another’s arms was all they could have until John had some sort of closure with his past.

Samantha tried all she knew, and sought out professional help, to no avail. When Uncle Rick was killed defending a convoy of Iraqi refugees from insurgents, it got worse. John was despondent. Samantha worried about him, but he seemed to finally come out of the worst of it.

It was three months after Uncle Rick’s death that his personal belongings were shipped to John as Rick’s next of kin. Samantha thought she’d lost him for a while. Then John suddenly seemed to cheer up. Samantha’s hope grew.

The Adventures of John McCloud – Chapter 2

“How are you feeling, John,” Samantha asked as they enjoyed a quiet dinner together at Samantha’s apartment.

“Pretty good,” he replied. “This is a great meal. I’ve never really appreciated how good a cook you are.”

“Why, thank you, John. That was a sweet thing to say.” Samantha wondered if tonight might be the night.

“Oh, by the way,” John started.

For no reason she could think of, Samantha’s heart fell.

“I’m planning a hunting trip this fall. I’ll have to take a week off from school. Who do you think I should suggest they get to temp for me?”

“Hunting trip? You’re not a hunter.”

“Uncle Rick and I always talked about going. And Rebecca loved the outdoors. She probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the hunt, but she would have enjoyed being out there camping with me while I hunted.”

“I see,” Samantha said softly. She had to be careful. It would be easy to turn John away, the way he was acting.

“I’m not much of an outdoor person, but I’ll see about getting time off to go with you.”

“Oh. No. I wasn’t suggesting that. Just thinking out loud. This is something I want to do alone. Do you have any recommendations for some one to sub for me?”

“I’ll have to think on it, John. I’m sure one of our regular temp teachers could do it. You have excellent lesson plan outlines. Are you sure you want to go alone? Isn’t that dangerous?”

“My uncle trained me well. I’ll be fine. It’s just something I want to do. I’ve been trying to get a ram sheep permit, and I did this year. Uncle Rick always wanted to go after a ram. He never got the chance. I’m going to do it for him.”

“Sheep? They live so high in the mountains. Again, isn’t that a bit risky?”

“Not if you know what you’re doing. Uncle Rick would have been a good teacher. I learned a lot from him on our adventures.”

Samantha was sure she’d heard John say he and Rick had only had a couple of times to go camping when John’s parents were still alive. But she also knew now was not the time to press the matter.

Press the matter she did, however, over the next few weeks. To no avail. John was going on this trip. At least he was taking good equipment. She had insisted, though he already seemed to have that in mind. Samantha even went shopping with him a couple of times as he gathered the gear.

First it was the bike. He was going to the high country and didn’t want to mess with horses. He didn’t really know horses well and decided on mechanical transport from the trail head. With Uncle Rick’s insurance money, John bought a ROKON two-wheel drive motor bike. It would easily carry the gear he anticipated on having, and with one two-and-a-half gallon container, plus the liquid tight wheels of the bike full of gas, he’d have more than enough to do what he wanted. Uncle Rick had talked about getting one when he retired.

Since it was going to be cold at the altitudes where he was going to be, he wanted a good four-season tent. With the gear he’d have, a two or three person tent also made sense. After researching on the internet, he decided on the Mountain Hardwear Tranga 3.1. It would do nicely.

Even though he’d be on the bike until he made camp, which would be his base for daily on-foot hunting trips, he wanted a good pack to carry everything on, even on the bike. Again, using some preparedness and hunting forums to gather ideas, he decided to go with a two pack arrangement. A large cargo pack and a smaller daypack that would piggy-back on the large pack for transport.

The daypack would essentially be a 72-hour kit for emergencies, plus the daily needs for the hunt. The large pack would contain the camp goods and everything else John didn’t wear. The large pack would be a Kifaru EMR pack, and the piggyback daypack the Kifaru Marauder.

It would be cold at nights, so a good sleeping bag was in order. John selected the Slumberjack sleep system consisting of two sleeping bags using Quallofill insulation. A light bag for warm temperature, a medium bag for cool to cold temperatures, which, when combined, would allow sleep down to -20F. Colder if insulated underwear was worn in the bag. The Therm-O-Rest sleep pad would help that, too.

He would be gone a total of nine days. That would take food and a means with which to prepare it. A MSR multi-fuel stove with two fuel bottles, and a MSR cook set took care of the preparation part of it. The food would be half a dozen MRE’s the first two or three days, and then Mountain House freeze-dried camping food. Mostly the two person packages since he would need the extra energy due to the cold.

There was also plenty of tea and hot chocolate packets. Even a couple packets of one-cup steeper bags of coffee. He didn’t drink coffee, but Uncle Rick had. Besides the jerky and gorp in the day bag, he had three pounds of jerky and ten pounds of gorp for extra energy between meals. He wasn’t too worried about bears finding his food, but for smaller animals he would carry three telescoping poles to make a nine foot high tripod from which he could suspend his food to keep it out of the tent, and away from hungry ground animals.

He would also need water. Besides that in the 72-hour emergency kit, he had two MSR 10-liter water bags, and a three liter hydration system that would go with either pack. There was also a Katadyn Pocket Filter with charcoal after filter to replenish the bags from streams and any snow melt. There would probably be snow in places.

John got a UCO candle lantern with several replacement candles. He added an LED headlamp, and a Mag-Light two AA flashlight, both with extra batteries. That took care of his lighting situation.

As for clothes, Uncle Rick had sworn by Filson, Carhartt, and Columbia. John picked up several pairs of silk long handles, three each woolen shirts and pants from Filson, and decided on Columbia Parka and insulated bibs for the cold weather. He had Red Wing ten inch lace up work boots, with several pairs each of heavy and medium weight wool socks, along with half a dozen silk sock liners. To go with the Columbia cold weather wear he had Thinsulate winter gloves with Gore-tex liners.

Half a dozen blue bandanas were stuffed here and there in the pack. He’d be wearing his uncle’s old Outback wide brim field hat to keep the sun out of his eyes and the snow off his face when it wasn’t cold enough to have the parka hood up.

He had Ray-Ban sunglasses to protect his eyes from glare and the UV at altitudes, carried on a neck leash. For a field knife he picked up a Cold Steel ODA. He already had a good Swiss Army Knife and a Leatherman Wave for small tasks.

Like the SAK and Leatherman, he had, or Rick had willed him, most of the rest of the items he was taking with him. The items from Rick included a Brunton Pocket Transit, a Colt 1911 .45 ACP with two dozen magazines, (he was only taking four spares), and a near mint condition Savage 99A model in .308 Winchester. The Savage would be the hunt gun. It wore a Bausch & Lomb scope on QD mounts, with ghost ring iron sights as back up.

As the day came closer for heading out, John seemed happier and happier. Samantha was still a little worried about him, but got caught up in his enthusiasm. Though she didn’t know much to start with about the equipment, she enjoyed shopping with him and learned quite a bit, too.

The day finally came for him to head out. Samantha gave him a long kiss and cautioned him to be careful. A friend from school helped him load the ROKON and the gear into the back of his pickup and they headed for the trail head.

The Adventures of John McCloud – Chapter 3

It was a beautiful late fall day. The temperature was in the low sixties, with clear skies, and very light breeze. John loaded the bike with his gear, pulled the start rope, and climbed aboard. He was on his way up the mountain to what his Uncle had once told him were ideal hunting grounds for sheep. John patted a pocket. He had his hunting license and the ram tag.

He knew, even as he rode carefully up the mountain, that he wasn’t coming back. He might or might not try to take the ram, but he wouldn’t be coming back with it, either way. It just hurt to much any more thinking about his parents, Rebecca and the baby, and Uncle Rick. Letting himself fall asleep in the cold in just his long handles should do it. If it didn’t, there were always the Colt and the Savage to take care of business.

He made camp early, to have plenty of light to set up his first camp. He knew it wasn’t smart to be going without having tried the equipment out first, but he figured it didn’t really matter. But it was all good equipment and he figured things out as he went.

Two days on the trail on the ROKON had him in a good area, according to the USGS map he carried. He searched the area and found a good spot for his base camp. It was near a small trickle of water coming from higher up, so he would have water. A light snow dusted the ground that night. The next morning, John transferred a few things from the EMR to the Marauder and set out on foot, his uncle’s 99A slung over one shoulder, the .45 on his hip, and the Brunton 8x30 binoculars hanging on his chest.

He would cross a ridge at a low spot and then sit down and scan the upper reaches of the mountain with the binoculars, taking a long slow time watching for sheep. John saw nothing the first day and made his way back to the camp. He was a bit above the tree line, so his only fire was the MSR cook stove and the comforting light from the candle lantern. There was enough earth to dig a cat hole with the Cold Steel Special Forces shovel and do his business.

He woke up to a light drizzling rain the next morning and appreciated being able to cook a hot breakfast under the canopy of the vestibule of the tent. He pulled on the Columbia cold/wet weather gear and headed out again, wearing the Marauder on his back, weapons and binoculars at hand.

He began to see signs of sheep, and finally spotted a few up much higher than he was. John began to make his way upward, cautiously, checking occasionally to see if the sheep had moved on. There was at least one ram with them, though separated from the flock by a good distance.

Higher and higher he went, following the sheep as they moved. He didn’t even think about lunch, the tracking was going so well. The lesson’s Uncle Rick had taught him coming back as if it had been only a few days previously that he had learned them.

It was only when it began to get dark that John realized how late it was. And suddenly also realized that he had been watching the sheep, especially the ram, and had not been watching his back track to make sure he could get back to his camp.

“Uh-oh,” he muttered softly, looking around in the fading light. It would be foolish to try to find the camp tonight. He would just hunker down and wait for morning. There was a small pool of collected rain water just on the other side of the ridge he’d come up. He’d set up camp beside it. Being doubly careful, John eased down the rise toward the pool.

His carefulness didn’t do him any good. The sleek she-cat cougar that had been stalking the sheep before John had intruded into the process decided it was a good time to attack this man-thing that had ruined her hunting. It would be a good substitute. She’d found one before, after it fell, and it had been easy pickings.

A slight slip on a wet rock saved John. The lioness had leapt, but only managed to slash John’s left thigh as she flew past the falling man. The swipe furthered John’s falling journey and he wound up wallowing in the pool of water. It took him precious seconds to gather his wits, working the Savage off his shoulder and working the lever to chamber a round.

He wiped his eyes quickly, looking for whatever had hit him. He saw the flash of golden hide and fired. It was a snap shot and he missed, but it was enough to scare the big cat away. For the moment.

It was only when he stepped out of the pool of water that he realized the cat’s claws had raked him. He stumbled on his left leg. Gathering his wits, and trying to remember Uncle Rick’s training, John quickly unzipped the leg of the bibs up to the waist to expose the claw marks.

“Oh, lord!” John muttered. “That hurts.” The pain was seeping through the shock. John un-slung the Marauder and opened it up. He took out his SAK from its belt pouch and used the scissors to cut away a patch of the pants leg to give him full access to the wound. Opening the first-aid kit Zip-lock bag he cleaned and bandaged the wound, and then re-zipped the leg of the bibs.

The rain was beginning to come down harder, mixed with a little snow. He located the most protected spot by the water and shook out one of the ponchos in the bag. It took a few minutes to tie in the liner of it. He laid out the other poncho on the ground, laid down on it and wrapped the poncho with the liner in around him. He threw the sheet of plastic over all of it to protect his bedding from the rain-and snowfall. John drug the Marauder pack closer to him and went through its contents by the light of the Mag-Light.

John tore open one of the Mainstay lifeboat ration packs and began to eat the break-off section containing 1,200 calories. He re-wrapped the rest and put it back in the pack. After he’d finished the ration he took a drink of water and reached for the jerky. He had several pieces of jerky, and then ate a handful of gorp.

After that he closed the pack, shifted it around so it would act as a pillow, and wrapped himself up as well as he could in the two ponchos under the plastic to wait out the night, 99A and Colt close at hand.

The Adventures of John McCloud – Chapter 4

John was shivering and there was an inch of snow on him and the surrounding ground, but he had made it through the night, even managing a little sleep. He quickly looked all around, but there was no sign of the cat.

As he worked to get the Tommy cooker from the pack lighted so he could fix a hot drink for breakfast John suddenly stopped working and stared off into space, an epiphany grabbing him by the very soul.

He didn’t want to die up here. Uncle Rick wouldn’t want it. Rebecca wouldn’t want it. Samantha wouldn’t want it. He wanted to get home to Samantha. Rebecca would have liked her. He wanted that other step of intimacy with Samantha. He had to let Rebecca and Uncle Rick take their places in his past, and move on with the future. He was a shell of a man, good for no one. Yes. He wanted to live. Not die.

With renewed vigor John lighted the Trioxane fuel for the little folding stove using the disposable lighter. He had water in the canteen cup on the burner quickly. As he waited for the water to warm so he could add it to the collapsible stainless steel cup, John thought back on his life and the time he had wasted. Well, not any more.

He ate another section of the lifeboat ration waiting for the water to heat. The ration didn’t make one thirsty, but John took several swallows of water anyway. It would be easy to get dehydrated up here.

Finally the water was boiling and he added it to the cup with a packet of hot chocolate. It tasted so good. He had the chocolate, then a cup of tea as he ate some jerky and a handful of gorp. He was going to need energy in a few moments.

John nearly screamed when he tried to get up. His lower body was numb from the cold, except for the wound area. It was just flat out painful. John worked some circulation back into his feet and legs and then got up. It was slightly overcast and between the sun and the transit, John determined his orientation. Now he knew where north, south, east, and west were. It took several minutes matching topographical features to the USGS topo map to figure out where he was.

That known, John repacked the Marauder, put it on his back, picked up the Savage and headed back to where his camps should be. It was hard going. The cat’s claws hadn’t been that deep, fortunately, but the wound hurt whenever he moved.

Another problem he had was that though he hadn’t noticed it the night before, his outer clothing had become soaked in the pool of water. It hadn’t come through to his skin, but the clothing was frozen. He could walk, but the cold was sapping his strength. He had to decide to try to find camp, which at the speed he could move, would take at least two days, or head down the mountain to the tree line so he could gather wood and make a fire.

John decided to head for the tree line and materials to make a fire that would dry the clothes out. He marked his position on the map, turned down hill, and moved on. It was still slow going, but he got to the tree line in early afternoon. He had to go deeper in to begin finding deadwood he could use to make a fire. Once, as he picked up a pieces of the wood, he heard what he was sure was the cat’s cry. It sent shivers through him. The cat was still close. Possibly tracking him. Yet another reason to have a fire.

He wanted to save the matches he had for worst case scenarios so he took out the Blast Match from the Marauder pack. John took many long minutes to create fuzz sticks from three of the small limbs of dead wood he’d gathered, using the ODA. He built a teepee of small sticks with the fuzz sticks inside. Then he log cabined slightly larger sticks up around the teepee, leaving a place where he could get a lighted piece of tender in under the fuzz sticks.

Finally the preparations for the fire were ready, just as dark was falling. John set the tender close to the fire preps, positioned the Blast Match, and pushed it down sharply. The cascade of sparks ignited the tinder and John shoved it under the fuzz sticks. They caught quickly and started the teepee of thin sticks, which in turned began to burn the log cabin of larger wood. John had two pieces of limb ready to set on the tiny fire. He gave a sigh of relief that the heavier wood took fire. Another piece of wood and he had his fire going.

John breathed a sigh of relief and leaned back to rest before arranging himself for the night in the light of the fire. This time he was able to string a line of 550 cord between two trees and tie off one of the ponchos as a lean-to. He added two tent stakes to secure the lower corners. The plastic sheet from the 72-hour kit became the ground sheet.

As the fire burned, John lengthened it, parallel to the lean-to, from the large pile of firewood he’d accumulated. He made himself a couple of hot drinks to go with the dry food. With the emergency supplies from the 72-hour kit, John was able to stay hydrated, warm, and well fed.

By the light of the fire John redressed the wounds. They looked okay, with no sign of infection. Apparently he had cleaned them adequately the fist time. With the fire burning the entire length of the lean to, John exposed his legs to the fire, hoping to start drying them out. He also moved the Savage close to hand, with the .45 by his head. He watched the fire and stoked it for a long time, but finally fell asleep.

When he awoke the next morning the fire was out. It didn’t take long to get it going again, a small one, to comfort him while he heated water for hot drinks to go with breakfast. He studied the map as he chewed jerky after eating the 1,200 calorie lifeboat ration bar. His leg still pained him, but he thought he could make it more than halfway to the camp. It would be the third day into the ordeal and he would be out of food. He’d have a couple teabags and packets of hot chocolate left after lunch and supper today, but that was all. He would have to find water today or stop and melt snow.

Limping badly, after he’d repacked the Marauder, John set off, compass and map in hand. The terrain features were matching the route he was taking. When he got to the edge of the forest early that afternoon he debated for a few minutes whether to continue or stay. He wouldn’t reach the camp by nightfall, but he’d be considerably closer for the following day, but he’d be spending a night in the open again.

He thought about his uncle again, but not with anguish. This time he was simply trying to remember anything his uncle had taught him as to what to do in this situation. Food really wasn’t an issue. He was well fed up to in the morning. He should have the stamina to make it all the way from here. There was snow around that he could melt and filter to fill the drinking bladders, using firewood instead of his stove. Camp here for the night, he would.

The first chore was gathering wood. It was a bit more sparse here than the other camping spot and it took a while. With his leg bothering him, John took a chance and left the Savage at the camp, depending on the .45 on his hip to get him out of trouble if the cat showed up again. He hadn’t heard or seen anything since that one cry the night before.

He was a hundred yards from the camp when he turned around with an armful of wood and found the cat fifty feet away, creeping up on him. The cat crouched and watched John. John began to ease down to drop the wood, and draw the .45. He saw the cat’s tail twitch once, and then it sprinted toward him.

The wood fell and John was drawing the .45, but the cat was on him. John fell back and the cat landed on his chest. But John’s movement had thrown the cat’s timing off and he overshot John. John rolled onto his stomach, the .45 in his hand stretching before him. He fired three shots rapidly and the cat ran off.

John laid there and watched for a long time, but the cat didn’t come back. He’d felt at least one rib go when the cat landed on his chest with the cougar’s full weight and momentum. John eased up and knew he wasn’t going to be hauling any more wood.

He headed back to camp, limping, holding one arm tightly across his chest, breathing shallowly. It was a painful process to get the dry camp set up again, but John did so, knowing he had to. He replaced the partial magazine in the Colt with a full one and put the gun in his lap. He laid the 99A over his thighs and leaned back against the backstop he’d painfully made, the poncho and liner wrapped around him, sitting on the plastic, under the poncho lean-to.

Again he fed the fire until he fell asleep. Rather weak and weary, and hurting all over the next morning, John got up, started the stove burning, and had the last of his hot drinks. He’d finished the food the night before.

Using his good side arm, John picked up the pack and slid just the one strap over his good shoulder, his right. He carried the Savage in his right hand and limped toward the base camp. He stopped often to rest, and to check his map. With the especially slow progress it was almost dark when he finally stumbled into the camp.

He dropped the rifle and Marauder pack and crawled into the tent, zipping it behind him. He pulled the sleeping bag around himself and fell asleep.

When he awakened the next morning he was stiffer and more sore than ever. It took him two hours to get his MSR stove going and heat water to add to a packet of Mountain House beef stew for breakfast. When the sun was highest, and the tent warm, John took off his outer garments. He got the first-aid kit out and wrapped himself slowly and painfully, to protect what he knew was one broken rib and probably two, with a couple more cracked.

By the end of the day, working slowly and resting often, John readied everything to head back to civilization on the bike. The risks were just too great to get on the bike and leave everything else behind. He would have to camp out at least two more nights.

He missed the fire here on the open mountainside, but was warm enough in the tent, bundled up, and in the doubled sleeping bag. Again he kept both guns close. He thought he heard a rustle during the night, but nothing happened and he fell back asleep.

When he finally managed to get up the next morning and go outside, the tracks of the big cat were evident all around the camp. As were traces of blood. John must have hit the cat with one of his shots, but not done much damage. He decided to push it a little. He made a quick breakfast. At least, as quick as he could, under the circumstances.

It hurt him to get the packs on the bike, and he really hurt when he pulled the starting cord, but the ROKON fired right off. John braced himself and headed down the mountain. It was a rough day on the bike but he managed. Camp was again difficult, but he wasn’t going to sleep out in the open if he could avoid it. He didn’t think the cat would track the bike, especially hurt, but he wasn’t taking chances. Not any more.

John had to wait the next day for the stiffness to ease before he loaded up and headed out. There were no signs of the cougar anywhere. He was close to the trailhead that evening, but it was too dangerous to continue. He made camp again.

Even though the routine was painful, it was a routine. John was up and about, painfully, before noon the next day. He reached the trailhead just before dark. His friend was waiting for him. So was Samantha. They waved at John as he came down the last stretch of trail, but John kept his hands on the handlebars of the bike. He wasn’t going to fall over now.

With alarm in their eyes, Greg and Samantha hurried over when John stopped the bike. Though he kept her at arms’ distance to avoid her hurting his ribs, John managed to kiss her and tell her something she’d been waiting to hear for months. “I love you. Will you marry me?”

Copyright 2005


Jerry D Young


It's not the mountain man roots and berries survival story I think you wanted, but it's the best I could do.