Driven to Distraction
Distractions in the outdoors can be an obsessive-compulsive thing.
As I sit down to pen this in early May, it is already quite warm out; in fact, the afternoon temperature is hovering in the mid-80s. Now, mind you, I like this weather just fine. In fact, it is the main reason why the missus and I moved out here in the first place, and why we stay. But there are problems attendant with perfect weather: I wanna stay out and do more of everything.
For instance, there are longer hikes to new places, camping, mountain biking, ATV riding, long mountain rides in my Supra, messing in the yard, scouting for the upcoming hunting seasons. . . . And did I mention lots of target shooting?
Actually, longer and warmer days mean that I simply don't have enough time to what I wanna do!
But all of the aforementioned is just a warm-up for what I really want to talk about, and that is the outdoor distractions that plague my forays afield.
For instance, I was out on a target-shooting mission just yesterday morning up in a remote, sandy canyon, where I wouldn't be an affront to anyone else, nor would another body disturb me.
I parked Ol' White under the shade of a large, broad tree and used my laser rangefinder to mark off the proper distance to where I'd set up the target. That's when I discovered that I'd forgotten my 30X spotting scope for viewing bullet hits, and that meant I'd have to do a lot of hiking to check where the bullets were hitting. Sigh.
That's when it happened. Along the way I spotted some discarded brass casings from spent cartridges. Now, any self-respecting gun-nut worth his or her salt won't allow any brass to just lie there; they've gotta pick it up for usage somewhere down the line as reloaded ammo.
And that's my trouble, too—I got so caught up in looking for more brass that I lost sight of my original mission. I peered ground-ward for many consuming hours in search of more brass. It's an obsessive-compulsive thing!
It wasn't all that bad. I did come home with four varieties of handgun brass, three types of rifle, and five loaded rounds of .22 rimfire.
My next distraction is in a more serious vein. It concerns snakes—to be more specific, poisonous rattlesnakes! I can be enjoying the best of times, but as soon as I spot that first rattler, the ballgame is called on account of rain.
No, I don't quit and go home, but I may as well have, because I spend the rest of the day peering under every bush and close rock, expecting the venomous critter to strike at me at every opportunity. Drat! This ever happen to you?
I've even had both distractions happen to me at once when I was on an early dawn shooting session. As usual I was intently watching for brass and not paying much attention to anything else—that is, until I stepped over a cow pie, not once but twice, and it morphed into a coiled, but thankfully lethargic, prairie rattler!
Believe me, that old adage, "Can't hit the broad side of a barn" is quite accurate at such a time!
Another distraction for me is when the sky up ahead turns jet-black as a thunderstorm forms in the high country, and I'm on an outing up a long, narrow canyon. Have you ever been in a flash flood? I have, and it's no picnic!
The "thing" looked like an undulating wall of sickish, brackish yellow-brown foam, silently slithering towards me as I sat spell-bound upon my four-wheeler. I mean, there wasn't a sound to be heard, but I quickly realized that danger was fast coming down upon me, and I rammed the machine to my left and up onto a bank.
It wasn't but a couple of seconds and the head of the waterish wall passed by me. Then came the sound of roaring engine-like pandemonium as the liquid behind the wall amazingly climbed to a depth of more than four feet and chocolate-brown caps of waves raced by.
Had I been in the path and not been concerned, the mass of onrushing water would surely have swept me and my machine away. As it turned out, I was on an island that almost caused my demise anyway, as the water climbed perilously close to engulfing me at any second. But since I'm writing this, you can see no harm came to me.
Even if there are no flash floods to do bodily harm, just thunderstorms can wreak enough havoc in the forms of lightning strikes and icy-cold rain that they can undo a perfectly good outdoor trip. For some reason, rain in the high country, even on the hottest of days, chills me to the bone. I always carry a plastic garbage bag to slit and don over my head and upper body against the rain.
Then there's the wind. Ever been in the woods when the wind comes up strong? I've heard both brittle and rotten trees come crashing to the forest floor. Does a tree make a noise if no one is around to hear it? Well, I can attest that they certainly do when I'm around to hear them! I once even got bonked on the head by a branch as it plummeted earthward. Ouch! Why do you think folks call dead and bare trees "widowmakers"?
So you can clearly see that many distractions exist "out there," lurking about and just waiting for me to wander into their domain.
Speaking of picnics, that's another thing I intend to do once or twice in these warm months, but I've gotta watch out for ants and spiders and centipedes and no-see-ums and rain and blowing sand and leaves and bears and wolves and coyotes and. . . .
As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless your outings afield.
Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors exclusively for Desert Exposure.