The author, his wife Abby and his friend Danny wait out the weather under a rock and a tarp on opening day of deer season. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

The author, his wife Abby and his friend Danny wait out the weather under a rock and a tarp on opening day of deer season. (Photo by Jeff Lund)

I Went to the Woods: The price of comfort

After a week of rain, I relished the few minutes of sunshine from my glassing spot on top of a ridge.

Just behind me was a large boulder that rests at an angle and provides enough cover for one person. During opening day of the deer season, my wife was bedded in there, while my buddy Danny and I sat under the tarp we had set up to wait out the fog and rain. The weather was supposed to break, but it hadn’t. Big surprise.

We had hiked up in the rain the previous day in order to make camp and be ready for those critical hours just after dawn. Deer can be found any time of day, but mornings and evenings are typically when bucks are most likely to leave the safety of cover to feed.

We woke up still damp from the hike up, laced up wet boots, put on wet rain pants and started moving just to warm the wet. This works as long as total saturation has not been achieved.

The first half hour of the day was cloudy and low-hanging fog didn’t figure to be much of a problem. But the slightly warming day stirred up the low fog which came up to meet the low-hanging clouds and together they encased the mountain. It was thick enough we couldn’t glass the mountain, but allowed us to navigate to our starting point for the day.

Tiny windows in the fog revealed the lush alpine vegetation below, but only for a few seconds. With nowhere to go, the warm wet became wet-wet, on its way to cold wet.

Abby found the rock, we set up the tarp at the opening of the rock and we hunkered down.

We boiled water for coffee, then boiled water to hold, enjoying our turn holding the warm Jetboil.

It was miserable, but the type of expected misery that is beaten back by preparedness and good company.

While I don’t count ounces, I do attempt to make my ounces count. I value sleep so my sleeping pad is light, but not ultralight. After years of wadding up clothing to make a pillow, I bought a $25 inflatable pillow. I used to bring my Jetboil occasionally, now it’s a must.

My half-pound tarp is invaluable for the relief it provides from the rain and, along with the insulation of the leaning rock, helped create a warm little micro-climate for us to wait out the weather.

Until a few years ago, I would have thought that hunkering down at the base of a tree was enough, but I wised up. It’s about making the most out of the experience, not impressing people in a hunting forum with pre-meditated suffering.

With the amount of quality, lightweight gear available to us, and plenty of places to find it all on sale, the notion of going out of our way to make things more difficult just doesn’t make sense.

I’m reminded of a scene in “Tin Cup” when Kevin Costner’s self-destructive character Roy McAvoy brags to the film’s antagonist about using just one club for a round:

“You ever shoot par with a seven-iron?”

“It never even occurred to me to try.”

The flip side of that, of course, is the gear junkie who throws too much money at gear that he or she doesn’t need.

The sweet spot of gear is enough weight to provide comfort, and an opportunity to turn things around if the misery index rises, without being unsustainably heavy.

So how’d the hunt go?

The weather broke, we glassed and hiked, but had fish for dinner.

• Jeff Lund is a freelance writer based in Ketchikan. His book, “A Miserable Paradise: Life in Southeast Alaska,” is available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. “I Went to the Woods” appears twice per month in the Sports & Outdoors section of the Juneau Empire.

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