Hours have gone by. I have absolutely no idea what time it is. Hell, I don’t even remember what day it is. I’ve been out for 3, no, maybe 4 days. Hiking in and around about 20 miles a day. Made my way in this morning about 3:30 am to the sound of owls and coyotes in the distance. The moon was so bright I didn’t need my headlamp. Sitting. I can see air from my mouth and the steam rise from my chest. It’s cold. Real cold. I am trying to keep from sweating, but the hike up this long forest road has me winded. I stop for water and a hardboiled egg. Damn. I already finished all of my beef jerky. The sun is up now. Getting warm, so I decided to take off my jacket. The mountains are calm. A chipmunk makes noise in the distance and I hear a grouse flutter through the trees. Whenever I hear a grouse, I know there is a deer nearby. Superstition? Maybe. Dumb luck? Probably.

Still no sign of deer. A quiet breeze continues to blow and the grass dances beneath me. I am hunkered down next to a dead tree. The branches and log make for a pseudo-comfortable nature armchair. I hear a crack of branches atop the mountain above me. It was definitely not the grouse. More cracking. A distinct snap tells me that something big is moving through the ridge-line. My heart begins to pound. I hear what sounds like a herd of feet tromping down the hillside right behind me. Struck with anticipation and a little bit of fear, I stay completely frozen. Out of the corner of my eye I spot 3 beautiful deer running down the mountain side. Closer and closer they come. Right down this game trail I decided to sit near. 3 meters away. My heart feels like it’s going to leap out of my chest as I grip my rifle. I am dead silent. All I can hear is the THUMP THUMP THUMP of my heart pounding inside of me. I try hard to not make a sound or movement. Holding my breath, I fight my body to stay silent. Oh shit, here it comes…. “Whewhuh”. I let out a breathe. Their ears perk up. Damn it. I’m spotted. They gaze up the hill with confused looks. They can’t see me. I’ve hidden myself so well that they can’t spot me. I watch as they slowly walk down the mountain. Turning back toward the hillside every so often, they must be wondering where or what that noise was. I wait. Maybe a large buck in rut will come down the hillside in search of a mate. I sit still for another hour or so. Listening to the wilderness. Basking in the energy of it all.

The sun is gleaming upon the mountainside now. A vast array of Douglas fir covers every inch of mountains I see over 10 miles. Ridgeline’s spike up from the earth, as if to try and reach the golden hue of sunlight. Birds are flying and the energy of the forrest is wide awake. The heat begins to grow and as I wait, I drink water from my canteen and listen to the sounds of the forrest. It’s something that has become ignored in our society. It calms the spirit. It represents life. The wind blows over the mountain tops across the valley. I watch the trees dance seconds before I feel the gust of cool air kiss my face. A chipmunk scurries about the treetops overhead and I run my fingers over the dry dead grass beneath me.

The earth is alive and awake where I am. Here and now. More present than ever. Every email, phone call, and monthly bill is a thousand miles from my mind. I am in nature, and nature is within me. I realize I have been gazing into the nothingness of the forest for some time now. I am clueless as to what time it is, but at this time, I don’t really care. I think about my father, my grandfather and my great grandfather. All the men who raised me on hunting, fishing, and baseball. They walked these mountains for 30 years. They know every ridge line, boulder and valley. Some years, they hunted the largest deer in the area to feed their families for the following year. I think about the times my dad came home with deer for us to eat. I couldn’t wait to become old enough to sustain myself. Following in all their footsteps – literally. I can almost picture them walking and talking through the woods.

I hear a whistle in the distance. I hear it again.

“Jordan?”

I know that voice. It’s my brother. I see his flannel top through the trees as he makes his way towards me.

“Hey oh! Over here.” I say as I gather my gear and head towards him.

We talk for awhile and exchange stories from the morning over a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and water. He saw the same group of beautiful deer pass him just down the hill from me. We decide to go for a hike.

7 days pass. Growing tired and weary from hiking with no success of a hunt.

We’ve seen plenty of deer. All of which are not able to be harvested (hunted) due to conservation efforts in the area. Only 3 point minimum buck (male) deer can be hunted. We’ve counted seeing over 80 female deer and fawns in the past week.

You begin to lose track of time when you exist in the quiet solitude of nature. Time seems to disappear and the reality of the world you live in begins to consume you. The subtle gusts of wind. The feeling of dirt on your hands. The rocks beneath your boots as you walk mile after mile. Exist in the moment. Time fades.

Each night as the sun sets over Little Buck Mountain, we head back to camp. Our small tent is nestled under trees and we scrape together some firewood to keep us warm for another night. It’s miserably cold. We stay in our clothes and drink Rainier beer as our chili cooks over the open fire. Our only entertainment is a deck of playing cards and stories about life, hunting, family and our day in the field. Time doesn’t exist.

After enough beer and chili to make us sleepy, we crawl into our sleeping bags. We fall asleep on the cold ground and prepare to wake again at 3:30am to hike into the mountains once more.

As we rise well before the sun comes up, I can see my breath in front of me from the light of a flashlight. I slowly roll over to the tent entrance and unzip the door before crawling out of my sleeping bag. I loathe this moment. I know its going to be freezing cold, but this time is different. I take a second look outside. No. Is it? Wait. Yes, it is. I shine my light out from the tent as far as I can see. The entire ground is covered in 3 inches of snow. White everywhere. I wake up Jeff. We take a few deep breaths and get moving quickly to try and warm up. Our boots are frozen, our beer is ice cold and we start up a quick fire to get some kind of breakfast together. Being half awake and half frozen makes getting ready in the black of the woods difficult. We head out for another morning in the woods.

Though we didn’t hunt the deer we set out for this year, our hunt was still a success. We learned more about ourselves and that mountain than we could have ever imagined.