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My Slowest Mile - A Story of Pain, Suffering, and Mild Stupidity

Drainage View From Base - Elk Camp.jpg

Two links of boudin, a pop tart, and some cheese sticks, plenty of calories. Hell, it was just a few mile hike. Who cares about the 10,000 calories I was deficient of over the last 72 hours. I had an hours rest and a pop tart, I had done more with less. I loaded my pack. I packed food, clothes, shelter, a sleep bag, and a few essentials. I loaded the camera gear, my bow, binos, and a kill kit. Food and water rounded it all off. I was set. It was 56 pounds when all was said and done. Just shy of some training hikes back home. So off we went.

Mile one - it was a good one. I saw a mama moose and her calf, the aspens were beginning their seasonal change, and the mountains surrounded the horizon. It was my favorite part of the hunt, leaving the comforts of base camp, heading into the true wilds of the wilderness. I was headed to my home away from home.

Mile two - things began to turn.  I realized I left some stuff. First, it was my tarp stakes. After that, para cord. It was one thing after another. Everything began to weigh me down. Anger began to creep in. I stopped, and I told myself, "Suck it up buttercup and soak it in. Look around. You are where you love. You are in your sanctuary." So I pulled up my big boy pants and did. I looked and gazed in all directions. I took my camera out to distract me from the negativity of my mind. I looked up, turned around, and twisted my knee. It was bad, I must of torn something. It burned. My thought were racing "Now what? First the tarp stakes and now this. Eff my life. Why did we even come here today. There are elk in a drainage near camp. Why did I agree to this. We had already spent the day climbing a mountain tracking a dead elk that was nowhere to be found. I climbed up and down all day for nothing." I was pissed. I hated the thought of bivy now. My mind was completely in the gutter. Each rock that bumped my toe was on a hit list. Each change in elevation was torture. I hated the world and everything in it. I just wanted to go home. 

Mile 3 - bivy camp was less than a mile ahead. Each step was Torcher, I wanted the button. You know that button. That button, on Alone, where a helicopter flies down and sweeps you away. That button that takes you to the best steak dinner money can buy. The one that makes everything disappear. I wanted that one. I was in total despair. I wanted off the dang mountain.


Oh wait... 

I forgot, I wasn’t on the mountain. I was on the valley floor, the least strenuous trail I had been on. If I stretch the truth, It may have been 500’ of elevation gain over 3 miles, and that is completely reaching. On any other day I could do it all in less than 40 min. Even worse, If you were a bystander watching me, you would of seen a snail tied to a tree. Painful to me but more painful to watch. Each step was harder than the next. One step, two steps, then three. I needed a break. My heart was racing, legs burning. Everything hurt. I repeated this over and over again. I took everything I had to put together a forward momentum of 5 steps. My mind was fighting itself.  The irrational side of me took everything I loved of the outdoors and made me hate it. I hated the trees, the trail, the mountains. I hated my backpack, my bow, and friends. I hated my food and I even hated my water bottle. My Water bottle? My Friends?  I was a failure in pure misery. As I slothed my way into bivy camp, I already wanted to leave, I wanted to go home, and I wanted nothing to do with the outdoors. I was done.

.86 miles took 48 min and 35 seconds. I stopped 31 times. My heart rate was 162 beats per min and I gained 217’ in elevation. It was my slowest mile. I stopped just feet from bivy as if the last five steps would have killed me. I felt like death, a zombie. I had bonked, I hit the wall in full stride. 

Bonking to me was somewhat a myth up until this point. I heard of it, thought about it, but never experienced it. By definition in the endurance sport arena, it is a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy caused by diminished glycogen stores. However, I think Paul Scott of Runner’s World Magazine, defines it better as a “collapse of the entire system: body and form, brains and soul.”

I was broken, I hurt emotionally, and I hurt physically. It scared me. I thought I had really screwed up. I sat and moved around slowly at camp. I ate, and ate, and ate. 2 days of food to be exact in a matter of hours. Those friends I hated no longer looked like the devil, they became the support I needed. I relaxed, built a fire, and even use the sat phone to call home. Hour by hour I regained my legs, my mind, and my soul. I was okay.

Note: this was totally preventable. What happened to me was exactly what will happen when you forego your natural instincts and exert yourself past what is considered normal. Listen to your body, slow down, eat, and rest when due. Preventing this is as simple as eating proper nutrition a few calories every thirty minutes to an hour while maintaining proper hydration and electrolytes. I fully understand this concept and practice it during training, yet failed to mimic it in the field. I learned a lesson that I hope to never repeat. Having someone with me that understood this first hand was an important factor in recovering quickly. The next morning I was back completely and put a full days work into our hunt.  

How To Find Water


I was piddling around with some Go Pro footage from a past trip and decided put together this quirky How To Video. Enjoy!

The Plan You Leave Behind

Two weeks ago, I received a random message on Facebook of lost hikers in need of help. A father and two sons went missing in the Ouachita Mountains, they only told their family where they were goin and nothing more. They promised to call but there was only limited cell service and the only text the sent out was "we are LOST." My frequent posts of the pictures helped a friend of their family locate me which I helped them initiate a search for them. They were later found safe and sound after being lost for 2 days. To make a long story short, a hiker found them along the trail and led them back to their car. That was a story of luck, but when we venture into areas we are not familiar with we risk the possibility of something going south. With cell phones being unreliable in most backcountry areas, a solid plan left with a friend or family could be a last hope if something did go wrong. I have been asked several times what one of my trip plans look like. So below is the contents and a real example of one that we distributed to persons that have both a level head and trust.

12 things you should have in every trip plan:

  • Names and contact info of the traveling party (this should also include sat phone number or locator becon if traveling with one)

  • Destination

  • Duration of trip

  • Location of your transportation

  • Starting point & end point

  • Hazards along the way

  • Forecasted camp locations, daily mileage, direction of travel, etc.

  • Alternate plans

  • Local contacts, guides, groups

  • Local authorities

  • GPS way points or route of trail, river, camps, etc.

  • Links to any important info (river gauges, local weather forecasts, etc.)

You want to communicate you plan in an easy way to understand.  If cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent, renting a satellite phone or purchasing a GPS locator beacon is an effective but not always reliable way to reach out for a rescue or help.

Here is an example of a trip plan we used on one our river expeditions:


To Whom It May Concern,

We will be embarking on a river trip on March 20 – 25 down the Pecos River

Attached are GPS coordinates for the trip we are headed out on this week and can be loaded on google earth to review. We have outlined our camps by each day and have several alternate camp grounds marked as backup plans. We have also marked several points of interest and hazards that we will be exploring or facing. Our put in location and take out locations are also markeed. We are utilizing a shuttle service and they will be keeping are vehicles at there house and will be available if need be. The contact information is at the end of this email along with other resources.

There will be Four Persons in our group and here are their names and contact info:

            Daniel Underbrink

            Mike Kulbeth

            Luke ******

            Dan *****

 Local Person Contact and shuttle: ******************

We will have a satellite phone but it will not always be on. The canyon walls can affect the reliability of it but we take multiple hikes to the rim during the trip so this will be the best time for us to receive and communication or contact you. Please Store this number and Answer immediately or you need to reach us. This phone does accept Text messages and this will be the best form or communication.

Satellite Phone Number is (863-***-***)

The Drainage area for the river is very large and we will be taking every precaution necessary for our safe return. There is rain in the forecast but I feel it will be safe as it is only isolated in a small area of the drainage area.

The following links are as described:

We need to be contacted immediately if any Flood Watches or Warnings are in effect for any of the Gauge points or areas these gauges are located

River Gauges – There are always uptick with any amount of rain please use your best judgement not to alert anyone unnecessarily as false rescues can be very expensive and the stress of waiting for a no rise in water levels can be tough on persons. If water levels are expected to rise let us know via text and we will contact you all to discuss.  I am thinking any Amount in a rise Past 300 CFM or a 1-3 foot Rise (pending Gauge, see details Below) will need to be of low concern but still would be nice to know so we don’t wake up in a puddle of water

Pandale Gauge – This is where we are putting in- This link will forecast if any Flood warnings or watches are in affect for the area. It will be shown as a dotted line. We need to be Contacted immediately if any Flood watches or warnings are in effect.

Panda Gauge Info and Descriptions - these will tell you what we will face at different water levels 


(8.2 meters), Life threatening major flooding occurs below Sheffield downstream to Amistad Reservoir. Flow at Pandale Crossing is over one third mile wide and two hundred thousand cfs. Flow inundates the channel bottom above Pandale to Amistad Reservoir and is life threatening to campers and river recreationists.


(7.0 meters), Major flooding is well into the flood plain and can wash campers, vehicles and gear downstream. Roads and crossings in the Pecos River flood plain and tributaries are extremely dangerous to motorists. The Pecos River at Pandale Crossing is near 1/3 mile wide.


(5.8 meters), The Pecos river at Pandale Crossing is over one quarter mile wide and extremely turbulent. Campers, river recreationists, and RVs camped near the river can easily be swept downstream as the major flood wave moving downstream causes very rapid rises.


(4.6 meters), Major flooding makes low water crossings along the Pecos River and tributaries potentially deadly. The flood wave moving downstream causes rapid rises dangerous to campers on the low banks below Sheffield to Amistad Reservoir. Autos and gear can be swept downstream.


(3.0 meters), Moderate flooding is well into the flood plain making secondary roads and crossings along the Pecos River and tributaries very dangerous to travel. Swimmers and tubers should leave the river as flow is dangerously turbulent. Campers vehicles and gear in the flood plain can be swept downstream.


(2.1 meters), Minor lowland flooding is a significant threat to swimmers, tubers and campers on the low banks of the Pecos River above Pandale to above Langtry.


Lowland flooding makes low water crossings at Pandale on the Pecos River and tributaries flooded and impassable.


Sheffield gauge – Upriver Gauge from Pandale Use Above Link to navigate to it – Important Gauge

This gauge works off and on and needs to be monitored, as it’s a good indicator of what is going to happen at the Pandale Gauge.

Independence Creek – This Is a major Drainage area for the Pecos if this is forecasted to Flood. We need to be notified of the extent of flooding or water rise. The gauge typically does not Work but if the area is in a flood warning or watch, we need to be contacted.

Girvan Gauge – This is quite a distance upstream from our put in site this will be an indicator of what the river will do downstream and we will need to be notified of any Forecasted Water rise or floodwarnings or watches are in this area.

Local Rescue Personnel – Border patrol

We will be in limited Contact with Our Wives and family and will alert everyone in case of an emergency. In case they are predicting minor Flooding or a drastic water rise please do everything you can to contact us through the Satellite Phone ( text message and Calls)


I would be very careful who you send this information to, they will need an understanding of many things including river Gauges, Water levels, forecast, weather, and local area all play huge factors in predicting what a river will do. Small upticks on a river gauge graph can look like a massive flood but only be an inch or two. The projections are showing no forecasted rise in water level, things can change very quickly and we need to be notified and prepared. This is not to scare persons but these are the realities to spending time in the remote wilderness and needs to be said and understood.

Thanks for keeping an eye out for us see you in a week!!!


I send these plans to my Father only, for I feel he will not alert anyone unless completely necessary and will stay calm and be very calculated in his decisions. If rain was not in the forecast, I would still only send this to him. You too will need to choose people that will stay controlled in there thinking but know when a danger may present itself that could lead to a situation out of your hands. If you want to know how a well planned trip turned bad but survival was possible due to a prepared and well executed plan continue here


Trail Treats I Dream Of

Trail Treats I Dream Of

Too many times we find ourselves wishing we had something a little extra packed up to eat, those simple comforts from the civilized world. So next time you have that special trail craving, write it in your trip journal for next time. Here is a list of treats from the last time we were days deep on an adventure.

  • Skittles
  • Paydays
  • Wasabi Peas
  • Chocolate
  • Spicy Peanuts
  • Gin-Gins
  • Snickers
  • Cheese 
  • nut butter
  • Hard candies
  • Peanut butter crackers
  • Summer Sausage 

Backcountry food the ever evolving question.

Most of us have lost the art and knowledge of foraging for seeds, fruit and roots in the places we explore. We become reliant on ready made meals to fuel our excursions that usually end up wrecking havoc on our bodies. Over the years I have utilized many different food products, brands, and whole foods. Some have been great and others not so much, with a bit of ingenuity, research, and preparation food can be just as much part of the experience as is the journey itself.  Whole fresh food is not totally out of the equation if you know how to prep and handle the food. On our most recent trip we brought steaks on a multi night trip in 100 degree weather. To do so we planned in advance, vacuum sealed, wrapped in paper towel, and foil and packed against our water bladders (we froze our water bladders too). This allowed for a slow and delayed thaw while being slightly refrigerated. Result,  fresh ribeye after a hard training hike on the trail. When your trip doesn't allow this method due to the length of stay outdoors or having to keep a minimalistic pack. Finding companies like Heathers Choice or dehydrating your home cooked favorites allow for comforting, great tasting, healthy foods not loaded with preservatives and high doses of sodium that can truly make an already uncomfortable situation worse. (Hint, stomach issues)

Daniel Underbrink

Luke Kulbeth on our WAT training hike

Luke Kulbeth on our WAT training hike