Monday, December 30, 2013

Game Warden Files--Another Winter Leftover

One of my favorite places was a trio of lakes in southern Hamilton County.  Murphy, Middle and Bennett Lakes are in the Town of Hope and easily accessed with a reasonable walk. There entire trail from Pumpkin Hollow Rd. in Wells to Creek Rd in Hope is about eight miles long. Murphy is just about in the middle with the others closer to the Creek Rd. trail head. Over the years, I've walked it in spring, summer and fall, snowmobled, snow-shoed and skied it in winter. Another officer and I even carried a canoe and paddled all three lakes in one day--that was a long, and exhausting day; but a good patrol. We even checked it by helicopter a few times. Truly one of my favorite spots.
One winter, shortly before Christmas, a car showed up at one of the trail heads, and stayed a while. It wasn't uncommon for a car to be parked there, folks camped in there all the time; but this time there was no sign in on the trail book and the car just stayed there. I walked into Bennett lake on show shoes and saw no one, talked to others who had skied through the area and still couldn't figure who was in there or where. After a week or so, one of the local deputies, the local Forest Ranger and I had discussed it and shared our concerns. We had run the plate number and found that the owner was from somewhere in the New York City area, we either couldn't find a phone number or continued to get no answer and so continued to be perplexed.
We were all starting to get worried that we had a body somewhere in the woods. When the car was still there a couple days after Christmas, we got started talking and were trying come up with a plan when all of a sudden someone showed up at the car.
The guy worked for a school system in the New York City area and had an extended winter vacation. He was something of an extreme outdoors-man, and had a high-tech sleeping system that was essentially a tent in a hammock. He'd gone back in the woods, rigged his system in a remote area and settled in. He was there through a couple snow storms, which had hidden any tracks, and had stayed through some pretty cold weather, but was settled in his tent with his books, a heater and a cook stove--happy as he could be. He never had a fire, so the one clue we might have had to his whereabouts wasn't there. That's how he spent his Christmas vacation. He had been well prepared and well provisioned, and never thought that his car, unaccounted for at a trail head, might cause the local law enforcement community some concern. He had never thought about signing in at the trail head log book, which is there for protection and safety of those who use the trails or of not leaving a note on his car letting anyone know about when he'd return.
He was technically in violation of the law, camping on the Forest Preserve more than three days without a permit and got a stern warning about that along with a good chewing out for the folly of his behavior--no one knew where he was, no contact information, that kind of thing; then we helped him dig his car out of the snowbank and sent him on his way.

No comments:

Post a Comment