Daniel McCloskey

Age 19
Student. U Pittsburgh
Trail builder
Ukelele player
Writer/artist
Bike rider
AKA "Patt's son"

Payette National Forest, July 2006-
We stopped 11 miles away from anywhere a car could reach--yes, even the off-road tested Jeep Durango. We stopped at what was supposed to be our camp, took off our packs in the hot Idaho sun and picked up our tools. Twelve of us had about 5 gallons of water left. But the horse packers were supposed to have arrived there before us, so they should be there soon. A few hours later, tool count was called. We looked at each other in confusion. It was far too early for our customary 15-minute break. We were all called back due to the fact that we were rapidly running out of water, a dangerous situation especially in our new campsite. The closest water source was more than 2 miles and 2,000 feet in elevation away. The trees were sparse and the dust infiltrated our lungs and mingled with our mucus. We all lay down among the rocks and brambles sipping what little water we had in our Nalgenes, trying to slow our sweat. What water we did have was from a small puddle-like creek at our last campsite. Most of our bottles had little worms in them--all named George--and several of them were still moving.

Eventually the horse packers did come with our water. They were far too late and brought far less than they were supposed to have brought. There were three of them, the father and his two sons, one of which was the size of the horse he was riding. All of them had guns and bullets wreathing their waists. We weren't pleased with them but there was nothing much we could do.

We iodized the water and waited for the poison to kill the amoebic disease within. By the end of the day, the tally was in. There were 9 gallons of water a day for 12 people. That meant 7 gallons for our nine-hour workday, and 2 for dinner. Within 3 days, all of us knew we had to move camp. I, along with everybody else, was observing obvious effects of dehydration. I was startled by a simple emergency pack that I took for a large pair of shoes and a man standing silently behind me.

For the next day or so, we ate as much as we could, so as to lighten our load. We would have to walk down some of the steepest and most rugged paths I had seen up to that point. When we got to Romine Ranch, we all collapsed.

Soon a group of young foresters came out and warned us of the danger. This area had been doused with herbicide. We helped each other up, not as a gesture, but as a necessity. Some of us couldn't stand up with our packs on before the hike. Now legs shook and quivered while three of us pulled on the top of a bag and another person held a hand.

Once we got out of the area, the nice foresters brought us some filter-purified water. It tasted like gold. My particular joy didn't last all that long. Thanks to a friendly game of rock-paper-sissors, I was sent out to dig a 3-foot sump hole and a 4-foot latrine.