Going Home: A Test Run
By Brian Welch
“It” happened on Aug. 17th at 6:15 AM PDT. Took a few seconds for the realization to sink in, after the truck’s engine died and the podcast of Radio Free Redoubt on the iPhone went silent. As I shifted into neutral and coasted to a stop in front of the Alpine convenience store on Hwy 95, I thought to myself, “Well, it looks like you aren’t going to work today! Was it the Satanist invocation at the Kenai Borough Assembly that caused God to remove the last of the protective hedge around the US? Guess it really doesn’t matter now!” Looking around at the other drivers getting out of their stalled vehicles with confused looks on their faces, I said out loud, “Okay, here we go boys & girls! Let the games begin!”
And while this sounds like it could be the start of a prepper fiction story, an EMP or CME obviously really didn’t hit on Wednesday, though theoretically, one “could” at almost any time these days. No, this was the scenario for my experiment in the “Going Home” attempt, to see if I really “physically” could do it. I think a lot of folks have this plan in their heads, that “If “SHTF”, I’m just going to grab my “Get Home Bag” (GHB) and hoof it!”, and I’ll admit I’ve had it too. So, it was time to stop talking the talk, and see if I could actually “walk the walk” As part of the abstract though, I think that anyone who does this without doing some preps first is in for a world of hurt! This hike was only half way on the route from home to work which is 24 miles or so I’ve still got to build up more!
As my good friend and brother in Christ, Mark Goodwin from Prepper Recon, points out in his “The 7 Step Survival Plan”, an essential step is getting your body, mind & soul in shape BEFORE an emergency happens. Far too many people have heart attacks when a disaster hits and they have to shovel snow or move debris. So I started walking & doing some running 3 months ago, along with other PT, building up to a 6 mile hike to/from a local spring last week. Combined with the expected 94 degree heat today, I decided to do just the long stretch between town and home that has little logistical support opportunities.
My wife probably thought I was nuts as she dropped me off at the Alpine Store, north of Hayden, ID, on her way to work this day. This was part of the plan though; that I couldn’t call home for help and have her come pick me up if I got too tired. I’d have to “suck it up, Buttercup” and tough it out, just like the lead character, Morgan, did in the book, “Going Home”.
Starting off at 6:23, the cool morning air felt good, and I initially set a good pace headed back north to where I live near Farragut State Park. My plan was to travel the frontage road, instead of along Hwy 95 itself for less traffic and exhaust fumes. This wouldn’t be ideal in an actual emergency, because one would be too exposed and vulnerable, but it was great for my test purposes – just make it home. For future attempts, I’d try to find less trafficked roads, although they’d probably take longer.
One problem I noticed right away is that the State has barbed wire along the whole easement up to just before Silverwood Theme Park. If ne’er-do-wells were to come along, it would be hard to get to cover or concealment quickly.
Another issue that quickly presented itself was my water bladder and its bite valve. While these are alright for those small day packs by themselves, when I stuck this one into the pocket of my GHB, the pressure from the other gear blew probably an 1/8th of the water right out of the valve. I/m definitely going to have to get one with an actual shut off valve. While not a huge issue today, any water loss in a crisis could be unacceptable.
Proceeding northward, I noticed some of the small things that you don’t see at 70 mph during the daily grind, like a handmade cross/American flag at the entrance to someone’s driveway.
As I reached the Ravenwood RV Park, a couple of the “land yachts” pulled out, heading south towards Coeur d’Alene, and I and to wonder how “they” would fare if this was a “real” event. I looked at ALL the rigs in there, wondering where they were from and how they would be reacting if, all of a sudden, everything went dead. How much food & water do they have with them and what would the locals do about all the out of town folks? Silverwood wasn’t open yet as it was still too early, but they get 1000’s of people a day during the season. If a hostile interest like North Korea lit up the satellite that is suspected of being EMP capable in our early afternoon as it passed overhead? Hmmm. I kept walking, pondering the possibilities.
By this time, my feet were starting to speak to me a bit. “Hey, what’s up with this?” I didn’t have the “best” boots on, but if it’s God’s will, we will have to make the best of what we have with us. I hope the office workers, nurses, construction guys etc. have alternate footwear with them. If you’re a woman wearing heels and don’t have something else – well good luck with that! By this time, I had turned off onto Bunco Road and was diagonaling it towards the homestead instead of going through Athol itself, leaving the traffic of the highway behind and enjoying the beauty of the North Idaho foothills.
My pace has slowed a bit, but I was still making really good time. As Bunco branched off from Nunn Road, it was only a little after 9 AM! This was a good thing because the air temp had picked up considerably and I was glad that I likely wouldn’t be doing this during the heat of the day. Seeing my shadow marching faithfully along beside me gave me a smile. I’ve lived up here for 23 years now, since escaping from Southern California, and while I’ve driven these back roads many times, walking them gives a definitely different perspective. What takes 10 minutes to drive obviously takes considerably longer to walk. Parks Road is just ahead, except it’s not. Is this the turn to Whitetail Drive coming up? No, just another driveway. Keep walking, dude.
As I turned onto the “homestretch”, my feet started talking a little LOUDER – “Hey Smart Guy, exactly WHY are we doing this again? This HURTS! How about sticking Mr. Thumb out there and getting us a ride, eh?” My thoughts were from a t-shirt I picked up from work the other day – Sweat Dries – Blood Clots – Bones heal – Suck it up Princess”.
As I came down the driveway towards home, I thought about how good some ice water from the well would feel on the hot & tired “dogs” in my boots. But if this “were” an EMP, the well wouldn’t be working – no power. I’d have to get a genny out, fire it up and then pump some water. Not today though, this has been enough fun. Check in with the wife, let her know I’m home safely in 4 hours and 17 minutes for 11 ½ miles. Not bad for a 56 year old!! BUT – this was only halfway. Would I, could I, do “another” 12 miles? “What if” I had to do this again tomorrow?
In the book, Morgan had to go close to 250 or so to make it home to his loved ones. And there were no other panicked victims to be concerned about or cities to go through or around. I didn’t have to walk in a tactical manner, watching for “bad guys” who could shoot me from out of pistol range and take the stuff that I’d carried for hours or days. Still, I proved to myself that I could do “this” with the help from the Lord above and the gifts I’ve been blessed with. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I hope that this will provoke some thoughts, and maybe discussion, and maybe motivate some others to try out their plans & preps as well while it’s an option and controllable, not mandatory. Take care & God bless!