Five Rolls of Film

It was a nondescript turn out along the highway in Eastern Nevada. I parked my car, put on my backpack and headed up the trail onto the hillside and into a copse of trees.

Four hours and a roll of film later, I dropped down into a beautiful little basin with one of the bluest lakes I’d ever seen in my life. After snapping a couple of frames of the sight, I tramps down to the waters edge and decided that this is where I’d establish my camp for the night.

While exploring the lake bank, I burned through another three rolls. By four in the afternoon, I figured it was a good idea to build myself a fire ring, collect as much dead-fall as possible, and to pitch my tent.

That evening I enjoyed a can of beans, mixed with a precooked sandwich bag-sized helping of white rice. I followed it up with a cup of hot coffee topped with a touch of one of those airplane-sized bottles of Jim Beams.

Sleep came quickly after I crawled into my sleeping bag and tucked my pack under my head as a pillow. However, I woke near sunrise, very cold, with my exhalations having become miniature icicles hanging from the top beam of my tent.

Opening my bivy, I saw that a layer of snow had fallen and even though I was chilled to the bone, I stayed in my tent and bag until the sun began to warm the eastern side of my shelter. Once outside, I quickly packed up my campsite, ate two or three handfuls of granola and started up and out of the valley.

It was somewhere around the rise that I took the wrong trail, a small but easily corrected error, that lead me down into a wide meadow. However, I made a monumental mistake by becoming over-confident and headstrong by deciding not to check my bearings using the compass I had stowed in my pack.

About three-hours into my return trip, I realized I was very much off course. Rather than worrying about getting back to the trail-head, checking and double checking my surroundings, I had been too busy taking pictures.

It was nearly five in the evening and the sun was quickly sinking, taking the light with it, when another snow storm swooped in. The winds swirled the large flakes in every direction, leaving me dizzy as I tried to find a place to set up a camp.

Fortune was on my side though, as I saw in the distance what looked to be a small out-building. As I drew closer, I realized it was an abandoned, ‘Karro Kampos,’ or a Basque Sheep Wagon.

It had been modernized as seen by it’s flat and weathered rubber tires and rusting metal chassis. The wood tongue was broken in half and the steps were missing, but this didn’t matter as I scrabbled up onto the rear porch and scampered inside.

The potbelly stove and its pipe were missing, obviously salvaged or even scavenged, leaving a hole in the roof, that lead to the walls of that corner having come undone over the years of neglect the wagon had seen. I also had to struggle to get the door to close and remain close as darkness fell.

From that point on I would used my headlamp to see by, as I laid out my ground cover on the floor, to use as an extra layer of warmth, and unrolled my sleeping bag atop it. I ate my beans cold, and directly from the can, before I decided to finally get out my compass and then search my camera bag for the possibility of another roll of film.

There was no more to be had, so I repacked my bag, loaded it into my pack and turned in for the night. The following morning, the storm had broke and the snow was beginning to melt, when I finally pulled my compass from my jacket and learned that I was heading three or four degrees off course.

It took me less than two-and-a-half hours to find my way back to the trail and finally the trail-head and my car. That night, after a hot meal and a warm shower, I slept like a log in my comfortable bed and next to my wife.

The following day, I pulled my gear from the car and laid it out, drying, vacuuming and cleaning dirt and debris from the pack, the sleeping bag and my tent. Once finished, I hauled out my camera bag, unpacking everything, with the intent of giving my photo equipment a good overhaul.

That’s when I realized I was missing my 50mm lens and all the exposed film I had shot the previous two days. Maddeningly, I’ve never been able to find that ‘nondescript’ roadside turnout since that day and I continue to suppose that my film and lens are still there or have been scavenged by now.

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