Today seemed like it would never end, finally home from work. Think I’ll pack up some gear for a day hike tomorrow. OK I have my medium hydration pack so I think; just a blade and a couple items should do me. Hmm now, which knife to bring? Ah yeah the TOPS Knives SURV-TAC 7 been waiting to try this one out, oh and the TOPS kit E-16 this looks promising for sure. “Ok honey I’m all ready for tomorrow, you sure you don’t want to come with me?” I say to Amanda. She replies “No babe I told my mom we’d do lunch tomorrow, just the girls”. I’m as restless as a kid on Christmas waiting for the day to come to a close, finally I drift off and fall asleep.
As I creep slowly to my truck I leave a map of the area I plan to hike and time frame, I should be back, just in case. It’s about a 90 minute drive from Phoenix to the Dugas off ramp. I plan to check out some ruins I spotted last time. It’s been a fairly relaxing drive up, think I’ll stop off at Cordes Junction and grab a couple power bars. As I am leaving the gas station, I run into my good friend John Campbell. “Hey bro, thought you would be out and about on a nice day like this“I say to a John. “Oh trust me man I’m about to head out, going a little ways up towards Dugas. Going to see if I can’t finish this video I’ve been working on and try to grab some pictures while I’m out” John replies back. “Right on bro, well I’m headed in the same direction. Maybe I’ll run into you on my hike?” “That’d be cool, alright bro take it easy” we shake hands as we part. Glad to know John will be in the area just in case anything goes wrong.
The breeze is keeping me quite cool today, seems weird thinking it’s cool feeling even though it’s 107 degrees out. Birds chirping as I pass them by, lizards scurry at my very step. This is what I live for; the sounds, smells, and feel of nature and how everything big or small affects everything it meets. A humbling feeling comes over me as I pass the ridge where I scoped out the ruins. Just a few hundred more feet and I will be there. I can see the petroglyphs carved into the rock wall, my Lord they are amazing. It is unbelievable to see such skill with only stone tools, to depict a hint in great detail. As I am amazed by what I am seeing carved into the side of the cliff face, I fail to notice the 20 foot deep crevice below my feet.
With no time to react…I am falling and falling quick! I look around reaching searching for something to grab on to possibly a root. I reach for it, both hands outstretched. I grab for it, the root stops me approximately 5 feet from the crevice floor. I brace myself as I let go of the root and drop to the sandy bottom. I survey the area; I see vegetation, which means water. I see a natural cave, which means I have shelter. I gather some pieces of dead and downed Palo Verde and mesquite that the wind has blown over the side of the edge. I decide to check out the area with vegetation. As I walk up, I cannot believe my eyes, it’s a natural spring flowing from underground! I must have fallen where it reaches the surface. Once I have the layout of my area I decide I best check my pack for supplies, there is no telling how long I will be out here.
I open my pack, remembering the TOPS kit E-16 I pull it out and check the contents. The kit E-16 has the following items: RAZOR BLADE, 3 BARREL FIRE STARTER, P-38 CAN OPENER, STEEL SNAP LINK (carabineer), FRESNEL LENS , HD RUBBER BAND, SAIL NEEDLE, 2 SAFETY PINS, 25’ of FISHING LINE, 2 FISH HOOKS, SIGNAL WHISTLE (126 DECIBEL), LIQUID FILLED BUTTON COMPASS, 12’ of ORANGE MARKING TAPE, ACRYLIC SIGNAL MIRROR, METAL HINGED BOX, and a ID CARD. I also have the SURV-TAC, a full 120 ounce bladder full of water, 4 power bars, and a 12-ounce bag of beef jerky (spicy teriyaki flavor).
First things first I set up my temporary shelter by fortifying the open ends with some cat tail I found and lashed together with the paracord inner strands that came with the SURV-TAC. Next, I use the SURV-TAC to prepare the wood by batoning through it to make smaller pieces for tinder. Next, I gather some dead dried grass and make a tinder bundle. Utilizing the 3-barrel fire starter I scrape magnesium slivers into my tinder bundle, I created a spark by positioning my SURV-TAC at an angle and in a sliding motion pulled the ferro rod portion up against the steel. SUCCESS I have fire!! Now that the two biggest tasks are taken care of I decided to check out this natural stream, I figure if all else fails this is my life source right here.
I peer into the water and there is movement, I see movement! As I stare down into the water, I see a crayfish scooting along. Seeing this tender morsel gives me an idea. I grab the fishing line, hooks and a piece of beef jerky from my bag and kit. I string the line to the hook, and bait it with a piece of jerky. I cascade the baited line into the water and within mere seconds, I have a crayfish on my line. Slowly I pull it in; I unfold my bandana and scoop it inside. I continue this for about another 45 minutes. I successfully caught just under 3 dozen crayfish. I bring my haul back to my camp. I know now that I have a food source and a plentiful one at that.
While cooking my catch on a flat boulder that I placed in my fire, it hits me. I go back to the KIT E-16 and pull out the orange marking tape. I know I need to get it up to the ledge. But how? I imagine several ways to get it up there but in my head, I also imagine most of them failing or having just the right circumstances in order for it to work. I decide to make a quick bow and one arrow. I go back towards the water and approach the vegetation. I make short work of cutting through a couple saplings with my SURV-TAC. Notching both ends of the thickest piece, I then string it with a remaining paracord strand. Once that is set up and functioning I notch one end of a smaller, straighter piece for my arrow. Attaching the marking tape to my arrow, I fire it up trying to land it in a shrub near the edge. It takes a few attempts but I am finally successful.
The night comes quick, even though it is Arizona and I spent the day in high temperatures the weather starts to turn. I can feel it dropping, gradually at first but then all of the sudden it hits, the temperature is about 40 degrees. I move my fire as close to my shelter as I can. I bundle up inside of my clothes and take comfort that because of the work I did earlier on the shelter it is holding in heat fairly well. I settle in for the night, listening to the sounds the darkness brings. A coyote howling in the distance, crickets chirping, and many unknown creatures slithering and scurrying near me. My body settles in and I fall asleep, unbeknownst to me Amanda has notified local authorities that I have not yet came home from my hike and she has passed on the information I left her. “Hi, is John there?” a voice comes through the telephone receiver, “Yeah hi this is John, who is this?” John asks. The conversation continues and Amanda alerts John to the situation. John comforts Amanda and lets her know that he is confident with the training, equipment and being able to think straight in a stressful situation that I will be just fine.
The morning sun creeps inside my shelter as if to say hello. I awaken stiff and a little worse for wears, that fall and drop must have taken more out of me than I thought. As I re-stoke my fire and start to munch on a power bar. About halfway through I feel like someone is nearby. I grab the signal mirror out of the KIT E-16 and start to catch the sun’s rays. Flashing light in the direction of the orange signal tape, I begin to pray in my head; Lord please let whoever is out there seeing this light. Seconds feel like minutes and minutes feel like days, I feel defeated but I know that is just my mind playing tricks on me. I continue to signal and I begin to hear what I think are footsteps. I can hear the sand separating between the tread as each step gets closer to my signal tape. I see a pair of eyes peering down on me. It’s JOHN…my friend John Campbell! “John” I yell “I’m here, I’m down here!” he sees me! I am saved, I cannot believe it I am saved! John pulls me up and out, I am back on top. I stare down to where I was and in the back of my mind I know that I will somewhat miss being in there. I tell John what happened, how I fell and how I used what I have learned as well as the tools, I brought with me in order to make it through the night. He looks at me and says, “I’m glad you came out of it OK bro, be glad you had the tools you had or it would have been a lot harder for me to find you”.
Article by: Jake Wilson
Edited by: John Campbell
Photos by: John Campbell
Special Thanks to Mike Fuller and TOPS Knives for making this story possible; for designing and building some of the best knives and tools available today.
Short addition by: John Campbell
Testing out the TOPS Kit E-16 there was a Fresnel lens that we used as a fire starter. We removed it from the tin and made a tinder bundle from the inner bark of the cottonwood. This was worked into a very fine tinder and it works very well for a huge range of fire starting tasks. In this case Jake simply focused the beam of light on to the tinder bundle. Once it began to smoke in around 5 seconds he began to blow on the forming ember. In roughly 30 seconds we had a fire. With the fishing that was done and the testing of the the fire steel, Fresnel lens, and the signal mirror this kit get a good rap from both me and Jake.