April 19, 2002
I leave work at 5:30 PM with a plan. I will drive home collect my things and spend the weekend in Middle Earth. Actually I have been planning and researching all week. I want to fish the willow stream below which Thorin and company encountered the trolls. This is actually not an easy location to pin down for multiple reasons.
The first is that The Hobbit does not name the stream. Next is the seriously vague description of Bilbo's journey from Bree to Rivendell. All that I could deduce was that it was somewhere between the Last Bridge on the Mitheithel and the Ford of Bruinen which lies at the entrance to the valley of Rivendell. Upon further research I found the mention of the stone bridge was added in a revised edition of The Hobbit. Third, Strider's journey with the hobbits in this same area is really confusing. Fourth, the cesium clock on the signal generator is acting up and I can't seem to search for the location by remote viewing. Finally, after reading the various passages multiple times I resign myself to search for the site once I get there.
I pull into my garage and gather my gear. I am met by my cats Nightwind and Wraith. They are being friendly and want to go outside. I explain to them they can't go out today as I fill up their bowl with dry and give them fresh water. They follow me upstairs as I change into jeans, shirt and polar-fleece pullover. In addition, to my fishing gear I will bring a small day pack loaded with rain gear, water, first-aid kit, fire-starting kit, flashlight, and four roast elk sandwiches on sourdough bread. I stuff my fishing boots in the pack as I expect to do some walking.
This time I will not forget to get some pictures. I forgot last week, but it didn't matter as the film in the disposable camera was bad anyway. This week I am bringing my trusty Nikon FA, old but reliable, with a 28-85 zoom lens loaded with a 36 exposure roll of ASA 400.
Finally, I head downstairs, open my gun safe and reach for the mahogany case. I open it and take the S&W model 29 out of it's blue velvet lined form fitting case. I thumb the cylinder release and check that it's not loaded. I grab the leather shoulder holster and slip it in. Next I take two speed loaders, and a box of ammo. The box contains 25 rounds, 240 grain copper-jacketed hollow points, hot-loaded. I wish I didn't have to take the gun, it weighs a ton and it's not very comfortable, but the stretch of the East-West road borders the Trollshaws. Be prepared as my father always says.
I eat my dinner in front of the television, while I pet the cats. They seem content and eventually curl up next to me on the couch. CNN can't seem to hold my interest and after I finish the last of my dinner I put the dishes in the sink and head out the door. The cats look up their eyes seeming to glow in the light from the garage.
I drive to the Park and Ride near work and walk the remaining half mile. I don't want to leave my jeep outside work all weekend, it might be difficult to explain. The sunset is pretty with all the recent forest fires. I let myself into the lab, everyone is gone as planned. I boot the computer and power on the Signal Generator. I load the parameters calculated this morning. The signal generator will cycle on again on Sunday starting at 5:00 PM and once an hour for the next five hours and then once a day for a week about two days walk down the East-West road. Doesn't hurt to be prepared. The air in front of the signal generator shimmers. I shoulder my daypack and step into Middle Earth.
It is dark and cloudy, there are no stars visible. I can hear the Mitheithel off to the west. I put my Patagonia rain parka over my jacket as it is chilly and the wind is blowing. I fish out my Maglite flashlight and begin to walk south towards the Last bridge and the East-West road. After going about 150 yards I see light off in the distance. I get behind a tree, and quickly load my S&W and then creep towards the light.
The light is coming from a nice Inn on the east side of the river. I relax as I approach closer. What Inn is this? I don't remember this from the books. If I remember correctly the last Inn mentioned on the East-West Road was the Forsaken Inn, which is one day east of Bree. For lack of a better name I will call it The Inn at the Last Bridge. It is well built of stone and of human dimensions. I adjust the focus on my Maglite and skirt the Inn and it's surrounding buildings and soon find the road. I take it east, going slowly until I am shielded by a copse of trees where I adjust my Maglite to illuminate a little more of what I am traveling on.
The road base at this point is river gravel, perhaps from the Mitheithel? As I continue to walk east the gravel peters out to just two ruts in the dirt. It is obvious that the road has been constructed as it is bermed and there is a small ditch to the north. The road does not appear to have much traffic as the ruts have mostly overgrown with grass. I see few tracks other than deer and elk. I proceed roughly a mile when I discover an ancient culvert approximately two feet in diameter. It is obviously made of metal but does not appear to be steel as I see no rust. I wonder if the dwarves during the Second Age made it, I probably will never know. Straightening up, my face is hit with a drop of rain.
Great, just my luck, I plan to sleep outside and it rains. I contemplate going back to the Inn but fear I would be marked as a stranger. With no money and unable to speak the language I doubt I could get a room. Perhaps I could barter something but quickly realize I can't spare anything. Oh, well, if I can stay dry I should be fine. I sweep the light around and discover a narrow ravine running to the north. I decide to go up it and find some shelter and make a crude camp. I wonder, is this the same ravine Strider led Frodo and the hobbits up?
I have walked only a little bit, following a small creek when I hear branches crack to my left. The hairs on the back of my neck rise as I arc the light in that direction and reach for my pistol. Four elk are running deeper into the dark trees at the foot of the mountain. I shake my head as I take a deep breath. I continue on and eventually find a sheltered rock outcropping. I spend some time leveling a spot for my bed. It is misting and I decide to change my jeans for my Capilene underwear and my GoreTek waders, they will keep me dry and warm, at least I hope. I am shivering slightly before I complete my change.
I turn off the Maglite to save the batteries as I sit on the ground. The only noise I can hear is the rain softly drumming on my hat. Before everything is soaked I decide to make a small fire while I can. By the time I gather the wood I am still forced to use a fire starting bar to get it lighted. I read the olive colored aluminum wrapper by the light of the fire. FUEL, COMPRESSED, TRIOXANE - RATION HEATING SPECIFICATION: MIL-F-10805C. FOR HEATING COMPONENTS OF A MEAL. DIRECTIONS: Do not remove wrapper until ready to use. Place and burn 1/3 bar or more approximately 2 inched below vessel being heated. Protect from wind. Replace partially unused bar in tightly closed wrapper. CAN-TITE RUBBER CORPORATION, INWOOD, L.I., NEW YORK 11696.
Lord, I wonder which war this was made for? No meal to warm up but the Trioxane sure gets a fire going. 1/3 bar, it was just powder? Anyway I used it all. Where is Inwood, New York? I wonder if the Can-Tite Rubber Corporation even exists anymore? I gather more wood. I watch the hypnotic fire as the temperature drops. I drift off to sleep around 10:00.
I awake chilled and shivering. The fire is almost out. I put wood on the embers and soon have the fire going again. The rain has turned to snow and the wind has stopped. The flakes are large slowly drifting down. Wonderful, first rain, now snow! I sleep the rest of the night in two-hour increments as I am forced to keep the fire going to stay warm.