When the SHTF – what do I do? Part 11

I’ve left my home, my possessions and all that I have now is carried on my back. How do I survive until it’s safe to return?

moon-lightIf you’ve got to leave your home there should always be a good reason for it.

One reason is your living in a densely populated city, police have abandoned their posts to care for their own families, grocery stores have been stripped bare, and gangs are roaming the streets looting stores and homes in wealthy neighborhoods and chaos and fear are spreading.

The last time you used your backpack was when you and your old frat buddies took your annual group vacation trip to Joshua tree for a few days in the desert and now you’ve filled it with essentials food, clothing, water, survival gear and a weapon for your personal protection.

Over the last couple of days you’ve been reading a book on survival techniques you found at a used book store and it doesn’t say anything about this situation you’re in.

Your apartment is located in the western section of town but it’s still a couple miles to more secluded and wooded locations – how am I supposed to get there undetected?

You probably won’t go undetected and don’t expect to, after all you live in a densely populated area and chances of encounters will be huge.

You don’t need to panic though as others who are not out to rob, rape or take advantage will be out roaming after dark trying to find food, water and shelter too.

Where do they come from? They come from the same place as you inside buildings where they feel safe and are hiding from roaming bands of thugs. They don’t own a gun or wouldn’t know how to use one if they did and like most of the population are driven by fear and panic at the situation they have found themselves in.

Did this situation just happen overnight, were there no warning signs – it was very likely there was plenty of warning but like everyone involved in their own busy lives it was ignored or thought some ‘prepper’ nut job was spouting nonsense and it could never happen in our society and if it did the local police and government agencies would step up and take control.

Well it did happen and no not overnight.

The warning signs were given over a few months preceding the collapse. A slow decay of the country’s infrastructure when the stock market started to spiral downward from a record high of 18,000 dropping hundreds of points a day, the second home bubble burst and sporadic outages in the power grid started when home grown terrorist groups began sabotaging power stations across the country.

What happened then was the unthinkable it all just fell apart. The entire power grid went down and with it water, sewer and communications.

The police were dispatched to reports of looting and vandalism, home break-ins and businesses had their windows smashed and contents carried away and some business owners who valiantly tried to protect what they had shot and killed some looters but eventually met their own demise, their bodies left in the burning remnants that were their family business.

You watched as neighbors packed their cars with everything they could carry and rush out onto major highways only to be stuck in gridlock as tens of thousands of other were for hours and then days eventually abandoning their cars to begin walking to anywhere away from the city.

You stayed put in your apartment drawing no attention to yourself, remaining quiet and inconspicuous. You have a stock of dry and canned food supplies and from college the water dispenser your mom bought you with its 2-1/2 gallon bottles you stocked up on at Wal-Mart. And thankfully its summer and the winters cold is months away.

You begin to pack your hiking pack, extra jeans, short and jacket, dry and canned foods enough for a week maybe more if you ration it out, survival gear; a single burner camping stove and 1 pound propane bottles, your trusty Katadyne water purifier, 100-ounce Camelbak and two water bottles, small bottles containing bleach, iodine, liquid soap, also your Red Cross medical kit, a mummy sleeping bag, and two man tent and ground pad and the other essentials you always take on your week-long campouts all fitting nicely inside.

You have a tactical belt you’ll be wearing around your waist containing a fanny pack you stow a dozen power bars, long-burning candles, 100 extra rounds of ammo for the 38-special revolver you inherited from your grandfather, a pocket sized windbreaker and poncho, flashlight, extra batteries, knife, Leatherman and walking staff.

You watched YouTube video’s of guys with tactical shotguns and semi-automatic assault rifles with dozens of magazines, gear and food weighing 100 pounds they called their bug out bags. You were an avid outdoorsman with years of experience since Boy Scout summer camp and the thought of carrying more than 50-pounds of anything was ludicrous.

Your entire pack fully equipped was just over 40 pounds and hiking being in good shape you would have to rest after just a few miles. You would be moving under stressful situations, after dark trying to avoid compromising situations, adrenaline pumping, mental and physical exertion, heightened sense of awareness all these factors draining you energy reserves and making you perspire more than you normally would. Having an adequate reserve of water to hydrate you during this hike suddenly is of major importance.

Night fall comes quickly and you begin to question not only your preparedness but you personal resolve but know deep down you need to leave the city to get yourself to safety and survive.

You look at your watch it’s just after 9 p.m. and you’ve planned this day when there would be no light from the moon. Street lights no longer illuminate the roads and you will be moving slowly maybe making 3 mph on average. Your planned goal is rural woodland to the east nearly 10 miles away. From there your goal is to follow a small stream north to a 150,000 acre Bureau of Land Management tract where you do your weekend hikes and camp.

The plan is to follow the stream to be close to fresh water and an embankment that can be traversed even when the stream passes under roadways there are large box culverts that you can easily walk through and to keep you hidden from prying eyes where homes periodically dot the rural landscape.

mountain-roadWell, it’s time to go.

You step outside, look around, the nights quiet and you move as noiselessly as you can around to the back of the building where a 6-foot fence separates your apartment complex from a church parking area. The perimeter is covered with small trees and instead of climbing the fence you throw your pack over, pulling up on the chain link at the bottom creating a large enough gap and wiggle your body through. You load up backpack again and set off keeping to the outskirts of the parking area.

The side street is dark and other condo and apartment complexes are in dim view in the night and you walk keeping close to buildings walking away from the street and stopping every little bit to listen to the nighttime sounds. The familiar barking of neighborhood dogs is eerily silent only the chirping of the crickets and night birds are heard.

You begin to pass through a neighborhood dotted with homes lining the darkened streets and in the distance you see the faint silhouette of a man and the glow of a cigarette some 200 feet away and you pause watching intently until he throws the cigarette to the ground and you see him walk back into the house and disappear from sight and you move on.

It’s been 30-minutes and you’ve gone just over a ½ mile from your home and at this rate you’ll never make the woods before sunrise and realize you’ve got to run the risk of moving at a more hurried pace still being cautious, still keeping to the shadows and avoiding contact when you can.

You begin to walk to the intersection of a major road that runs east and west and suddenly see oncoming headlights not 100-yards away you spot an outcropping of bushes and move as quickly as you can hide behind them as the vehicle draws near.

The vehicle is pickup with a driver and passenger and four others in the bed all armed and what seems watching intently as they joke among themselves and slowly turn and head down the very street you just walked beside.

You’re seeing first-hand that the night’s dangers are very real. This is probably only one of many marauding bands of street thugs roaming in stolen cars and trucks abandoning one when the fuel runs out and stealing another. They are looking for targets just like you trying to escape under the cover of darkness.

You see the tail lights of the truck grow small and know they have turned off onto the main street about ½ mile south of your present position. It’s time you move on and put some distance between you and another chance encounter.

You’ve come to the water source that is your chosen escape route. It traverses through neighborhood backyards, through the rear of industrial parks, schools and areas of open land where you could easily be spotted. You set off at a good pace and then you hear it the sound of people moving and low toned but distinct conversation that sounds like the high pitched speech of a child and the loud ‘be quiet’ apparently the parent admonishing the child’s innocent query.

You stay low to the ground several dozen feet back away from the stream and slowly you make out the darkened figures of five people, two adults and three children walking toward where you just came from and you have the urge to call out to tell them they are going the wrong direction headed into what could be their certain demise. But you hold your tongue as they may be trying to reach family members in a nearby neighborhood.

You wait until they can no longer be heard walking as fast as you can maintain quiet movement squeezing around fences backing the water’s edge and staying low passing open ground.

You see the lights of the pickup entering a neighborhood to your north and the night’s quiet erupts with the sound of gunfire and the scream of someone caught in their crosshairs. You can hear the roar of laughter as they speed off in search of further prey.

You’ve made good time and have gone just over 3-miles in 1-1/2 hours not great but so far safely.

Its 10:30p and you stop to rest and conserve a little nervous energy, drop your pack, pulling out a power bar and a bottle of water. You remember from scouts to eat slowly, drink the water in slow sips to avoid cramping and nausea which often accompany stress.

You rest for 30-minutes and pack up ready to move out. You were deep in thought and never heard or noticed movement 50-yards to your rear then the breaking of a stick causes you to hit the ground drawing your grand-dad’s revolver.

You eyes have grown accustomed to the dark and you can see decently up to 30 yards away. The sound you heard was made by a group of 6 – 8 armed men moving with determination south in the same direction as the family you encountered earlier, their flashlights brightly illuminating their path. They pass by quickly and thankfully did not shine that light in your direction.

Walking at night in and of itself is a hazard one misstep into a hole and you snap your ankle or come across a nocturnal feeding water moccasin you know inhabit the waters you follow.

The stream is blanketed by high brush for the next couple of miles and in some areas you have to wade in the stream making noise you hope not to.

You look at you watch seeing the time is just after midnight and you’ve covered just over 6 miles and your destination is across a major 200-foot wide interstate littered with abandoned cars and trucks but with some people who decided to remain with their supplies and vehicles till the help they think will come never does – they are on their own.

The stream is diverted to the south nearly a mile along the interstate and passes through a culvert at the crossing of an overpass on another roadway sure to be traveled by gangs and robbers.

You chose to cross the interstate fence and make your way the 200-feet to the safety of the woods on the other side.

The fence is low and you wade through the knee deep stream and make your way cautiously up the embankment to the berm where an abandoned minivan sits with its side door open. You climb the bank and make your way to the minivan dropping your backpack and taking time to get nourishment and have a drink of water.

The night isn’t only dark but dense clouds drift slowly across the night sky and the smell of rain is in your nose. You reach for the poncho as you gear up again and drape it over your head and pack pulling it down draping your body to stay as dry as it will allow.

The road is dotted with blackened hulks as you move from vehicle to vehicle and sure as hell you hear voices just ahead of you.

You move along a line of cars keeping low until you have moved 200 feet away from the talking and move slowly through the median and into the next three lanes of abandoned vehicles that in the dark remind you of a giant graveyard running for dozens miles in each direction. This was humanity thrown back into the Stone Age with millions meandering on roadways just like this one hoping to find safe haven away from the dangers of the cities they just left played out in dozens of metropolises’ across the country.

The walk down the next embankment and crossing of the fence somehow made you take a moment, stop and look back and you see the figure of a small girl standing on the side of the road looking in your direction. You hurried into the adjacent woods disappearing from her gaze yet she never made a sound to call out or to point in your direction.

You are safe traveling the next couple miles completely away from roads only crossing a dirt road under overhead power lines which you follow for ½ mile again locating a stream going east. This stream is small and overhanging brush block your way making it difficult to make much headway so you decide wading the stream is the answer.

An Example:

small-streamYou suddenly hear the unmistakable sound of a shotgun round being chambered off to your right and slowly draw the revolver pushing it down the front of your loose fitting shirt under the poncho so it won’t be easily seen.

“You – come on outta there and move slow I don’t want to have to shoot you by mistake”. It was the voice of a woman.

You slowly walk up the shallow embankment into an open area beyond the brush and standing there is a women dressed in completely in black with a pump shotgun pointed in your direction.

“What are you doing on my land?” She demands to know.

“I didn’t think it was anyone’s land – I was just passing through, no harm or trespass meant”. I said.

“This is my family spread and we had two of our cattle butchered and the carcass left to rot in the field and I’m keeping tabs since they were found just a few hundred feet over there”, She said pointing behind her and to the left.

“My name’s Ric and I just walked out of the city about 8 miles back best I can figure trying to make my way to the BLM woodlands to the east of here.” I said.

“I can see you loaded down and wading in that stream I heard you 100 yards away”. Her tone was less menacing this time. She lowered the shotgun.

“I heard on the shortwave about the cars on the roads and looters in the city, is it really that bad?” She asked.

“It’s worse than that, gangs are riding around day and night shooting anyone they see, stores looted and burning and I thought I’d best get out before I became a victim too”. I said.

“I’m Jenny, come on up to the house and get some fresh water, something to eat and rest a bit, we are on more than 600 acres here and not much chance of anyone coming close without being seen, we have a clear field of view nearly 500 yards in every direction and then we can let my father decide what to do with you”. She said matter-of-factly.

The farmhouse was a single story structure with a small barn across the open yard with two black horses penned in.

“Dad!” – Jenny yelled out to her father – “We have company!” She yelled again.

A wiry grey hair man in his 60’s walked out onto the porch eyeing me curiously.

“I found him wading the creek on the south 40 where we lost those steers – I thought I’d best bring him in so you could see him and decide what to do”. She said.

“He don’t look like no desperado to me girl, he’s a might skinny to be lugging off a quarter of a steer don’t you think?” Her father had a grin on his face and waved me inside.

“You have to forgive Jenny she gets a little zealous in her idea of duties and this time is one of those instances I‘m speaking about Jenny”. He looked directly at her in a manner not approving of her actions.

“You got a name – son?” He asked.

“Yes sir, Ric Blanton and no I’m not a cattle rustler whatever that is and from the size of one of those cows I don’t see how someone could carry off a big chunk’” I said.

“Several of the smaller ranches here about has had similar kills, whoever it is will down a steer and cut away a rear quarter section about 140 pounds of meat leaving the remainder to rot in the field and we don’t find it till the next day so salvaging the meat is impossible that is why my daughter has been patrolling the property and you never did say why you was walking in the creek”. He said raising his eyebrows waiting for an answer.

“I was heading east of here to the BLM forests to hide out escaping the killing and turmoil in the city. The cops have all quit doing their jobs, no military to speak of and it’s become a war zone so I decided better to get out than try and stay”. I said.

“The BLM actually backs up to my west fence line – you were within a few hundred feet of it. You looked packed up for a good length of stay but I don’t see a rifle for game – how you planning to eat when your food runs out?” He asked.

“I have enough for 2-weeks and after I don’t know besides fishing” I said.

“You’ll starve to death, get sick or someone will shot you dead because you to will start to rob folks to live. I have an idea you might find strange since you don’t know us at all but you seem like a nice fella – why don’t you stay here with Jenny and I and help us defend our spread? You’ll eat decent, have a dry place to sleep and someone to cover your back the way we will teach you to cover ours?” He smiled and held out his hand.

“I’d really like that I’ve been on my own for three years in town and really don’t know anyone and the future being alone sounded like a dismal choice. If you’ll have me and you will need to teach me I have a 45 year old revolver I have never even shot or even know if it still will. So yes I accept.” I said.

The end of the story but the fact shows you cannot survive on your own you need a small contingent to cover you back because you have to sleep, people get sick and different skill sets are important to the preservation of the group.

Find others you can trust and talk, it may save your lives.

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