Excerpt for Eye of the Hurricane 1 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


Eye of the Hurricane 1

By

Dean Landers

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

World Castle Publishing, LLC

Pensacola, Florida

Copyright © Dean Landers 2017

Smashwords Edition

Paperback ISBN: 9781629897332

eBook ISBN: 9781629897349

First Edition World Castle Publishing, LLC, July 17, 2017

http://www.worldcastlepublishing.com

Smashwords Licensing Notes

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles and reviews.

Cover: Karen Fuller

Editor: Lisa Petrocelli


Dedicated to:

Mum and Dad


For purchasing my first typewriter and

clipping out my newspaper articles


Table of Contents


Chapter One – Into the Fray

Chapter Two – Reality

Chapter Three – Deep Blue

Chapter Four – Crackpot

Chapter Five – Nuts and Bolts

Chapter Six – Money, Money, Money

Chapter Seven – Guru

Chapter Eight – Up, Up and Away

Chapter Nine – Traction

Chapter Ten – TV Show

Chapter Eleven – Home

Chapter Twelve – The Real Deal

Chapter Thirteen – Chow

Chapter Fourteen – Looking Good

Chapter Fifteen – If it Rains, it Pours

Chapter Sixteen – TV Land

Chapter Seventeen – Trash Talking

Chapter Eighteen – Trial

Chapter Nineteen – All Aboard

Chapter Twenty – Port

Chapter Twenty-One – Port

Chapter Twenty-Two – Stumped

Chapter Twenty-Three – On the Trail Again

Chapter Twenty-Four – The Deep

Chapter Twenty-Five – Tunnel of Love

Chapter Twenty-Six – Code Broken

Chapter Twenty-Seven – International Incident

Chapter Twenty-Eight – Paydirt

Chapter Twenty-Nine – Calamity

Chapter Thirty – Into the Maelstrom

Chapter Thirty-One – Turbulence

Chapter Thirty-Two – Vindication


Chapter One

Into the Fray


The deepening swell rushes over the vessel, causing a severe rolling motion that slams me against a wall in the command center. For the last several hours, as the waves and winds got higher and higher and the storm rolled back and forth over us, I had been hanging out in the head purging my heaving guts in spasms of sickness.

What did I get myself into here? I asked myself, reflecting upon the course of events that led to this moment. I know this uniquely designed vessel is engineered to be virtually indestructible in the worst seas the world’s oceans can throw at it. However, a worm of doubt is crawling into my frayed consciousness, betraying the unwavering confidence I once had in this insane project.

A lifelong confirmed news junkie, I habitually monitored CNN and various news feeds available on my computer and phone, searching for the worst disasters and biggest calamities occurring all over the planet. A deep curiosity about world events fed this news craving, also fueled by another compunction that I was less proud of and wrestled with constantly.

The truth was that my fascination with the news pushed into the background my concern for personal issues and problems I was confronting in my own life. People in the news were always worse off than I was, so I could beat my chest with the positive feeling that my life wasn’t so bad. Others had darker destinies than my own.

Actually, many psychologists assert that the process of putting your life in healthy perspective in the context of larger society, serves to achieve a level of self-awareness and greater peace of mind that is highly desirable.

Excessive self-absorption to the exclusion of awareness of matters beyond self has been the downfall of many. Fortunately, I hold that enlightened self-awareness rests upon the notion we are all in this together, that the achievement of mutually positive outcomes is the holy grail of human civilization.

But how did I make this transition from a typical news fanatic to being in the middle of a one-of-a-kind news event. This turn of events was remarkable and unexpected.

Wall-to-wall media coverage of Hurricane Katrina beamed from all channels and news media, describing an unprecedented storm developing in the Caribbean, preparing to smash into the Gulf Coast at some point in the next few days. Katrina had already hit Cuba and other Caribbean islands causing millions of dollars of damage and taking many lives. Weather satellites and related instruments were locked into collection of real-time storm data that was constantly being fed into supercomputers and spewed out as updated storm projections of path, power and intensity.

Predicting hurricanes had come a long way since hurricanes and other extreme weather events were viewed as God’s displeasure with the world. Due to speedy movement of extreme weather phenomena, slow communications systems in the early days prevented people from receiving advance news of bad weather.

Horses and ships didn’t travel faster than weather patterns moving across the planet. The invention of the telegraph in the nineteenth century enabled weather information to be wired to communities in the path of storms. Fast forward to the early twenty-first century and weather analysis and prediction technologies were leapfrogging themselves every few years.

Satellites beamed weather data down to supercomputers, enabling satellite feeds to be interpolated with ground information gathered by radar, weather stations, and other related technologies. The resulting weather models were achieving higher and higher accuracy rates, providing people timely advance notice of weather events affecting their area.

However, due to the increase of global-warming-related extreme weather events, including hurricanes, droughts, wildfires, and superstorms, there were some noticeable gaps in the capabilities of technologies used to gather weather data.

One deficiency in hurricane prediction was the lack of real-time data on surface conditions in hurricane waters. Hurricane hunter aircraft were able to fly into hurricanes and gather weather data from onboard instruments and sensors dropped from these planes. Also, weather sensor buoys were placed on the ocean in the vicinity of hurricanes and allowed to drift through the storm, gathering data and transmitting it to shore stations, planes, or satellites.

However, were these existing technologies enough to monitor hurricanes and gather useful data about these disastrous weather events?


Chapter Two

Reality


Survivorman and Dual Survival are probably my favorite reality shows. Les Stroud, a Canadian, loves being out in the bush and coming up with strategies and tools to stay alive in desperate survival situations. Les has no camera crew with him and does all his own photography while negotiating the perils of the particular survival situation he is replicating on each Survivorman episode. Stroud has a safety crew located a few miles away in case he runs into real trouble and cannot bail himself out. To his credit, Stroud rarely needs the safety crew to come in and save him.

Dual Survival, hosted by Americans, Cody Lundin and Joseph Teti, is premised upon the idea of two people working as a team to extricate themselves from various survival scenarios. Dual Survival is entertaining and educational, providing specific techniques and information to laypersons who may stray off the beaten path and need to secure their own rescue.

Reality shows in all of their manifestations, from Survivorman to Axe Men to Deadliest Catch, all push the envelope of human endurance and stress tolerance for the entertainment and enlightenment of the vast untested masses sprawled in front of their flat screens on La-Z-Boys or couches. In my view, most people tend to choose the path of least resistance in their life choices, “safe” and “sure” being the mantra of their caution-based lifestyles.

Unfortunately, if all humanity opted for the caution-based approach to life, we would still be living in caves and foraging off the land. There have always been people who defied the status quo and ventured into uncharted waters—like inventing the spear, cultivating crops, introducing the wheel, developing electrical systems and devices, to name but a few.

Without risk there is no reward, or conversely, no reward without risk. Fortune favors the bold and fails the meek. Thoughts must be translated into action in order for progress to be achieved.

Over the years, I had come up with numerous ideas for reality shows. After all, reality is limitless in all its manifestations and possibilities. But I didn’t want to be involved in a staged reality show with no real purpose or value other than entertainment. I wanted to do something that had never been done, to go where no man or woman had ever been before.

While I was watching news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, the wheels started clicking over in my mind and a unique idea began to take shape. There is something missing in this picture, I thought. Many wise people have said that if you really want to understand something, you need to place yourself right in the thick of it. An aspiring football player must get out on the field and get knocked around a bit, before he really starts to understand the game. A would-be politician must actually run for office, even if only for dogcatcher to start, to get a real handle on the electoral process.

Or, as Teddy Roosevelt more aptly put it: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”


Chapter Three

Deep Blue


I have always been fascinated by the sea and sailing, imagining myself roaming the oceans with Captain Cook or Joshua Slocum, the first person to sail around the world single-handed in 1896, on his little self-built boat, The Spray. Slocum was a mariner of the first order, having earned his stripes as a blue water sailor on the merchant sailing ships of the mid-nineteenth century.

Only a boy when he first went to sea, Slocum acquired his sailing skills and knowledge the real way, by mastering the multifold aspects of navigating a ship by wind power alone. When steam-powered ships became the norm in the late nineteenth century, Slocum was a man whose time had passed, who was cast adrift in the modern machine-based industrial world.

From the days of Slocum acrobatically maneuvering around the pitching rigging and storm-tossed decks of a three-masted merchant schooner, maritime technology advanced exponentially through the twentieth century, turning the corner into the twenty-first century with a bigger splash, as giant container ships with massive cargoes plied the world’s waterways with clockwork precision. Manned by skeleton crews, these blue water behemoths were guided largely by computers, with the human component of the ship’s operation consigned to monitoring the computers and checking the load.

The voyage of the first United States nuclear powered submarine, The Nautilus, under the polar ice cap in 1958, heralded a new age in undersea warfare and exploration. This new generation of atomic age submarines could stay underwater for extended periods and launch multiple nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles at the drop of a hat. Nuclear submarines roaming the world’s oceans became the cornerstone of nuclear deterrence, the key to MAD-Mutually Assured Destruction. Even if the United States was obliterated by nuclear missiles, this deadly submarine fleet could invoke massive retaliation and retribution, tearing the enemy to shreds.

If all the above was possible, I concluded, why couldn’t we design and build a new type of nuclear-powered ocean research vessel that could go anywhere at any time, handling the worst conditions the world’s oceans could throw at it, while gathering on-the-spot weather data that could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars in property damage.


Chapter Four

Crackpot


When you advocate something that has never been done before, you are often labeled a “crackpot,” drawing fire from all and sundry individuals who think you are absolutely crazy. “If it hasn’t been done before there is a reason for that, it is a dumb idea,” some people will say; or “That idea is too far out there,” “That guy is a nut,” or, most commonly the thought that is rarely voiced, “I’m jealous because I didn’t think of it.”

People in business and government present themselves as supporting innovation in all its forms, but when push comes to shove are they really behind new ways of approaching problems? The Germans set the world standard for high quality road construction, building the famous Autobahn highway in the 1930s involving the best engineers, newest technology, and with a concerted effort and a burning desire to build the longest lasting, smoothest road possible.

The United States did the same with the Apollo Space Program in the 1960s, assembling a team of the best and brightest and putting a man on the moon in July 1969. However, the Autobahn and the Apollo Space Program are exceptions that prove the rule. The United States infrastructure is crumbling due to blatant inattention and mismanagement, with short-term budget-to-budget thinking combined with a negligent lack of foresight and ignoring the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Build a road or bridge properly in the first place, then maintain it regularly so you don’t have to rebuild it from scratch when it crumbles. Billions of dollars would be saved in this way, and a reliable, well-maintained infrastructure would boost the economy and keep us competitive with China and other emerging global powers.

Another dent in the armor of innovation are those that have vested interests in the status quo. Their rice bowl is filled by doing things the old way so they see no need to change. Of course, convincing these old-school individuals they would be better off adopting new technologies and methods is like trying to force a chicken to lay golf balls rather than eggs. Everybody gets older and more conservative and cautious, but that doesn’t mean they need to close off their minds completely. Mother Nature teaches that to survive you must adapt to constantly changing circumstances and conditions. To stick your head in the sand is to sign your own death warrant.

After several weeks of calling everyone I could think of, from governments to corporations to venture capitalists and getting a totally negative response, I began to get disillusioned about my idea. Maybe my plan of building and deploying a new type of ocean research ship that could gather real-time, ground zero data about hurricanes and other extreme weather events, is a no-go proposition. Maybe I should hang it up and join a senior’s ping-pong club to vent my frustrations.

Everyone in my personal circle, knowing I’m always working on some crazy, impossible scheme or new business idea, paid lip service to my constant ramblings about the new research vessel I wanted to build. The idea would lie dormant within me for weeks or months, then I would suddenly get a lightning bolt of inspiration to advance the project forward. This burst of energy would continue for a few days until I ran into another roadblock and the cycle would repeat itself.

My wife, Honeybunch, a huge Facebook fan, told me to put the idea on Facebook and see what happened. Perhaps with everyone networking, someone would come forward out of the digital mist to help get the project off the ground and into the water. I kept posting the idea in different ways on Facebook, hoping to wake some angel out of their slumber. I got plenty of replies but it was the usual innocuous Facebook chatter—people whining about different things or describing day to day personal life minutiae, as if they were the first humans to drive a car, go shopping, meet a friend for lunch, or get hammered at a party. Boring, boring, boring.

One day I groggily awoke late in the morning from a long deep sleep, the kind of sleep I usually had, and turned on my cell phone. I checked my e-mail, phone, and text messages then went on Facebook to see what was cooking there. My eccentric cousin Andy had sent me another slew of messages about the history of rock and roll with photos of every band to have played since Elvis, “The King of Rock and Roll,” lit up the music scene in the early 1950s. At the end of Andy’s rant was the weirdest posting he had ever sent me.

There was no music photo in the post nor any graphics or color of any kind. In fact, the posting only had one five-letter word in large black lettering: CROWD. What did this mean? What was Andy trying to tell me with the word “crowd”? Andy knew that I didn’t generally like crowds, preferring my own company or a small coterie of friends or family.

So I sent a message to Andy asking what he meant by his crowd post. Andy replied promptly, stating that he really didn’t know what he meant by crowd, he was drunk at the time in a busy bar. But, upon further reflection, Andy realized that crowd had nothing to do with crowds at bars as he drank in taverns regularly and liked socializing with wall-to-wall intoxicated bodies. He finally said, “You will have to figure it out for yourself.”

I was perplexed with this conundrum for several weeks, waking up in cold sweats in the middle of the night trying to figure out what this crowd post was all about. At the same time, I was still at a loss as to how I would get my research vessel project going.

One morning I was going through Google News posts in the business section and noticed a write-up about crowd-funding, a method of obtaining capital for producing movies, starting businesses, raising money for nonprofit organizations, and a variety of other purposes. Given that banks were loaning less and less money to individuals and small businesses, and venture capital was very difficult to obtain, more and more people were turning to crowd-funding to convert their dreams into reality.


Chapter Five

Nuts and Bolts


I had already investigated possible designs for my vessel and contacted government agencies, private organizations, and nonprofits involved in weather research, including deployment of specialized data-gathering vessels. I even contacted a retired naval architect who was willing to collaborate with me to design a new research vessel that I decided to name Eye 1, or in longer form, Eye of the Hurricane 1. We looked at a number of different ship and submarine designs and probed the latest cutting-edge technologies developed for these vessels.

At the same time I studied the history of hurricanes and examined the elements of wind, water, ocean temperature, global weather patterns, and other variables comprising a full-blown hurricane or super typhoon. These weather events are two sides of the same coin, called different names depending on what part of the world you were in.

After consultation with other experts, I determined that a boat or submarine with conventional speed capabilities wasn’t going to cut the mustard in terms of being able to catch up to and follow hurricanes. The fastest research ships travel 30+ miles per hour and nuclear submarines, although their exact top speeds are classified, can travel in the 40 mph range under water. These speeds, although fast, weren’t even close to what was needed to catch up to a rapidly developing hurricane and stay in the middle of it.

I seemed to be at a dead end with no way to achieve the vessel performance capabilities my over-the-top project required.

Then one day I was talking with my naval architect advisor and the subject of the popular movie, The Hunt for Red October, came up. In the 1991 movie, starring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, a new generation Russian nuclear submarine not yet known by Western intelligence, is sent on a clandestine mission across the Atlantic Ocean to New York, to test a totally new, super quiet propulsion technology. If it worked as designed, this new supercavitation stealth propulsion system could not be detected by any state-of-the-art submarine hunter technology, thus upsetting the delicate MAD-Mutually Assured Destruction-balance of power between the Soviet Bloc and the United States and its allies.

Armed with powerful nuclear missiles, these new Red October class nuclear submarines could lie close to the United States coastline and quickly destroy major American cities and military targets before we had a chance to respond in kind. Also, undetectable by the United States Navy, Soviet Red October class subs could easily shadow and destroy United States naval vessels, including our nuclear subs.

My response to the architect, who I code-named Arch, was quick and unrestrained: “What has a fictional submarine in a fictional movie got to do with our Eye 1 project?” Arch didn’t bat an eye and responded, “The supercavitation technology is real and has been worked on by both the Russians and us for quite some time. In fact, the United States Navy is currently in the advanced research and development phase of a new supercavitation-propelled submarine called the Underwater Express. Information regarding the current status of this new vessel has not been released.”

The Russians are the only nation with experimental supercavitation torpedoes called Shkval with rocket engines that enable these torpedoes to cruise toward their targets at speeds in excess of 200 mph. Also, the Japanese have developed new ships that utilize supercavitation technology that cuts fuel consumption by 25 percent by blowing air bubbles under the ship’s hull to reduce friction.”

Cavitation technology is the process wherein an object moves so fast through water that it creates a gas bubble around itself so that most of the hull is in direct contact with the gas bubble and not the water. Unencumbered by the high drag of water, the object is free to speed along at much higher speeds than are otherwise possible. The top speed of a small supercavitation vessel is predicted at 127 mph.

Thus, the completed and fully operational Eye 1 supercavitation vessel could sit in the vicinity where most hurricanes form, then launch at top speed to intercept the eye of the hurricane. Most hurricanes that hit the United States begin either in the Caribbean or the Atlantic. Many of the worst hurricanes start off the coast of Africa. Like all tropical cyclones, a hurricane needs the warm water of the tropics, which feeds a storm with energy, in order to form. The atmosphere must be laden with moisture.

Now that I found the right technology to get my Eye 1 project going, I needed to implement my crowd-funding idea to raise money to build this unique new vessel. Also, I must find volunteers to man Eye 1 on her groundbreaking research missions. Who would want to risk their lives barreling along at 127 mph under water so they can gather scientific data in the middle of the eye of a hurricane?


Chapter Six

Money, Money, Money


It was a beautiful spring day and I was sitting out in my front yard enjoying the sunshine with my best friend Osho, a five-year-old chow-lab mix that was abandoned by its previous owner and wound up at the local humane society. It was love at first sight for my family when we were introduced to Osho, a small seventeen pound bundle of energy, in the fenced-in pen adjacent the local humane society building. Osho was home with us the next day.

I carefully consumed a cold beverage, also known as a barley sandwich in Canada, while Osho watched the cars passing in front of our house and smelled the scents coming from the greenbelt area nearby.

I picked up my cell phone and called Arch, my naval architect advisor, to get the cost estimates for building Eye 1. I knew that designing and building this new high-tech vessel was going to be very expensive, but I did not know how pricey it would be.

“Plug,” Arch said, “it is not looking good at all. My estimate of the cost of designing and constructing Eye 1 is in the $175,000,000 to $200,000,000 category. I don’t know where or how we can get this type of money.” I responded with, “I don’t know either, Arch, a few bake sales and potluck dinners won’t get the job done. I am in the process of putting a post on a crowd-funding site to see how much we can raise there.”


Chapter Seven

Guru


Backed up against all four walls, I knew there was only one answer to my dilemma—to go and see my guru for advice. Unfortunately my guru did not live down the street in a three-bedroom ranch. He lived in a self-built cabin far past the end of the road in the wilderness of British Columbia, Canada, so far off the grid that only a handful of his closest friends knew where to find him.

In my old Ford Ranger four-wheel-drive truck, I carefully negotiated the ancient rutted logging path, once a well-maintained road that had supported many large logging trucks transporting logs to local sawmills in the 1950s. Due to the high cost of maintaining logging roads, only currently used logging roads are kept in good shape, then allowed to go fallow after the wood is harvested.

The scenery was spectacular: snow-capped peaks contrasting with thick green forests blanketing the mountainsides and valley bottoms. I grew up with these resplendent mountain vistas and never tired of their majesty. I eased my truck up a steep incline in four-wheel-drive low, trying to avoid boulders and other debris covering this sketchy trail. Once on the crest of the ridge, I looked down a precipitous slope dropping to a deep canyon with a foaming river at its base. Slowly, I made my way down the winding road to a ledge jutting over the steep drop to the water.

I checked my GPS and map with instructions Hatch had sent me by snail mail a couple of months before. I got out of my truck, threw on my heavy backpack, and assessed the narrow trail carved out of the cliff by local Indians several hundred years before. The Indians had worked with the natural curves and indentations of the rocky canyon wall to create a path that was barely negotiable by thin people on clear rain-free days, much less rotund individuals who struggled to get through doors or ease their way into automobiles. Needless to say, these early natives got plenty of exercise in their hunting and gathering lifestyle, with not an extra ounce on their lithe frames.

Luckily my slim body was able to inch its way down the terrifying route to the river with only my backpack occasionally bumping the rock face on the uphill side of the trail. At the flat rock outcrop at the bottom, I set my pack down and examined the class six rapids surging down the canyon. The rapids enveloped boulders with thick foam and giant back waves that caused my spine to tingle with the possibility of overturning in the water and smashing against one of these refrigerator-sized obstacles.

Then I ate some whole grain bars, filled my canteen with river water, and popped a water purification pill into the container, drinking the water after it was purified twenty minutes later. I was excited at the possibility of seeing Hatch again after several years. Hatch Moniker, also known as Mad Dog to his forestry colleagues, was a one of a kind eccentric with a heart of gold and a love of nature exceeded by no one I ever met.

Mad Dog Moniker also had a wild streak that made him famous in the forest service for jumping creeks with a snowmobile and going over a cliff in a snowmobile, saved by the soft snow at the bottom that absorbed the impact of his snow machine crashing down the ninety-foot incline. And he was the fastest in a forestry truck, always tearing along iffy forest access roads at breakneck speeds that defied all physics of back road travel, as if his truck was glued to the dirt path.


When I was first assigned to the remote forestry post where Hatch worked, I was nervous about this new work situation, worrying that people wouldn’t like me or I wouldn’t fit in. When I showed up at the forestry station for my first day of work, Hatch immediately invited me down in the basement to see his office. I stepped into his office and he closed the door behind us where a surprise awaited me inside the door. Solidly affixed to the inside of Hatch’s government office door was a dartboard.

As I stood amazed that Hatch would have the chutzpah to defy forest service regulations by putting a dartboard on his door, Hatch handed me some darts and we started playing. I asked Hatch the obvious question: “What happens if someone comes in the door while you are throwing darts?” Hatch replied, “Tough luck.” After a few rounds of darts and kibitzing with Hatch, I began to relax and think that this was a place I could enjoy. My nature and strict rules and conformist behavior, mixed like oil and water. Hatch was a kindred spirit.

I quickly rolled out my small rubber raft which inflated automatically, then assembled my paddles, which had been separated into two pieces each to fit in my pack. I looked at the turbulent water with great trepidation, imagining myself flipping over into the cold water on the first set of rapids, then thrashing around in the water until I pulled myself up on the shoreline, wet, soggy, and chilled to the bone.

I remembered a wedding back in the early 1980s when a bunch of us got drunk and climbed into a rubber raft before flipping over in the first set of rapids of a well-known Deliverance-type canyon, our timing and coordination nonexistent in the stupefied state we were in. Many canoes, kayaks, rafts, and several lives had been claimed by this section of river over the years. We barely made it out of the water and hiked back to our vehicles, significantly worse for wear after being pummeled and tossed by the raging river waters.

But since then I had improved my skills as a river rat, learning the finer points of staying afloat when that didn’t seem to be possible. My older brother Radisson had been mentored by local whitewater expert Etienne Brule and passed this knowledge along to me, causing my confidence to rise and my abilities to soar.

I carefully stowed my pack in a large dry bag which I tied into the front section of the raft, then cast off quickly, paddling hard toward the middle of the river so I didn’t get slammed into the sheer cliff face downriver from my launching point. Once in the main channel I was able to maneuver around a big boulder before hurtling into a larger set of rapids, making me dance around this set of hazards with my paddles dug in deep with hard steady strokes.

This struggle continued for fifteen minutes until I shot out the end of the vortex into calmer waters, breathing a heavy sigh of relief as I laid back in the raft for a brief respite from the intense action.

Several more sets of rapids followed before the river widened and the land opened up on each side of the watercourse. Now I was looking for a special marker that Hatch indicated on his map as the place I was to go ashore and start hiking to his cabin. A few minutes later I spotted an Indian pictograph on a large rock on the right side of the river. The drawing depicted a grizzly bear with several arrows in its side, etched on the rock with charcoal and ground-down plants in liquid form, faded, but standing the test of time quite well.

I pulled up onshore and grabbed my pack out of the dry bag before stuffing my raft and dry bag under a dense thicket of bushes so that no one would find them. Hatch was insistent I left no clues that would reveal to anyone this location had any special significance.

The next part of my journey was a grinding thirty-mile hike to Hatch’s cabin hidden away on a small high altitude lake several watersheds over. The altitude changes and scarcity of trails would require at least three days of hard travel in this wilderness country.

The quiet of the forest calmed my nerves and caused me to reach back into my memory banks to a period when I spent most of my time in these forests. I had been a wilderness recreation mapper for the forest service in the late 70s and early 80s, a position that required extensive travel in trucks, airplanes, snowmobiles, skis, canoes, and many days on foot.

The goal of this fieldwork was to determine the potential of crown forest lands for various outdoor recreation activities including fishing, hunting, camping, skiing, hiking, boating, canoeing, and countless other forest recreation pursuits. High quality recreation areas would be carefully noted so that logging and other resource extraction activities would dovetail with recreation in the best way possible within the multiple use forestry management framework.

Tourism was a big revenue generator in these parts, providing many jobs in the forest industry and other natural resource-based sectors. Canadians were historically known as “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” given their heavy reliance on natural resources.

I gradually humped up a steep pitch through thick Devil’s Club, a prickly plant that grows abundantly in low altitude, well-watered areas and is the nemesis of many a hiker and backpacker, stopping them in their tracks. Fortunately, I had thick clothing and heavy boots on, the sharp barbs making minimal entry through my outerwear to prick my skin.

My goal for the first day was to reach a small creek about ten miles away and camp there. Water is an important consideration in any backpacking trip where sweat comes in waves due to the heavy exertion required to move a fifty-pound pack across the mottled, up and down landscape. Over the years I had developed a steady measured hiking pace that gobbled up the trail at a consistent rate with few rest breaks, unlike the jerky stops and starts of a novice burning himself out before any real distance gains were achieved.

Hatch was always in superb physical shape, lifting weights five or six hours a day and running around town to complete his errands. His passion for physical fitness and brute strength derived from his low self-esteem as a boy, when he viewed himself as a ninety-eight-pound weakling. Hatch’s other interest was reading books from his vast library containing many volumes on philosophy, nature, poetry, and a variety of other subjects. He valued books as the repository of wisdom and knowledge, reprimanding any miscreant borrower that curled a page or bent a cover or otherwise tarnished his printed treasures.

Also, Hatch was a lot of fun to be around. Often at lunch, Hatch and I and a new minted professional forester named Woody, fresh out of forestry school in Alberta and getting his fiery baptism in managing the thick woodland areas our ranger district was comprised of, would head down to a strip joint for lunch. A few beers and a burger later, we enjoyed the eye candy in front of us, cheering and hurrahing the dancers performing particularly sexy moves for our pleasure. And, after a day working in the bush, hot, dusty, and horny as we were, Hatch always drove through the middle of town, on a street he called “Pussy Lane,” as we scanned the sidewalks for hot babes emerging from offices or stores.

In his second marriage, trouble had been brewing between Hatch and his wife Shirley for quite some time, the exact cause of the disharmony not readily discernible to Hatch’s friends. They knew he deeply missed his daughters living with their mother two thousand miles away in Ontario, but surmised this wasn’t the whole story of the marriage meltdown.

In fear of the cold war turning hot, Hatch was heavily influenced by the Vietnam War, where he served as a Navy Seal in the late 1960s. Hatch rarely mentioned his combat experiences, but talked about the regular nightmares he experienced due to the bloody gruesomeness of the protracted war. A gentle person to his core, Hatch had trouble reconciling his quiet nature with the dispassion required to survive front-line conflict.

Thus, his desire to build a remote sanctuary to escape the looming third World War, reflected Hatch’s disappointment with the path human civilization was taking. Totally opposed to Hatch’s plan to bug out to his cabin, his wife Shirley, a popular hairdresser with a wide customer following, gave him the ultimatum he was dreading—it was either Shirley or the cabin. Hatch chose the cabin.

My back was sore and the muscles in my legs reminded me painfully that they were still there after considerable lack of use. Much older now, I had unfortunately slacked off my physical activities and was in poor shape for this type of strenuous activity. However, I was proud of my progress this day, laying out my tent and starting my cook fire beside the small creek that had been my goal.

I had primarily packed freeze-dried meals that were easy to carry and cook, involving minimal cleanup as well. I filled my small pot with water from the creek and set it to boil on a light, old oven grill that I had found in a junkyard many years before. With rocks carefully placed around the small fire, I had a platform for the grill to rest on in a fairly level fashion.

After eating the tasty stew, I poured some of the hot water into a mug and waited for it to cool down prior to drinking. Sadly, water in these mountain wilderness areas was no longer safe for drinking and had to be boiled or otherwise purified. Various diseases including giardia had invaded the water supply of these far-flung pristine areas, causing serious illness and even death to those who drank the clear, crisp, seemingly harmless water straight from the creek. I had an important mission to accomplish and no plans to die right now.

On the third day in the late afternoon, I faced a steep climb up from a valley to Hatch’s cabin next to a little lake he dubbed “Sanctuary Lake.” Hatch told me to attach a bell to my pack as I neared his cabin so he didn’t mistake me for a bear or human intruder. Highly paranoid after his combat experiences, Hatch didn’t really trust anyone except his friends.

Coming over a small ridge I looked around Sanctuary Lake for Hatch’s cabin but could not see any building in the vicinity. I pulled out my Nikon super zoom camera and ranged it along the shoreline around the lake. Still not finding anything, I decided to walk around the lake and was about halfway back to my starting point when I heard a loud shout nearby. I looked in the direction of the sound but did not see anything until a green bush emerged from behind a screen of trees. It was Hatch in the camouflage ghillie suit he made with local vegetation attached to a breathable fabric, enabling him to blend in perfectly with ground cover in the area.

“Hey Hatch,” I said, “You are a hard man to find.” Hatch grabbed my hand in a crushing handshake and hugged me, lifting me with my pack up in the air and shaking me as a grizzly would shake its prey before killing it with a single bite to the neck. “Plug, you made it, my man, how was the trip?”

“Well, Hatch, it was interesting to say the least. You have picked a fine spot to hide out here. By the way, where is your cabin?”

I followed Hatch through the bush until we came to a flat shelf overlooking the lake, circled by trees with a meadow in the middle. Hatch walked into the meadow, knelt down, and pulled at something on the ground. Immediately a metal hatch came up, and I looked into the dark abyss, where a ladder was attached to one side of the narrow tunnel.

Hatch motioned me to climb down the ladder and said, “Welcome to my crib.” About twenty feet down a large room opened up, lit by an LED bulb attached to the ceiling. Carved out of solid rock, the room contained a narrow cot, an electric stove for cooking, and a collection of books in a large sealed glass case container with a dehumidifier in the bottom.

Fanatical about preserving his books, Hatch knew it was best to keep books in a dry environment at about 35 percent relative humidity. A wall-mounted wooden shelving unit with dishes and dried rice and meat and other preserved foodstuffs, stood over a small sink linked to a plastic water pipe snaking up the wall and out of sight.

Hatch pulled out a bottle of homemade mountain flower wine, gave me a glass, and toasted, “Here’s to ya,” while we clinked glasses. As we drank the wine, I asked how he powered his true-to-life man cave. “Well, Plug, here is how I did it. There is a little stream up the hill from here, where I installed a small turbine power generator that provides me with about five kilowatts of power during the warmer months and varied lesser amounts of power after the big freeze-up comes. I also get my water from this creek.”

“My waste and toilet water go out that pipe over there to a small septic field lower than this room. The waste is filtered out in the septic field and any water that makes it down to the lake is clean. I also have a latrine about one hundred feet from here that I use when I am outside. And, contrary to politically correct environmental thinking, I burn all plastic. In my view, the tiny amount of plastic biodegradable ash residue that goes into the atmosphere is less of a problem than the greater volume of non-biodegradable plastic left on the ground or in the water.

“Or, let’s put it another way,” Hatch continued. “If all the millions of tons of plastic floating around in our oceans was replaced by the residue left after burning this material, what would be worse, a ton of non-burnt plastic bottles or twenty-five pounds of plastic ash residue?”

“The real challenge was installing my solar panels so they could not be seen from the air. Solar panels need to face directly into the sunlight without anything blocking the sun’s rays. Fortunately I was able to order green-colored solar panels and then attached curved pieces around the outside of the main square panels. As you know, there are no straight lines in nature. The bright metal framing of the panels I painted green.”

Looking around the rock walls of the man-made cave, I wondered how Hatch could have carved this room from solid granite. “Oh, that was easy. With my military demolitions training and C4 explosives, I blasted the rock out the side of the hill, then filled the open side with rocks, dirt, and timber framing, covering it with soil so that natural grasses could grow back in.”

“You must be hungry,” Hatch said, putting some water on to boil and getting some brown rice and dried meat and vegetables off a shelf. He refilled my glass with wine and told me to rope my pack down the tunnel before bears ripped it apart.

After a hearty meal and a few more glasses of wine, Hatch suggested we go outside and enjoy the sunset. When we climbed out of the tunnel, the sun was just dipping over the horizon casting a golden glow around the lake. At this altitude, there were few mosquitoes and a paltry number of horseflies and other annoying flying bugs.

“Why did you come here?” said Hatch. “We haven’t seen each other in years and have barely kept in touch.”

“Well, Hatch, I need your help with a project I am working on,” I said. “You have the creativity, skills, and balls to handle the operational side of Eye 1.”

I quickly described the project to Hatch and he let out a huge gasp before saying, “You really are crazy, Plug. Where did you get a mad idea like this? It is beyond anything I have ever heard.”

I let out a sigh and responded, “Hatch, I thought you told me you would never take another life, only saving and protecting lives when you could. This idea could potentially save thousands of lives of people adversely affected by hurricanes and other extreme weather around the globe. And with global warming advancing across the planet, these weather events are getting wilder and wilder.”

“Plug,” Hatch replied, “I haven’t left this cabin in sixteen years, except to get mail and obtain food supplies. I am done with the world, women, and everything that goes along with it. Mark my words, hell is going to break loose any time and I will be sitting pretty up here.”

Hatch seemed entrenched in his thinking, so I suggested we take a walk down to the lake. A narrow gravelly beach surrounded the outlet of the creek Hatch got his power from, abutting the sharp, rocky shoreline around the rest of the lake. The lake was only three quarters of a mile long and half a mile wide, but was several hundred feet deep, allowing a small trout population to survive the severe winters here.

I asked him how his daughters were doing these days. “They are grown up now with kids of their own. I haven’t gone to see them since I moved up here and they’ve never been here to visit me,” Hatch sadly reflected.

“That is easily explained, Hatch,” I said. “This place is harder to get to than the moon. Are you on good terms with your daughters now?”

“No,” Hatch said. “They still blame me for abandoning them after their mother divorced me. Also, they don’t understand my hermit doomsdayer lifestyle.”

“What are they doing now?” I asked.

“Both Alexandra and Elena live in Key West, Florida, with their families. Both of them run a bar there with Ernest, Elena’s husband. Alexandra got divorced a few years ago and has custody of her son Jake. Elena has two kids, a girl and a boy.”

With darkness gathering around us, we sauntered back up to Hatch’s underground home and dug into the wine again, before settling in for the night at about nine.

I awoke early the next morning, stirred by a rapping sound outside. I climbed the ladder, opened the hatch, and found Hatch chopping up a deadfall that had fallen recently near his underground chamber. “I am surprised you have any fires up here,” I said. “I thought you didn’t want to tip off anybody that you are here.”

“That’s right,” Hatch replied. “I only use very dry woods that burn cleanly and give off little smoke. Also, I wait until there is a breeze off the mountain that carries the smoke down laterally through the trees, fizzling out and dispersing it at the base of the valley, where tiny white puffs of smoke rise into the air that could be mistaken as steam or fog off the creek.”

“Would you like some breakfast,” Hatch asked. “I’ve got some trout I can fry up and some excellent homemade bread I made myself.” Hatch put a pot of coffee on the stove and started frying the trout on an old cast iron pan he had found in an abandoned trapper’s shack dating back one hundred years or more.

“What would you like to do today?” he said. “We can take a look around the area if you want.”

“Well, Hatch,” I said, “I seem to remember you mentioning a natural hot spring you found around here. I’d like to take a look at it and have a good soak.”

Natural hot springs are prevalent in western Canada and western United States, formed from deep volcanic activity that causes red hot magma to rise and heat waters close to the surface that bubble out of the ground at high temperatures. This creates a perfect opportunity for bathing in these healthful, mineral-rich waters.


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