This is the first of a bi-weekly series here at Adventures in Borkdom. It chronicles adventures I have that are directly inspired by the books I read.

Hatchet by Gary PaulsenThis week’s first Inspired Adventure comes from my reading of Hatchet, a young adult adventure novel by Gary Paulsen. Here is Goodreads’ synopsis of the book:


Thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson is on his way to visit his father when the single engine plane in which he is flying crashes. Suddenly, Brian finds himself alone in the Canadian wilderness with nothing but his clothing, a tattered windbreaker, and the hatchet his mother has given him as a present — and the dreadful secret that has been tearing him apart ever since his parents’ divorce. But now Brian has no time for anger, self-pity, or despair — it will take all his know-how and determination, and more courage than he knew he possessed, to survive.

After reading this amazing book, I was inspired to seek out nature. I decided that I would take to the mountains of San Diego County, namely the Laguna Mountains. This is an area which I was already somewhat familiar–occasionally, my husband and I take Sunday drives up to the mountains and daydream about making a home in the wilderness. We’ve also made a few backpacking/camping trips to the area, so I had some ideas about trails to take. Finally, it should be noted that this is our evacuation location for the impending Zombie Apocalypse. So, this hike would be useful for both making connections to Hatchet, as Merrellswell as for scouting out the logistics of a future survival scenario.

On Wednesday, right after a grueling work day of writing assessments for the upcoming school year, I headed home and gathered all the supplies I would need for this adventure. I needed water, a few snacks (granola bar and peanuts), and sunblock. I also changed into my trusty Merrells and some adventure-seeking shorts. I was ready to go! Almost.

What if something happens to me up there?

I wanted to be as prepared as a boyscout, so I stopped by my garage and grabbed my hiking fanny pack (yes, I have a fanny pack, and no it’s not as cool as the New Kids on the Block fluorescent fanny pack that I proudly wore in 1989). The pack still held some useful items from my last backpacking adventure–energy bars, a flashlight, lip balm, a lighter, a pocket knife, and a tampon (who knows how long I’ll be stranded up there!).

The drive up to the mountains typically takes about an hour or so, yet this one took a bit longer, due to typical city slicker-types of issues. Afternoon traffic. Re-paving the mountain roads. Getting lost. Ugh. All I wanted was to immerse myself in nature and deal with nature problems, but civilization keeps getting in the way!

After dealing with traffic, I decided to go to a closer wilderness area–I was losing daylight. So, instead of driving on to the Laguna mountains, I took the exit for the Cuyamaca Mountains. This area is full of trails and interesting wildlife. Plus, it was close, so I could get to nature quicker. That’s when the re-paving happened. I was stuck in a line of cars for about ten minutes, waiting for the signal from the dude in the orange vest that would allow me to drive on. Once I got that, it was all about finding a hiking spot.

I pulled over at the West Mesa loop. I had never taken this trail before, but there was easy parking on the side of the road, and besides…this was ADVENTURE! Speaking of adventure, as soon as I stepped out of the car, I was nervous about the other side of this adventure. I was alone. I have never hiked up here alone. What if a killer drives by my car and decides to follow me into the woods to kill me? Yikes! I needed to text my husband to let him know where I was. No service! I am so dead, I thought.

My name is Brian Robeson and I am thirteen years old and I am alone in the north woods of Canada. (45).

Well, this will be a short hike. I quickly grabbed my fanny pack, attached my water bottle via carabiner (I am such a pro!), and headed to the trail. “Cold Stream”, the trail was called, and immediately I found out why.

I was in Hatchet mode, and the first thing I identified was my water source. Brian had a lovely, clean lake, where he could drink up as much water as he could ever want. Here was my water source:

Not the clean, cool, refreshing water I was looking for!

A nearly dried-up little stream, clotted with some parsley-looking foliage. Well, that will probably be no good. I will need to boil this water to make it potable. Noted.

As I crossed the “stream”, I took notice of my surroundings. This area was hit hard by fires in 2003, and so there are many blackened trees amidst the chaparral and brush. Not quite the same as Brian’s setting.

The scenery was very pretty, he thought, and there were new things to look at, but it was all a green and blue blur and he was used to the gray and black of the city, the sounds of the city.(39).

At least there’s lots of dry wood!

I didn’t see much green and blue–it was mostly a yellow and brown blur, but it definitely contrasted with my own gray and black city home. And the sounds were nice–

There was no sound. Then the bird started again, and some kind of buzzing insect, and then a chattering and a kind of cawing, and soon there was the same background of sound. (49)

I made my way along the trail, and remembered Brian’s first meal: the “gut cherries”.

The slender branches went up about twenty feet and were heavy, drooping with clusters of bright red berries. They were half as big as grapes but hung in bunches much like grapes. (61).

Gotta keep my eye out for berries.

Further up the trail, I came across some coyote scat (dung), and remembered Brian’s animal run-ins. He had run-ins with bears, wolves, moose, and a skunk (which blinded him for a few hours). In these woods, I realized that I had dangers of the animal kind as well. Thinking of the local news reports announcing the maulings of hikers by mountain lions, I got nervous again. What else is up here to be concerned about? Rattlesnakes. Can coyotes be dangerous? Maybe. Although, looking at the scat, it appears they eat a lot of berries. But, there does seem to be some fur in there too–rabbits or squirrel maybe. They eat berries…where are these berries?

Can you spot the food source? What about berries? See any?

Speaking of rabbits, I come across a couple of rabbits hiding under the brush next to the trail. They don’t even seem scared of me. I step closer to take a picture, and the rabbit isn’t even fazed. Food source! Let’s take stock of the food sources available so far: unafraid rabbits. Lizards staying cool under the huge rocks. I saw a turkey on the way in, and I’ve seen groups of turkeys in the past. Deer.


Lots of meat sources to hunt. But, where are the berries? Maybe closer to the stream? I’m not going down there, though. There might be a killer on the hunt for me, or a mountain lion getting a drink of water. Plus, I need to pee.

Hatchet never delved into Brian’s toilet situation. Well, it did point out that he had massive diarrhea after eating a shit-ton of gut cherries. I need to pee, and I’m on an adventure, so let’s make it real! I dropped my shorts and pissed on the side of the trail. It wasn’t really an uncomfortable situation–I had toilet paper in my fanny pack.

So, I guess it wasn’t a completely realistic pee in the woods situation. Oh well.

After a little more walking, I decided I was done. I still thought that some killer might be stalking me (human or mountain lion), and my husband didn’t know where I was, and I was nervous. I walked back to the car, taking stock of my resources and dangers in this survival scenario.

The most useful things to Brian in Hatchet were his proximity to a lake, and his trusty hatchet. He built fire with his hatchet, hacked dry wood with his hatchet, sharpened arrows and spears with his hatchet. His hatchet was his life. I left my hatchet at home. Oops.

Look at that scary mountain lion! Good thing I always leave my hatchet at home.

But, I did have a hatchet. And, I realized I did have a lake. Approximately four or five miles away from the trail was Lake Cuyamaca. This could be both a water source and a fishing source! I’ve fished this lake before, and it is full of catfish, bluegill, and trout. Yes!

Water and Fishing Source: Lake Cuyamaca

Survival Issues



Water Source

Beautiful, clean lake Dried-up stream; Lake Cuyamaca (5 mi   away)


Grouse, rabbit Lizards, rabbit, deer, turkeys

Fishing Source

Lake full of fish Lake full of fish (5 mi away)

Predators/Animal Dangers

Bears, wolves, moose, skunk Mountain lions, rattlesnakes, coyotes

Berries/Fiber source

Raspberries, choke cherries (gut   cherries) None found; evidence of berries found   in coyote scat


A small cave close to the water None found (I forgot to look!)


Eaten alive by mosquitos! No mosquitos, but I know there are   nasty little ticks in the brush!

Fire Source

Hatchet struck against wall of his   shelter. My lighter.


Hatchet, shoestrings. Lighter, pocketknife.

My adventure was done. I learned a bit about my surroundings, and forced myself to consider how I would survive in the local wilderness. Thanks Hatchet for providing me with this adventure!

Check back here on Thursday for the next Inspired Adventures post! I will be inspired by Anne of Green Gables and brew up some homemade Raspberry Cordial (just like Marilla makes!).