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My personal homeless adventure in the city and the woods

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  • My personal homeless adventure in the city and the woods

    As some of you know, my life hit a low point back in 2008. I lost my job, my home and my nearly 20 year marriage. What I haven't really talked about is what I did for around a year after all this fun. I've decided to tell you the story because in essence I survived in various big cities and in the woods! Remember... I am a happy guy now most of the time. Things have changed in my life. So.. stick with sadness for the survival content! Ha! Also.. I couldn't remember all this stuff - I did however keep a journal, which I will use for this write.

    I ended up stewing alone in my house for 3 months. It was a slow swirl down the drain. I hardly went outside and let myself go. I had grown a beard and my hair out. Here is a picture of me, early in that decline. Went from clean cut cop to what you see in the second picture:

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    It got a lot worse. I really started looking like a homeless bum. Ha! And smell like one too!

    I typically ordered out for food or, when I did go out, I walked a few blocks to the 7-11 where I would get a hotdog and some other crap. I had a little savings, but it quickly drained away. I tried to keep up with my bills, but with no income, those began to slide too. The first thing I lost was my cable. I would sit on the couch and stare at TV without really watching it. When the cable went off, I'd just sit and stare into space. When I could no longer afford food, I ate what was left out of my pantry. I believe I lost over 30 Lbs just in those few short months in my house.

    Oh! I neglected to tell you; I drank. I drank a lot during this time. You guys have to remember. I was a cop! All my friends were cops. I had few visits from them after I left the department. Around, four months into it, I lost power and water. It only took a few days of me sitting in the dark to decide to leave. Also... I know what you all are thinking "What about my family?" The town and state I lived in contained no family, and.... I hadn't told any of them my problems.

    When my wife had left, she took most of what I had in my house. The only thing I had left was my duty guns, a rifle and pistol, a few pieces of furniture, my clothing and a mattress. Maybe a box or two of misc stuff. My wife had literately bled my house dry while I was at work one day a few months prior. She also took my new car and left me with our old Ford Ranger we used for going to the dump, Etc.

    So! I decided to leave! I called an old friend who i could trust. I told him that I was going to loose my house and asked him if he would take my guns and some of those boxes. He agreed and in a few days, drove across the state on his dime to meet me. I really debated on taking my pistol. In retrospect, later their were a few incidents were I could have used it to scare off "my fellow homeless" , which I will get into later. I did have sort of a plan. I thought I would go south into California to locate my old man. I knew if i got caught with my pistol their, I would go to jail. That was the tipping point, my friend got my guns.

    I gave a lot of the furniture away, some I just left in my now near empty house. Now, back then I had my hiking pack and camping gear. I remember specifically what I had in it:

    1 - Back Pack, medium internal frame.
    1 - Knife, folding (my Cold Steel duty knife)
    1 - Propane camp stove.
    2 - Canisters of propane
    1 - Medium sleeping bag
    1 - Small green tarp
    1 - Small Smith and Wesson hatchet
    1 - Sleeping bag (Coleman)
    1 - Two man tent
    1 - Poncho liner
    1 - Battery powered radio
    1 - Rain gear jacket
    1 - Camping (Not hiking) cook set - Pot, frying pan, utensils, cup
    1 - Water bottle
    Misc small items (Matches, fire starter, compass, a small survival kit, water purifying solution, which later got me sick. Etc etc)

    I added two pairs of jeans, three shirts, five pair of underwear, five pair of socks, a duty jacket with liner, and a pair of shorts and a baseball cap.

    That's all I had besides some tools in my truck and a cooler. I had gave away all my other "camping" stuff to neighbors.

    For some reason, once my friend left, I got antsy and decided to leave the next day. I didn't sleep very well and ended up leaving while it was dark. I took one last look at the house I lived in for ten plus years and got into my truck and left town.

    My buddy had lent me $200. I hadn't asked, he forced it on me. I had another $20 or so. I drove east out of town, stopping at an over-look where I frequently waited out the nights on patrol doing my reports. I took one last look at my town and drove away....

    - Buggy

    - End of part 1-
    Last edited by Buggyout; 02-07-2014, 11:53 AM.
    I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.

  • #2
    wow heck of a story so far, thanks for sharing!

    The best thing you can do to support the site is pass it on to your friends and fav sites like other forums, facebook, twitter etc. Let people know about us! :)


    • #3
      I'm hooked. I am interested to hear the rest of your story Buggy! (And I am really happy that you are in a better place in your life.)
      "Oh, America. I wish I could tell you that this was still America, but I've come to realize that you can't have a country without people. And there are no people here. No, my friends. This is now the United States of Zombieland"

      "The constitution does not guarantee our safety, only our liberty!" Robert Steed before congress 3/2013

      Skills Beats Stuff


      • #4
        Thanks for sharing.



        • #5
          Very interesting, happy things are better for you now. Definately interested in learning more. Would like to know what skills you had to fall back on, and learn. What skills ended up being most valuable?


          • #6
            So glad that you are where you are now. Will follow with interest the rest of your story.
            You don't have to be perfect, but you better be smart!!!


            • #7
              Wow! glad to hear things are much better for you now. don't know what I would have done in your shoes. I am sure a lot of folks out there have falling on some very hard times with loosing everything in this bad economy. Just glad to hear you are back on your feet and things are much better.


              • #8
                I drove east from the coast of Oregon with a full tank of gas. I made it to I5 the north to south interstate where I got tired. I pulled off into a Safeway store to buy food, ice and think about where I was going. remember, I had a rough plan to head south initially. I went into the store and purchased 2 cases of Ramen soup, three gallons of water and a bag of ice. I also bought some candy, I can't remember what kind. I loaded two gallons in my cooler, kept another up with me to drink and made the rash decision to head east to Idaho. I was very angry back then and thought my dad could wait.

                It was late spring and I had camped and hunted east of Hell's Canyon and south of Lewiston several times since I was a kid and adult. I am familiar with the area and decided, like that, to go spend some time up there. I topped off my truck and hit the road. It was early afternoon and I wanted to be in Idaho by nightfall. I spent around ...lets see...$40 bucks on that stop.

                I drove for the rest of the afternoon and as it got dark, crossed the border into Idaho. I now had to fill the tank again. $40 more bucks down the drain. I pulled into a Walmart in Caldwell as it got dark and slept in my truck.

                Buggy urban survival Tip: Walmart will generally leave you alone while parked in their lot. You can car camp there.

                I remember sleeping fitfully and getting up early again while it was still dark to leave. I went shopping in Wallyworld, buying canned soup and chili and a case of cheap beer. I spent another $20. I burned through almost half my money on the first day which pissed me off to know end! I drove North into the woods. After passing through a few small towns, I decided I couldn't travel any farther without getting out of range of a town where I could make money.

                Buggy urban survival Tip: You'll need to stay around a large town if you plan on needing money for gas and base food items.

                I drove far enough out of humanity and turned east on a logging road into the Salmon river mountains. I drove maybe 30 more miles and pulled off into a clearing. I had to stop several times to clear debris from the road, Good Sign! I parked on the far side of the clearing in the brush and woods where I thought would hide my truck. I set up camp near my truck, using the OD green tarp in my pack to shield my camp (and truck) I remember placing large cut branches on the tarp using my hatchet to take them down.

                Buggy outdoor tip: carry a hatchet.

                It was getting dark, (AGAIN!) I was able to set up my tent, under the tarp and went to sleep the first night after drinking a few beers and eating a cold can of chili. I had approximately 2 weeks of food, almost three if i stretched it.

                The next day I scouted around. I walked another few miles up the logging road, making sure nothing was up there and also making sure I was "Loosely" staying legal where I camped. I found out when I finally left a few weeks later, that it dead-ended into another clearcut a few more miles than what I walked. I also found that you could not see my camp from the logging road. Good.

                Buggy outdoor tip: Logging roads do not always lead places. You can also tell if they are deserted by the condition of the road: No new tracks, branches and other debris down.

                I had spent half the day walking up the road then back and across my clearcut too camp. I gathered felled large branches from the old clearcut. *An excellent source of wood!

                Buggy outdoor tip: Clearcuts nearly always have an abundant source of fallen wood debris.

                I made a fire pit with some rocks I had found lying about. I also was able to locate a small stream which intersected the logging road and which I had passed. (part of the reason I chose this particular clearcut) That second night, I had another can of chili, more beer. I heated the chili in the can on the fire after making a hole on the top using a can opener.

                Buggy outdoor tip: You can use a can opener as device to pick up a hot tin can, if you don't have some pliers

                I went to sleep that night in utter silence, which is what I was after. I hoped I would be feeling better, mentally after a few more days of this. It was beautiful out here, still freezing cold even being almost summer. I like that a lot.

                Buggy outdoor tip: I let my fire die down every night. It's a personal (paranoid) thing.

                Day three I spent reinforcing my tarp with fresh pine branches. I had set it up in an upside down "L" shape using rope I had in my truck and paracord tied to stakes which I carved and drove into the ground. I went to the tiny stream and refilled one of my gallon water jugs. The steam was clear and tumbled down, following the slope of the hill I was on. I thought it would be safe to drink without boiling it. I was a few weeks later VERY wrong. That's why to this day I am very hard on water purification. more of that fun later....

                Three or four days on junk and canned stuff and I was ready for protein!!!! YES. it only took that long for me to start craving it. I thought a lot about steak and defiantly thought I had made a mistake with my food stuffs. I boiled water for my ramen and ate a can of soup...along with the rest of my beer. After that was gone, things really got hard for me.

                The next day I ate ramen for breakfast and soup and ramen mixed for dinner. I didn't really do much at camp. I did go down to the stream and wash up a little. I did not wash my pots or utensils. This also may have caused later trouble.

                - End of part two -
                Last edited by Buggyout; 02-07-2014, 11:54 AM.
                I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


                • #9
                  On day 5, I decided to walk around the clearcut. That night I thought I had heard an animal, either a bear or a large raccoon. It wouldn't have surprised me, these woods were full of them, plus deer and small critters which I later saw. Note: I didn't see too many deer on the drive up. One thing I didn't mention initially was my foot gear. I had a pair of duty boots, a pair of running shoes and a pair of light hiking shoes which I wore daily and prefer even to this day. As I walked along the clearcut, I noticed several of the smaller wildlife; Squirrels, chipmunks and GROUSE!!!!!! oh my kingdom for a shotgun. Those FAT beauties in the trees! (I wrote that and this in my journal:) I LOVE me some wood fire cooked grouse!!!!!!!! I knew there were quail also around areas like these. I hunted them north of here. Ha ha! I also hunted dove on the Washington side...Oooooooohhhhhhh..... Shoot a bunch of them, cut them open - snap the breasts off....fry in pan.....HEAVEN!!!!! I was really starting to get hungry, which was a good sign, better than being melancholy and not feeling anything. I don't know if it was the fresh air or what! lol

                  Buggy tip: upland birds are GREAT eating!

                  I walked around the clearcut and decided to make a spear. The noise at night really got me. I found a nice, almost wrist size sapling and down it went. I shaved off the branches and shortened it to around 6'. Next, I sharpened the tip and then built my daily fire and hardened it. It felt good having something to defend myself from a 9000 lbs black bear, or so I thought and never needed. I was still in relative low lands, and not far..maybe 40 miles from humanity.

                  Buggy tip: SPEARS are good!

                  As I was making my spear, I thought about scouting up the stream for a wider part where I could maybe "spear brook trout" I knew they were in there, not at my little streams level but maybe farther out. You could almost jump across my stream.

                  Day 6 I hiked up the stream. Unfortunately, it did not get, really any wider and that was that. Spearing takes skill...and... fish... which I later found out was very hard. I came back that day ..had more ramen mixed with chili and went to sleep with my new SPEAR!

                  Day 7 I took the truck out and drove to a lake I had seen about ten miles back up the road. It was more of a pond...however, it was clear and maybe there would be trout in it. I had to clear a bunch of brush and nearly got the truck stuck on the way out. I used the same tractor ruts after clearing my camp to drive out on. I drove to the small lake, desperate to catch some trout. There is no way, on God's green earth, that the skill of spear fishing can be applied to northwest waters! After about an hour of looking for fish, I decided on that. I did have that mini-survival pack which contained fishing line, hooks and sinkers. I dug around on the side of the road for worms and did not find any. I thought about using huckleberries if they were in season - no dice. I finally threw a line out using a piece of my red shirt I was wearing. Still no fish after a bit. Went home disgruntled and hungry. Ramen and soup mixed. OH! There were cattails on one side of the lake(pond) I rooted a few out and threw them in the back of my truck. I later boiled the roots and added them to my meager sustenance.

                  Buggy tip: Pack a small set of fishing gear WITH salmon eggs!

                  Day 8 was uneventful, I was depressed and did nothing. I did note the weather, over-cast and drizzle.

                  Day 9 I woke up feeling better. I spent the morning clearing my camp more. I should also mention going to the bathroom. I picked my spot about 50 yards along the clearcut. I knew, by experience that animals can be attracted to human waste. One of the items I keep in my truck is TP. Not a lot. I had two rolls, plus a supply of fast food napkins. I did however forget anything I could use as a shovel. I had to use my spear to dig a hole and there it was.

                  Buggy tip: pack a trowel in that B.O.B.

                  The next day I started doubling up on the ramen. I had 14 cans of soup left, all my chili was gone. I was that hungry. I had underlined it in my journal! Oh, by the is my journal:

                  One thing I haven't mentioned. I wish I could provide pictures. I didn't have a camera or a phone. I was THAT depressed. I didn't care about myself... Enough of that.

                  This thing I did was VERY dangerous. Do not attempt.

                  PSA for ya! Ha ha!

                  In retrospect about the Ramen, before I got sick, I could have tripled up on it and made it the time I was out there.

                  Day 11 I wrote about personal things. Not much happened.

                  On Day 12, I started getting sick. It started as a light stomach ache and ended as extreme...uh... Diarrhea. I was a fool and knew of the possibility of getting sick. I KNEW BETTER. I stopped writing in my journal and suffered all night. What I did do the next day is pack up and leave my awesome camp. I headed back south feeling no better and using all of my gas.

                  Buggy tip: PLease! PLease please please don't drink any untreated water. Boil it, put bleach in it or iodine or purchase a good filter, then boil it again! I cannot stress this enough.

                  I drove all the way into Boise, got my butt to a VA medical center and got antibiotics. The next few days were spent at a Walmart parking lot sleeping in my truck, downing large quantities
                  of water and meds and running into the bathroom. Miserable.

                  After a few days, I began to feel better. I started buying $1 menu fast food and getting my strength up. I washed up at the VA center. They were happy to oblige my stinky butt. I had also spent some of my dwindling bucks for over the counter medicine to treat my sickness. I still was in rough shape. Just two weeks in the woods and being sick caused my clothing to reek! I washed them in the bathroom. Oh..and I was asked to leave.

                  I had just under $100 left in the whole world.

                  I had found a park and there I met my first homeless dude. I'll call him "John" because, funny enough, we didn't trade names. We did talk. He told me that he had come north for the winter from Florida. Ha ha! I thought that was funny for some reason. He told me about a local mission where I could get food and shelter. He also showed me his "sign" to get money. No way in HELL I was going to do that. At that point I was weary about going to a "mission" I didn't consider myself homeless or needing help. It was a pride thing. I didn't go but filed all that information away in my brain! I decided to fill up my gas tank and head south to California!

                  - End of part three -
                  Last edited by Buggyout; 10-09-2012, 08:08 AM.
                  I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


                  • #10
                    I loosely planned to head south as far as I could, then hole up in a city and get a job where I could make some money , then head into California. My gas and money ran out in "nowhere" Nevada. (I won't name the city for reasons) I was pulling off the side of the road and eating ramen still, had finished off my soup and candy long ago. I was at my wits end in "Nowhere". If there was a "Bottom", I had surely, broke and destitute, hit it falling a thousand feet per second.

                    I looked for work. I wasn't hired. I finally, desperate, walked up to peoples' homes and business' and asked if they had any side jobs I could do. A few gave me money, one food. I wasn't begging for it, just a job. I guess they had seen the desperateness in my eyes. I did have a credit card with a little money on it I had planned to use for gas. I used it for cheap fast food in the days I spent in Nowhere.

                    Then....I did the unimaginable.

                    No, I didn't steal or anything like that. I "Flew a sign". Flying a sign means you get a piece of cardboard and sit at the entrance of store or intersection. You put a message on the sign and in my case "Hungry Vet needs gas money". And... you wait for people to give you money. Everyone has seen them; Beggars! It's a huge blow to your my pride and ego. I couldn't even look at the people as they drove by and hid my face with the sign. I am ashamed to this day, but.. You do what you do to survive.

                    John, the bum in Boise was right on the money though. Literally. I made a lot of money and fast. I now knew that those people, who DO this for a living make the BIG bucks!!!!!!!! I brought in $40 the first day and another $35 the next. This was just a little town! My M.O. was to sleep (Again at the local Walmart in my truck) and fly a sign during the day. I did that until a local cop started hovering around me. After a few days, I now had enough money to get to Reno across the Loneliest road of America I-80.

                    - End of part four -
                    I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


                    • #11
                      Thanks for sharing. It takes a lot of grit to expose your life this way. We all have stories, but not many will share them this way. Thought well of you before your story. Think highly of you now. In my experience, hard times can either destroy a man or make him stronger. I am glad to know you, if only electronically. Thank you for your story.



                      • #12
                        Thank you for the story. You need to expand it and maybe get a short story published in readers digest or something. You put a light on a major problem here in the states. the hidden economy and the homeless who live below the surface.


                        • #13
                          Thanks for sharing Buggy, and glad you're at a better place in your life now. I'm sure I'm not the only one to think that "If I lost my job I'd sleep in a tent and hunt before I'd..." But have never HAD to do it.
                          Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.


                          • #14
                            My trip to Reno was uneventful. I made it in one day after leaving "Nowhere". I had been to Reno a few times, again as a kid and adult. Mind you, I couldn't navigate my way around the place. I did know where the casinos were! I was down to another $35 when I rolled in. Reno is a big town!

                            The first thing I did was clean up a little. I found a laundrette and washed all my clothing. Yes! I stood in the place wearing only shorts, t shirt and shoes without socks. I snipped my beard a little and washed up in the bathroom there. Another $10 down, it was worth it though.

                            The next thing I did was..... hit the Casinos! Naww, I didn't gamble. What I did was park my truck , locking up my equipment and wander around all the bars and restaurants looking for free appetizers! Ha ha! I would buy a soda and feast on free stuff. I also kicked up conversations with people, one a bartender I'll call her "Sally". Sally and I talked for awhile and I told her a little of my story and I really laid it on thick. At the end she actually gave me a certificate for the casino buffet!!!!!!!!!!!! Prior to that I had walked by the buffet and considered using my meager funds to eat with! What a BLESSING!!! I wasted no time, free bar food was good, but I wanted MEAT! I almost ran to the buffet , presented my free pass and ate until I was almost sick!!!! Ha ha! I figure by that time I had lost at least another 20 living out in the woods and being sick. I can tell you that I gained it back eating here. I stayed in the buffet from around 3 PM to when it closed at 10! Nobody hassled me. :)

                            I walked back to my truck, put the seat back and slept.

                            The next day I was walking around and by luck found the Mission in town. I spent a long time deciding to go in the place. When I did, I found a great place, where the staff was nice and really cared about people. You can pick up on things like this when you are desperate! Again, It was hard to walk through the front door. It was a pride and ego thing. When I finally got up the courage to do so, apparently, the staff in there knew people too! I was taken aside and spoken too in depth. It felt good to tell my story and get past the whole "I don't need help" thing. I was fed and given a bed to sleep. I actually stayed there a few days. It was nice and gave me a chance to re-energize my internal batteries! I also spoke to other homeless people there, people like me who had lost everything; families with kids, working men, and veterans. It was amazing to learn about this side of life. The huge armor-proof lid I had placed on my heart began to open, I am sure, that day. I was less angry and less depressed. I wasn't "healed" mind you. I'd like to tell you that this time was like a movie and I lived happily ever after, I didn't. I had still more rough times ahead of me.

                            During this time, with the missions help, I found work with a construction crew! I worked around a week and made just under $300. I now had gas money to head south. Things were looking up!

                            - End of part five -
                            I'm not a fatalist. I'm a realist.


                            • #15
                              What an amazing story!! Thank you again for sharing, it reads really well and has me hooked! You should consider writing a book. I'm guessing the journal is what is making all of the details possible, glad you kept one.
                              WHAT IF THE AMERICA YOU KNEW, WAS ABOUT TO CHANGE?

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