Saturday, April 28, 2012


   I met a guy not long ago that kind of threw me for a loop. We got to talking about things and I happened to mention that I was looking forward to doing a little gold prospecting this summer. He seemed really excited about that and said that him and his wife had been thinking about trying that their selves I told him about a few places up here that he might want to check out, just regular prospector talk. It took a few minutes to sink into my pea brain that every time I mentioned a different place the first thing he would ask about was what town was the closest and did I know anything about motels that were close. When I told him that the only way to prospect a lot of the places was going to require camping out, that's where the loop came in. This guy was in his late 50's and not only had he never been camping but according to him, he'd never slept anywhere but in a bed in his entire life!

   I guess there must be other folk like that, city folks maybe, but to someone who has been camping out since I was around three it does seem strange. After talking to him I got to thinking and trying to remember some of the places I've slept over the years. There are the regulars, curled up on a blanket beside a creek, river or lake. I know we used to think that sleeping under a pickup was about the same as having a tent. I can't even begin to remember all the trees I've spent the night under or the number of shelters I've spent the night in. I've made shelters out of tree limbs and brush, roofed with pine boughs. There have been lean-tos covered with everything from tree bark to Johnson grass leaves. There were caves, both large enough to stand up and move around and the ones that were just big enough to slide into feet first. I've even spent a few nights inside a fallen hollow log watching some pretty good storms pass by.
   I've slept under rock overhangs trying to keep dry during a rain storm or trying to catch a few hours sleep out of the desert sun. There have been nights spent sitting up or leaning back against a tree and warm summer nights just laying out in the middle of a field. I can remember almost every night I've ever spent in abandoned buildings from the old saloon in a ghost town in Nevada to the old miner's cabins in Alaska. There was even an old honky-tonk in Schulter where I spent a few nights when I had problems at home during my teen years.

   I saw a film about Chimps building a kind of nest and sleeping in trees so of course I had to try that. It really wasn't bad until a storm blew in and the tree started hard enough to almost toss me out of my "nest", I developed a lot more respect for baby birds after that night. I spent several nights in snow caves during some bad storms and found them to be downright comfortable as long as you pay attention to how you dig them, having one cave in on you in the middle of the night will definitely get your attention!

   I built a really nice shelter out of drift wood on the Oregon one time. It was snug and water proof and I enjoyed staying in it until the night I got the fire too close to the roof and set it on fire. Thankfully it was raining that night which is the only thing that saved me from burning up a few miles of beach.

   Snow caves are great places for a night if you happen to find caught out in a blizzard and the snow is deep enough to dig into. Even the cloudless nights up in Alaska when it hits thirty or forty below a snow cave will be relativity warm in a nice sleeping bag and just a miner's candle. I did manager to spend one night in an igloo. It only took me about five attempts to actually get one that would stay up. Those things are a lot harder to build than it looks. Another way to keep warm at night (at least in Oklahoma where it seldom gets more than about ten below) is to burrow into a pile of leaves. I have spent a few hours raking up all the leaves I could and piling them against a log the burrow into the middle of them. I've spent nights like that just as snug as a bug in a rug and woke in the morning to find the whole pile covered in ice. The only bad part about spending the night in cold weather is having to get up in the morning.

   I found a nice overhang in a cliff up in northern Arizona one time that came in real handy when I got caught out in one of the big desert thunder storms. The best thing about it was the fact that there were pictographs on the walls. I'm not an archeologist but even I could tell that they were very old. I was careful to build my fire at the edge of the cave in order not to have smoke blowing inside. I didn't know if the smoke would cause and damage to the drawings but I sure didn't want to take a chance. I spent that night wondering what the person that made them might have used the cave for. Back when they must have been made that part of the country was a lot different than what it was while I was there. There was a lot more water and the country was a lot greener then. The ledge in front would have been a great spot for a hunter to watch the valley below or maybe it was a sacred place only visited by the local Shamans. I will never know but it was special place to me.

   One of the scarcest places I've ever spent a night was in a hammock tied to two carabineers driven into a couple of cracks in the rock and about six hundred feet up the side of a cliff in northern California. That was my one and only attempt at real rock climbing. I didn't get much sleep that night.  

   Now days I tend to spend my camping nights in a tent on a cop with an air mattress. Laying out on the rocky bank of a creek for the night just isn't as comfortable as it used to be as Stanley and I found out the last time I went down to visit him. Those rocks just don't seem to make as good a pillow as they used to!