January 6, 2012

Winter 2011 Hiatus

I'll be taking a break from my practicing of bushcraft skills during this winter. I'm at the point where I need to be in the woods to truly practice using the natural resources around me. I think it may be safer to pick it up in the spring. Let me explain.

I attempted a 3-day camp out with a buddy in the middle of December. Our goal: to build a tepee, and use that as our shelter for the 3 days. There was at least a foot of snow in the meadow we picked out near a stream (which was under some ice). We stomped down the snow in the area, and went about the task of building, which took about 2 hours. We constructed the tepee with the aspens in the area, some black plastic sheeting, and black duct tape.

The next task was gathering firewood. We hiked around the area, and found two large fallen pines. We dragged them back to camp, hacked off all the limbs, and cut the trunk down into fire-size pieces. The idea was to have the fire in the tepee to keep us warm that night, and to have one outside to cook on, and hang outside during the night.

The first problem we faced was that we could not get a sustainable fire going. The pine would burn for a little, then smolder and smoke. We even tried some juniper we found near the stream. It was not rotten wood, we had cut pieces into pencil lead, pencil, and finger size portions. We were at 9,500 feet altitude, but not sure if that was part of it.

Another problem we faced, was that my military issue boots were not waterproof, so I had cold toes, and below freezing temps. I changed my wool socks after a few hours, and tried to dry them, but with no good fire going, that was hard. It was nearing 4:30pm, and the sun was going down. We were cold, and despite trying for 2 hours to get a sustainable fire going, we sat in the tepee and thought out the decision to stay. We came to the conclusion that it was not a good idea to stay, and quickly packed up our belongings, and hiked to the truck. It was dark and in the teens for temperature when we left.


We lasted about 7 hours before the bitter cold and wind drove us out of the woods for safety reasons. I am not ashamed we decided to leave. We had prepared as best we thought, but our clothing was insufficient (I thought my boots were water/snow proof, they were not), and we had an extremely hard time getting any wood to stay lit to keep us warm. We left the tepee there, in hopes someone else could enjoy it's use overnight, but also that we can plan another trip in the spring, and actually use the tepee as a shelter with fire inside.


While it was an enjoyable and fulfilling experience building a shelter like a tepee, we learned another lesson: don't be afraid to call it quits. We were not trying to survive in the wilderness, we were trying to have fun. When you stop having fun with something you enjoy as a past time or hobby, it's time to put it away for a little bit. We were not having fun freezing, or being frustrated with the fire situation. It also wasn't safe for us to stay. So I'll be taking a break from these outdoor activities until spring starts. I think it's a smart choice to not push to own personal limits. This experience helped me define mine.

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