'Ware Single Trees Or Small Groups Of Trees
Safety In Woods Or Forest
Keep Your Eyes Open For Good Camp Sites
Cross Streams While Crossing Is Good
Keep To Windward Of Mosquito Holes
'Ware Ants' Nests
How To Tell When Wind Blows
Evolution Of The Shack
How To Sweep How To Make Camp Beds
How To Divide Camp Work Tent Pegs
How To Pitch A Tent Single-Handed
How To Ditch A Tent
Use Of Shears, Gins And Tripods
WHEN choosing a camp site, if possible, choose a forest or grove of young trees. First, because of the shade they give you; secondly, because they protect you from storms, and thirdly, because they protect you from lightning.
Single trees, or small groups of trees in open pastures are exceedingly dangerous during a thunder storm; tall trees on the shores of a river or lake are particularly selected as targets for thunder bolts by the storm king. But the safest place in a thunder storm, next to a house, is a forest. The reason of this is that each wet tree is a lightning rod silently conducting the electric fluid without causing explosions. Do not camp at the foot of a very tall tree, or an old tree with dead branches on it, for a high wind may break off the branches and drop them on your head with disastrous results; the big tree itself may fall even when there is no wind at all.
Once I pitched my camp near an immense tree on the Flathead Indian Reservation. A few days later we returned to our old camp. As we stopped and looked at the site where our tents had been pitched we looked at each other solemnly, but said nothing, for there, prone upon the ground, lay that giant veteran tree!
But young trees do not fall down, and if they did they could not create the havoc caused by the immense bole of the patriarch of the forest when it comes crashing to the earth. A good scout must "Be Prepared," and to do so must remember that safety comes first, and too close neighborhood to a big tree is often unsafe.
Remember to choose the best camp site that can be found; do not travel all day, and as night comes on stop at any old place; but in the afternoon keep your eyes open for likely spots.
Halt early enough to give time to have everything snug and in order before dark.
In selecting camping ground, look for a place where good water and wood are handy. Choose a high spot with a gentle slope if possible; guard your spring or water hole from animals, for if the day is hot your dog will run ahead of the party and jump into the middle of the spring to cool himself, and horses and cattle will befoul the water.
If camping in the Western states on the shores of a shallow stream which lies along the trail, cross the stream before making camp or you may not be able to cross it for days. A chinook wind suddenly melting the snows in the distant mountains, or a cloud-burst miles and miles up stream, may suddenly send down to you a dangerous flood even in the dry season. I have known of parties being detained for days by one of these sudden roaring floods of water, which came unannounced, the great bole of mud, sticks and logs sweeping by their camp and taking with it everything in its path.
A belt of dense timber between camp and a pond or swamp will act as a protection from mosquitoes. As a rule, keep to windward of mosquito holes; the little insects travel with the wind, not against it. 'Ware ant hills, rotten wood infested with ants, for they make poor bedfellows and are a nuisance where the food is kept.
A bare spot on the earth, where there are no dry leaves, is a wind-swept spot; where the dust-covered leaves lie in heaps the wind does not blow. A windy place is generally free from mosquitoes, but it is a poor place to build a fire; a small bank is a great protection from high wind and twisters. During one tornado I had a camp under the lee of a small elevation; we only lost the fly of one tent out of a camp of fifty or more, while in more exposed places nearby great trees were uprooted and houses unroofed.
It must not be supposed that the camping season is past because the summer vacation is over. The real camping season begins in the Wild Rice Moon, that is, September. Even if school or business takes all our time during the week, we still have week-ends in which to camp. Saturday has always been a boys' day. Camping is an American institution, because America affords the greatest camping ground in the world.
The author is seated in his own log house, built by himself, on the shores of Big Tink Pond. Back of him there is pitched a camp of six rows of tents, which are filled with a joyful, noisy crowd of youngsters.
It is here in the mountains of Pike County, Pennsylvania, where the bluestone is stratified in horizontal layers, that one may study the camp from its very birth to the latest and finished product of this century.
Everywhere in these mountains there are outcroppings of the bluestone, and wherever the face of a ridge of this stone is exposed to the elements, the rains or melting snows cause the water to drip from the earth on top of the stone and trickle down over the face of the cliff. Then, when a cold snap turns the moisture into ice in every little crack in the rock, the expansion of the ice forces the sides of the cracks apart at the seams in the rock until loose pieces from the undersides slide off, leaving small spaces over which the rock projects. The little caves thus made make retreats for white-footed mice and other small mammals, chipmunks and cave rats. When these become deeper they may become dens in which snakes sleep through the winter.
The openings never grow smaller, and in course of time are large enough for the coon, then the fox, and in olden times they made dens for wolves and panthers, or a place where the bear would "hole" up for the winter.
Time is not considered by Dame Nature; she has no trains to catch, and as years and centuries roll by the little openings in the bluestone become big enough to form a shelter for a crouching man, and the crouching man used them as a place in which to camp when the Norsemen in their dragon ships were braving the unknown ocean. When Columbus, with his toy boats, was blundering around the West Indies, the crouching man was camping under the bluestone ledges of old Pike County, Pennsylvania. There he built his camp-fires and cooked his beaver and bear and deer and elk, using dishes of pottery of his own make and ornamented with crude designs traced in the clay before the dishes were baked.