We know all this to be true history, because within a short walk of the author's log house there are overhanging ledges of bluestone, and underneath these ledges we, ourselves, have crouched and camped, and with sharp sticks have dug up the ground from the layer of earth covering the floor rock. And in this ground we have found bits of pottery, the split bones of different wild animals—split so that the savage camper might secure the rich marrow from the inside of the bones—arrowheads, bone awls and needles, tomahawks, the skulls of beaver and spearheads; all these things have been found under the overhanging bluestone.
Wherever such a bluestone ledge exists, one may make a good camp by closing up the front of the cave with sticks against the overhanging cliff and thatching the sticks with browse or balsam boughs, thus making the simplest form of a lean-to. The Indians used such shelters before the advent of the white man; Daniel Boone used them when he first visited Kentucky and, in spite of the great improvement in tents, the overhanging ledge is still used in Pennsylvania by fishermen and hunters for overnight camps.
But if one uses such a site for his overnight camp or his week's-end camp, one should not desecrate the ancient abode by introducing under its venerable roof, modern up-to-date cooking and camp material, but should exercise ingenuity and manufacture, as far as possible, the conveniences and furniture necessary for the camp.
Since the author is writing this in a camp in the woods, he will tell the practical things that confront him, even though he must mention a white man's shop broom.
In the first place, the most noticeable defect in the tenderfoot's work is the manner in which he handles his broom and wears the broom out of shape. A broom may be worn to a stub when properly used, but the lopsided broom is no use at all because the chump who handled it always used it one way until the broom became a useless, distorted, lopsided affair, with a permanent list to starboard or port, as the case may be.
To sweep properly is an art, and every all-around outdoor boy and man should learn to sweep and to handle the broom as skillfully as he does his gun or axe. In the first place, turn the broom every time you notice a tendency of the latter to become one-sided, then the broom will wear to a stub and still be of use. In the next place, do not swing the broom up in the air with each sweep and throw the dust up in the clouds, but so sweep that the end of the stroke keeps the broom near the floor or ground
Now a word about making beds. In all books on woodcraft you are directed to secure balsam boughs from which to make your beds, and there is no better forest bedding than the fragrant balsam boughs, but unfortunately the mountain goose, as the hunters call it, from which you pluck the feathers to make your camp bed, is not to be found in all localities.
A bag filled with dry leaves, dry grass, hay or straw will make a very comfortable mattress; but we are not always in the hay and straw belt and dry leaves are sometimes difficult to secure; a scout, however, must learn to make a bed wherever he happens to be. If there happens to be a swale nearby where brakes and ferns grow luxuriantly, one can gather an armful of these, and with them make a mattress. The Interrupted fern, the Cinnamon, the Royal fern, the Lady fern, the Marsh fern and all the larger ferns are useful as material.
A camping party should have their work so divided that each one can immediately start at his own particular job the moment a halt is made. One chops up the firewood and sees that a plentiful supply of firewood is always on hand; usually he carries the water. One makes camp, puts up the tents, clears away the rubbish, fixes the beds, etc., while a third attends strictly to kitchen work, preparing the meals, and washing up the dishes.
With the labor divided in this manner, things run like clock work and camp is always neat and tidy. Roughing it is making the best of it; only a slob and a chump goes dirty and has a sloppy-looking camp. The real old time veteran and sourdough is a model of neatness and order. But a clean, orderly camp is much more important than a clean-faced camper. Some men think so much of themselves and their own personal cleanliness that they forget their duty to the others. One's duty is about in this proportion: first to the animals if any, secondly to the men, and lastly to oneself.
Before pitching your tent, clear out a space for it to occupy; pick up the stones, rubbish and sticks, rake off the ground with a forked stick. But do not be rude to your brother, the ground pine; apologize for disturbing it; be gentle with the fronds of the fern; do not tear the trailing arbutus vine up by its roots, or the plant of the almond scented twin flowers; ask pardon of the thallus of the lichen which you are trampling under your feet. Why? O! well—because they had first right to the place, and because such little civilities to the natural objects around you put your own mind in accord with nature, and make camping a much more enjoyable affair.
When you feel you are sleeping on the breast of your mother, the earth, while your father, the sky, with his millions of eyes is watching over you, and that you are surrounded by your brother, the plants, the wilderness is no longer lonesome even to the solitary traveler.
Another reason for taking this point of view is that it has a humanizing effect and tends to prevent one from becoming a wilderness Hun and vandal. It also not only makes one hesitate to hack the trees unnecessarily, but encourages the camper to take pride in leaving a clean trail. As my good friend, John Muir, said to me: "The camping trip need not be the longest and most dangerous excursion up to the highest mountain, through the deepest woods or across the wildest torrents, glaciers or deserts, in order to be a happy one; but however short or long, rough or smooth, calm or stormy, it should be one in which the able, fearless camper sees the most, learns the most, loves the most and leaves the cleanest track; whose camp grounds are never marred by anything unsightly, scarred trees or blood spots or bones of animals."
It is not the object of this book to advertise, or even advise the use of any particular type of outfitting apparatus other than the plain, everyday affairs with which all are familiar. What we want to do is to start the reader right, then he may make his own choice, selecting an outfit to suit his own taste. There are no two men, for instance, who will sing the praise of the same sort of a tent, but there is perhaps no camper who has not used, and been very comfortable in, the old style wall tent. It has its disadvantages, and so has a house, a shack or a shanty. As a rule, the old wall tent is too heavy to carry with comfort and very difficult for one man to pitch alone—unless one knows how.