Sheltered on the Mountain


Sitting by an open fire.

It’s 0508 hours and I am making coffee. The sky is in turmoil. The rain is slapping hard against my shelter and it is unrelenting. A fine morning to put another log on the fire and slowly sip my coffee. The slapping rain is soon forgotten as I gaze into the fire. Dancing flames of birch wood have an enticing way of capturing my attention. Their patterns and shapes are forever changing and soon my mind is on the trail again.

My thoughts are shattered by sounds of the weather outside. The rain has now turned to freezing rain and the wind is intensifying. I feel comfortable inside. I am confident that my tee-pee shaped shelter will weather the storm. I build all my shelters now in this fashion. A well anchored, cone shape with a hole in the roof, slightly offset from the fire.

In the Coastal Rain Forest there are only two seasons. The wet season and the wetter season. Thus the reason for the hole in the roof. This is my chimney and this morning it is working very well. Nothing like waking up toasty warm to the smell of wood smoke. Sitting by the fire on the heated ground as I listen to the freezing rain outside brings me a great feeling of security.

I really appreciate the time that I have spent constructing this shelter. First I located a small creek nearby to provide me with drinking water and water for cleaning. The creek is not so big that it will wash everything away during the spring thaw and not so small that it dries up in the summer months.

Next, I found an elevated and smooth piece of ground for my floor. All that remained afterward are an abundant supply of firewood and a sheltered and protected area. This is where I placed my tee-pee, all the while making certain that there are no “widow-maker” branches above me or nearby.

Large branches above a shelter can easily break off in the wind or from old age. This presents a grave danger to myself, my dog, and my shelter. Keep in mind that these trees are often over a 100 feet tall and that their branches are as big as small trees. With all the elements of a shelter in place, I am secure and safe to spend a comfortable night dry and warm in the company of my dog on the side of the mountain.

I can easily construct a shelter of this kind in a day. I will often have two of these on the same mountain ridge, one day of walking distance apart. These shelters keep me warm and dry as I explore the mountain ridges for mammals, birds, flora and all else that Nature has to offer. They provide me with a base camp to gather berries, mushrooms, and of course to photograph the endless species of these mammals, birds, and flowers that the higher elevations support.

If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions about the construction of shelters in the wilderness, please do not hesitate to leave them in the space below.

Have you ever constructed a shelter while on your outdoor expeditions?

How do you deal with the cold and wet conditions you encounter?

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