Monday, March 9, 2009
For all you backpackers out there, I thought you might like some technical advice on selecting a campsite. For those of you who don't hike, you probably think choosing a place to sleep at night is easy. With me, I can drop down anywhere, curl up in a ball, and go to sleep. Check the pictures if you don't believe me! It isn't that simple with the independently minded High Plateau hikers. Even after all those long hours slogging through deep sand, crossing sometimes chest high water, and lugging heavy packs up steep hills they always argue about where to spend the night.
The discussion, or should I say argument, usually starts an hour or two before the sun goes down. Dangerous will say, "We need to find a place to camp!" He might suggest a spot or two which someone will instantly reject. Utah Jack always wants a perfectly level-sandstone ledge to roll out his bag and cook on. His perfect spot has running water immediately accessible and a magnificent view. Do you know how difficult these spots are to find? Well, after repeated suggestions from Dangerous and others, they will throw their hands in the air and tell him to find his perfect spot. About dark, his appetite gets the best of him, and we camp at the first rock ledge available.
Can you imagine sleeping on a rock ledge with a thin pad, or in my case, no pad at all? To humor Dangerous, me, and the others, Utah will sometimes agree on a spot that has some sand. You have to remember that Utah can sleep anywhere. It doesn't really matter whether the spot is level, rocky, or sandy once he becomes vertical, wake him in the morning.
Dangerous on the other hand doesn't sleep well even in his own bed. In his case, I guess it really doesn't matter where we camp. Without drugging him, he will be up all night, complaining about all the snoring. Snoring among this group is a problem. Even I have to distance myself from Nature Dan and Denver Dan. These two suffer from serious adenoid dysfunction and can suck rocks off surrounding cliff faces, so you have to watch for falling rocks. To avoid Dangerous' morning wrath, Nature Dan almost always slips him a sleeping pill.
Since we don't carry tents, rain or bad weather can cause sleepless nights. We are always looking for an overhang to shed the rain or break the wind. With luck, we sometimes find an alcove with a sandy bottom and rock ledge which pleases everyone. However, these places are a bit hard to come by especially when the weather gets really bad.
Out of necessity, we have spent the night in some interesting places. I wasn't there, but Dangerous has never let Nature Dan forget the night he chose a spot under some cottonwood trees. You would think that camping under trees would be perfect, but not according to Dangerous and Denver Dan. These beautiful trees rained tent caterpillars all night long. Can you imagine having caterpillars pouring down on you while trying to sleep? I doubt anyone slept on their back with their mouth open that night.
I guess my only advice is to choose your campsite carefully. Thoughtful consideration is a bit difficult when everyone has a different idea about what makes a good site. In my experience, you can't please everyone, so keep everyone walking until they finally give out. When you pick a spot, sometimes you're lucky enough to catch the full moon rising. In fact, if you check the pictures carefully, you will find a nice blue moon lighting up one of the campsites featured above. Love to hear from you!