November 4, 2008

Give Me Shelter - Week 7 of AWCP

We built a group shelter last week at the Wilderness Certification Program. The type of shelter we built is called a debris-tipi. This is a tipi made of debris. Five of us began work on this shelter on Thursday at around 10 am. We worked consistently until sundown.

The skeleton for a debris tipi consists of two circles of standing sticks about three feet high and about 10 ridge poles all coming to a point above the center of the stick circles. The skeleton didn't take too long to build, but we checked its strength over and over again because the last thing anybody wants is their home collapsing on top of them. We placed some lattice work of smaller sticks and fallen boughs from conifers in the area perpendicular to the ridge poles. The lattice work was to catch most of the debris we were to put on after lunch. Five hours straight of gathering dead leaves and small sticks from the ground and throwing them on top of the skeleton gave us the bare minimum insulation to get us through the night.

We left a spot for the door that was about 18 inches high by 14 inches wide, just enough to crawl through. Our bedding consisted, from the ground up, of hemlock boughs, sword ferns, and numerous layers of the driest moss we could find. The bedding surrounded the fire, which we started by friction. I made the coal outside and passed it into Jason, who blew it into flame and added kindling. All the while T'Jen was serenading the fire into existence. As we crawled into the shelter we noticed a gap above the door. We closed it off and saw that we had just made a firewood rack. We didn't have to crawl out for wood all night. The fire was to be tended, in two hour shifts, by each one of us. At one point the fire got so big that part of Jase's goatee was cinged from his face.

On Friday morning we saw that the wind had done some small damage to our tipi. If one were to stay in a shelter like this for more than one night, daily patchwork would need to be done. We evaluated some of the habitats near the river and finished the day early.

On Wednesday we saw some great tracks of deer, beaver, heron, sandpiper, killdeer, cottontail, muskrat, snipe, and raccoon. We analyzed the gaits (how animals move) of a few critters. One of the trails we saw was that of a deer. It was walking all wacky with two feet facing forward and the other two facing almost perpendicular. One of the sideways footprints didn't register as heavily as the others, leading us to the conclusion that this deer was hurt. We weren't far from the road, so it may have been hit by a car, but I like to imagine it getting attacked by a coyote, scuffling a bit, and limping away after showing the coyote just how tough it was.

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