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#181136 - 12/04/13 11:20 PM The Perfect Campsite.
Gershon Offline

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
A couple of years ago, I was hiking in Colorado and passed what appeared to be a perfect campsite. Thinking I might come back to it someday, I did an instinctive survey of the campsite, as there are often hidden dangers people don't notice. There was a safe fire ring with clear ground around it, along with some logs to sit on near the fire ring. I found a smooth spot for a tent far enough away from the fire ring so it wouldn't be likely someone dumped their bacon grease on it. This is just the sort of thing that can attract bears into a tent, and bears are common in that area. The area for a tent was on a high spot, so it wasn't likely it would get flooded in a rainstorm. I checked above and there were no dead tree limbs hanging over the site, and when I looked around so see if there were any dead trees surrounding the campsite, I saw the danger. There was brush washed up against the trees about six feet above the campsite. The campsite was in a narrowing valley, with a small stream near it, and it had been severely flooded at one time. All it would take is a bad storm at the top of the valley, and there wouldn't even be much notice of flooding. Many times, perfect campsites can be deadly.

#181146 - 12/05/13 11:05 AM Re: The Perfect Campsite. [Re: Gershon]
jimmyb Offline

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 276
Very good points. Especially the hazards from above. I was taught as a youngster that critters and people rarely look upwards in the course of their travels. Reasoning behind many hunters choosing tree stands. We get some high winds in our area in spring and fall and lately have many concentrated wind events called microbursts which can blow down large trees. Camping under dead or weakly rooted trees in a situation like that could really end badly. Best to always look up when traveling through wooded areas in windy conditions.

thanks for reminders of picking a good sight.


#181151 - 12/05/13 11:39 AM Re: The Perfect Campsite. [Re: Gershon]
ETSU Pride Offline

Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 931
Loc: Knoxville, TN
A slightly unrelated note, one time I was in the Smoky Mountain and I was passing through a large campsite that is in perfect location. There were several campers at this site and they all put their tents next to each other in a single line. This campsite has tons of trees and a really LARGE tree parallel to the tents. All it would have taken was one storm to blast one of those trees and wipe out the campers.. I find it high risks having tents next to each other at a campsite with lots of trees. My partner and I always spread out at campsites for this reason.
It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart

#181155 - 12/05/13 12:11 PM Re: The Perfect Campsite. [Re: ETSU Pride]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6426
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I don't worry about trees that are alive and healthy, but I do take a careful look around for anything that looks sick or dead or that is leaning. This is the primary reason I won't wait until dark to find a camp site. I did have a dead branch come down on the tent once, but we had already gotten out of the tent and away from the trees because we were getting hurricane force winds. It sure didn't do any good to the tent, though!

As for flooding: One of my few vivid memories of my first backpacking trip, at age 6, was camping on a bluff overlooking a large stream. Behind our camp was a small tributary. Overnight, it rained buckets. The next morning we got out of there in a hurry because the "small" tributary had overflowed its banks. We barely made it across! This was in the "Black Forest" of Pennsylvania.

Out here around Cascade volcanoes, you need to keep well back from streams that drain glaciers because of the possibility of glacial outburst floods (a hot spell, as well as heavy rain, can trigger those). Those areas are usually obvious, because the landscape is already torn up. It's probably not a good idea to camp on gravel bars of those streams.

Then there's the lovely flat-looking tent site that turns into a lake in heavy rains, overcoming most bathtub tent floors and soaking sleeping bags.

Finally, when in popular camping areas, it's a good idea to watch very carefully where you walk when trying to find a good "potty" spot! Unfortunately, there's a good chance that one of your predecessors didn't bother to make a cat hole.

Edited by OregonMouse (12/05/13 12:16 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#181157 - 12/05/13 01:32 PM Re: The Perfect Campsite. [Re: Gershon]
Rick_D Offline

Registered: 01/06/02
Posts: 2802
Loc: NorCal
I'm so thick, I'd look at that brush and think, "Ooh, kindling!" </Homer voice>

Great story.


#181188 - 12/07/13 06:21 PM Re: The Perfect Campsite. [Re: OregonMouse]
JPete Offline

Registered: 05/28/09
Posts: 304
Loc: Eastern Ontario
This thread reminds me of a trip about 1952 or 1953.

My camping partner of those days and I bicycled from Springfield, Mo. to Rockaway Beach. We rented a canoe and headed up the White River. That night we made camp on a sandbar that had large enough trees that we thought it would be safe.

Well before dawn the next morning, something woke me up. I realized instantly that I was in water, tapped my buddy on the shoulder, and with great drama said, "Herb, wake up. Stick your finger in what you're sleeping in." He's gone now, but as long as he lived, he never let me forget it. He also claimed that I picked the spot. He may have been right.

The water was rising fast, so you've never seen two guys fish for their gear and load a canoe faster. Then we had to take the canoe out in fast-moving water that was full of downed trees and other debris, in pitch dark. We made it back to Sammy Lane's just as the sun rose. We never found out where the water came from. Presumably it rained hard somewhere up river.

I also camped another time nearby on the shoreline, and we made cooking fires in the drill holes left by the early surveys for Table Rock Dam.

best, jcp

#181190 - 12/07/13 10:27 PM Re: The Perfect Campsite. [Re: JPete]
billstephenson Offline

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3906
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Wow, that's a tough bike ride even now, and back then it had to be even tougher. Those are some really big hills you have to climb, and a lot of them too. They say you ride down into the Ozark Mountains, and Springfield is on the edge of the Ozark Plateau, so the ride back must of been even tougher! That's a lot of work to go have some fun laugh

That entire run on the river is pretty much all developed now. There are still a few stretches that haven't been, but those gaps keep getting closed in, and the water is always bone chilling cold now that it all comes from the lower depths of Table Rock Lake. Not many canoe it anymore.

The fishing is still good though. There are big bass that live in there, and so many trout you can hardly toss a line and not catch one.

I live about 12-14 miles down stream from Rockaway Beach (not even half that as the crow flies). I've seen several big floods since I've been here, and even with the dams the water can rise fast. The 2011 flood brought some huge trees down with it and I really can't imagine canoeing in that raging water. It had to be pretty terrifying, especially at night.

I have neighbors who put food on the table running trot lines on the old river back then. Those guys rowed wood john boats for miles and miles and spent many stormy nights hunkered down along the shore. I'm not kidding, you guys were just tougher than hell back then!


"You want to go where?"

#181193 - 12/08/13 12:27 PM Re: The Perfect Campsite. [Re: billstephenson]
JPete Offline

Registered: 05/28/09
Posts: 304
Loc: Eastern Ontario

I do remember climbing some of those hills with sweat streaming into my eyes, but I don't ever remember thinking we were tough. If anything, we thought we weren't as tough as we shoulda been. The other thing was that we didn't have gears or thin tires or paniers in those days.

Yes, the run back to Rockaway was pretty scary. Is Sammy Lane's still the dock? I remember the next night we camped at the park at Powersite dam and caught a mess of bass. We had brought eggs, milk and cornmeal and some lard, and somehow it had survived. But frying fish in a thin aluminum pan over coals was something I found difficult.

I have heard that the trout fishing is now good. Is it as good as opening day at Roaring River?

And also yes, I remember well the wooden john boats. Heavy, really heavy, but perfectly adapted for floating the James. And yes, I've been caught hunkering against the bank at the top end of a sandbar while the cold rain lashed. But once it was done, it was gone as suddenly and unexpectedly as it came.

Thing is, at the time we simply accepted that that was the way things were and kept going. You're right, today I can't imagine taking one of those old bicycles and a pile of stuff across those hills, nor taking a canoe into flood waters in the dark. But after awhile, miraculously, they become good memories. Thanks.

best, jcp


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