I spent three months at our Vogelsang camp sleeping in a hole in the ground.
It all started at the Backcountry recruiting slide show way back in January. One of the slides showed Peter Lewis with a sleeping bag rolled out in a cave. Roxanne, the Backcountry recruiter at Del Norte and the current Yosemite 1 C1, said Peter had found a cave near camp one season and had used the cave as his quarters. I decided right then that if I could find one, I was going to live in a cave, too.
Our campsite at Vogelsang was about a quarter of a mile south of the High Sierra Camp. On the first day we arrived, Erin assigned the places for all of the parts of our camp. Cook tent will be here. Camp fire and jungle cans will be here. Dish pit will be here. Canvas wall tents will be here. Latrine will be over there. (Except nobody on a trail crew ever calls it a ‘latrine’. It’s always a ‘shitter’.)
While we were setting up camp, in my moving around from here to there, I found a big crack in the granite slick rock. It was between the main camp and the shitter. The crack was just over shoulder width wide, about two feet deep, and about seven feet long. I jumped down into it and felt like I was at home! I kneeled down in it, then laid down. It was a perfect fit! When I laid down in it, I could only be seen by someone standing right on the edge. When I sat up a little bit, I could peer over the edge to see what was going on around me. The bottom had a gentle slope, so I could lay with my head just a little higher than my feet…just how I like it! Small lodgepole saplings grew out of the crack above my head and below my feet.
At the first opportunity, I took my foam pad and sleeping bag and claimed my spot. I unrolled the pad laid it down. Perfect! I tossed my sleeping bag, a dark blue North Face Bigfoot, on the pad and sized everything up. Perfect! The crack became my home for the next three months. Unless I was out of camp for some reason, this was where I slept for the rest of the summer. It was the closest thing I could find to a cave!
I kept a small pile of rocks in the hole above my head, in handy reach in case of bears. I never brought food here. Just my sleeping bag, a paperback book, a headlamp to read by, and my Walkman with some cassettes. I kept the rest of my stuff in the available canvas wall tent space under what would have been my cot if I had stayed in the tent like everyone else. This was just clothes and my 6400 cubic inch backpack.
I even had a plan in case of rain. I commandeered a green tarp from the supply area. If it rained, I planned to stretch the tarp over the hole and weight the edges down with the biggest rocks I could find. I got lucky in that I only had to do this once all season, and it worked great. The one time it rained the winds were pretty mild and the rocks worked just fine. And as a bonus…I discovered that not only did the ground at the bottom of the hole slope down, but the high point was at the lodgepole at my head. On the other side of the lodgepole, the ground sloped the other way. Any rain coming down around the lodgepole drained away from me! The one time it rained, it rained hard enough to get camp pretty muddy…except for my ‘cave’! I still had dust under my sleeping bag, the driest place in camp.
I miss those nights of drifting off to sleep, looking up at the stars.