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Campsite...or Cathedral?

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Campsite...or Cathedral?

Postby balzaccom » Fri Feb 19, 2016 8:54 am

As we drive to the trailhead, the radio stations began to drift off into static and fading holy roller broadcasts....and we've taken to listening to lectures on CDs about various topics. One of the recent series of lectures is about ancient cities, from CatalHayuk in Turkey to Knossos on Crete...

And the archeologists always seem to make a big deal about the orientation of these cities and temples---facing the rising sun in the East, open to the setting sun in the West, oriented North South around a central axis...Our tent at dinner time. ©http://backpackthesierra.com

And we couldn't help thinking that this may not be quite so rooted in ritual and religion as they seem to imply. When we pick a campsite, one of the things we look for is morning sun, to help us get up and get warm in the morning. And views of the sunset (and a little warming light at the end of the day) are also a good idea.

Meanwhile, where we live in Napa, the grape-growers know to plant their views on a North/South axis so each side of the vine gets equal sun, and the grapes on one side don't get burned...

So do you have a nice campsite, or is it a temporary temple?

It seems like these are all things that people who lived their lives without electric lights would understand and internalize quite quickly. But is it religion? Or is it just good common sense?
Balzaccom

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Re: Campsite...or Cathedral?

Postby markskor » Fri Feb 19, 2016 11:02 am

Interesting this, your analogy between a campsite chosen and a comparison to a cathedral...Interesting but short-sighted.

Once your boots are more than one day in, everything, all before you is the "church". Once, on a trip with Mike, crossing a pass somewhere through the Bears...We both stopped, overcome with the vast beauty spread out before us. Something was said regarding, "You go to your church; I go to mine." (BTW, That's just about how far my religious fervor extends...more of an agnostic actually.)

Regarding my choice of a campsite - my selection process here a bit more pragmatic than from any deity reverence. The first priority always is flatness, usually high above any water. One major drawback to my Tarptent Rainbow is the sun's blaring through the silnylon wall - feels much like my bathroom's heat lamp...making any extended tent-stay impossible under this condition. I now consistently choose to locate my tent in the shade, or soon to be shade...somewhere directly east of something massive...ridge or tree. Hopefully, if a nap is needed later, my "pew" will then be habitable.

Remember, the early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.
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Re: Campsite...or Cathedral?

Postby rlown » Fri Feb 19, 2016 11:27 am

Amen?!? The back-country is my "church" of choice.
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Re: Campsite...or Cathedral?

Postby oldranger » Fri Feb 19, 2016 11:57 am

Of course the Sierra is a grand Cathedral! My campsite criteria, flat but not subject to pooling or runoff in major storm, look for early am sun, when moving everyday, afternoon shade not important but nice on layover days if a nap is in order, several feet minimum above low spot in area. Don't spend much time in camp but it is nice to have a good rock to lean against near camp. My favorite spot in the Sierra for cooking,reading and gazing, just a few feet from our tent, but usurped by my son!
edna.jpg
Nice place to relax!
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Re: Campsite...or Cathedral?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Feb 19, 2016 2:42 pm

I am big into views. Nothing "spiritual". I just like awesome views. I will choose view over comfort any day. Sometimes I have ended up with view but camped in a puddle. I really hate to camp in the trees - too claustrophobic. I am a very early riser and like to get on the trail at 7AM, so morning sun for me is a major criteria. I also like evening sun so I can take a bath and wash my hiking shirt and have it dry before dark. So I avoid shadows. I am very picky about my campsite- drives my husband crazy- I may take an hour to finally find the perfect spot. He now just goes fishing while I wander around. I have been known to completely set up the tent and then an hour later find a better spot, and the move everything to the new spot. I only do this when solo. Most of my backpacking partners would not put up with this.

The sunlight thing becomes much more important during the shoulder seasons- particularly in October. If not careful you could end up half the day in shadows.
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Re: Campsite...or Cathedral?

Postby maverick » Fri Feb 19, 2016 4:51 pm

Once your boots are more than one day in, everything, all before you is the "church".

:nod:
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Re: Campsite...or Cathedral?

Postby Cross Country » Fri Feb 19, 2016 5:43 pm

I'm the 7th person writing about this and I see somthing that I think is worth noting. Most of us (if not all) are spiritual and I perceived that none of the 7 are religious. I don't think this is a coincidence. Also all 7 of us are serious veteran backpackers and therefore represent backpackers in general. Just my personal observation.
A tent site: I agree with the consensus so cannot really add anything.
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Re: Campsite...or Cathedral?

Postby SSSdave » Mon Feb 22, 2016 10:06 pm

Of course I base camp quite often. Great pristine camps spots are a prize we often spend quite a lot of time looking around for once arriving at destinations regardless of how weary we might be. And I admit over long years of having made a lot of fun of where and how other backpacking groups choose their camp spots. One of the things I've made fun of many times is most groups prefer to site camps near other groups at destination lakes "communities" after hiking several miles through virtually empty wilderness. Oh yeah their spot may be 50 to 100 yards from the next used spot but then they see others walking all about their zone. And then whine about how those places were too popular. In fact many people are rather afraid of real wilderness where there are no others.

We tend to use locations well away from trails and lake edges, often requiring climbing up from routes so our campsites tend to be considerably different than those of other groups. We usually spend little time in our tents after sunrise or before sunset except at mid day when we are back from our morning adventures, eat, take a dip, and then a nap. So want shade at mid day. We prefer flat spots but will readily camp on bumpy spots if that is what there is. Rarely make fires and am LNT oriented. In any case great views near our camps can be important because I'm a photographer after all.

Generally we choose hidden places out of view of where others might pass about beside large eratics or trees for shade. For me choosing a camp spot would be a long discussion and will vary depending on the nature of the local zone's. The Sierra has a long list of micro zone types and each one may require different reasons to camp in one spot or another. In this era I tend to use Google Earth to scrutinize zones I will be camping at so we can focus in on what may be best.

Where most groups camp at is rather predictable as is where others are unlikely to camp at. Groups will almost never climb more than 30 feet above a trail to find a camp. The numbers of superb camps we find that are 30 to 80 feet above trails is hilarious. Here is an example of a heavily used and camped at area right on a major trail. See crosshairs on link below. This is Ansel Adams Wilderness at the Summit and Clark Lakes area. Tons of people camp on the north side of Summit Lake or at any of several trail side heavily pounded tree grove spots at the larger Clark Lake. However when I first used this campsite above the east shore of Summit Lake back in 1987 while leading a group of about 8 (?) people it looked like no one had camped there for many years. Since then have camped there 3 more times.

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.73317,-119.14310&z=19&t=H

http://mapper.acme.com/?ll=37.73317,-119.14310&z=15&t=T

The spot is on a bench surrounded by a ring of whitebark pines maybe 70 feet above the trail that passes along the east shore of Summit Lake with enough flat camp spots for a dozen tents including a good amount of shade. For the many that never look at topos, they would not expect there might be a bench above the trail with trees because the near trail side slope is in fact treeless and a bit steep. From the bench are superb views out to the Ritter Range, fascinating andesite volcanic features just steps away, and many colorful foregrounds of lichen on volcanic geology all over the zone. Also a convenient seep just below can supply clean water instead of going all the way to the lake and filtering. Of course at night if one is quiet, bears are unlikely to climb up and check out the bench because they never see humans camping there. Yeah go camp on the north side of Summit or at the usual Clark spots to get your fill of bear visits. The fact that others rarely or never camp at the bench is a ridiculous reflection of backpacker camp spot choosing myopic behaviors.
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