I've always wanted to have a "secret place", a
retreat, a refuge, if you will.
Since I don't own property other than what my house is sitting
on, I would likely never build my little retreat in the woods, knowing it would
never really be mine. One of these days, I'll have that opportunity, but
my "ship hasn't come in yet."
In the meantime, I've built a shelter which should stand for a
few years. To get to it, one has to go down a lonely country road. A
dirt road used by loggers many years ago leads into dense forestation for
approximately a mile. Just before the end, I follow a small brook which
crosses this road. Within a 1/4 mile I come to another brook, which has
the sweetest spring water you'd ever want to put your lips to.
It's been said that "ice cold Coke on the back of your
throat" is a wonderful experience, but my vote is still with some sparkling
spring water, cold and icy as it dribbles down my chin. Those icy droplets
will open your eyes and make your taste buds tingle.
Just on the other side of the brook, up an incline, I've found
a wonderful level spot, sheltered by some hemlocks, beech trees, and a few
boulder outcroppings. It's really an ideal spot, far from prying eyes and
far from the sounds of city noises. The only thing I could hear today was
that of a babbling brook, the rustle of leaves as squirrels darted to and fro,
and the chirp of some birds in the distance.
Years ago, while a Boy Scout, we made shelters like the one
I'm about to describe to you. Of course, that was 40 years ago, and we
didn't have the nice materials available to us that we now have. Our troop
had a competition between patrols, who could erect the most stable shelter from
natural materials. Some built debris huts, some built lean-to's, some
My patrol built a tee-pee using trees which had been damaged
by winter storms of years past. Our design was the most stable and it was
also the warmest and driest of all designs of that weekend.
Hence, I chose to make a tee-pee/wig-wam (who knows the
difference?). I chose the dimensions of 10 feet diameter and 10 feet tall
(approximately). To accomplish this, I found three reasonably straight
dead trees of four to five inch diameter. I paced off approximately 13
feet (10 of my boots). Two poles were laid side by side. A third
pole was laid between them, but it was headed in the opposite direction.
Then I lashed the three pole tips together using "half-hitches".
As a Boy Scout, we only had cheap hemp, but I used some 1/2 nylon rope.
The two poles lying side by side were spread approximately
five feet. Then I went to the middle of all three poles and started to
lift up the knotted ends using only the single pole. Eventually I erected
all three, adjusting each leg so they were exactly the same distance apart, 10
boot steps. A Pyramid. Next I added two poles on each side between
the original poles, bringing the total to nine poles.
Now the fun. Instead of shooting 18 deer and using their
skins, I bought a roll of Typar at the lumber yard. Total cost was $36 and
change. It was three feet by 111.5 feet (odd dimensions, eh?). It's
charcoal gray on both sides, with advertising on one side. I unrolled the
material, going around the circumference of layout, stapling the Typar at the
bottom of each leg. Just one staple. I chose to leave an opening
between two legs to be my doorway. Next I pleated top the material at each
pole, tucking it neatly, folding and stapling. The first course was
done. I think you get the picture. I ran the next course right above
it, overlapping the bottom course by three or four inches, to provide a weather
seal, so to speak. (I can assure you, this tee-pee is not airtight).
Altogether I ran four courses, and an opening about a foot
from the pole lashings remains as a chimney for the structure. Inside the
tee-pee, I ran a rope between the fabric, around each pole with two
half-hitches, at about four feet from the floor. This serves to permit
hanging all kinds of stuff, food bag, clothing bag, boots, whatever.
Two pieces of Typar were overlapped on each side of the
doorway, each stapled on one side only at the bottom, and each stapled on both
sides at the top to the poles. On the bottom edge, I stapled the material
to a couple of small sticks of wood to weight down the flaps. Around the
entire structure, I banked up leaves to fill in the gaps.
Not quite on-center, I constructed a fifteen-inch fire ring
with some medium stones, so the ring would be about ten inches high. All
leaves and debris were removed from the floor of the tee-pee for fire
safety. The remaining area is occupied by two spots for sleeping, giving a
15 to 20 inch space between sleeping bags and the fire ring. The third
area is occupied by a wood supply and camping gear.
Total time for construction was just under two hours. It
ain't the Ritz, but it's comfy.
I started a small fire to test the draft. As I had
hoped, it worked like a charm. The smoke was sucked straight up and
escaped the tee-pee through the opening at the top. It was a natural
chimney. Since the tee-pee isn't "airtight", there was adequate
ventilation for fresh air to enter and permit good venting. At no time did
the wind blow the smoke in my direction; it was magnificent! Dog and I ate
a meal of tenderloin tips with some fresh veggies. I forgot my biscuits,
As I looked back in the direction of the tee-pee, I was hard
pressed to see it. It blends in so well with the surrounding forest and
the rock formations. The color of the fabric (since the advertising is on
the inside) makes it appear just like another rock formation.
(Caution: get permission of the land owner first)
So if I don't answer my email for a couple of days or answer
my pager, it's because I'm at my "secret place". Guests are
Psalm 91:1-2 "He that dwelleth in the secret place
of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say
of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God; in him will I
The Lord met me at this "secret place"