I’m sitting near my sleeping shelter, on a mat of Juniper bark to insulate me from the cool damp ground. I’m encamped in the West desert. It’s a pleasant evening, no sounds but the crackling of the Juniper wood on the fire. It’s nice it burns slow and steady, a few 3 inch pieces burn for a long time. My hot chocolate is near the fire to stay warm while I write this. Oh such a pleasant evening, the stars are everywhere up through the trees.

I had planned all week to make a run up here on this Friday afternoon, do some exploring a bit then set up camp. Our Spring Rendezvous is next month up here, and I want to get ready. As fate would have it, today was an extremely busy day. In fact I thought of canceling the trip, so I could get a few more things done, but in the end common sense won out, and here I am.


For the last little while we have been scouting out locations, and had settled on this area, so today is for dialing it in exactly. By the time I got to the camp location today, the sun had already set some time before, so I knew there was not much time to get set up before total darkness set in. Of course I could always use a flashlight, but I prefer not to.


I found a nice sleeping spot, there were several Junipers in kind of a triangle, leaving a spot in the middle just big enough for me to stretch out in. An interesting thing about the Juniper forests around here. Not much in the way of plant life can compete with these trees, not even grass. Over the years various plant matter falls from the trees, eventually building up a layer almost like peat. Soon some varieties of mosses start to grow, then a few very small low ground cover plants. This makes for the most comfortable bed to lay on, it seems amazing to find something like this in the midst of the mostly bare rocky ground that Junipers thrive in.

I got out my PST (Personal Survival Tarp) and set it up like a lean to with a floor, then I unpacked my PSB (Personal Survival Blanket, a product in development) and laid it out inside. Lastly I made my pillow, yes that’s right I made my pillow. If you are familiar with Junipers, you know how the bark is loose and straggly, I just took a bunch of that bark and worked it a bit to soften it, then I put it inside the bag my PSB came in, and viola, a very nice pillow. It’s also great material for a tinder nest to start a fire.


Oh, speaking of fire, it’s almost dark now, I quickly gather some twigs, sticks and branches, use a flat stone to scrape out a small fire pit. I take some of the bark I left out of my pillow and tease it a bit more then form it into a nest. I take my FSK (Fire Starting Kit), get out the Concentrator Paper, tear off a small square. It’s practically dark now, I can barely see the Paper. I take my Doan and place it on the corner of the paper, I do my 5 scrapes of Magnesium like usual, then 5 more, cause I can’t even see if there is any in there. Since it’s white I can see the paper square just barely. I take it and set it in the middle of the tinder nest. Because I can’t see well enough, rather than having the Spark Rod on the Doan bar stationary and moving the scraper to form sparks, I opted to reverse the situation. By putting the scraper over the Magnesium scrapings and pulling the the spark rod toward me, I’m not going to send everything flying if I miss, uh, learned that from experience years ago. A couple of scrapes and a white flash, then flame. I get my tinder going then the rest of the fire.


A note of interest here, since I have started a fire with the FSK thousands of times, I can practically do it in the dark, that would be good to be able to do in a survival situation. You don’t want that to be the first time you try to use a magnesium bar to start a fire.

I get a cup of chocolate warming by the fire. Sipping every now and then as I write this piece. Life is wonderful. Join us here in a month for our Spring Rendezvous, its a great way to relax and unwind, plus we’re going to do some fun stuff.


Until next time, this is Perry Peacock, for Wilderness Innovation, “Simplifying Survival”


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