He had placed his fire near a wrist thick manzanita with a convenient crotch. Now he searched through the pile for a twenty foot chunk of driftwood and dragged it back to his campsite. Working with one hand and hobbling along on his crutch made the job harder, but he managed to jam the heavy end of the log into the manzanita crotch. This would form the main beam of his survival shelter.
It took many more exhausting trips to the driftwood pile to find the four to eight foot pieces of driftwood that he piled against the main beam to form the walls of his tent shaped shelter. Then he spent an hour carrying dirt, moss, bark, and pine needles to mound over it, saving the best armloads of needles to make his bed inside.
Tim had built survival shelters a few years earlier during outdoor education week, but then there had been a dozen kids working together. Working alone, hobbled by his crutch, and weakened by hunger and exposure, it took Tim most of the afternoon to make his shelter. By the time he had finished, he put more wood on his fire, then simply crawled inside and fell asleep.
Hunger and cold woke him. Outside, it was growing dark, but he could still see well enough to make his way through the brush. He went to an aspen he had spotted earlier and cut two squares of bark. He folded these into boxes and laced the rims with bark strips. He filled them at the pool and stopped on the way back to his shelter to strip off some juniper berries. He put one of the bark boxes at the edge of the fire, knowing that it would not burn as long as it was filled with water.
It was raining again now, and Tim was glad that he had dragged wood up from the driftwood pile to keep his fire going through the night. He sat in the mouth of his shelter, hunched over because of its low roof, and sipped his juniper tea. It was very bitter, and it did nothing to ease the hunger he felt, but the warmth of the heated water went all through him and brought his body back to life.
He was lost and hungry, and he was trying really hard not to think about how his mother must be worrying. But the darkness held no terrors for him, and the fire was friendly. He loved the hiss of the rain falling into it, and the moist smell of fungus that came from his wood and dirt shelter. Surrounded by the familiar smell of the fire and the sound of the rain, he felt at home.
He burrowed into his pine needle bed and fell asleep.
Tim dreamed of his father. Once again he was at the outdoor center learning how to make survival shelters, but this time his father was the instructor, and working side by side with the rest of the kids to bank the shelter with dirt and leaves.
Then Tim was hunting with his father and, in the manner of dreams, he did not feel strange that he had slid from one time and place to another. He smelled again the vivid smells of campfire and damp forest earth, and felt the warmth of his father’s presence. more tomorrow