Monday, February 28, 2011

Natural Shelter by Greg

You’re alone, a traveler coming from the Gladden Fields headed south, through the Dimrill Dale to Lorien. Clouds are darkening over the mountains to the west, and coming in quickly. The Sun has already disappeared, but the moon in the east is, for the time being, bright enough for you to see. You left the village later than you should have, so you need to find a place to hole up for the night. You didn’t plan for this, so you’ve no tent with you…just a blanket barely big enough to keep you warm. A chill north wind begins to pick up. You shiver against the cold, blowing through your clenched fists.

This doesn’t look good.

There are three main points I look for in naturally-occurring shelters. The most important, generally, is protection from the wind. Wind can and will make your night absolutely miserable. Your body heats up a thin layer of air around you, which is stolen away by wind. A good, solid windbreak can mean the difference between sleep and freezing. It doesn’t have to be fancy. A rock can do the trick just as well as a tree, and sometimes all you need is a one foot tall shelf eroded out of a hillside to lay up against.

The second point I look for in a natural shelter is the shape of the ground. I always want it to be self-drained. You want to be lying on a high point relative to the features on the ground. If you’re in a small bowl, any rain that might fall nearby will funnel straight to you and you’ll be soaked. The only reason I think that natural drainage in the ground is more important than an overhead shelter from the rain is that you can find a well-drained location absolutely anywhere; even if there’s no windbreak. You can’t always find overhead shelter, but with a well-drained location in a rainstorm you’ll be alright, if not a little wet, and if you’ve got a decent windbreak, you might even stay dry.

Third, the one thing that most everyone looks for first: I check for overhead shelter from rain/snow. The main reason that this is of lowest priority in my book is that if I’ve found a decent, well-drained windbreak, odds are there are some sticks and branches nearby that can be leaned against the windbreak for an overhead in just a few minutes. Still, a naturally occurring overhead shelter will usually do better than a cobbled-together one, so if you can find one, by all means.

Though generally unnecessary for survival situations, there is a fourth point that Rangers and Travelers alike in Middle Earth should look into, and that is concealment. You may have a fantastic windbreak that is well-drained with a nice rock overhang for overhead protection, but you may also be leaning your back against the only large rock for three miles in any direction in the wide-open plains of Rohan. You may not be visible to the naked eye, but any patrol of Orcs or Men crossing will gravitate towards the rock, and find you there. Find shelter that does not draw attention, is unobtrusive, and, preferably, keeps you out of sight. You can’t always have concealment, but it’s a good thing to look into.

Large Rock is most always an excellent source of natural shelter. If you see large rocks in the distance, make a point of looking them over. Rock is, for the most part, immovable, solid, and dependable. It’s not going to break down on you in the rain, and it won’t blow over in a windstorm. The first thing I look for in a rock is, of course, wind direction. Rock, as a material makes, without a doubt, the most dependable windbreaks. That doesn’t mean that every rock will be a perfect one, but every good windbreak made of rock will be a better one.

Large trees are great in that they can offer a windbreak and at least a mild overhead cover at the same time, but watch the ground. Exposed and buried roots can be a curse. First, they often make the ground uneven, whether they are buried or exposed, which makes sleeping uncomfortable. This is something we can usually suffer through, but it creates another problem. The way roots grow tends to funnel rain in towards the tree to soak into the ground and find the roots. With my luck, that usually means the water goes directly to where I’ve chosen to lay down. Trees can be well-drained just like any other patch of ground. Just be extra careful if you’re expecting rain.

Caves are a favorite with a lot of people, but caves can be dangerous in themselves. The air coming out of a cave is almost guaranteed to be several degrees cooler than the outside air, as it never sees the sun. Caves and abandoned mines also have a tendency to collapse without warning. If you must use a cave, stay as close to the mouth as you possibly can. Lastly, a cave can easily wind up being some big-to-do Goblin’s backdoor as well, so proceed into Caves with caution, and bring a Wizard with you.

Dry creek beds offer many excellent opportunities at shelter. They often have deeply undercut banks and vertical shelves that the water has cut away during the wet season, providing easy concealment, soft sandy bottoms to sleep on, and big, robust windbreaks, often covering two directions. Often there will be large trees whose roots have become exposed due to the bank eroding away. These exposed twists of roots are often easy to lie beneath, and weaving branches or rushes between the roots to patch up the spaces between them for overhead is a simple matter. In the image shown, there is a large mossy fallen tree branch off to the right that would be excellent for putting together a lean-to out of materials on hand if one has time to prepare. The danger here, in a dry streambed, of course, is rain. If you are 100% sure that there will be no rain, that’s fine. I’d still recommend finding the highest patch of ground within the creek bed to ensure that, on the offhand chance that there is rain, it will go around you. At least, as long as the rain is light, it will. If it becomes a torrential downpour, you will obviously need to seek shelter outside the natural drainage.

There are many more things one can find to incorporate into a shelter, such as a surface to reflect heat off of to direct the warmth of your fire into your shelter, but these main key points will get you by when you’ve little time to construct something more formidable. A night spent in a natural shelter with these three basic needs covered won’t be the most comfortable one, but it will suffice. You will stay dry, for the most part, you won’t freeze to death, and you can bet you won’t forget your shelter tarp again!

The wind has picked up now, but you can only hear it. Your back is to a large, curved rock that extends a short distance overhead. A large log with some pine boughs leaning on the rock partially block the moonlight streaming in, and you watch as the clouds slide across the sky like a curtain, snuffing out the stars like tiny candles until all is black and it begins to rain. You smile. Your hands slide back and forth over a small bed of coals in the corner, and then you curl up against the massive rock, bundled warmly in your blanket, falling asleep to the sounds of the rain upon the branches overhead.

~ Greg

Monday, February 7, 2011

Hobbit Boots

We have discovered through Tolkien's writings and original drawings that Hobbits wore boots. In the East Farthing Hobbits were descendants of the Stoors and during muddy and rainy days wore dwarven boots. And also the East Farthing Hobbits grew beards.
(source: Concerning Hobbits:Prologue:Fellowship of the Ring)

So I have put on my dwarven boots for a little trek today out into the Shire. We have had rainy weather the past days and the snow is beginning to melt so it made a fine setting to test out Hobbit boots!

The rest of the photos can be viewed here:

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Traveling Hobbit: Part 1 "A Stroll to the Dragon"

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

The traveling Hobbit is not something you see much of outside of the Shire. However Hobbits roam the Shire freely walking here an there to visit there friends and relations or sometimes down the road to the Green Dragon or the Ivy Bush.

Lets take a look at what a hobbit grabs as he goes out the door of his hobbits hole...

Here is his pipe. This pipe is made of clay and has been smoked plenty by the hobbit, as you can tell by the black stained bowl and stem.

Here is his pocket handkerchief. If you remember in the Hobbit, Bilbo leaves with out them. Gandalf brings him a whole bundle of them along with his pipe.

Here is a apple that he might have stuffed in his pocket. Sam is given a whole pocket full when the four hobbits and Strider leave bree. Sam was fond of apples.

Here is a little knife a hobbit might stick in his belt to shave off an apple peel or to skin a rabbit if he was hunting. We know that Sam knew how to skin a rabbit.

Here's the waistcoat and breeches. The waistcoat is made of wool and the breeches are a cotton canvas.

Here is the coat over the waistcoat.

To top off the coat and waistcoat a hand woven wool scarf has been put on.

Now he is dressed and ready for the walk to the Green Dragon or cross country an hour or so to his cousins house in the next town to sup and spend the night.
At his side is a haversack for his apple and maybe some extra pipe-weed to give to his cousin as a "thank you" for supper.
His walking stick is made of hickory and provides a good crutch to rest on while he stops along the road to smoke his pipe.

I will posting some more pictures of the clothes and such up close in a second post tomorrow (the computer is loading slow).

Remember to check back for Part 2 "There and Back Again" to be posted in April.

I plan to go on a 2 day trek dressed in Hobbit gear and have pictures of my pack, all I am carrying along with pictures of the journey.

-Jake Book

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Hello and welcome to Into the Wild, a publication of the Middle-Earth Reenactment Society.
The goal of this publication is to provide you with researched and accurate information about Middle-Earth and all it's various cultures.

The goal of the Middle-Earth Reenactment Society is:
#1 To form reenactment groups across the country. For instance...

Say you are a fan of the Ithilian Rangers. You contact a few friends, fellow Tolkien fans, and decide to start a "group" or "unit" dedicated to Ithilian Ranger portrayal. You research Tolkien, outfit yourselves to the BEST of you ability and then take that knowledge to the wild and camp and trek in your gear.

#2 To hold various reencactments based on Tolkien's world

#3 To have FUN!

This blog will be a resource for members of the society.

We will be posting articles on everything. Hobbits, Elves, Men, Dwarves, Wizards Orcs etc...

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for future articles.