#21 – Learn to build a snow cave. Check.

When I was 16, sitting in Driver’s Ed, we watched a really cheesy video where the camera was angled behind the steering wheel of a car and the driver (supposedly you) was faced with a variety of ridiculous obstacles: a child runs into the road after their toy, another driver swerves in your lane, a dog chases a cat into the street, a pile of wood falls off the back of a pick up truck, and so on. Akin to Nintendo’s Paperboy except really, really lame. The lesson of the video was, “Always leave yourself an out.” As in, always be aware that a murder of crows might swoop into your lane as you’re enjoying a Sunday drive – you better be prethinking which way you might swerve to avoid killing yourself and others.

The video was beyond corny, but the message remains. When I’m driving, I usually am leaving myself an out – to the extreme. Like when I drive over a bridge, will I roll down the windows as I fly towards the water? Will I shield my face from the airbag?  And so it goes into the areas of survival in my life. When I fly on a plane, I wear suitable footwear for escaping in dark, fiery madness.

But what if I were marooned in the snow, how would I find shelter? After learning to make fire with flint a few years ago (intensely laborious!), the assumption that I could just whip up a snow shelter seemed naive. I need practice.

Lucky for me, my friend, David, is about as crazy as I am. This morning we woke up early and headed for the mountain, finally packed with fresh snow. He kept asking, “What’s the plan? What’s the plan?” and honestly, I didn’t really have one. Step one: find snow. Step two: make a cave?

We ended up at Timberline Lodge, followed a short snowshoeing trail, randomly picked a hill covered in snow, and started digging. At first, David seemed to think we needed tools, but should we really be stuck someday, it’s doubtful that we would be lucky enough to have equipment. I insisted that we use our hands.

We both got to digging quickly, but after struggling to carve out an area for at least 30 minutes with my hands, I knew there had to be a better way. I saw David kicking snow out of his quickly evolving snow shelter so I developed a pretty successful technique of kicking at the inside of my shelter backwards (like donkey kicks) and then sweeping out the loose snow with my feet. David’s method what much more efficient, although I’m still not sure what he was doing.IMG_6080.jpg

Sometimes I would even lay on my back, shield my face and give some Streetfighter Chun-Li Lighting Kick action, then stand up and sweep out the snow.


On my back, looking in

But it was hard work. I imagine that if I’m ever really stuck, I won’t be digging out my snow cave on a stomach full of crab omelet like today. That being said, it was still a fun challenge. We even built a little connected mail chute between our caves.


In the end, we spent about two solid hours making our caves, and mine could have used a lot more work. Thor told me that we should have light a candle to make an ice glaze, but it’s not like we were hanging out in them all day so we didn’t. But….I seriously could see making a sweet cave and roasting marshmallows for an afternoon in the future.


David will be making more appearances in 2016, since he claims he can teach me how to catch a fish with my bare hands…

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