The following is an excerpt from my journal when our family was living in a cave in southern Utah. The photo is of this exact cave (we stayed in more than one), and shows my son Eric on a return visit many years later. When this journal entry was made, Eric was only one year old. Our daughter Sharlene was three years old at the time of this journal entry. We had no sleeping bags, tents, stoves, lanterns or any other camping gear. Only a wool blanket each, and the clothes we were wearing (nothing special). However, Becky and I each had a knife.
Our cave was a small rock overhang about 150 feet above stream level. The shelter provided no more than 90 square feet of space and was low; no more than 4 feet high in any one place.
Some of the problems with this cave were:
- The steep climb from stream level to cave level was through loose sand, and not many trips were required to wear you out.
- The shelter was northwest-facing and received no sunlight until just prior to sundown. Therefore, although it was fairly warm and protective, a south-facing cave would have proven much more suitable.
- The cave floor and outside area consisted of loose sand that blew around unceasingly. We partially rectified this problem by building up rock walls and placing slabs of flat stone on the entrance floor of the cave.
- The ventilation of the shelter was not proper to induce the smoke from our fire to exit all the time. Therefore, we suffered the malady of campfire people … smoke.
Despite these problems, we managed to convert this tiny cave into a nice place to live. After determining the direction of the prevailing night wind, we erected windbreaks and rock walls to keep the majority of the wind out. We were able to close off approximately 60% of the opening. We then constructed a good reflector fire pit that proved to be successful beyond our expectations. So despite the occasional smoke, we managed to stay warm.
We spread our wool Army blankets carefully to cover the sandy floor and made comfortable beds for the four of us.
We built up an outside fire pit for cooking during fair weather. This fire pit was built against a large rock which acted as a reflector. The only problem we had with this fire pit was that the wind kept blowing away the ashes and we could never build up a suitable amount of ashes to make ash cakes.
During our stay in this cave the only bad weather was cloudiness and a high wind, both of which were continual. Even with its deficiencies, the cave was an exceptional shelter and I am certain that under truly adverse weather conditions it would perform well as a long-term shelter.