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The Camper's Companion: Tips and Tales for the Trail

The Camper's Companion: Tips and Tales for the Trail

by Robert C. Etheredge (Editor)

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Campers can count on a lifetime of inspiration and instruction from this compilation of classic wilderness poetry, short prose, and essential outdoor survival information. Classics such as "The Cremation of Sam McGee," "The Gettysburg Address," and "Paul Revere's Ride" provide a thought-provoking complement to superb short works by Jack London and excerpts


Campers can count on a lifetime of inspiration and instruction from this compilation of classic wilderness poetry, short prose, and essential outdoor survival information. Classics such as "The Cremation of Sam McGee," "The Gettysburg Address," and "Paul Revere's Ride" provide a thought-provoking complement to superb short works by Jack London and excerpts from Ernest Shackleton's Antarctic saga. Outdoor enthusiasts will further benefit from a host of wilderness survival tips, including information on avoiding avalanches, tying different kinds of knots, confronting bears and mountain lions, navigating using the sun and stars, and collecting water in an emergency. Full star maps and Leave No Trace camping guidelines are also included.

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MiraVista Press
Publication date:
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4.40(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.40(d)

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The Camper's Companion

By Robert C. Etheredge

MiraVista Press

Copyright © 2014 MiraVista Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-9665804-9-5



The Cremation of Sam McGee

Robert Service 1907

Service's most popular poem is a great example of "double rhyming" — rhyming within each line and at the ends of the line for the entire poem. Service was a well-known British-Canadian writer.

    There are strange things done in the midnight sun
    By the men who moil for gold;
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales
    That would make your blood run cold;
    The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
    But the queerest they ever did see
    Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
    I cremated Sam McGee.

    Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
    Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
    He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
    Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."

    On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
    Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
    If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
    It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.

    And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
    And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
    He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
    And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."

    Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
    "It's the curs'ed cold, and it's got right hold till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
    Yet 'tain't being dead — it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
    So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."

    A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
    And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
    He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
    And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.

    There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
    With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
    It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
    But you promised true, and it's up to you to cremate those last remains."

    Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
    In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
    In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
    Howled out their woes to the homeless snows — O God! how I loathed the thing.

    And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
    And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
    The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
    And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.

    Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
    It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
    And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
    Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."

    Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
    Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
    The flames just soared, and the furnace roared — such a blaze you seldom see;
    And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.

    Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
    And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
    It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
    And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.

    I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
    But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
    I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
    I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.

    And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
    And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and he said: "Please close that door.
    It's fine in here, but I greatly fear you'll let in the cold and storm —
    Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."

    There are strange things done in the midnight sun
    By the men who moil for gold;
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales
    That would make your blood run cold;
    The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
    But the queerest they ever did see
    Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
    I cremated Sam McGee.

The Star-Spangled Banner

Sir Francis Scott Key September 16, 1814

During the War of 1812, Key boarded a British warship in an effort to secure the release of a friend who had been captured. He was still aboard when the British fleet shelled Fort McHenry, one of the many defenses of Baltimore. Key watched the flag flying during the night, and when it was still there in the morning, put together these lines as a tribute to the Star Spangled Banner. Congress waited until 1931 to officially make this our National Anthem.

    O! say, can you see, by the dawn's early light,
    What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming —
    Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
    O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming!
    And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,

Battle Hymn of the Republic

Julia Ward Howe 1862

First published in 1862, the song was based on music from the abolitionist song "John Brown's Body." It became a popular song in the North during the Civil War and has remained a classic ever since. The version below is the more commonly sung version, omitting original verses three and six. It is still a very stirring hymn.

    Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord:
    He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
    He hath loosed the fateful lightning of his terrible swift sword:
    His truth is marching on.

    I have seen him in the watch fires of a hundred circling camps;
    They have builded him an altar in the evening dews and damps;
    I can read his righteous sentence by the dim and flaring lamps:
    His day is marching on.

    He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;
    He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment seat:
    O, be swift, my soul, to answer him! be jubilant, my feet!
    Our God is marching on.

    In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
    With a glory in his bosom that transfigures you and me;
    As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
    While God is marching on.

O Captain! My Captain!

Walt Whitman 1865

The tragic assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, "My Captain", inspired Walt Whitman to write this poem. The Captain is Lincoln; the fearful trip is the Civil War; and the ship is America.

    O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
    The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;
    The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
    While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

    But O heart! heart! heart!
    O the bleeding drops of red,
    Where on the deck my Captain lies,
    Fallen cold and dead.

    O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
    Rise up — for you the flag is flung — for you the bugle trills;
    For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths for you the shores a-crowding;
    For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning:

    Here Captain! dear father!
    This arm beneath your head;
    It is some dream that on the deck
    You've fallen cold and dead.

    My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
    My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse or will;
    The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
    From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won:

    Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
    But I, with mournful tread,
    Walk the deck my Captain lies,
    Fallen cold and dead.

Casey at the Bat

Ernest Lawrence Thayer 1888

Published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888, this classic poem about baseball highlights those traits that make the game so American. The poem affected popular culture, spawning parodies, movies, songs, and even towns claiming to be the original "Mudville."

    The outlook wasn't brilliant for the Mudville nine that day;
    The score stood two to four, with but an inning left to play.
    So, when Cooney died at second, and Burrows did the same,
    A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.

    A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest,
    With that hope which springs eternal within the human breast.
    For they thought: "If only Casey could get a whack at that,"
    They'd put even money now, with Casey at the bat.

    But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
    And the former was a pudd'n, and the latter was a fake.
    So on that stricken multitude a deathlike silence sat;
    For there seemed but little chance of Casey's getting to the bat.

    But Flynn let drive a "single," to the wonderment of all.
    And the much despised Blakey "tore the cover off the ball."
    And when the dust had lifted, and they saw what had occurred,
    There was Blakey safe at second, and Flynn a huggin' third.

    Then from the gladdened multitude went up a joyous yell —
    It rumbled in the mountaintops, it rattled in the dell;
    It struck upon the hillside and rebounded on the flat;
    For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

    There was ease in Casey's manner as he stepped into his place,
    There was pride in Casey's bearing and a smile on Casey's face;
    And when responding to the cheers he lightly doffed his hat,
    No stranger in the crowd could doubt 'twas Casey at the bat.

    Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt,
    Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his shirt;
    Then when the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
    Defiance glanced in Casey's eye, a sneer curled Casey's lip.

    And now the leather covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
    And Casey stood a watching it in haughty grandeur there.
    Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped;
    "That ain't my style," said Casey. "Strike one," the umpire said.

    From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled roar,
    Like the beating of the storm waves on the stern and distant shore.
    "Kill him! kill the umpire!" shouted someone on the stand;
    And it's likely they'd have killed him had not Casey raised his hand.

    With a smile of Christian charity great Casey's visage shone;
    He stilled the rising tumult, he bade the game go on.
    He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the spheroid flew;
    But Casey still ignored it, and the umpire said, "Strike two."

    "Fraud!" cried the maddened thousands, and the echo answered "Fraud!"
    But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed;
    They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles strain,
    And they knew that Casey wouldn't let the ball go by again.

    The sneer is gone from Casey's lips, his teeth are clenched in hate,
    He pounds with cruel vengeance his bat upon the plate;
    And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
    And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey's blow.

    Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
    The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
    And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout,
    But there is no joy in Mudville: Mighty Casey has struck out.

Woodman, Spare That Tree

George Pope Morris 1830

Written in 1830 as an early environmental protest piece, it was later set to music in 1837 by Henry Russell.

    Woodman, spare that tree!
    Touch not a single bough!
    In youth it sheltered me,
    And I'll protect it now.
    'Twas my forefather's hand
    That placed it near his cot;
    There, woodman, let it stand,
    Thy axe shall harm it not!

    That old familiar tree,
    Whose glory and renown
    Are spread o'er land and sea,
    And wouldst thou hew it down?
    Woodman, forbear thy stroke!
    Cut not its earth bound ties;
    O, spare that aged oak,
    Now towering to the skies!

    When but an idle boy
    I sought its grateful shade;
    In all their gushing joy
    Here too my sisters played.
    My mother kissed me here;
    My father pressed my hand —
    Forgive this foolish tear,
    But let that old oak stand!

    My heart strings round thee cling,
    Close as thy bark, old friend!
    Here shall the wild bird sing,
    And still thy branches bend.
    Old tree! the storm still brave!
    And, woodman, leave the spot;
    While I've a hand to save,
    Thy axe shall hurt it not.

The Raven

Edgar Allan Poe 1845

Many regard this as one of the most famous poems ever produced. Its supernatural and mysterious style is seen in many of Poe's other stories and. He was to die four years later.

    Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
    As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
    "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door;
    Only this, and nothing more."

    Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December,
    And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow, sorrow for the lost Lenore,
    For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore,
    Nameless here forevermore.

    And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
    Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
    "'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door,
    Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door
    This it is, and nothing more."

    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
    "Sir," said I, "or madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is, I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
    That I scarce was sure I heard you." Here I opened wide the door;
    Darkness there, and nothing more.

    Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing,
    Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
    This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!"
    Merely this, and nothing more.

    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
    Soon again I heard a tapping, something louder than before,
    "Surely," said I, "surely, that is something at my window lattice
    Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore;
    Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore;
    'Tis the wind, and nothing more."

    Open-here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
    In there stepped a stately raven, of the saintly day of yore.
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chalice door;
    Perched upon a bust of Pallas, just above my chamber door,
    Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

    Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
    By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
    "Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
    Ghastly, grim, and ancient raven, wandering from the nightly shore.
    Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore."
    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
    Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door,
    Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
    With such name as "Nevermore."

    But the raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
    That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing further then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered;
    Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before;
    On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
    Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
    "Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
    Caught from some unhappy master, from unmerciful disaster
    Followed fast and followed faster, till his songs one burden bore, —
    Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
    Of Never-nevermore."

    But the raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
    Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore,
    What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
    Meant in croaking, "Nevermore."

    Thus I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
    To the fowl, whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core
    This and more I sat divining with my head at ease reclining
    On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er
    But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloat'ing o'er
    She shall press, ah, nevermore.

    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
    Swung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    "Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee — by these angels he hath sent thee
    Respite — respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
    Quaff, O quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!"
    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore!"

    "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil!
    Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate, yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted
    On this home by horror haunted — tell me truly, I implore:
    Is there — is there balm in Gilead? — tell me — tell me I implore!"
    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

    "Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil-prophet still, if bird or devil!
    By that heaven that bends above us, — by that God we both adore —
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden, if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden, whom the angels name Lenore —
    Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels name Lenore?"
    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

    "Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked, upstarting —
    "Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken! — quit the bust above my door!
    Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
    Quoth the raven, "Nevermore."

    And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
    On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming;
    And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws the shadow on the floor;
    And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
    Shall be lifted — nevermore!


Excerpted from The Camper's Companion by Robert C. Etheredge. Copyright © 2014 MiraVista Press. Excerpted by permission of MiraVista Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Robert C. Etheredge is an avid camper, Eagle Scout, and transatlantic sailor. He lives in Orinda, California.

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