In April of '87 I got permission to set up a tipi on 40 acres of land that used to be called the Stillwinds Community, a loosely-based commune 10 miles west of Boone. I bushwacked in behind the community and cut a switchbacked trail about one mile up onto a flat ridge overlooking the Watauga River and the tiny community of Cove Creek. The only way to reach this site was on a pretty little trail I built that gained about 800 feet of elevation, putting me about 3400 feet up atop a ridge finger.
THE FIRST TIPI
The first lodge I built used strictly deadfall and old chestnut tree trunk sides as I didn't want to cut anything down that was alive. I already had a pretty good idea on how to set up a tripod and how to fill in a circle, and then I covered this frame with tarps and more wood and eventually capped off the top and added the rest of the wood, forming several layers.
THE LEAF BERM
One secret to enduring the harsh winters and the winds was an outside berm of dead leaves I built encircling the entire lodge around its base. This layer kept me warmer and helped my woodstove to use less wood. My backpacking days were far from over, everything I needed had to be humped up the tipi trail to the top, including food, water,(I found a spring seep right below the lodge), the woodstove, clothing and all the rest. This would be my home for the next 15 years.