There’s something magical about a campfire. The dancing of flames that entertains us for hours in the evening, ending in bright orange and red embers inevitable fade into darkness. The added smell of burning wood to mix with camp coffee and whatever your pleasure might be grilling in the frying pan. The stories told, the confessions, the dreams discussed, the laughter, the tears, or the perceived silence. It all happens around a campfire.
I suppose I should clarify what I mean by a campfire. I have a fire pit in my backyard. You might have a fire pit in yours. I don’t consider that a campfire, although it could be. Set up a tent next to it, or a cot, or roll out a sleeping bag. Now it’s a campfire. Semantics, I know but relevant for this post.
Yes, there is a historic aspect to a campfire as well as a functional purpose but that’s not what’s on my mind this week. A campfire is definitely about warmth and does provide light but it’s the more that has me excited as of late – that more being camping. And the campfire is a centerpiece for camping.
I grew up camping. It’s one of the few memories I have of spending time with my father. We camped all over Southeastern Arizona. When I was older and moved on to the city, that camping moved to the deserts outside of Phoenix and to the high country along the Mogollon Rim near Payson. I love camping, whether it is in my backyard, ten miles out of town in a high Arizona desert, twenty miles out of town in cactus laced deserts outside of Phoenix, five miles deep along the Highline Trail at the base of the Mogollon Rim, or any number of wooded places near my new home in New York. I love camping in an area that I might have driven to as much as I love camping in an area I might have backpacked in to. I simply love being outdoors.
A younger me backpacking the Highline Trail in AZ
When I was asked what I wanted for Father’s Day, I told my family I wanted to go camping. There were ulterior motives to my request of course. Hey, it was MY day. Camping meant hiking, relaxing, reading, and a campfire.
Like anything else people do these days, there are both real and so-called experts at camping. Just like there are experts in reading, writing, walking, running, exercise, cooking, etc., etc., etc. There are those that might suggest it’s not really camping unless… or it’s not really running unless… and so on. Expert advice from know-it-alls, elitists, and purists. Expert advice from the intellectually gifted as well as from the intellectually challenged. There is validity to knowledge and there is also bullshit and we become wiser when we can see the difference.
Want to be a reader? A writer? A walker (TWD excluded)? A runner? Or a camper? In the words of some out of the box thinking, cross functional leveraged synergistic MBA-speak marketing guru: Just Do It. But learn a few things first.
I would suggest that much like other activities, camping is a personal experience where there is no absolute right or wrong way to do it although there are guidelines and safety concerns people should learn about before camping to avoid a miserable experience. Read. There’s no lack of information on how to enjoy the great outdoors. There are plenty of websites and books available and the helpful information on food, water, fire, first aid, equipment, safety, and camping etiquette are worth knowing.
Per my Father’s Day request, last weekend we went camping. My son brought his girlfriend with us so we were a camping party of five. We opted to stay at a state park in Pennsylvania. It had fairly private campsites, a lake for both swimming and fishing, boat rentals, and miles of challenging trails to hike. Perfect.
We set up our camp early Friday evening for what would become home for two nights. We are a tent family. With air mattresses, sleeping bags, outdoor chairs, a big cooler, and a Coleman stove for cooking. This hasn’t always been our camping repertoire. There was a time we cooked over the campfire. Now it’s only for s’mores and hotdogs. Sleeping bags have been a constant but we have evolved over the years when it comes to comfort. I can remember sleeping on the ground with no tent as a kid. Then on a mat years later and with a tent. Now, my back aches so when we can, we use an air mattress. I think my wife’s back aches too. Age does that to you. Change is good when there is benefit to it.
Saturday my wife and I were going to take a hike by ourselves. Walking through the campground on our way to the trail-head, I took time to notice other campers and their method of camping. There was someone sleeping in the back of their pickup, numerous tents, pop-up campers, and camper trailers.
I also might have caught a glimpse into my possible future and it excited me. It was something I’ve never really noticed before, or maybe just haven’t given it much thought. You know, the how I will or could spend those days down the road where I (better) get a government issued check each month and strategic withdrawals from my ailing 401K.
I noticed couples who had camps setup in manner that said they were there for longer than a night. Older couples who obviously didn’t have to return to work on Monday. Some were simple camps while others were more elaborate. All had campers with real beds and shade awnings over the door. I bet their backs ache too. Some had little signs that had their names and where they were from. Some had screened enclosures around their picnic table. Some had carpets outside their camper doors. All had comfy chairs and I swear every time I walked by at least half of them were reading. And they all had campfires.
We are going camping again this month. For three nights this time. I’m going to practice for that day when I have a sign at my camp that has our name and where we are from.
A campfire is just tinder, kindling, and firewood. On fire of course. Warmth, light, and so much more.
View from camp
All photos courtesy of me